At Exeter, halfway through the term, most subjects give a “reading week”. This is where you have a week away from teaching to focus on catching up with all your readings and any essays/assignments you have. However, in practice, this is a week to relax and destress – usually by going back home to visit friends and family or just taking a well-deserved break, so you don’t burn out. It was my 21st Birthday recently (I feel so old!!), and I decided that to celebrate I would go to Amsterdam for a few days with my partner. Now full disclosure, this wasn’t the most student-budget-friendly getaway, but I had lots of help from my family, and I have had reading weeks staying in Exeter, which have been just as rewarding. This definitely isn’t a guide on how to spend a few days in Amsterdam, but just how I spent a few days there. That said, here is what I got up to on my trip to ‘Dam!
My partner is living in Swindon for their year in industry, so the weekend before we actually went to Amsterdam, I went to visit them. This meant that we could get to London St Pancreas in around an hour rather than the two and a half hours it takes to get there from Exeter, so as we were travelling for (what felt like) all day, that really helped us cut the journey down.
We arrived at St Pancreas an hour and a half before our train, which in hindsight was a bit overkill, but as it was our first time on the Eurostar, we thought it was better to be safe than sorry! Getting through customs was a breeze – there was no queue, and we just had our luggage checked and a body scan. One of the best things about the Eurostar is that we were allowed to bring our own food as long as it was sealed, so I was able to bring a Greggs sausage roll to pair with an Oasis, and my partner brought their Tesco meal deal (we also had a packet of Tangfastics to share). This was so useful as it meant we could eat lunch on the train without worrying about paying airport prices for things. Another amazing thing about the Eurostar is that you have so much more luggage allowance than when flying! We were in standard class (the cheapest) and were both allowed two suitcases up to 85 cm long and a piece of hand luggage – imagine how much extra that would have been if we’d flown!
Once we were on the train, it was pretty smooth sailing – apart from that, I directed us to the wrong carriage, and we had to move! Our train stopped in France before we had to change at Brussels station. Now I’m usually awful at navigating train stations, but even with the signs in Flemish, I could navigate from one side of the station to the other. We then got onto the train from Brussels to Amsterdam and watched the sunset over the countryside. It was absolutely beautiful and such a gorgeous shade of pink. When we arrived in Amsterdam, it was 7 pm, just enough time to get to the Air BNB to drop off our luggage and head to a bar to watch the Arsenal vs Man City game.
After a cosy night’s sleep and a well-needed lie-in, it was time to Carpe some Diem’s and made the most of our few days in Amsterdam. A quick google search for “the best pancakes in Amsterdam” led us to The Happy Pig Amsterdam, and they did not disappoint. It was this little café just south of the city centre – they had every type of waffle and pancake imaginable! I was craving something savoury, so I got the Gouda and ham rolled pancakes, and my partner got the same but with some chutney as well. They cooked the pancakes right before us, and they were gorgeous! The cheese was melted just right, and they were absolutely huge – we could have split one between us, but where’s the fun in that?
We then meandered into the city centre to go to the sex museum. Anyone who knows me will know how excited I was to go to this museum, and for €9, it is an absolute must for your Amsterdam trip. We booked our tickets online (which I would definitely recommend), and they’re valid for three months, so if you book them before you leave, you can decide to go whenever you have a spare few hours. This place was huge and had literally everything sex-related! My favourites were the giant penis chair you could sit on and take a picture with and the cinema erotica display they had (I did have a little film student geek out at all the vintage cameras).
Museum of prostitution
Next, we headed to the red light district to visit the museum of prostitution. I’m very glad we saw this during the day because there was no queue, and we were let straight in, but when we visited the district again in the evening, the queue was out the door and halfway down the street! I was expecting this to be a grounding experience but not how eye-opening it would be. It was shocking to hear through the audio messages how in a city I thought was very sexually liberated how much exploitation still occurs for the workers. Standing in front of the window (and simulated window) was also very overwhelming, watching how people just stare at you and treat you as less than human. I would, however, wholeheartedly recommend this to anyone going to Amsterdam, as it is such an eye-opening experience and makes you think about the realities of prostitution.
As we had some extra money left over in our budget for the day, we decided to have a fancy meal at a steakhouse. Day’s Stonegrill was a five-minute walk from our Airbnb, so off we headed. It was a lovely and cosy restaurant with tables lined against the wall and a cocktail bar on the other side. We ordered our drinks (I had freshly squeezed orange juice) but decided to skip starters and headed straight for the main event. We both ended up having a rump steak with a side salad and a portion of chips. Neither of us had ever had a stoned grilled steak, but it was a mind-blowing experience. They put the steak on a red hot plate, and you cook it yourself. I wanted my steak rare, so I cooked it for a minute on each side. What I didn’t think to do was take it off the hot plate when it was finished, so I had to race against the clock and try to eat the steak before it was overcooked. We finished off the night with the most gorgeous desserts. I had Dame Blanche, which is just a fancy way of saying ice cream Sunday, but it was the smoothest and creamiest ice cream I’ve ever had. Ben had the waffle, and I was a bit jealous but very happy with my choice.
Now if you search for Amsterdam on Tik Tok, you will definitely find Chun within the first few minutes of scrolling. The viral cafe in the south of the city was a lot smaller than I expected. We arrived at about half 11 and were greeted with a queue out the door and over the road. As our ticket slot for the Heineken experience was 1 pm, I thought an hour would be ample time for us to get past the queue and eat our food. I was gravely mistaken. Half an hour in, I pushed our slot an hour back as we were still in the queue over the road. Another half an hour later, we finally got to the front of the queue and ordered our food. Ben had the Rib Eye Bulgogi, and I had the Ham Egg Cheese. At €12 each, this was definitely one of our more expensive ventures, but they were absolutely delicious. One thing I should mention, they only take cards, and as we only brought cash, this was a bit of a shock, but thankfully apple pay came in to save us, or else our hour-long wait would have been for nothing. We had mouth-watering food on the way, and it looked like we were going to make the Heineken tour; things were going well. What we didn’t anticipate was that there was going to be another long wait for the food to arrive. When it finally did show up, it was the most beautiful toasted sandwich I have ever laid my eyes on – and it tasted just as good. We did have to eat them as fast as we could and run for 20 minutes straight, and we got to our next adventure with three minutes to spare.
As someone who’s sober, I did have some worries about how alcohol-focused this would be; however, I was pleasantly surprised with how interesting everything was. You started the tour learning the history of Heineken and got to look around the original brewery. Then your first immersive experience is being turned into beer! I won’t spoil how that happens, but it is really fun. after that, you get to sample your first (of three) beers and have to smell and find the aroma of the beer before you drink it – I just gave mine to Ben, and nobody seemed to mind. After that, it was time for all the interactive rooms. We did a karaoke bicycle ride, took pictures in a photo booth, looked at some signed football shirts, and finally played AR rugby (I won, of course)! After this, we went to the bar and used our drinks tokens to get four fresh Heineken beers. We then realised that you could’ve used these to enter a competition to pour your pint against three other people to win a beer token. Whilst it would’ve been fun to join, watching everyone else fail to poor pints was equally fun.
I’ve never been to the London Dungeon, so when Ben suggested the Amsterdam ones, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. We’d just managed to get into one of the last slots of the day and were quickly taken into a dark room and split up, going down two separate elevators. After what felt like an eternity, We were then taken into a prison cell and shown a variety of different torture methods used. Then we met the Flying Dutchman, and after a few jumpscares, we were taken into a mortuary where bodies would randomly jump up at you. Now, I can’t watch horror films without having all the lights on and my emotional support teddy clenched in my arms, so this was one of the scariest experiences I’ve ever had. After this, we were shoved into a courtroom and sat down, eager to learn about the trials ahead. The person on trial; Me. Accused of witchcraft and running around the streets naked. I was offered three pleas – guilty, really guilty, and insanity (for which I have offered a chance to be set free). However, in order to be given the bargain of insanity, I had to prove it, but after dancing in front of everyone, they didn’t believe me, and it was time for me to be burned at the steak. After I had “died”, I had to reappear in the next room halfway through to scare everyone. We crept through the rest of the rooms until we ended up in a tavern for one last drink. After we left, I found out that they purposely target people who look scared, so if you do go, don’t be like me and try to hide your emotions!
I would be lying if I didn’t say that these cookies weren’t one of the main reasons we ended up choosing Amsterdam! Another Tik Tok special. After yesterday’s Tik tok antics, I was a bit worried about the time, so as soon as we had checked out of our Airbnb, I dragged us straight to their shop, and it was surprisingly queue free. They cook them right in front of you, so they’re piping hot when you eat them. I had been thinking about these cookies since we’d booked the holiday, and when it was finally time to indulge, they did not disappoint. They are so gooey but crisp around the edge, and the white chocolate in the middle; is divine. We ate two cookies right there as they were so delicious and saved one for the journey home – another perk of travelling by train.
Before reluctantly leaving Amsterdam after a lovely few days away, we headed into the Irish bar we found on our first night there to watch the Arsenal vs Aston Villa game. Our train was leaving a bit earlier than we would’ve liked. Still, with the game looking like a solid 2-2 draw, we walked to the beautiful Amsterdam station (I’ve added a picture of the absolutely beautiful Centraal station – it’s just so regal and right on the canal). After we’d gotten through passport control, I checked the score. 4-2 to Arsenal with an own goal from Martinez and a goal in the 90+8th minute from Martinelli; I was speechless. I couldn’t believe we had left early. We headed onto the train and relaxed for the four hours it took to get to St Pancreas, then hopped on the next train back to Swindon.