Today we are teaming up with the gorgeous Johanna Payton from Feet On The Ground to bring you some no fly travel ideas. There are more people than I would have imagined who have a fear of flying, including Johanna, which is why she decided to launch a blog dedicated to traveling without the need for jet engines.
Back in April, Johanna hopped on the Eurostar and made her way to Amsterdam…
“Amsterdam is a city known for its liberal vibe and laidback attitude and because, a) it’s easy-peasy to reach without flying, and b) the relaxed atmosphere will rub off on you, it’s a truly top-notch destination if your anxieties are not confined to aviation.
We started our stress-free stay with a simple train journey booked with Eurostar. Plans are afoot to launch a direct service from London to Amsterdam (I, for one, cannot wait) but for now you change at Brussels onto the clean, fast and comfortable Thalys service, straight into Amsterdam Centraal. There, we hopped onto the equally slick and speedy Amsterdam Metro, which took us to Wibautstraat in seven minutes: every train from Centraal heads in the same direction and every train stops at Wibautstraat, so it’s impossible to mess up. And if you buy a GVB travel card from the machine at the station (12€ for 48 hours) that’s your unlimited tram, bus and tube travel sorted.
Our destination was the funky Volkshotel, about 60 seconds’ walk from Wibautstraat Metro. The hotel is situated in the former offices of the Volkskrant newspaper on the edge of the trendy De Pijp district. Werkplaats, the buzzing ground floor “co-working space”, the 7th floor café, a former journalists’ canteen that turns into a club called Canvas in the evening, and rooftop mini spa with hot tubs, make Volkshotel a hub for the city’s coolest locals: expect floppy hats, blunt fringes and spectacular beards.
Opened as a hotel in June 2014, Volkshotel oozes 1960s and 70s kitsch. Architect Steven Steenbruggen was faithful to the original sixties design for the exterior – and we’d found a Dutch version of a classic Monkees annual in the lobby bar within seconds of arriving. A mid-century Mecca – much like the city it lives in – Volkshotel does effortlessly what an endless roster of hipster bars and hotels in the UK try to nail, usually in vain: it’s happening, it’s stylish, it’s charming, it’s fun, it’s fashion, it’s a home-from-home…all at once. From the second you enter the lobby, you feel like you’ve arrived at the best party in town but, when it’s time to chill out, the rooms offer peace, quiet and sheer indulgence.
Our room was totally Amsterdam and loads of fun. We booked the special Cinema Boudoir, a well-sized, opulently styled double designed by Maja Markovic, who was inspired by The Electric Cinema in London. There’s a jacuzzi bath behind the bed and a private cinema screen – so you can lounge or bathe with Netflix on the bubble. A separate shower room, dressing area fit for a movie star and secret mini bar (stocked with little gifts from the hotel) completes the picture – and there are eight other special rooms, each with a different designer’s vision, to choose from. If you’re on a budget, the “Miss Petite”, “Sir Standard” or “Ms Big” family rooms all offer great value.
Once your bags are unpacked, Volkshotel is the perfect base, with easy access to the central canal district on the Metro, or head to the trendier spots away from tourist-ville via tram.
I’d recommend a bit of both.
To avoid the tourists, we crossed the adjacent river Amstel and enjoyed a lazy breakfast of omelettes and coffee at Café Sarphaat next to Sarphaati Park on Ceintuurbaan. After taking the no3 tram a couple of stops and strolling around the spectacular Vondelpark, we window-shopped at the gorgeous interior design stores and upmarket shops in the Willemspark area. Back on board the no3, tram-it through to the historic Jordaan district: don’t miss Café Chris, an old school “Bruin Bar” that opened its doors in 1624, and contrast the old with the new by enjoying modern Italian cuisine at Mazzo, where the charcuterie sharing starter is particularly tasty.
To experience the luxurious side of the city, we made our way home via three beautiful hotel bars: Hotel de Hallen, in a converted tram shed, has the most orgasmic mid-century interior design I have ever seen; as diehard Beatles fans, the Hilton Amsterdam (where John and Yoko staged their honeymoon bed-in) was a must-visit and we enjoyed drinks on the sparkling canal-side terrace at sunset; and finally, for a fabulously mixed cocktail/mocktail with a breathtaking view, make sure Twenty Third Bar at Hotel Okura is on your agenda.
For something completely different on day two, we took the underground to Waterlooplein and, once we’d acclimatised to the tourist throng and heavy bike traffic (look in every direction before you cross a street or canal), sauntered around the canal district. Make sure you visit the floating Bloemenmarkt on the Singel canal and sift through piles of vintage clothes at the Waterlooplein flea market. Then, why not satisfy your “cravings”; cheese-taste in a cheesemongers; drool over antiques and vintage jewellery on Nieuwe Spiegelstraat; check out sex toys in the red light district; relax in an infamous coffee shop (don’t be afraid to ask the owner for recommendations – or a ready-rolled joint); stuff your face with Ossenworst (beef sausage) or sweet and colourful macaroons; or sample herbal highs in a Smart Shop. Amsterdam is all about trying a little bit of whatever floats your boat, after all.
Plunging back to reality after a heady Amsterdam experience is never easy, but thanks to the smooth and seriously stress-less journey home – with just enough time for a spot of chocolate shopping in Brussels-Midi Station – you’ll arrive home relaxed, refreshed and ready for your next trip to this incredible city. As soon as possible.”
How to get to Amsterdam without flying:
Book your complete journey with Eurostar (Johanna paid £99 each way) and take the train from London St Pancras to Amsterdam Centraal Station changing at Brussells midi. The journey takes around five hours with a 50 minute wait in Brussels. From December 2016, a direct Eurostar service is schedule to launch, taking around four hours.
Writer: Johanna Payton for Feet on the Ground
Images: Johanna Payton/Mark Groeneveld
With thanks to Johanna Payton, Volkshotel and Hotel de Hallen