A 21st Birthday with a twist (and an AA van)
Most people want to have memorable 21st birthday celebration, and I certainly did; unfortunately not all for the right reasons.
I am the type of person who likes to learn something every day, and I also enjoy looking at how different people live their lives. Not to mention the fact I don’t get away as often as I’d like, which is why I was delighted when I discovered my partner had arranged for me to go on a P&O Ferries mini cruise from Hull to Amsterdam for my birthday.
Despite the trip being booked in order to celebrate my day of birth 21 years earlier (13th January), it was in fact just less than a couple of weeks before the actual date (2nd January to 4th January), but this is an unimportant fact.
Given the time of year, we obviously expected it to be very cold; forecasts even predicting lower temperatures than I had been experiencing at home. We therefore packed accordingly, with plenty of knits and sweaters. The cruise was booked for a bargain price of £36 per person, but food and drink were of course not included. That meant we had to have a comfortable amount of Pounds Sterling to see us through the 2 evenings we were to spend on the cruise ferry, and Euros to enjoy the day in Amsterdam.
The morning came to leave for Hull, and so we proceeded to our destination, 10 of us separated into 3 cars. Before even getting onto the motorway, my car left the other 2 behind, as we stopped at a local garage as somebody wanted a drink. This was no major issue at the time, as in a sense of finding the way I was the most prepared, having both a Sat Nav and AA directions printed off.
I presume it was an omen that my directions were from the AA, as their emergency breakdown number stared at me when I managed to break down 59 miles away from Hull. Luckily I was moments away from the Hartshead Moor services when needing to stop. Fearing my gearbox was not right (judging by its refusal to go into 5th and horrific rattling); I had no option but to call and join the AA, much to their delight I’m sure.
After joining, my girlfriend, friend, brother and I were left to wait for a couple of hours for a recovery truck to come and take us the rest of the way.
Sitting in the passenger seat of a yellow van, on the motorway travelling at no quicker than 56mph and £200 worse off for an hour and a half is not exactly what I’d describe as the pinnacle of my life so far, or indeed my birthday trip, but on the bright side without the AA we would’ve not been going to Amsterdam.
By the time we finally arrived at the port, I had started to feel less sorry for my wounded bank balance, relieved that we’d still managed to get to the cruise.
The ship, named The Pride of Hull, Hull is one of the world’s largest ferries, with the facilities spread over 12 decks, holding 1,360 passengers. It was adequate for our 2 nights aboard, with all of the basics in the cabin; beds, toilet, shower and sink. There was enough entertainment, with several bars, performers, two cinemas, a café, restaurant, duty free shops and more. All of this, and being taken to and from Amsterdam was a bargain price for £72 for 2.
After an evening of enjoying the bars on offer, which were reasonably priced along with cheap cigarettes (£3.69 for 20 L&B) most of us went to bed ready for the 6a.m. wake up call, which I can assure you left the entire group regretting the decision not to go to sleep at a reasonable hour.
Some took advantage of the 90 minute bus journey into Amsterdam, having a light snooze, before we finally arrived where we’d paid to be, the capital and largest city of the Netherlands, with it’s historic canals, array of museums, and ‘coffeeshops’ if that’s your thing.
First things first, we needed breakfast. So we set off in search of Dutch cuisine; and found Subway.
My personal aim when I originally wanted to go to Amsterdam was to visit the Anne Frank House; this may be because I’m a history geek or it may not, but I and the others (appeared) slightly dejected when we saw the queue. We did however visit the sex museum, which was comical in parts, yet entertaining and interesting in others. Either way it was an eye-opening experience.
Walking past the famous red lights was also an experience in itself. Not one of the women looked particularly inviting to passers by though, with sullen expressions and a lack of eye contact which was contrary to what I’d heard and read.
As it was only a day trip, and a hung over one for most of the group, we didn’t really get to see much more after wandering around, given the 6 hours we had. But for that reason alone I would love to return, possibly spending the night in Amsterdam.
After visiting a coffeeshop, and enjoying some more traditional Dutch food; in a Chinese restaurant, we then returned to catch the coach, and repeated the journey in reverse, and I dreaded what on Earth I was to do about my car when we got to Hull.