It might have taken me nearly half a year to get around to it, but here is the second instalment of my Amsterdam diaries and as promised this time I will cover the Ice Bar, Zoo Artis, and Shopping (and Antiquing) in Amsterdam.
This time I went at the end of January, making it the middle of winter in Amsterdam. We once again went on the P&O Minicruise from Hull to Rotterdam, with the coach transfer into Amsterdam, again paying for an additional night in the city so that we could experience even more of the city.
Our first port of call; something I will discuss further in the final blog post of the three, was the Moco Museum. I had spotted this the first time I had come to Amsterdam and was determined to go around it next time I went to the city. It is situated near to the Rijksmuseum, and the ice rink it has open in the winter, as well as the diamond museum and is home to a huge collection of Banksy artwork amongst many others. We then walked through the city centre on our way to the hotel we had booked.
This time we were staying at the Holiday Inn Express- City Hall, centrally situated close to Nieuwmarket and the zoo, and 15 minute walk to the bustling Dam Square. The hotel accommodated us brilliantly with twin beds and breakfast was included. On our walk there we passed many many shops, from designers like Chanel and Gucci, to the highstreet brands we see at home, to traditional Dutch shops, and those targeted at tourists desperate for a little souvenir. We also passed multiple antique shops. My mum has collected Delft Pottery for many years, having originally been bought some by my dad many years ago. She had asked me to keep my eye out when I went this time and sure enough each antique shop was full to the brim with vintage and new Delft. I took the opportunity to get her a vintage Delft money box in the shape of a traditional Amsterdam house, that we could see all around us lining the canal. As we had gone a month before my 21st birthday, I also decided to treat myself to an antique silver ring made up of 4 elephants from the same shop. It fit perfectly, which was definitely a sign.
After we had checked into the hotel we went to the local supermarket and bought a LOT of snacks to line our stomachs with, because the two biggest lightweights I know were going to the Ice Bar that evening. When you get to the Ice Bar you are each given 3 drinks tokens, one to use in the lounge bar which is normal temperature, and 2 to use inside of the actual Ice Bar itself. Whilst sat in the lounge bar you witness the people before you going in and out of the Ice Bar and then one of the bartenders (dressed as a pirate- all will become clear) shouts for the attention of all those going into the bar at your specific time slot. Time to neck the rest of your drink. They set the rest of the scene, that you are on board a boat discovering new land that has got stuck in the Arctic, where obviously the best idea is to drink to keep warm (it is a LOT more entertaining than I have just made out). Then you are into the IceBar. Bearing in mind it was a solid -1 degrees in Amsterdam whilst we were there, the contrast inside the Ice Bar at -10 degrees was a huge shock and I have never been so grateful for a coat and gloves as I was for those provided by the Ice Bar.
Everything inside there is ice, the statues, the walls, the seats, the glasses, EVERYTHING. For your two drinks you can either have a shot of vodka (flavoured or not) or Sambuca or some Heineken beer, there is also some orange juice for those who do not drink. Top Tip: you have to keep the same glass for both of your drinks. If you get a beer first, you get a big glass. If you get a shot first, you get a shot glass, can you see where I am going with this… Get a beer first and then a shot, and the measure of the shot you get in the beer glass is verrrryyy generous to say the least. As well as the drinks, and the wonderfully decorated bar, there is also a photographer to capture the experience (and your red noses), who’s photos you can buy after the experience at the gift shop. However there is only so long you can stay in minus 10 degrees, before even the drinks can’t keep you warm. I have to say that the Ice Bar is one of my favourite things in Amsterdam, and something I would heartily recommend to anyone who visits. It is brilliant value for money at roughly £15 each, which covers three drinks, and the entire experience- you can stay in the Ice Bar for as long as you choose to, and it is unique and engaging.
The next morning we had already planned to go to the zoo. When I say we, I mean I, it was something I had been dying to do the last time I had come to Amsterdam, I had heard so much about it and I have always been obsessed with zoos since I can remember. Luckily for me Macalley was only too happy to go with me. Like I say, I had heard a lot about the zoo, and I was not disappointed. The first thing we saw were the mountain goats, who had the most amazing enclosure, full of enrichment and things to climb, jumping around gleefully and making the most of the snow they would have been around had they been in the wild. All of the enclosures were on a par with this one, vast in their space, full of diversity and enrichment and filled with similar environments to those they would have found in their natural habitat. As well as this there was a lot or art, sculpture and information for those visiting the zoo to enjoy as they walked around the zoo which opened in 1938 and is home to roughly 900 species of animals. It is the oldest zoo in the Netherlands and one of the oldest in mainland Europe. Interestingly, a lot of the 27 monumental buildings that are in the zoo, are used as or as part of the enclosures for the animals as well as the library, aquarium and insect houses; in fact the wolf house used to serve as an inn.
We spent our whole day at the zoo, there was just so much to see; and we had to tread very carefully in the snow which had covered all surfaces by this point. Among my highlights of the zoo were the sea lions, the wolves and the elephants. I have always been an elephant lover; since the days of my Grandpa reading me bedtime stories about them and drawing funny pictures of them from behind on in the condensation on windows, hence why the ring I found was all the more special. The elephants at Artis are beautiful, especially the little baby that was out when we went. We got to the zoo as it opened, this is something I always do as it is less busy, and the animals are often easier to see as they have not got sick of being an attraction and gone to bed yet. As a result of this when we got there the elephants had not yet been released from their huge sleeping quarters, we went and saw them in there, just as the keepers came in to let them out into their outdoor section. Upon hearing the keeper go to move the lock across their door, all of the elephants (including the little baby) started trumpeting, something I have never heard before and that actually made me quite emotional. They were happy, and itching to be out in their enclosure and once the door was unlocked they all ran out into the snow, it really was a beautiful sight. We watched them for the best part of an hour, eating and walking peacefully, even playing with the cold water from the lake in their enclosure drinking it up in their trunks and spraying it over eachother and even at times out towards us. It really was a perfect day.
The bus journey back to the ferry was once again 2 hours of reminiscing over the last 3 days and looking through the hundreds of pictures I had taken. I was already in love with Amsterdam, but it is all the more magical in the winter. With the canals beginning to crystallise and freeze, and snow covering the rooftops and branches of all the trees, falling from the sky and landing in the palms of your hands. It might have been so cold I could see my breath, and having to wear a million layers will never be my favourite thing, but Amsterdam just might be.