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February 01, 2006

Amsterdam

The second trip happened on just the Tuesday after the first, in a similar, completely unplanned way to the first as well. We were in the Graduate pub with a group of friends. A spot of alcohol does wonders for my decision making powers, thankfully this time it was a good thing. Josh and I were recounting the story of our first random trip to our friends. We were saying how we were planning some more, possibly to Nice, to Rome or to Prague. It is reasonably cheap to get to these places on Ryanair, so hopefully we could afford to go there sometime later on in the term. Another idea was to just turn up at Birmingham International and ask for the next cancellation or cheap flight out of the country. Suddenly Josh had the crazy idea that we wouldnt have time later on in the term do go anywhere, due to the workload. So obviously he suggested that we should just go sometime soon; Friday maybe. Or why not now? I was very reluctant. I'd just spent a whole lot of money on the other trip. I really could not afford another. Unfortunately I was weak. He was strong. He came out with an irresistible line; ' Let the coin decide!!!' I was stupid, I can never resist that kind of challenge. I jumped up and agreed. It was all on the flip of the coin. I shook his hand and from then on it was set in stone, the coin was to decide, there was no going back! I know it is a foolish approach to leave a decision like that to the coin, but I love it, and I wouldnt have it any other way. At the time, I weren't exactly sure what I wanted to happen. I could be reasonably well-off and enjoy the rest of the term in the glorious clubs of Leamington and eat steak until I passed out with meat-clogged arteries, on the other hand; I could enjoy some random spontaneity (something I really do live for!) and potentially end up in some distant corner of Europe. I was foolish enough to trust it to a coin. Of course it landed on the side that meant we were headed for the airport. In a similar fashion to our first excursion we ran straight off to the car and drove off home.

After picking up some warm-weather clothes and some things for cold weather and after stuffing them into a rucksack, we headed off down to Leamington station. We really did not know where we may have been headed. We didn't even know if would actually be heading anywhere. As we were actually reasonably skint, we made a rule that said whatever ticket we got would have to cost less than £100, so we didn't even know if we were going to get somewhere out of the country that night for that price!

A short time later, around 4 o'clock we were in Birmingham International station on the hunt for some late cancellations or something. On the first desk we went to we got lucky; Amsterdam, the City of Vice for only £85. Nice!! Even so, we asked around a bit more for any other destinations and for cheaper flights. It turned out Amsterdam was our only real option without returning tomorrow. This was not what we had shook hands on. It was today or nothing, we had to agree on anywhere for under £100. So it was agreed, we were off to Amsterdam! And it felt goooooood!!! A meal and a few drinks in the airports own Wetherspoons and a trip to the Bureau de Change later; it was time to check-in. We were just on the way to the gate when there was an announcement on the loudspeaker. I naturally blocked it out, thinking it was about some random flight that was nothing to do with me. Thankfully Josh is not so distracted by the novel surroundings of the big-shiny airport. He very quickly told me to shut-up about whatever crap I was chatting about and he told me to 'listen to the fucking announcement', now I am not sure about the exact wording of it, but thankfully it worked so that I actually listened to the announcer. He was calling my name and he wanted me back at the check-in desk. My complete irrational stupidity made me worry a fair bit that all of a sudden this trip weren't going to happen. I was wondering what the hell could be wrong to make the whole of Birmingham Airport know that they wanted me back at check-in!! Thankfully my paranoia was unfounded, I had left my e-ticket thingy there and they wanted me to pick it up. I was very sober, yet still I was so very relieved.

A short wait later we were on the plane to Amsterdam. I've only been on a few flights; this was by far the shortest. It seemed as soon as we had took off we had travelled over Coventry and Warwick Uni. A few minutes later we were served a small meal. By the time we had eaten we were on the approaches and it seemed we were in Amsterdam Schiphol within no time at all. (It is the 3rd largest airport in Europe, don't you know!) The taxiing seemed to take at least as long as the flight. It seemed we had crawled from the far side of Holland to get to the terminal.

Eventually we arrived in the terminal and we seemed to travel for miles along those glorious invention of the wonderful ITV series of Gladiators, the travelator (yes, I know it weren't their invention but I'd never seen them before then). It took ages to reach the main building where we finally got out of the arrivals area of the terminal. Our original plan was to sleep in the airport for the night and then make sure we had a damn good, full day on the morrow. Our next plan was to have a good look around the terminal before we got some kip. Of course this involved us getting drunk, and that meant we had to go into one of the very expensive bars in the airport. Not that we were complaining of course. After eventually deciding we liked the look of some place, I went up to order some drinks. I, very naively, tried to ask for them by kind of pointing, making signs and gesturing for a beer and an orange juice (for Josh), I always try to keep up the image of the British by drinking alcohol when and wherever possible and ordering it as though everyone else knew basic British travel sign language. It turns out that the Dutch are a very friendly, wonderful people who can also speak excellent quality English. (Thank You to any Dutch person who is reading this, you make our lives so much easier, especially for Scousers. By the way, Scousers love Amsterdam: we adore all of your liberal attitudes).

In this bar I ordered some drinks, and from my very common accent those around me immediately recognised that I was English. Everyone including the barmaid began to talk to me in English, which I was very grateful for. At the bar I got chatting to some Dutch lads, one of whom was a Liverpool fan. We got chatting about Liverpool FC and the latest matches we had been to see. I told them bout our plans to spend the night in the airport. They seemed to think this was a crazy idea. We should head into the centre of the city immediately. He even gave me the address of an excellent cheap hostel near to the train station and the directions from that station, Amsterdam Centraal. From then on, any idea of a budget went completely out of the window. We were off to the centre of Amsterdam!

A short train journey later we were in the centre of Amsterdam, having just arrived at Centraal Station. We did try to follow the directions to the address we had been given. Unfortunately, despite the ladsí best intentions, the directions given to us were quite difficult to follow. A walk around the city ensued; we went down a few streets near to the station. Josh was attempting to get me too book in to the very expensive hotel next to the station. The prices were ridiculously high; there was no way we could afford them, even after he had offered to pay the majority of the bill. Thankfully I managed to dissuade him from booking into this hotel before he could throw his money at the receptionist. We had another scout around the city around the city before finding a quiet little hostel down one of the streets close to the station. It was a relatively small place and the smell of some quality green hit us as soon as we entered the door. There were a few people sat down on one of the seats at the side of the bar. We got chatting to some Dutch-Asian fellow who was talking to a boat captain. It was all quite surreal. Everyone was just too stoned to bother with us. We got told the directions to our room, and so up we went up to the top of endless flights of very steep spiral stairs until we finally we reached our room. It was quite basic, though thankfully en-suite. The room consisted of three rather plain beds plus a small, round table fitted in an L-shape around a shower, a sink and a toilet that were placed in an equally basic room.

After dumping our stuff we went out on a walk around the city. The streets around our hostel were all small, rather narrow things made for pedestrians that were filled with equally small independent shops, interspersed with the odd coffee shop. The streets were filled with the strong odour of the finest quality skunk, punctuated by the odd aroma of a bakery or a kebab place. Only essential places for the average pothead were open! After searching many of the adjacent streets, we decided to try a nice coffee shop that had a few pool tables downstairs. As soon as we walked up to the bar, we were presented with two menus; one with the drinks and snacks; the other gave details of what weed was available along with the price of space-cakes and some ready-made spliffs. We opted for the soft option of a few weed-cakes to start off with, along with a few cans of Fanta. It seems the majority of places in Amsterdam are licensed for either alcohol or cannabis; rarely both. We gladly went downstairs, munching on the space-cakes, playing a game of pool or three. The thing with space-cakes is that they take much too long to affect you. Obviously I thought in Amsterdam I HAVE to be stoned, so I started on a spliff. I have no idea who makes these, but I can assure you they are the finest quality, especially considering the price. Josh continued on the cakes as he rather hates smoking. Soon after we noticed that every game of pool was taking rather longer than the previous games. The thing with being stoned is that something as simple as playing a shot in pool requires so much more concentration. As a result, every shot from either of us took about two minutes just to line up, plus another two minutes to start the cueing action. Sometime after everyone has gone home, gone to sleep and come back to play another game on the next day, you play your shot. Sufficed to say each game took a fair bit of time to complete. I insist that I won every single game there, though I admit I do tend to have a very selective memory with these kinds of things.

A good many games of pool later, we were feeling quite happy and stoned. We were also, of course, very hungry. So off we drifted back in the general direction of where we thought our hostel may be. On the way we stopped off to buy some – sorry, a whole lot – of food in something resembling a small kebab place. There are a fair few fast-food places in the streets around Amsterdam city centre, we chose this one simply because it was the closest one to the coffee shop we had just been in, and to try to walk much further with our guts hanging out like they were would have been a crime. It didn't matter if that place had happened to have sold hairy, diseased-ridden dead dogs on sticks that were battery farmed in the Far East and were tortured daily by an Osama Bin Laden look-a-like who enjoyed nothing more than to cut off their paws for fun – we were eating there!! OK, so that's a slight exaggeration, but I'm sure you get the idea of the sudden slight pang of hunger we were both feeling at the time. After munching our way through our burgers and chips, plus some more crap, we went back to the hostel. Thankfully our sense of direction hadn't completely deserted us and we managed to find our way back fairly easily. We immediately crashed out on the beds. Josh hasn't been stoned before, so this was a new experience for him, which of course started us laughing hysterically for ages, until we couldn't actually remember what we were originally amused about. It is a great effect of smoking weed; your chuckle muscles (as Ken Dodd calls them) get a very good work-out, which I believe is a very necessary part of any healthy lifestyle! We were both so relaxed we felt pinned to our beds; merely moving a muscle seemed like an impossible effort. I had a good number of itches that evening, but after a good ten minutes of weighing up whether the effort required to move my arm was really worth soothing the irritations, I decided firmly against it. Even a very full bladder didn't encourage me to make some kind of effort to move as far as the distant toilet, all of about 3 yards away. My body was so relaxed that I didn't even have the will to wet myself as even that would require some effort. I was sure that even releasing whatever the muscle required, to let you wee was far too much of an effort for my body to do without some serious conscious thought to do it. The only part of my body that could move was my jaw and my tongue. Josh and I managed to talk to each other for a short while before our jaws gave in and decided they needed rest. By the end of the conversation we were mumbling incomprehensible sentences at each other. It was much too difficult to be actually listening to each others meaningless chattering as well. Some time later our mumbles tailed off and we both ended up having an excellent nights sleep.

The next morning we awoke fairly early. It could have actually been before 10am!! Shocking form for a student on a kind of holiday, I know, but we had originally only booked the room for the night in case we found a cheaper place, and chucking out time was about 10.30. We were in no mood to be lugging around our bags, so we decided this place was more than adequate. We promptly re-booked the room and went out for breakfast. I was quite tempted to have a full English breakfast, because I was rather hungry. However, the first half-decent place we stumbled on was that omni-present purveyor of not-so-great fast-food that is McDonalds, just a short walk away from the hostel. We were both so hungry that we didnít do so much as eat the food, rather we inhaled it! I have the videos and pictures as witness to the demolition of that wonderful breakfast; see gallery.

During our first recce around the environs of the hostel the previous night, we spotted a place we had to visit. The world-renowned Sex Museum! It was first on our list of things to see, and so we headed there straight after breakfast. The place is filled with all kinds of displays of brothels and life-size scenes of sex-through-the-ages, type of things. There were a whole load of displays of genitals, and also the chance to listen in on some telephone sex. Not to mention countless extremely explicit images of lots of different types of sex involving all forms of bondage and fetishist activities. Somehow we weren't quite as into the whole sex with animals gallery. It just didnít quite do it for us. Overall, it was definitely a good place to visit; if only because you are unlikely to see many more in the world. It was definitely an interesting experience.

After the museum, we decided to go for a tour of the city. We didnít' intend to head to anywhere, the idea was simply to follow our noses around. Of course the world-famous Red Light District beckoned; a place beloved by Scousers everywhere. Though we decided against heading there straight away because we thought that we had to save some of the fun for later, it was still early after all. We headed off in some random direction that looked interesting along one of the main roads. We soon turned off this main road, up this rather narrow street it seemed as though we had accidentally stumbled across a corner of the Red Light District, marked by the fact that there were sex shops everywhere we looked. It was much too early to be looking at more bondage gear and porn videos of fat women, old women and all that other weird niche type of stuff, which again doesnít really do it for me, especially after the museum as well. So we headed back out of that area and into the centre of a large empty square. It weren't, of course, too early for alcohol. The first place at the edge of the square that we spotted, we went into. It was 11am, and this kind of pattern of exploration around the city along the canals and thin streets punctuated by the odd visit to some top quality drinking establishments continued until mid-afternoon when we were rather tired and fairly pissed! We headed back toward our hostel via what seemed to be the main shopping area in the city, populated by all of the top named shops. By now, the pull of the Red Light District was much too strong, we had to go and have a little look.

So off we headed in the general direction of the place. It was obvious we were close as the amount of sex shops and the frequency we were being offered coke, heroine and whatever else you can sniff, snort, swallow or inject yourself with to get high increased. We knew we were truly in the Red Light District when we walked down a side street flanked by copious whore-houses with scantily-clad women in the windows and doors beckoning us to come in and pay for the pleasure of their company. We walked past many of them, and we were of course it is tempting Ė except the brothel on one corner, seemingly populated for the niche market of the fat-fetishists. We spent around an hour enjoying the views, debating whether we should go into one of the sex-shows or not. After a good tour around, we headed back towards our hostel promising we would return later. Our next immediate task was to get stoned!

In our first search for a place to sleep we had seen a cafť with the interesting name of Rasta Baby just around the corner from our hostel, and so it was to there we headed. The place was a typical continental small bar; the clientele however, was not. It was a mixture of Rastafarians with amazing Afros mixed with a few British tourists plus a couple or two. All were obviously absolutely stoned! We ordered the most wonderful space cakes plus weed tea and a spliff. These space cakes are truly a perfect recipe for chocoholic stoners. These space-cakes were actually beautiful chocolate gateaux with a fair helping of skunk that gave a glorious smell and taste to create a truly wonderful gastronomic experience! After slowly consuming our purchases we somehow got back to our beds to sleep off the affects. A few hours later we arose refreshed but only marginally less stoned than before and ready for another assault on the Amsterdam night-life.

(This bit becomes a bit blurry; not just because of the weed and ale, but also because itís over a year between going and writing this bit, I got lazy!!)

This time we headed for the red-light district and after a few more cakes and beers we had a nosey around the streets of women posing in their windows, all of them beckoning for you to come in and ermÖ.íspend some timeí with them. There were some amazing looking girls there and not just a load of old raggedy whores as I expected. A very amusing site was that of the large Japanese tour groups walking around with children taking pictures, as they usually do. After a few drinks in the area and a few smokes we decided we were too poor to be affording the shows and we headed off in the general direction of our hostel. We did of course stop off in the place we had visited on the first night where we played pool and smoked. Apparently I was trying to chat up a whole group of girls in there, though I swear I do not remember it to this day! It could of course be a figment of Joshís over active imagination; though the point is still open for debate and I wonít think it was just him tripping or something. Apparently we must have found our way to some food and eventually to our beds, though I donít remember much of it. I think it was this night when we made a very stoned attempt at rapping, it was hilarious and the results are on video, before we were again overcame by the amazingly strong urge to not move and just sleep. We woke up quite early the next morning and after satisfying our inevitable bout of the munchies, probably in McDonalds, we headed off to the airport on the train. It was quite along wait; I spent the time exploring the rather large and quite impressive airport on my own as Josh slept or something on the seats. After yet more food in the airport we were up in the air on the short hop back to Brum and our second glorious adventure was ending.

Apologies for the rather uninteresting conclusion, I realise it was probably a mistake to try and finish the story after so much water has passed under the bridge; but what you gonna do about, eh???!! Shit happens!! :D


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