Amsterdam! Well, what can I say? It was a whirlwind trip, that’s for sure.
Day 1 was an early start.
We’d closed hotel the curtains right shut, and being blackout blinds 6am felt like it came around a lot sooner than we wanted it to.
We arrived just after lunch and not able to get the keys until 2pm we found a Turkish pizza shop around the corner from the house and got stuck in. Sniffing out a cheese shop we stopped in to have a look and naturally ended up with a block of cheese and some crackers to nibble on over the next few days.
We were staying with Stefania in an AirBnb house that I’d found. We’d been pretty badly burned by AirBnb in Germany, but I was determined to restore Zac’s faith in the site and it was by far the cheaper option for us.
And we got bike hire included in the stay: it was a no brainer for me.
As it turned out, our host was wonderful, gave us a brilliant map and really detailed intro to Amsterdam, plus we had a packet of stroopwaffles to get stuck in to when we arrived.
We picked our bikes and under the guidance of Stefania had a wobbly ride up and down the street before heading off to the nearest bike shop to adjust the seats.
Zac’s bike had pedal breaks, but unable to get my head around them, I’d got the oldest of the three, a charming character with slightly useless brakes, in need of a little love, but enjoyable to ride, none the less.
The bikes had all but rusted in to place, they were a different shape to what I was used to; higher than my bike it almost felt like you had to sit ‘proper’ to ride, like the bikes they have in Call The Midwife. I felt like I was in the 50s.
There was something very comfortable about cycling. It was glorious riding through the parks, lush and green.
“Huh? What? Erm…das ist gut or nacht gut?”
I panicked at his command and spoke some pigeon German. Zac kept thinking we were in Germany.
Didn’t phase the little tyke though who proceeded to very passionately tell me just how sore his knee was in Dutch.
Eventually we worked up the courage to join the cycle lanes.
We headed straight for the ‘I Amsterdam’ sign, along with, it would seem, the rest of Amsterdam. Tourists clamouring all over the letters, it was hard to get shot of the sign in its entirety and litter strewn in the water in front slightly took away from the beauty of the Museumplein.
That’s one thing that does need to be said about Amsterdam; something we hadn’t necessarily noted as such, but as soon as we were aware of it, it was all we could see.
It’s a really dirty city, and not because of the sex. There is litter strewn everywhere.I think I even recall Stephen Fry mentioning as much in an episode of QI, but I could be remembering that wrong. I’ve seen the Toon after a night out, heck even Ashby gets pretty trashed over the weekend, but the street cleaners are out while you’re still stumbling home. The next morning it’s like nothing ever happened.
We’ll never be Japan level clean, but we do, for the most part, use our bins.
As it turns out, Amsterdam hasn’t got the memo.
Sore from riding, with the sun beginning to disappear, we headed back to base, cooked some pasta before catching the tram back in to town and heading to the Red Light District.
Both of us were slightly giddy at the prospect of visiting the RLD, for Zac it was the one ‘taboo’ thing that he could do. He doesn’t drink or smoke, doesn’t take drugs, sex is pretty much as ‘naughty’ as he gets, but we weren’t quite sure where to start.
Number one priority was not getting beaten up by pimps, strictly no photos when the girls are working, so we decided to ‘warm up’ with a peep show.
€2 for 2 minutes, we took a booth each, taking the signs stating single occupancy in the booths and the meaty gazes of the clubs paid beef seriously.
I slipped the coin into the slot and a semi naked lady, on a revolving ‘bed’ appeared, gyrating and posing. The bed moved around so you could get a 360 view as she thrusted and touched herself. She’d taken her bra off and was beginning to spend time in front of each of the windows, playing up to the eager gaze of the person behind the glass.
Then Zac’s window.
Never thought I’d get that weird jealous twinge with a stripper, but that semi naked lady was shaking in his direction for a little too long and then didn’t even shake in the direction of my window!
We came out and I was more fascinated by the show than anything; she seemed to be genuinely enjoying herself and having a laugh because as it turned out, the reason she was paying Zac so much attention was because he was stood there, arms folded, acting entirely unimpressed.
A least that’s what he said.
Walking past the girls with varying degrees of enthusiasm for being in the window we eventually decided to go all out and slip in to a sex show, to see what the fuss was all about.
Zac had been doing his research from the moment we revealed ‘Amsterdam’ and we wandered down the canals until we found The Moulin Rouge. There are things you can never unsee, ticks with bananas and lit candles and the most lack lustre couple’s performance.
The club perhaps demonstrated the spectrum of legalised prostitution as I see it: there’s the girls who want to be there, who have a bit of fun with it, who trick men into eating bananas out of their foof and slap you with a tit on stage, the older ladies who’ve been doing it longer than you have and could certainly teach you a trick or two, the token black, Asian, East Asian girls (who are still white enough to appeal to the masses), and then the entirely miserable girls who look like they’re constantly reevaluating the events that led them to that stage, room, window and if they could have avoided it.
I am perhaps projecting, but while ladies can at least act like they’re having a good time, there was no mistaken the limp performance from the male half of the couple.
Honestly, there’s nothing sexy about a sex show.
Mostly, I sat there with a part grimace, part look of incredulity on my face, slurping my complimentary gin and tonic (because apparently I drink gin now). Zac was slightly disappointed that he didn’t get called on stage, but there was no denying the sort of hollow feeling we got after leaving: there’s something really dark about watching people have choreographed sex that seems to be fuelled with resentment.
Walking back along the canals, not sure where to look, we saw a girl we’d walked past a few times that night who began jiggling at the glass, gesturing to us and making the number ‘2’ with her fingers.
For the fifth time that night Zac joked that he’d shout me a girl, but awash with a myriad conflicting emotions I asked if we could head back to the fair for some potato sticks.
We walked most of the way home and crashed in to bed, exhausted and having clocked over 20,000 steps each in our few hours in Amsterdam.