Amsterdam: my fifth time but my first time in a long time.
I'm going to Amsterdam for the first time in a long time. A very long time.
Amsterdam photographed by me in 2017
After a year-long travel hiatus, 2017 kicked off with two nostalgic trips. In January, I visited Disneyland for the first time in nearly 40 years. In February, I returned to Amsterdam for the first time in nearly 20 years.
Below, I transcribed an entry from a travel journal I wrote eons ago when I backpacked alone in Europe for three months. I always throw in "alone" to reinforce the cool factor. In reality, I don't think I was cool. The truly cool girls traveled alone for a year, or more. How I envied them, how I still envy them.
The version below has been edited for self-preservation. One day, when I'm independently wealthy & my parents are dead, I'll share the ACTUAL version. In the meantime, use your imagination.
Let's take a ride in the way-back machine and get this 90's Dutch party started...
Monday, November 27th. My days are closing in on me! My trip is coming to an end.
I've changed hostels - thank god! I am now at the International Budget Hotel - four beds in a heated room with a decent view of the canal, and it's not far from the bars. A dream in comparison to my last hostel. I swear if I had to stay in that other hostel, The Last Waterhole, one more night I may have left Amsterdam.
Last Waterhole Hostel circa 1999 - I was there around the same time
Photo is NOT mine, it's from Doug McClean's blog
(Side note: I looked up International Budget Hostel it's still there. Last Watering Hole exists but it has moved, I think.)
4:15 PM … I'm at Hill Street Blues. Two people across from me are sleeping on the couch and I’m just staring across the canal... watching as the people come and go. After this I have to carry my things to my new hostel, a 20 min walk or so.
Hill Street Blues in 2017
(Side note: I visited Hill Street Blues on my recent visit and the second I walked in the door, I laughed. It was so typically mid-90s, post-grunge-era Leyla... but not so much current-day Leyla.)
I just came from a tattoo parlor. As I exited the tattoo parlor I was asked in for drink at the bar next door, so I accepted. Turned out it was a Hell's Angels Bar. So I had 2 drinks and smoked a cigarette. I had a drink with "Hank" and watched a Hell's Angels bowling tournament - mentally noting all the Harley Davidson memorabilia that decked the walls.
(Side note: I go on a wild tangent about fame and becoming a "media martyr"... I call Kurt Cobain a "cheap legend" and "not a hero." Remember, this was written in the mid 1990s, I thought it was relevant to mention.)
Morrissey and David Bowie will be here in January, how sad am I!? They played in Glasgow on November 22 and 23rd. Bowie did the Music Awards on the 23rd. (BTW, I’m really buzzed but at least I’m not asleep on the couch!) And... if they don't turn off the Warren G I’m going to DIE - at least put on GOOD RAP!
Bathroom at Hill Street Blues - taken in 2017
I am way too old for this shit!
Another girl has fallen asleep, I patiently listen to "Whiter Shade of Grey." There's a guy, let's call him Boy Wonder, he is not American. Which I had assumed when I saw his shoes. Ankle high, brown, fashion biker boots are not all that popular amongst male, American youth. He has an accent but the one-and-a-half words he uttered to me weren't enough for me to make out from where his accent hails.
Now, from the rear of the room, we have some annoying stoned people who decided to play percussions to "Ride Around Sally".
When I was at The Budget Hotel we watched The Blues Brothers and had a few laughs. It was 8 guys and me (shocking), one of them is well into his 40s. Anyway, when the Allman Bros tape went in (to the VHS!) and I made my exit. So now I'm here.... all over again.
(Side note: I can't imagine ever sitting around watching a recording of an Allman Bros concert, ever!)
International Budget Hostel - Current Photo
It's well after 9PM. I only ate once today. A mere slice of pizza was all the nourishment I had - unless of course you want to include that cheese toast I had for breakfast. My stomach growls and I decide I absolutely MUST have some tandoori Chicken.
(Side note: I go on another tangent about "Hank" from the biker bar I met earlier in the day. I write a fictitious story about being chased through the red light district - a short story within my journal entry. I'll spare you the details, but this quote made me laugh: "Middle-aged Middle Eastern men gawk as I run past their mustached faces..")
So what to do? Go out for tandoori Chicken or do I go downstairs and drink another beer and deal with the Allman Brothers?
It's probably 1:30 AM now. Ate a fallafel and a Lion Bar. Lion Bar is kind of like a Nestle Crunch on the outside and a Kit Kat with carmel on the inside. Which makes it more like a 100 Grand Bar (what a creamy chewy bar you are).
Lion Bar - not the one I ate in the 90s
(Side note: I think it's hysterical that I described, in detail, my candy bar. I still do this sort of thing.)
That guy, I think his name is Allen, is thoroughly annoying me (his name was not Allen, it was Ron). He is loud, a liar, tells bad jokes, scumbag... and he's with his 19-year-old son. Classy guy. This guy has rolled at least 12 joints and told five bad jokes for each joint! I've got to go to bed!
All the guys who were here for High Times Cannabis Cup left today - home or Europe abroad. I scheduled my flight today, I depart Sunday from Zurich. I’m excited in a way. I want to go back to Carbondale but I don’t know if can make it. But I already said I'd go. I don't know... I'm really... I’m going to take a shower.
Leyla circa 1995 - backpacking in Europe
Taken on film, by me, on a point 'n shoot with a timer
I'm back! I'm downstairs again, in the very room where I spent hours on end.... listening to Ron tell stupid stories. And I don't know where Andy is? He's supposed to be here but he could be in the kitchen. I've been wanting to describe him for quite some time now. I haven't had the chance. He looks tall but it could just be that his head is SO LONG.
(Side note: who is Andy? And I WISH I had a photo of him somewhere! I'd like to see this man who looks tall because he has a long head?!?)
December 1… train to Switzerland
Swiss trains ROCK! Clean as hell! But you pay $3 for a 1/2 cup of cereal and about $4.50 for a coke - oh the INSANITY of it all!
This was taken on the train from Spain to France - not Switzerland
Two fellow backpackers and I, we're drinking wine from empty cans
Amsterdam is extremely beautiful and should be appreciated for things other than drugs and prostitution. It was a little disappointing for me. Maybe I expected too much? Maybe I just got unlucky with the people I encountered. If you want to sit around all day and smoke pot - stay home!
I'm not knocking Amsterdam, I'm knocking the people I surrounded myself with in the hostel. All they ever wanted to do was sit around and smoke, they never went anywhere or did anything. Whatever the reason, if I go back it will be in summer with someone fun. And from a Thursday through a Sunday. No earlier than a Wednesday.
Back to my time in Amsterdam... Lee was the name of the guy I spent the majority of my time with. At least the majority of my accompanied time. He was from Ohio and went to school in Madison, Wi., living in New Orleans. He spoke very slowly...
(Side note: it goes on like this for a while... many tangents, many stories, many memories... What I wouldn't give to revisit that time, if for only a day. Even an hour.)
And for the record, I did go back to Amsterdam some 20 years later... with someone fun, from a Wednesday through a Sunday. Just like I said.
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- Photos from my trip to Europe circa 1995 can be found here