Armed with a Eurail pass, destinations editor Eric Moya is on a weeklong rail journey from London to Luxembourg.
What would you do with a couple of hours in London? Or Amsterdam? This media fam trip sponsored by Eurail gave me my first opportunity to visit both cities, but with scant free time to explore before heading to our next destination, I had some hard decisions to make.
After a seven-hour flight to London, I decided to stay on foot as much as possible to enjoy the sunny, pleasantly cool spring weather. Google Maps gave me a good idea of what was within reasonable walking distance from our host hotel, the Hub by Premier Inn London Kings Cross. One intriguing option was the Sherlock Holmes Museum, a couple of miles west.
I opted to go a little farther and headed to Abbey Road Studios. I walked about halfway, to the outskirts of the Regent's Park, then to buy myself a little time, I flagged down a cab to complete the journey.
Although the recording studio itself is closed to the public, tons of music fans still descend upon 3 Abbey Road to view the building where Pink Floyd, Duran Duran and countless others made some of their most famous recordings.
The main attraction, though, is the nearby crosswalk immortalized by the Beatles on their album cover for "Abbey Road," which visitors attempt to re-create. I could imagine how the stream of faux Fab Fours might irritate drivers on a weekday afternoon, but I heard only an occasional impatient honk during my 15 minutes or so observing the street corner.
As a party of one, I demurred on taking a crosswalk selfie; my main mission was checking out the souvenirs at the studio's adjacent gift shop. I grabbed a T-shirt and some guitar picks, and that concluded my Abbey Road visit. Part of me thought a museum might have been more ... I don't know, enriching? But as a music fan, I would have regretted not visiting the site where pop music history was made, and watching others do the same.
Edibles for sale at the Cannabis Museum gift shop. Photo Credit: TW photo by Eric Moya
I felt a similar sentiment in Amsterdam as I entered the Cannabis Museum, right off Dam Square and about a 15-minute walk from the city's Central Station. It's one of several in the city, but it's the newest, having opened last summer. The museum was doing brisk business at its street-level gift shop among visitors eager to stock up on edibles, paraphernalia, kitschy knickknacks and other souvenirs. Few, however, were paying the 10 euro admission to the three-floor museum itself.
That's a shame. The notion of a cannabis "museum" might conjure images of Instagrammable giant bongs and such, but the museum takes a rather sober approach to the history of cannabis consumption and efforts throughout the decades to ban it. (There are some whimsical touches, however, like an illuminated mural that outlines what advocates say are the three primary benefits of cannabis consumption. There's also a wall of fame with pictures of everyone from Louis Armstrong to Cheech and Chong to Rihanna -- also Paul McCartney.)
I've done my fair share of research into the history of cannabis prohibition, yet I certainly learned a few things. One overarching theme was the role the U.S. played in stigmatizing cannabis use, not just at home but around the world. (President Richard Nixon, whose administration enacted the Controlled Substances Act in 1971, is a recurring presence at the museum.) As one might suspect, the museum's overall message is one of advocacy; I can't imagine it'll change anybody's mind about weed, but for a modest space in a tourist area, it makes its case with authority.
So with little time in London and Amsterdam, I found a couple of attractions that spoke to my personal interests. As a first-timer in both cities, my experiences certainly stoked my eagerness to return. Leisure travelers, of course, generally won't be under the same constraints. And that's particularly true of those who purchase a Eurail pass; they can spend as much time as they want in one destination, before heading to the next stop on a magical mystery tour of their own design.