XXX

IMG_8766Why do you think Amsterdam’s coat of arms is XXX?? You may think it is because of the red light district here, but this is not the case. It was actually created in 1505 as the way to identify Amsterdam during the time when trading was so important. XXX was located on flags on the backs of Amsterdam ships so that it could be associated with the town. Now, the XXX is associated with the adult entertainment business which is also such a big part of the Amsterdam culture.

We spent 3 nights in Amsterdam and enjoyed every day of it. We could have stayed longer as there was so much more to do. Here is a snapshot of what we got up to.

Saturday – we drove into Amsterdam and met up with Jeroen and Eric Wilson for dinner!!!
Sunday – Amsterdam walking tour and Red-Light District tour
Monday – Bike ride of Amsterdam and Beyond. We also visited the Heineken Factory.

Michael and I drove in from Antwerp, Belgium and made it to Amsterdam on a cold and rainy night. Nothing could spoil our mood though as we quickly got ready and caught the tram to meet up with Jereon and Eric for dinner! I studied abroad with both of them in Glasgow so it was a little Glasgow reunion!

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We had a delicious meal….. and I mean delicious…. it was so yummy and probably one of the better meals we have had on this trip. It was so nice catching up after so many years 🙂IMG_9185

The next morning we woke up early to ensure we could catch the morning walking tour of Amsterdam. We could tell we were in a wacky cool city as our tour guide had bright red hair, facial piercings and swore throughout our entire walking tour. It was a bit of a change from the more conservative tours we have taken previously.

We walked around the various canals throughout Amsterdam and were advised that the water system is so elaborate that the water is actually flushed out every few days so that clean water is always present. This is probably why there isn’t a raunchy stench present. Also, plenty of bikes can be found in the water as plenty of drunk people actually push them in during a night out! Supposedly each Amsterdam person has a minimum of 3 bicycles.

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IMG_8770We visited some local street art alleyways and also had the opportunity to visit an art studio.

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Our last stop was Anne Frank’s house. There was a huge queue outside so we were advised to book tickets online. Unfortunately, we had already planned out our next few days and didn’t manage to see it on this trip.

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Red Light District Tour (no photos allowed)
I was a bit nervous for this tour but I thought it would be a lot of fun (which it was). haha. We had the same tour guide as we did for the morning tour who really did embrace this culture. She actually lives in the red-light district area and has had the opportunity to interview a lot of the ladies in the windows.

We slowly walked through the canals while essentially having a walking lecture about how the red-light district came about. It all started when Amsterdam became a very important trading city. The sailors would come off the boat (after being stuck on it for months) and they would have some fun in the city. Nowadays, the women are actually legally working and pay taxes. They hire out their own windows which in turn security and a window space and room is allocated to them for the time that they pay for it. Our tour guide explained that some people are sad for the girls in the windows but that we shouldn’t be as they actually choose to be there. They pay for the window and if they are really good they don’t have to work the entire year as they holiday during the “slow” periods.

The canals have nicknames and are categorised by the type of woman wanted. During the day, the main canal is filled with the older woman. Some of these older women actually have long “relationships” with their clients and have known them for years. There were other alleyways that offshoot from the main one that are for more curvaceous women and certain ethnicities. We also visited the “elite street” which has the most beautiful young women on offer. Their rent for the window is the highest and so is their going rates. Our tour guide explained that one of the women here only has to work 6 months out of the year and the other 6 months she is on holiday!!!!

It was an eye-opener as these girls actually work for themselves. They are entrepreneurs in the fact that they don’t have pimps or bosses. They work when they want to work and pay for their windows. There are many types of people working in the red-light district from actual couples performing shows, young girls paying their way through school to the 70-year old twin prostitutes (who have just retired). It’s a different world but a world that is thriving with the government getting tax dollars for!

Amsterdam and Beyond Bicycle Tour

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We decided to do a bicycle tour which would take us outside of the city and show us what the rest of the Netherlands is all about. Overall we road between 20-25 kilometres outside of the city which felt like a nice comfortable ride as there were no hills!

 

 

 

 

We visited a houseboat village! Some of these houseboats were absolutely beautiful with very modern finishing’s. Our tour guide explained that Amsterdam consists of a lot of water systems to keep it all afloat. They actually reclaimed land using windmills to make more liveable areas. Despite this fact, floating communities survive here due to the vast water lock system. The entire community was on water and they maintain their way of living in this manner.

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We then cycled to a cheese and clog making house. Firstly, the cheese making process was described to us from the cows that we could see right outside. We also got to sample some of the cheese with the smoked cheese being out favourite. In fact we liked it so much, we had to buy a roll!

We then went through a short demonstration of how the wooden clogs are made. They used to be worn by farmers who had to walk on their swampy farm lands. The owners of the house were actually wearing them around their shop. To be honest, it didn’t look too comfortable.

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We then went for a nice bike ride along the Amstel River and rode past many beautiful rich homes. They were nothing like the tall skinny homes that we saw in Amsterdam. These were large, spread-out and were of a more modern appearance.

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The next stop was an actual working windmill! As the government wanted to protect them, they actually provide free accommodation to those that want to operate the windmills. The desire to live in a windmill is so strong that there is a waiting list!

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Heineken Experience
IMG_8839We did a few beer tours before but this wasn’t called the Heineken EXPERIENCE for nothing. This was actually a very interactive experience!!! This had to have been the best beer tour I have ever done by far!

 

 

We took some wacky photos and had a 3D movie experience where we learnt about the history of Heineken. Did you know that the “e’s” are tilted in Heineken so that they look like they are smiling at you when you are drinking it?

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We were told about the 4 ingredients in Heineken and how the A yeast is very important and makes it different from any other type of beer.

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We walked through the beer making process and even got to try WORT which is before the beverage actually becomes a beer! IMG_8816

Once it became a beer, it was time to TASTE it! We had a Heineken approved bartender explain to us how a Heineken should be drank! 1 down and we still have 2 coupons for 2 more free beers for later on in the journey.

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Also, we were able to create a music video and take pictures on Heineken bicycles!

Our last stop was the Heineken bar where we each had 2 free beers! This was by far the best beer experience on our Amsterdam trip 🙂

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Magnum Experience
IMG_8877After such a great day we decided to walk around the city a bit more. We stumbled upon a Magnum Concept store where there was a queue lining up. Our curiosity set in and we decided to determine what all of the chaos was about. When we entered the store we realised that this was no boring ice-cream shop but rather a “Make your own Magnum” experience! As I was on a diet for the wedding, I restrained, but this was not an option for Michael. He wanted to make his own “M&M creation.”

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We had such a great time in Amsterdam and can’t wait to go back. It was a fun-filled 3 days but we could have done with a few more! The Ann Frank house is definitely on our to-do list when we are back in Europe!IMG_8767