On Friday, April 20th, I boarded an airplane about 10 o’clock in the morning at Aberdeen airport and was heading to Amsterdam!
I had never been to the Netherlands and I was very excited. The 1 1/2 hour flight went by quickly and before I knew it I landed at Schipol airport, got my suitcase and headed downstairs to catch a train to Amsterdam Central train station with a whole lot of other people. I didn’t realize it until I got there that this particular day was “420 Day 2018” in Amsterdam! Everyone, especially young folks, was headed to the same place I was!
The term “420” was coined in 1971 in California by a group of San Rafael High School students known as the “Waldos,” who were named for their hangout spot, a wall outside of the school grounds. The Waldos met at 4:20pm every day to smoke pot – and referred to toking up as 420 – but never envisioned the code word becoming a worldwide phenomenon.
Today, hundreds of thousands of stoners across the globe celebrate April 20th as a cannabis Christmas. In the Netherlands, 420 Day Amsterdam packs a party unlike any other celebration in the world. Both locals and international tourists flock to a plethora of 420 Day Amsterdam parties, like the Amsterdam 420 Festival. There, they participate in reefer-friendly activities, pro-pot rallies, and dance with fellow hemp enthusiasts as music blares from speakers outside the Amsterdam City Hall and it draws more than 3.6 million international visitors annually. At haunts like Grey Area and Abraxas in the Nieuwe Zijds neighborhood, potheads puff some of the best weed in town and chillax with other cloudy-minded celebrants.
Come 420 Day, there’s no better way to honor the innovativeness of San Rafael’s Waldos than by heading to Amsterdam and lighting up a fat one.
So, there I was in the middle of it all with everyone else! I caught the train and was soon walking from the train to the beautiful city outside the station.
After navigating the airports and the train stations, my next step was to find a tram which would take me to the opposite side of the city to Leidseplein, and Vondelpark, where my hostel was located. With the kind help of the tram operator, I found it quite easily.
The hostel, Stayokay Vondelpark, was conveniently located next to the park. They had literally just finished remodeling and upgrading it the week before and it looked great!
Once I got settled into my room, I headed back outside and made straightway for Vondelpark. The place was hopping! The sun was shining, and everyone was out enjoying it.
I headed to the entrance of Vondelpark and started to explore the Leidseplein area of the city. Bicycles, trams, and people everywhere going in every direction at once!
Leidseplein Square is an Amsterdam hot spot. It boasts cafés, theaters, buskers, Holland’s best-known coffee-shop The Bulldog and, in winter, a skating rink.
The first thing I wanted to do was take a canal cruise and get a feel for the city via the water since this place is all about boats and canals!
It was a great tour which gave a good overview of the city and a great introduction to this magical place. I had worked up an appetite so I headed back to the hostel because they were offering a very yummy steak and veggie dinner at a very affordable price! It was delicious!
By the time I finished my dinner, it was getting dark so I headed back out to walk a couple of blocks to see the Museum Square which has the Rijksmuseum & Van Gogh Museum to name just a couple.
I had every intention of walking around town more, getting some nice night shots of the lights on the canals, but…. as I was crossing a major road, with tram lines, bike lanes, cars, etc., I didn’t see a curb and tripped on it! I fell really hard on all fours on solid cement and bricks. Ouch! That hurt really bad. I looked around to see if anyone saw me when a very nice young man ran over to help me get back up and gather up my dignity and purse.
Although the knees on the pants didn’t have a mark or a tear, I could tell my knees were skinned raw and my right palm was throbbing. I decided it best to keep moving gingerly and make my way back to the hostel to get some Ibuprofen! By the time I made it, my left knee was swollen up twice its size. Sure enough, when I removed my unscathed pair of jeans, both knees were skinned and bloodied up pretty bad. It’s always a mystery to me how that can be that the jeans don’t tear at all, but the skin does! Can someone explain that to me?
As I lay myself down on the bunk trying my best to find a comfortable position, I hoped and prayed that in the morning, the swelling would go down and I’d be able to walk around and get back to normal because, in just two days’ time, I would be boarding the Magnifique III for a week of bicycling and boating throughout the countryside! “Please! Oh Please! Let me be ok in the morning” I prayed as I finally drifted off to sleep.
Luckily, my prayers were answered and I felt much better. Thank goodness! I was still a bit sore but was able to climb up on a bicycle that I rented from the hostel and head out after a satisfying breakfast of cheese, meats, fruit, and bread and began exploring Amsterdam by bike.
It’s quite a challenge to get used to bicycling everywhere with all the other bikes. Everyone rides a bike everywhere and they have a great system to follow. Pretty much the red-bricked lanes are for bicycles and anything else that moves on two wheels (scooters, electric wheelchairs, even some motorcycles!) I started out in Vondelpark, riding around its extensive pathways, getting used to the bike and the traffic. Then I got real brave and ventured out onto the streets with my map and went for it. That’s not for the faint-hearted let me tell ya! After not too long, however, I was riding like a local and enjoying the sights along the way. One can sure cover a lot of ground a lot faster on a bike versus walking!
Below are some of the sights I saw along the way….
Lots of unusual houseboats…
Beautiful buildings and bridges galore…
and more houseboats…
I also stopped at a lovely cheese shop called the Kaashuis Tromp on Elandscracht and bought some delectable ingredients for a picnic lunch alongside a nearby canal as I watched the boats float by.
I continued along my way exploring the streets and finding all sorts of wondrous sights…
This young lady sure had found a great spot to hang out in the waning sunshine of the afternoon!
So many unusual old buildings to ponder…
Lots of interesting window shopping to enjoy…
The usual touristy shops with everything Holland…
Gardens of every size and bridges at every turn…
By day’s end, I found my way back to the hostel and made one more round through Vondelpark before calling it a day.
The day cycling about actually helped keep my knee limber and the swelling down. It was a wonderful day exploring a small portion of a beautiful and ancient city.
The following day I returned to the Rijksmuseum to explore its contents, the Botanical Garden and the Hermitage Museum, but that’s another story and another blog post. Until the next time!
“Attitude of Gratitude” for the Day ~
I feel so blessed to have a body that is able to recover and heal quickly so I can continue to explore, enjoy good tasting food and take in beautiful sights to my hearts’ delight.