A couple quick updates before this blog begins:
1. Either right before the summer begins or as soon as the summer ends I'll be upgrading this blog to Wordpress. More freedom then I have with Blogger currently. Looks for more information to come.
2. I will be doing photo coverage at some festivals this summer. Yay! Still waiting to hear back on a couple but this should make for a wild journey. Expect an honest inside scoop on everything!
Without further adieu...
So what exactly is my point? Well when I look back on my 25th birthday trip to Amsterdam I think of it not just as one more lunar year but as a celebration of all I accomplished in one years time. If you think this is bragging well.. it is, I'm proud and this is my blog so deal with it.
Ok. So. Amsterdam. I wanted this trip to be basically the polar opposite of my trip to Morocco. That trip I had something to prove to myself in many ways when it came to awakening the lingering Nomad inside of me. This trip was just about having fun with absolutely no complications... ha ha ha... (foreshadowing). What this basically entailed was some place that spoke my language, wasn't a challenge get around, a place where it was easy to schedule things to do. There aren't many things that are considerably lucky to be had on having a birthday in February, especially when your birthday is the day before Valentines Day but the one thing that does work in my favor is that travel is cheap! My round trip flight to Amsterdam was only 75 euros, can't really complain with that.
Lets get real for a second. Yes, I smoke weed. Yes, I do it recreationally. If you're a family member who doesn't want to learn more about this side of me I ask that you now to stop reading now.............................................................................................
Ok, so now that we are past that, I use to smoke a lot of weed in High School and in College. It was fun and I believe really helped my ADHD. The problem is I smoked too much weed in High School and in College and became very apathetic to the world around me and life in general. Besides the good and the bad bs, when you enjoy anything a lot in life you tend to obtain certain goals or aspirations. One of them I was able to meet last summer when I went Colorado for the first time the legalization of marijuana and bought and smoked weed legally. But that was a more recent goal since the legalization was a more recent event. I've had a goal to go and smoke weed legally in Amsterdam since the beginning of High School and even more so to buy weed legally from this famous shop called Grey Area. This was like bucket list huge for me. Now, I don't smoke nearly as much as I use to as there are things I plan on accomplishing in life that weed was hindering my mind from but that was not going to stop me from enjoying a nice vacation from what I consider to be the marijuana capital of the world.
As per usual I was accompanied on my journey by the lovely Alica. Something came over us when we booked our plane tickets. Maybe it was the excitement of another big trip. Maybe it was the excitement of that big trip being Amsterdam.
Whatever it was, we clearly weren't paying attention as we booked our flight to Rotterdam an hour away from Amsterdam. This error caused us to take a pretty awesome two hour bullet train from Rot to Am and bringing us 25 euros shorter than planned. Oh well!
When we arrived at the Amsterdam train station there was a lovely free piano for anyone to play. This guy was playing a beautiful piece for the world to hear.
As we traveled from the train station to our hostel there was a nice outdoor ice skating rink with lit up trees all around. In front of it was a gigantic picturesque structure of the words I AM AMSTERDAM. So what do you do when you come face to face with a gigantic picturesque structure? Well you take a picture with it of course.
The Flying Pig Uptown
What can I say about The Flying Pig other than it is exactly what you would expect a 20 -30 year old hostel in Amsterdam to be like. Almost comically straight out of a college movie. Please note none of this is a bad thing, in fact this place was amazingly fun in its own regards. It had amazing artwork design from the time you walked in to each floor where the bedrooms were located. A large bar that was open from 7am to 3am with free (not the greatest but free none the less) breakfast. It also had a closed off indoor room dedicated to smoking which I've never seen before. You were welcome to go and smoke a cigarette or some ganja with plenty of ash trays, rolling papers, and bongs at your disposable. At one point I saw this girl bring in this wooden hand that she took from her art school and placed a joint on it then proceeded to smoke the joint with the wooden hand. Very strange and very hilarious. There were no elevators in the hostel and our room was on the fourth floor so with two flights of stairs in between floors it is easy to say that Alicia and I's legs were completely ripped by the end of this trip. The staff here was extremely helpful and friendly giving advice of places to go and check out, explaining how transportation worked, and even coming to join us for a smoke when they got off of work. Needless to say if I ever return to Amsterdam I would definitely go back.
Random pigs were popping out of the ceiling!
I really dug the ceiling art
Our hostel rooms were covered with painted mushrooms
The top floor of the hostel looked pretty cool
Shots of Amsterdam
These are some random pictures I took on the first night of the city
Canals are everywhere throughout the city and all of them looked lit up and beautiful at night time. There were numerous times we just stopped and stared in awe at the beauty of the endless canals.
Ya know what else there is a lot of? Sex shops. I don't know why? I guess the people of Amsterdam are really horny but they are everywhere and as you can tell by the picture above. Some of the things they sell are hilarious.
Amsterdam is full of castle-like buildings. Sorry for potato like picture.
Electric cars are really big here too. This is the first time I've ever seen a car being charged by a cord or even seeing a charging station at all. There are many things about Amsterdam that make it very new age and advance feeling, this was one of them. Although, electric cars and charging stations do exist in New Jersey/New York, find them are few and far in between.
The Red Light District
You didn't think for a second that I was gonna go to Amsterdam and not check out the red light district on my birthday did you? Of course! "This is actually an important part of history.." is what I kept saying to Alicia as my reasons for wanting to go which didn't really matter seeing as she was just as curious as I was. I didn't take a lot of pictures there because:
1. I thought it would be creepy to take pictures of the girls in the booths2. It's such a touristy thing to do
3. The area is just a circus that I kind of just wanted to take it all in
What surprised me the most were the woman. I really didn't know what to expect honestly. When I think of prostitutes I think of drug addict and very disheveled looking women that are not the greatest to the eyes. I figured some of the women would be really attractive and some not so much. What I didn't factor in was that there is some merit of class to Amsterdam's Red Light District prostitution. All the women there were drop dead gorgeous, like perfect from head to toe. It was hard to look away but at the same time very awkward to look at because it was like window shopping for sex. (No ma, no dad, I didn't get a prostitute...... or did I? :) )
This was the downstairs to the bathroom for this smoke area/bar I went to. Pretty intense
Munchies. Fries and waffles are really popular in Amsterdam for whatever reason. Amsterdam in general had a lot of American style food which was nice since it's been a while since I had American anything.
As we were walking back to the hostel from the Red Light District area to turn in for the night (to get an early start) the clock turned 12:00am and it was officially midnight and I turned 25 and the first thing I noticed at the age of 25 when I looked up from my watch was a house, and its number was 25. A wonderful coincidence that I think in some way was a good sign of things to come. It was a wonderful birthday night, some Red Light District, some weed, some munchies. I really couldn't have asked for anything more.
We decided to start our first full day with a zoo I had read about online. It didn't appear to be a huge one but I had read numerous positive reviews on it so we took a chance and went to check it out. Prepare for lots of pictures!
Natura Artis Magistra
Artis is the oldest zoo in The Netherlands and one of the oldest zoos in Europe. It includes both an Aquarium and a Planetarium along with its zoo animal exhibits.
Natura Artis Magistra
Artis is the oldest zoo in The Netherlands and one of the oldest zoos in Europe. It includes both an Aquarium and a Planetarium along with its zoo animal exhibits.
We saw this very colorful building right outside the zoo.
As soon as we walked into the zoo I noticed a big sign for a planetarium. We had no idea this zoo had one up until this point which was a very pleasant surprise since I have a very big love for planetariums and IMAX movies about space. Deciding that this was going to be the first thing we do we walk in as the previous film exits out literally couldn't have timed it any better. For the next twenty minutes we go on an awesome ride through space (it wasn't in English but to be honest that didn't really matter).
Outside wall pictures
Next to the Planetarium was a cafe that was selling children's cappuccino. Surprised? Well you shouldn't be, this is Europe we are talking about here.
Now please enjoy the numerous pictures of the majestic animals I took at the zoo.
The monkey exhibit had a really cool building that they kept the monkeys in.
My favorite lizard, THE king of the lizards
A joyful baby elephant
There's a 90% chance I woke this owl up from a long nap
Shots of the city from the zoo
There was a badass jungle gym there for kids too
Never seen this before but this was pretty awesome
There was also a whole butterfly garden section which was very beautiful
A really nice action shot of a butterfly landing on a guys shoulder
The garden also hosted some exotic looking flowers as well
Clearly I made a friend today
There were also some sculpted dinosaurs around the zoo.
As you can tell, the zoo ended up being a lot larger than expected and quiet amazing. The zoo itself is crafted so nicely with different building themes for each of the habitats. There was a very artistic view used in creating this zoo to make it stand out and I would easily include this zoo in the top 3 I've ever been too which sit along side The Bronx Zoo and the San Diego Zoo. This was easily one of the highlights of the trip.
Pijpenkabinet & Smokiana (The Pipe Museum)
The next thing we ventured out to see after the Zoo was Amsterdam's pipe museum. I have to admit, I thought I had serious general interest in the different type of pipes that were going to be displayed one of the main reasons I had this on my list of things to do was so I could walk away with what I had hoped was some cool pipes this place would have for sale.
On the way to the museum
I was amazed about how breathtakingly detailed and handcrafted all the pipes were in this place. The whole upstairs was filled with different types of pipes of different sizes that came from different cultures. Some pipes were over 200 years old.
There were a lot more pipes than the two in this picture but to respect the owner I did not continue taking photos.
Like I had hope, the whole bottom of the museum were different pipes for sale. I picked up this one, which I have named Tito. Hand carved 60 years ago by an African tribe.
Van Gogh Museum
For someone who enjoys museums and art, there is no bigger reason to come to Amsterdam then to see the word famous Van Gogh Museum and boy did it live up to the hype. This place was just incredible. You really get into the history of Van Gogh and how he saw the world along with the very close people around him that helped him get as famous as he has become.
Outside the museum was this very large field. Perfect for kicking a ball around or having a nice picnic.
This museum featured 100s of original artwork by Van Gogh. But for the sake of me having time to appreciate and soak in everything and so that you go (the reader) and go see it yourself, I only took pictures of my personal favorites. ***No flash was used while taking these photos are any previous photos at any of the museum I visited. Please note flash can damage older photos and should be avoided at all costs.
They had this interactive perspective art piece where you could move the chair and frame in front of a Van Gogh picture in order to redraw the picture from a different perspective. As you can tell, I will be the next Van Gogh.
The museum had a cool visualizer playing on the wall.
We went to this burger joint for my birthday dinner. Each table had it's own tap filled with the amount you requested for the table. Pretty cool concept.
Also a gigantically delicious dinner
Amsterdam is pretty well known for it's club/party scene so I knew for my birthday I had to go see a live show. I use to see live show back at home all the time and one thing that is quiet the bummer about living in Madrid is less artists I listen to come here. Well luckily on my birthday there was an artist I wanted to see (Bondax) playing here. I don't have my photos of the club due to it being really dark and me enjoying myself but what I will say about it is this. Most clubs here seem to be 16+ which can be kind of a bummer. Usually for reasons that 16 year olds at show go to hard because they don't know their limit. Maybe that is a US thing though because besides them seeming a little immature (man I feel so old for saying that) nothing went wrong which was nice and it was a pretty big club with two rooms of live music. Like the hostel, it also had its own room for smoking purposes. Bondax played a great set and it was a wonderful way to end my birthday.
This is it. The moment I've been waiting for since High School. Grey Area. Bucket list has been crossed off as we walked toward the red light district area to get here. The store is small and the line was to the door but it was worth it. Going to legally buy weed where the likes of Snoop Dogg and Woody Harrelson go to try strains that have won numerous awards. Might be considered a silly accomplishment but an accomplishment none the less!
I'm pretty against tours in general. Yes, you can find out valuable information from an "expert" but it doesn't allow you to explore or take a moment to take in what you're seeing your experiencing as you are constantly following a group. Usually I opt for studying about the place I'm visiting pre or post visit as to not take away from my experience while being there. This being said, there are not many way to experience being on the canals and going around the city of Amsterdam for as cheap as we did without doing a canal tour.
The tour was pretty incredible and relaxing though seeing different parts inside and outside of Amsterdam. It allowed us to see the different infrastructures around the city as well. One thing the tour guide said that I did find interesting is that the reason there is a small space between every building in Amsterdam is because when they were built the sides were made out of wood. So if they were connected and one building lit on fire, then all buildings would end up on fire. My thought on this though is now that technology has advanced why wouldn't you put some sort of cement filling in between the buildings so that if an earthquake happens they are less likely to A. fall and B. take down other buildings when they drop. Who knows, it what it is in the end!
This large beautiful structure that is shaped like a ship is the NEMO Science Center. I originally intended to go to this cool looking place but we ended up vetoing it once we found out it was mostly kids oriented.
Through this tour we discovered a gigantic pirate ship that was part of Amsterdam's Maritime Museum. I tried my hardest but I couldn't convince Alicia to get interested enough to go and check it out. If you're reading this Alicia: grrrrrr!!!
FOAM Photography Museum
By the sound of it, this place seemed like it was going to be really interested. Modern photography can be very beautiful, especially when you take in account how people from other parts of the world see and appreciate things. I hadn't been to a regular photo gallery in a while so it seemed like a decent place to check out.
The problem was that this place was way to expensive for what it was worth. Easily one of the most we paid for an exhibit in Amsterdam to have almost a single floor worth of "art". What I took pictures of here were the decent artworks I like but the rest were so obnoxious and felt like the photographer was trying so hard to be artistic. I think for the price they were asking for entry there should have at least been two more floors worth of pictures to look at. I left this place feeling slightly disappointed.
A couple weeks before we left for Amsterdam I learned about this big event called Wonderland. A huge techno party that went on for 16 hours. Which sounded wonderful to both Alicia and I and even though we didn't know any of the names on the lineup it didn't really matter because it was just an excuse to party a little bit and explore more of Amsterdam's nightlife. The showed ended up selling out a couple days before we got to Amsterdam making it very fortunate that we got our tickets when we did. To be honest though, besides knowing that it was Alice and Wonderland themed we had no idea what to expect since we've never been to the club before.
Whatever the expectations I did have, they were pretty blown away. First off, this wasn't a club at all, it was a large multi-floor warehouse rave completely covered in glow-in-the-dark art-deco. Each room in this warehouse had very large speakers so that when you were in a room not only could you hear the music very clearly but the other room couldn't be heard. Everyone was very friendly and looked like they were having a wonderful time. It was really a fantastic experience, maybe one that I wont get to have again for a while.
Amsterdam clubs had this pretty smart marketing where you would buy chips that you could use for drinks.
So picture this, you've just been out party all night and you've just gotten to your bed 7:00am to fall asleep and recover. Two hours later you wake up from a very frantic friend to have been told, "We missed our flight". "How could this have happened?" I thought, we booked for four days, how could we have missed our flight when we haven't even gone through our last day. Well, remember in the beginning of the post when I said that Alicia and I were so excited about booking the flight that we didn't realize we booked it to Rotterdam instead of Amsterdam? Well it seems that we were so excited to book our flight we didn't realize that Monday's return flight was sold out and it auto-booked us home for the day before. Wrong airport and wrong day home. Seriously though, how in the hell did we let this happen?
So we spent the morning kind of frantic trying to figure out what our next move was. The problem with booking cheap flights with cheap airlines is that there is no money return and there are no deals on changing return flight dates. So we have one options: figure out how to get home the cheapest. Unfortunately, the cheapest flight home would have us leave on Thursday which just isn't possible due to work. So, Alicia and I had to drop a whopping 180 euros each just to make it home the next day. This obviously really hurt our bank accounts especially since this was suppose to be a mini cheap vacation for us and my birthday. As unfortunate and upsetting as the situation was though there wasn't much we could do about the situation and we still had a full day of activities ahead so the best we could do is just forget about it for now and enjoy the rest of our day.
Eye Film Institute
So coming off getting practically no sleep because of last nights endeavors plus the frustrating situation with the flights the goal of the beginning of this day was to do something relaxing. Thankfully, I saved something film related for the last day on purpose to be a nice recovering point from partying. The Eye Film Institute is a gigantic futuristic looking building purely for the celebration of film. They show new films and old films some of which are well known and others no one has ever heard of. This place was like a dream come true for me as someone who is in love and obsessed with film like I am I could have spent the whole day here if I had the time.
In order to get to the film institute you have to take a nice 15 minute ferry ride across one of Amsterdam's many bodies of water. Once arrived there is not much in the area to go and look at besides the building itself.
What did I say? Futuristic or what? This place looks like an alien spacecraft that landed from a far away planet and then gutted to turn into a studious place of film wonder.
This area was a nice cafe lounge area where you could enjoy the beautiful water outside while talking to your friends about the films you had just enjoyed.
The film we ended up seeing was 1955 teen movie 'Rebel Without A Cause' directed by Nicholas Ray and starring the iconic James Dean. I've never seen this before and there was something so amazing to me about seeing such an old movie in a nice big theater for the first time. It felt like a transportation into the 1950s especially with an awesome 'Gone With The Wind' trailer that opened up before the show began. There wasn't many people in the audience watching the film with us which helped provide a very personal feel to the showing which helped allow me to connect and get drawn into the film. I really enjoyed the film, there is a ton of emotional acting in part by James Dean that I really wasn't expecting. I also tend to go into movies I've heard were good without seeing the trailer, trusting that the rumors will bring me into a good film without getting the spoilers of the trailer. This lead to some extremely interested twists and turns, especially at the end. What I later found out about the film which makes it more interesting was that it was essentially the first teen movie made for teens which I think helped lend a hand to its initial success.
One of the rooms in the institute provided a small history of film and how it was created and although this is something that has been embedded in me numerous times in film school it was nice to go through any way and see some cameras in person that I had only read about.
Then there was this room. I'm gonna be honest, I'm not sure still if I fully grasp the purpose of this room although the set up and look of it was really cool. There were booths scattered around the room that allowed you to play snippets of scenes from famous movies on the wall while a bunch of mini snippets from famous movies played around it. It looked cool but since there was no explanation of what the purpose of the room was I left very confused.
The last thing there that I thought I got a picture of but apparently I didn't were these four yellow pods that sat two people at a time. These personal pods were equipped with headphones and a library of over 200 famous movies at your disposal for you to sit and enjoy in full. They were super interesting and played along with the futurist theme. They also had these movie quizes you could play in competition with the second person in the booth. Alicia tried play two of them but they were so difficult because they were flooded with movies in Dutch that we had never heard of. Some how Alicia destroyed in both quizes (lucky duck)
The Heineken Experience
1 part cheesy
1 part historical
1 part delicious
When you mix all those ingredients together you get The Heineken Experience. THE was an interactive walkthrough on the history of the Heineken beer.
The museum was full of pretty wild and some what trippy old school Heineken advertisement posters.
Here they gave a demonstration of all the things that go in beer and how it works. Then they let you taste test somethings like the hops *Spoiler alert* hops don't taste that great by themselves.
This is the system in which the mixing of the alcohol takes place
Here is where they showed how to pour a perfect beer and to taste it properly when there is foam. Apparently there are people in this world that didn't know that you don't drink the foam on the beer without drinking the alcohol with it! In any case, free beer is a free beer.
Here was a nice room to relax and drink beer as they showed you every Heineken advertisement they've ever shown on tv.
Just like it reads you can bottle your own beer here with what you want written on it. We did not do this though since you had to pay a little extra for it.
A cheesy Heineken DJ game
This is where you could practice your pouring of the Heineken beer virtually.
So I ended up spending way more money then I had planned for my birthday but in the end it was worth it. I had a wonderful 25th birthday experience. Unlike my 10 days in Marrakech I walked away from my 4 day stint in Amsterdam feeling like I hadn't accomplished all I wanted to do there. There was some major museums and exhibits (especially the Ann Frank House) due to time that I didn't get to see. I loved the city itself, people were so friendly and it was really chill that I could definitely see myself living here. There were only two major issue I had with the city, one which I had mentioned before which was the debit card situation but also that it is just a naturally colder place. Me and the cold definitely don't get along that well. In the end, Amsterdam is 100% worth it and I hope to return some day soon.
I'm going to have (hopefully) a shorter post coming up of my adventures in Zaragoza and El Escorial soon! And a future post of my trip to Valencia!