Updated: Jun 18
Ok... I feel the need to revisit a particularly funny email that I received a few months ago when I was in my "booking phase."
I tend to get slightly over zealous prior to my trip and end up booking anything unique, cheap or interesting that I see. This often happens up to 8-9 months in advance, resulting in a lot of confusion, which comes hand in hand with the hassle of cancellation, when itineraries change.
And if you're me... itineraries change.
Long, long ago, in a world far, far away... I had booked a lovely little hotel in Amsterdam. I had a 24 hour layover on my way to Johannesburg, so I needed somewhere to lay my guaranteed much tired & traveled head. I had conducted the regular online search... saw one that caught my eye... looked somewhat charming, picturesque, historical, centrally located, inexpensive... everything I sought out in accommodation rolled in to one.
Ironically named. Seems to embody my lot in life, but that didn’t necessarily come in to play when I was booking.
I received my hotel confirmation email the following day. Regardless of whether you book online or on the phone, they normally respond to you with all requests reiterated.
Example: Thank you for booking with us. We have you down for one night. You have requested a double bed with a city view on the 3rd floor. A non-smoking room with underground parking... etc etc etc...
Once our requests have been duly documented, we can only sit back with the hope that the hotel will follow through. My confirmation did arrive... but as far as I remember, I hadn’t really ‘requested’ anything in particular. Needless to say, an email arrived in my inbox like this;
Thank you for booking at the Singel Hotel. You have requested Amsterdam’s smallest room.
Now this might have turned a lot of people off. It might have bothered them, gave them cause to rethink their reservation or to submit a complaint... but to be honest, it had the opposite effect on me. I couldn’t wait. It became the most anticipated highlight of my trip! Was I going to fit in to this room?
How small was small?
Would the toilet be next to my pillow? Would I be able to close the door with my luggage inside? Would I hit my head if I sat up in bed too quickly? Would I be able to get dressed without moving things in to the hallway? Honestly... the possibilities were endless.
At least it was somewhat of an incentive to lose weight...
My thrill of seeing Amsterdam’s smallest room had to remain a mystery for a little while longer, much to my dismay. I arrived at the hotel at 11AM and unfortunately check in didn’t happen until 2PM. They took my money though (funny that), stored my bag, gave me a map of the city and sent me on my merry way.
And on my way I went... I had no idea how I was going to do it, as exhausted as I was. The adrenaline of exploration kicked in and I could only hope that it could pump through my veins for just a few more hours. Winding my way through back alleys, along the city canals, over cobblestone bridges... dodging mopeds, tiny cars, other tourists walking aimlessly with large folded maps... and approximately eight million bicycles. I came across a holiday ice rink full of people skating and enjoying the 'seasonal sparkle.' The rink was surround by an entire village made out of wooden 'chalet-looking' pop up stalls, highlighting the work of local artists, fashion designers and crafters. Pinned as some typical Dutch wintertime fun, the place was brimming with people enjoying the various holiday fare offered as they sipped on a mulled wine and warmed themselves by one of the many small fires.
I couldn't help but laugh, wondering what our BC liquor inspectors would think of this. Not to mention Canadian Health & Safety.
Amsterdam is intriguing. Cold... but intriguing.
Rent a bicycle, they all said.
Not a chance. I was freezing just walking through the city. There are times when logic and reason do play a part in my decisions. Things I found out about Amsterdam today;
Amsterdam has more culture per capita than anywhere else.You can do city tours with retired sex trade workers. Didn't do this, but obviously it's on the list for my next visit.Amsterdam is actually 2 metres below sea level. I've never understood this. So... do we climb up stairs to get to the beach? More explanation, please.SO MANY canals. It's mind boggling, actually.Sale, production and possession of cannabis technically illegal in the Netherlands. I will bet a LOT of people do not know this.Cannabis cafes are not strictly legal and tend to operate in a decidedly grey area of the law. They are allowed to ‘trade’ marijuana- and are granted permits to do it. Small scale sale and consumption is tolerated because they pay taxes and they prevent the inevitable shady street dealers that would exist if they didn’t.
Later in the evening, after another jet lag nap, I did wander in to the infamous Red Light District. It was bustling with delightful little cafes & pubs, alluring & amusing little shops, Christmas lights, curious tourists and the notorious sex workers. I was still exhausted and took more comfort in stuffing myself full of the quintessential Dutch fries & mayonnaise, followed by a classic chocolate covered waffle... and a glass of wine. Maybe two?
In addition to my illustrious chocolate waffle and my fries smothered in mayonnaise, I also chose to indulge in a greasy pancake topped with basil and cheese. Delicious... but I am strongly of the belief that my 24 hour gluttony does not necessarily count as calories.
I have to add too, that while I was trying to enjoy my dumb pancake... AND, might I add, the only customer in the cafe, the owner (I assume?) was screaming at two of her employees the entire time. At first I suspected it was a disgruntled customer, upset with her meal. Perhaps they burnt her pancake? But it went on and on... to the point where I had to leave. I couldn’t take it anymore. It was bad. Other than that, Amsterdam has won my heart and is definitely a place that I think I might want to come back and explore with a greater time allowance. 24 hours and jet lag just don’t do it justice. It exhibits everything mighty, abstract, irregular, narrow, daring, mysterious and rich in history. Thumbs up for this quaint little city... which isn’t so little, after all. And speaking of amusing little shops:
Rubber Duckie Shop, Dirty Chicken Cafe, Lap Dance Stripclub, Cow Museum, Condomerie, Hill Street Booze, Chipsy Kings...
I found a NACHO Food Truck. See? It can be done... Bringing us now to the ever-captivating Culture part of my day... Van Gogh Museum - I wandered around the first and second floor and then I was forced to leave. NOT because it was boring, but because I suddenly had a wave of pure exhaustion consume me. I didn’t feel too bad about departing prior to finishing the tour though, as I did the Van Gogh exhibit when I was in Paris a few years ago. So... I’m pretty much an expert. Ann Frank Museum - I literally had to drag myself out of bed to get here. As comfortable as I was in Amsterdam’s smallest room... Ann was calling and I knew it was important not to miss it. If you come to Amsterdam, this is a must see. As busy as it was, it was fascinating to step in to the world of a young girl who went in to hiding from Nazi persecution for 2 years with her family and 4 others during WWII. The fear of being caught must have been terrifying... always looming over them and a little girl who just wanted to go outside. By now, I’m assuming that everyone is dying to know about my teeny, tiny, itsy, bitsy hotel room. Room #44. Photos can not do it justice. It was teeny. Open the door, the door hit the bed. Couldn’t get in to the bathroom unless the main door was closed and the chair was on the other side of the room. Don’t sit up too quickly in bed or you’d smash your head. The shelf with the coffee maker was directly above the chair, so if you got up from there too quickly... bonk. It would have made the perfect University single dorm room.
The bathroom was all together ‘one’... and by that, I mean that you showered standing beside the toilet, directly in front of the sink... much like you would in an older motorhome. I spent the majority of my time in the bathroom trying to figure out how to get the soap out of the soap dispenser... and failed miserably at each attempt. And at one point, I actually thought I’d lost a couple things... but how is it possible to lose something in Amsterdam’s smallest room? Turns out, it was all in my backpack. Go figure. Ok... Alarm set for 5:30AM. Taxi booked for 6:30AM. Flight at 10:15AM. Thanks for a great 23 hours and 45 minutes, Amsterdam! See you again soon :-) Shit... just realized that when I was in France, I actually went to the Monet exhibit... which means I had no valid reason to have left the Van Gogh museum... except, of course, for pure exhaustion, which seems almost lazy had you not previously known about my battle with the bathroom on my flight not even 5 hours prior. And one another note... I took my first Malaria pill tonight. Let the games begin...