Humid days sink into hazy nights; the nightscape evolves into a pulsating cultural playground. This summer, I revisited two of my favourites, London and Amsterdam. As two culturally vivacious cities, I often suffer from wanderlust to return and discover more.
First stop: sweltering London in June. Mom and I went over specifically to see Shakespeare’s As You Like It at the Globe Theatre. Whether you are a theatre-enthusiast or not, I advise taking in a play; there’s genius etched into the Globe. Standing tickets are only £5, so you experience theatre like the majority of Elizabethan England, sans rotten fruit and smell.
One word of advice, buy an oyster card! A direct, but pound-saving statement. Available city-wide, they are diamonds in the rough of loose coppers and ticket stubs. We took the Tube to every corner of London in three days with about £25 on our cards; allowing us to utilize our precious time. Take a half an hour and rent a boat or a pedalo on the Serpentine. For £10 each, revive yourself in the airy Hyde Park. It won’t feel like you’re in the middle of a metropolis.
Our trip was nearly a gastro-tour of London; an idea in itself. ‘The Breakfast Club’ on Southwark Street is a gem, and close to Borough Market. Think wood-panelled walls, sash-windows, a 60s diner-feel and sunny staff. Packed with locals, it’s the perfect start to a day of exploring. Their blueberry and granola waffles ensure a heavenly taste experience. Oh, and there’s a bar downstairs!
Soho’s ‘Norman’s Coach & Horses’ graced London with a vegan and vegetarian pub. Behind the bustling bar, in a charming tearoom, you will find traditional vegan and veggie pub-grub. Famed for their tofush and chips, try their delicious five-bean burger too. For a decadent, sweet snack on-the-go, find ‘The Hummingbird Bakery,’ in the thick of Notting Hill’s Portobello Market. Delve through boutique shops and stalls for one-off pieces, from handmade jewellery to war-era cameras.
It’s August; the shift back to autumnal reality is imminent. I make my annual trip to a renowned EDM festival in the Netherlands– Mysteryland in Harlemmermeer, about an hour from Amsterdam. With over three-hundred artists over two euphoric days, this infectious festival is worth journeying to. This year welcomed Alesso, Axwell /\ Ingrosso and Fatboy Slim, to name but three. Camping tickets cost under €190; and grants access to extra stages, coveted flushing toilets and after-parties; ensuring minimal sleep. Sunburned or frostbitten (the case this year), summers aren’t the same unless they end with the magic of Mysteryland. Sample Amsterdam’s divine techno scene at Techno Tuesday in ‘Melkweg’, or for a coastal escape amidst the humid summer, ‘Woodstock ’69’ at Bloemendaal an Zee is an hour outside Amsterdam; and is as cool as the name suggests. The most feel-good beach-club you’ll set foot in; it’s like stepping into Pirates of the Caribbean.
Amsterdam as a city allows you to do it like the locals. However, some tourist haunts are integral to appreciating its splendour. To admire the history of the canals, embark on the €16 ‘Lovers Canal Cruise’ from Centraal; and yes, you can go with your pals, it’s merely the company’s name! The Anne Frank House is a humbling, unmissable experience, and only €9. It’s undoubtedly worth the hours-long queue if online tickets are sold out.
Everyone should tick cycling in Amsterdam off their bucket-lists. With insurance (a must as bike theft and lost keys happen), it cost about €50 to rent bikes for three days from ‘A-Bike’ near the Vondelpark. Terrifying at first, but within hours you too will be ringing your bell furiously at fellow tourists, as if you’ve lived there forever. Gather a picnic and find your balance with practice through the glorious Vondelpark; remember your hand signals! If you’ve caught the bug for Dutch culture, take the hour-long cycle through idyllic Dutch towns to the fairytale windmills at the Zaanse Schans Museum. Sample the creamy, pesto-Gouda made on-site. To continue the gastro-experience, call into the Albert Cuypmarkt in De Pijp and devour the homemade, syrupy-goodness of a Stroopwafel while strolling through this charming corner of the city.
Happy travels! Make sure you watch at least one city skyline inflamed by a summer sunset, wherever in the world you find yourself; because nothing compares.