I’m really not sure what we were thinking when we planned a backpacking trip to London, Paris and Amsterdam – three of the most expensive European cities going. But alas, they are stunning places and who could realistically say no to the Paralympics in London and the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Add to this numerous bottles of delicious French wine and one too many visits to patisseries and you have two very happy backpackers but also some very empty wallets. By the time my travel buddy Beth and I arrived with the overnight bus in Amsterdam we were very much aware of our dire financial situation. And this is the point where Lady Luck decided to favour us and sort us out one of the most incredibly and, at the same time, cheapest days in Amsterdams history. A huge Thank You goes out to all the nameless people that made this day so incredible. Let’s hope their generosity continues to save hungry backpackers from another sad pot noodle dinner.
Imagine this scene, two tired girls getting off a bus from Paris where the aircon was stuck on Antarctic freezing temperatures and the radio refused to play anything else than cheese pop sounds. Now add this annoying drizzling rain that soaks you in minutes and cannot be stopped by even a supersized umbrella. This is how we arrived at the door of our hostel at 7 in the morning, wet, tired and decisively grumpy. The receptionist told us that we had to wait another four hours until check-in which, albeit fair enough, was simply soul crushing. Four hours in wet overnight clothes sitting in the entrance hall of a hostel did not sound particularly appealing but there was no chance we’d go back out in the rain to look for a cafe. And there he was – our first hero of the day! This unnamed man that stumbled out of the hostel bar clearly took pity on us or was so off his face that he had no idea that we were in fact not his buddies. But anyway, he came over and started chatting to us. A bit of small talk later he invites us for a drink, coffee maybe or rather double vodka? While Beth opted for a cappuccino I have to admit to downing my double vodka orange. A couple of drinks later we had made friends with the hostel staff and were graciously allowed to wait in the bar rather than the entrance hall.
By this time Beth was warmed up and hyper with all the caffeine and I was in a very happy place thanking the Russians for one of their greatest inventions ever. All that was missing now was some good old Dutch herbs. But with it being eight in the morning the Coffee Shops were still firmly closed. Enter my new Australian best friend. Totally hung-over he stumbles downstairs from the dorms and right to the smoking room. Sitting in there on his own must have gotten too boring as he came over to us and invited us to join him. After explaining that unfortunately we hadn’t done any shopping yet he insisted on this being his treat. Fast forward half hour and we are in a very happy place filled with giggles and delicious smoke. So not only were we jammy enough to get free drinks and free weed before we even unpacked our backs but no, the Australian guy then gets up, hands me over some 50 Euros worth of smoke and tells me to keep it as he’s off to Germany later that day and has no use for it anymore. I really did try to force some money onto him but all he was willing to take was a couple of raspberry macaroons that miraculously survived the bus ride from Paris.
We could finally check into our room and get some well deserved rest. But after only a few hours of sleep our tummies woke us up with the decisive and urgent need to eat, and subito please! After a quick stroll through the busy pedestrian area we stumbled upon this curios little shop that appeared to, well, be an homage to KitKat? The interior consisted of white walls and some white seating and all of this decorated with KitKat sticker. We walked past it a few times trying to figure it out before finally giving up and going on. We were greeted by a cheerful shop assistant that offered us tons of free KitKats in exchange for a Like on Facebook. So people in the Netherlands like to hand out free sweets – slightly dodgy but hey, we were hungry!
Stuffed full of sweets we were in serious need of a proper dinner. Just before caving and heading off to the next take away we were magically drawn to a cheese store. These speciality stores sell various types of cheese, mustards and condiments. All of which you can sample for free to your heart’s content. And once you grazed one of these stores empty there will be another identical one next door for you to continue your culinary tour. By the way, all of the products in these shops are gorgeous and I’d definitely recommend picking up some goodies to take home with you! By the end of our trip half of my backpack was filled with cheese.
Now all we were missing after this rich dinner was something to drink. My thirst was not helped by the high number of people passing us clutching ridiculously small cans of coke. Seriously, was this the size of drinks you could buy in the Netherlands? With not even half the size of a normal can this certainly must be a product that only calorie conscious people would waste their money on. Just on a hunch however we followed the stream of coke drinking people and finally found its source – a diet coke promotion event where cheerful staff was handing out free coke! Seriously, this could not get any better! We stocked up on cans and made our way back to the hostel after a long day of taking in the sights and being spoiled by Lady Luck.
Just as a disclaimer, the next day we went on a proper spending spree and pumped all of the money that we saved back into the economy.