One Bag Travel | Part 1 | London to Amsterdam

Over three years ago, I quit my job to start my own freelance writing company and start travelling the world with a company called Remote Year. We got 7 months into a 12-month adventure before COVID hit and I’ve been in the UK ever since.

But now, after 2.5 years living in England, and after a brief flirtation with working for a company full-time, I decided that was no longer for me and the time was right to get back on the travel horse.

This time, I’ve vowed to do a better job at documenting my travels. So this is the first round of what will hopefully be regular blogs tracking what I get up to on my travels. This first blog covers leaving London on a very busy day in the UK and heading over to the Netherlands.

Monday, 19 September – Travelling to London

A very early start saw me depart Ross-on-Wye at 6.40am on a National Express down to London. But the big talking point of this day was a historical one – as it was the day of Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral in central London.

That wasn’t great timing but, in my defence, I’d booked the ticket weeks before the Queen died. But, as it happened, it actually made the journey from Ross to London very quick, as there was no traffic to hold the bus up and we were in London well ahead of schedule by 9.30am.

Due to the funeral, all National Express buses were heading to Wembley rather than the regular arrival location of Victoria. So that offered an opportunity to wander around Wembley Stadium for a few minutes, before grabbing a coffee and pastry and waiting for the expected hordes of people to make their way into central London.

With that done, I boarded an empty Tube train to King’s Cross, where I was staying for one night. Arriving there, I encountered a police-escorted Saudi car, which was either very late to the funeral or doing something completely unrelated.

The Queen’s funeral was in full flow and broadcast in full across all of the major English TV stations. So no matter where you went, you couldn’t really avoid it. And, with 2 hours to kill before my hotel room was available, that meant I certainly couldn’t avoid it.

Without being too controversial, as someone whose father died around a month before the Queen, I found the media obsession with the Queen’s death pretty awful. Every station had wall-to-wall coverage for days, and their constant proclamations that “the nation is grieving” – I wasn’t grieving for her – was unnecessary.

So I took to a pub, put my headphones on maximum volume, and played Football Manager as the ridiculously over-the-top BBC coverage played out. I typically hate all the pomp and circumstance around these events, but the images of grown men and women poncing around London in their ridiculous uniforms following a coffin through the streets was strangely amusing.

Anyway, my hotel room eventually opened and I dropped my bag off then took a chance to escape the ridiculous pomp and circumstance. I walked up to Angel, a nicer borough adjacent to King’s Cross, and went to an amazing restaurant called Meat Liquor, where I had a delicious burger and their famous Monkey Fingers. Absolutely beautiful.

I tried to meet a friend, but that didn’t happen so I went back to the hotel, watched the Monday night quiz shows – Mastermind, Only Connect then University Challenge – on BBC2 and slept ahead of tomorrow’s travels.

Tuesday, 20 September – Getting the Eurostar

Another bright and early start saw me up and showered by 6am. Today, I was taking the Eurostar for the first time, heading through the English Channel, through France and Belgium and across to Amsterdam, in the Netherlands. I was going to meet a few friends that I met while travelling back in 2019, which saw us travel across South America and Asia before COVID-19 broke when we were in Japan.

I had seen them since, as they’d travelled to London a few months back, but I was excited to see them and, moreso, get out of England for the first time since March 2020.

COVID was tough for lots of people for so many reasons. But the last couple of years had been a bit of a nightmare. Obviously, my travel plans got cut well short by COVID but then, just as the COVID restrictions were lifting, I broke my ankle on the morning of the EURO 2021 Final between England and Italy. That caused me to be unable to walk for around six months, and I’m still struggling a little with it even now. Then, just as I was about to start travelling again, we had the sad news about my Dad.

But Dad was always the person who told me to think positively and, whenever there was a new challenge facing me, told me to “go for it.” So that’s what I decided to do and press ahead with more travels. 

I had an 8.15am train out of London but, due to the previous day’s events, we were advised to arrive half an hour earlier than the recommended 90 minutes. So I arrived at 6.15am, breezed straight through customs and found myself with an age to kill. So I fired up Football Manager once again.

It feels like Football Manager may be a constant of these updates! So for reference, I was managing Mexican side Pumas, having plowed through close to 50 years of virtual management. It’s quite the epic save.

Getting onto the train was really quick and easy. Eurostar gives you around 20 minutes’ notice of which platform your train will depart from, and there was no queuing when they did so. I’d booked a Standard Premium seat, and was delighted to see I had my own individual seat, which meant no distractions or having to move for anyone to find their seat. 

So I spent the journey doing a little bit of work while enjoying a complimentary breakfast and, later on, a free Heineken to celebrate arriving in the Netherlands. The train took about three hours, so I arrived in Amsterdam at around 1pm Dutch time. 

Getting off the train was even better because there was no customs check on the Dutch side – as you’re getting off a train that’s arrived in the central train station. So I waltzed straight through the station and out the other side, then made my way towards an Airbnb that my friends Jess and Michal – who I met on my Remote Year trip in 2019 – had rented for the month.

Once there, we headed over to a cool food market and had delicious hot dogs and Heinekens. From there, we wandered towards the city centre, along a few of the canals and popped into a few cool little Dutch bars. Then we headed home and ate some food, before a lazy evening at home.

Wednesday, 21 September – Beers and Boat Trip

I slept on a fold-out sofa in the living room of an apartment that had virtually see-through blinds, so it wasn’t my best night’s sleep and I was awake pretty early. Myself and Michal headed to a nearby cafe called LOT 61 Coffee Roasters for coffee and cake, a chat and I got a little work done as I had a deadline due the next day. 

With that done, I headed into the city centre to meet up with Kim – who I also met on the Remote Year trip – who now lives in Amsterdam and her friend CJ, who she knows from Atlanta. We met at a cafe called Mortimers, had a tasty lunch then wandered through the city centre and stopped at a few cool bars. 

That evening, Kim had booked us on a boat trip down the canal. So we met more of her friends and Jess and Michal, then walked over to where the boat was departing. It turned out to be a cool boat with a selection of drinks, so we relaxed as we slowly and calmly made our way down the canal. That was until the boat’s captain/barmaid, while handing out drinks to people, foolishly decided to hand the boat’s reins to me – and I was a little too heavy-handed with the controls and nearly crashed into the wall!

The remainder of the boat trip was much calmer, as I was allowed nowhere the steering wheel. And it was a really cool way to explore the beautiful city.

We then went back to Kim’s apartment – which has some fantastic views across Amsterdam – for a few drinks, then went to a nearby bar – which is where the evening gets a little hazy!

Thursday, 22 September – Exploring The Dam

Jess and Michal had an early flight to Prague this morning and Kim was working, while I had one more day in Amsterdam. My head was a little sore, so I headed back to LOT 61 then found a Starbucks for a nice calming Frappucino.

I decided to walk into the centre of Amsterdam and wander aimlessly to see what I found. I ended up walking 12.8 miles, meandering through the many narrow streets and along various stretches of canal. I stopped at a bar for a sandwich and pick-me-up beer then took myself back to the streets and wandered pretty aimlessly.

As it was still the afternoon, there weren’t too many of the *ahem* “ladies of the night” around, but there were a couple hanging out in windows and tapping on windows at unsuspecting pedestrians, which gave me a timely reminder of just how creepy the Red Light District is.

I considered going out for food in the evening, but still felt a little ropey – so instead tested out a local supermarket and was a little disappointed, although that could have been the hangover talking. Nevertheless, I had some Dutch cheese and ham on bread and watched the Netherlands beat Poland in the Nations League, then got some much-needed sleep.

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