Have you ever gone away and returned with terrible holiday blues? That itching desire to be anywhere but home as soon as the plane lands back into Gatwick and you know the dreaded British rain is eagerly awaiting to greet you? Upon disembarking the plane after a magical week in Turkey, my heart sank at the thought of having to resume to my normal, despairingly regular life. Young, free and with time to kill until university life picked up again in October, I decided what better time than now to fulfill a travel bucket list item. One day in Amsterdam… Solo.
As the perfect way to end the summer, I thought I would treat myself and book a day trip to Amsterdam. In most other European cities, this ambitious venture would be far more effort than it is worth. But since Southampton Airport offer direct 1 hour flights to and from Amsterdam at a handful of times during the day it was far too tempting. Admittedly the flights are not particularly cheap but I saved the time, cost and effort of getting to London or elsewhere in order to get a cheaper journey. Furthermore, Amsterdam Schipol Airport is superbly connected to Centraal Station which is where you want to base all your adventures, and within the hour of landing I was in the heart of the Dutch capital.
I had absolutely no desire to drag another human around on my day trip to ‘Dam, despite the many protests from people that it would be “unsafe” or “boring” or that I would just end up “getting lost”. None of the misgivings anybody raised came into fruition during my time there and what’s more, I had an incredible experience and the sun was shining all daylong.
Amsterdam is one of those cities which you keep going back to, so I have no aversion to returning with company at some point especially to dabble in the Red Light District at silly o’clock, go for a leisurely cycle around Vondelpark or have a few drinks in the Ice Bar. But armed with 60 euros and eight hours, I decided to dive fully in to get the essence of the “Venice of the North” as ‘Dam is often nicknamed, due to its extensive canal network.
The first thing I did upon entering the city centre was board one of the canal cruises to go on a one hour round trip of the city. Unanimously agreed, this is the best way to see Amsterdam. I then decided to take a six hour walk, exploring all of the canal networks. On my journey I ended up eating staple Dutch street food, visiting the famous floating flower market and getting a taste of the Red Light District. My only concern throughout the day was that I would run out of time or my flights would be delayed; luckily both Flybe flights in and out were ahead of schedule which made the experience all the more enjoyable. I had plenty of time to sit on any given canal side with some chips, or mooch around Remembrandt Square and all of its weird and wonderful shops and cafés.
In my opinion, having the ability to travel by yourself is a great learning curve and being able to enjoy your own company is wonderful. I spent my time focusing solely on the city for what it is, rather than what I wanted to extract from it which is important in appreciating other cultures.
The charm of Amsterdam for me, lies not in grand monuments and attractions, but in observing the unique architecture and otherworldly ways that bring the city to life. Like the charisma of the locals, untainted by towering office blocks and scathing skyscrapers. Or the tumult of rush hour traffic, unlike other major capitals; and lastly not forgetting the laissez-faire, enlightened attitudes of the city. This is prominently illustrated by a slight scent of cannabis on every corner and deliciously lurid, yet lax, portrayals of sex work. Amsterdam truly holds its own.