Trails and trials of the writer who walks
Amsterdam: where young people go to get wasted on drink and drugs. What they’re really wasting is the opportunity to explore one of the most beautiful cities of the world. I’m not saying that my two friends and I didn’t partake of more than a few pints of delicious wheat beer and we even did a bit of passive drug-taking in that we failed consistently to identify the coffee shops that only sold coffee. (Heaven knows what the owner thought of three old ladies taking a leisurely breakfast in the window seat of his establishment while the rest of the room filled up with hubba-bubba space zombies).
Amsterdam is old and elegant (like us?) and deserves your full attention. We spent a day and a half walking every district, discovering markets, narrow streets, hidden courtyards, secret passageways. We watched the chaos and eccentricity of bicycle traffic, admired the slim young women zooming back and forth with passsengers perched behind the saddle calmly eating lunch.
On day two, we hired bicycles and frightened ourselves to death in this melee before we escaped on the ferry to the northern shore of the city and tranquil countryside. Waymarked routes led us through wetlands teeming with birdlife and achingly pretty villages to the open vista of the Merkenmeer which is an inland sea dotted with islands.
On day three, we took a train ride to the ancient university town of Leiden, where Einstein studied and Rembrandt was born. Here we drank our refreshing wheat beer under the sails of windmills and bought cheese, olives and wine from a deli to eat in the park.
I’d booked this trip through Expedia, choosing an EasyJet flight of just £60 each. A three-bed en-suite room in the very central Quentin Arrive Hotel came to 170 euros each for four nights. It was basic (and none too quiet at night!) but spotless with an elegant lounge and 24-hour reception. It’s located in Haarlemstraat, a mere five minute walk from the station, where trains to the airport run every 15 minute and the journey itself is only 15 minutes, so you can really make the most of a short break without wasting time shuttling back and forth to the airport.