It’s funny. When you tell people you are going to Amsterdam you kind of get an insight into what they think of you as a person. They’ll ask one of two questions. Either, ‘are you going for the culture?’ or ‘are you going to get high?’ On one occasion, having said ‘no’ to the latter question I was then asked, ‘are you lying?’ Nope. Genuinely the thought of taking mind altering substances, particularly in a foreign country, terrifies me! So, no. I did not go to get high. I absolutely went for the culture; the architecture, the history… Anyone who knows me knows how much of a geek I am! Anyway, just thought I’d straighten that out before I started!
We arrived in Amsterdam about 8am on Saturday morning. Getting into the centre from Schiphol Airport is super easy. We got the train straight to Amsterdam Centraal Station for around €5 and it took all of about 10 minutes. One of our friends recommended that we buy our train tickets before leaving the baggage collection area (although we only flew with hand luggage) as the queues would be shorter, but at that time of the morning it wasn’t that busy.
We couldn’t check into our AirBnB till 3pm so we had plenty of time to kill. First thing on our list was to find food. Having eaten only a skinny muffin from Starbucks in Bristol airport at around 5am I was somewhat peckish! Just round the corner from Dam Square we found Café de Paris. In true café culture style we sat outside with awnings shielding us from the ever rising sun. Leanne and I both opted for Norwegian eggs (I’m not sure what it was that made them Norwegian, or why Café de Paris was selling Norwegian eggs…); two poached eggs, with a toasted brioche bun, mashed avocado, smoked salmon and hollandaise sauce (pictured). It was exactly what I needed and absolutely delicious! Adam opted for the healthy option (after his Burger King breakfast at 5am) of Mango Fever; mango puree, granola, banana and greek yoghurt (for an extra euro). I wish I’d taken a picture of it because honestly it was such a beautiful plate of food! We all had freshly squeezed orange juice, which we all agreed was the best orange juice we had ever tasted. Orange juice will never be the same for us ever again *sad face*. All in all we spent around €14/15 each and I’d highly recommend Café de Paris if you ever happen to find yourself in need of breakfast near Dam Square!
Day 1 also consisted of a canal tour (it was pretty much the only activity we could think of to do while lugging around our cases!). I knew there were canals in Amsterdam and if you look at the map you can see just how many, but it kind of becomes like a unit of measurement; ‘we carry on in this direction for 6 canals’. This means that a canal tour is a must and the perfect way to see the city. We found lots of different companies offering tours with prices ranging from €7 up to €20+. The one we picked was an hour and a half long and cost (I think) €17. If you pay more you can do a hop-on-hop-off style trip, so you can stop off at the museum quarter and then hop back on the boat to the next bit when you’re done!
Finally we were able to check into our AirBnB, which was located in the west of the city near Vondelpark and the museum quarter, and it was absolutely perfect for us. Leanne and I shared a double bed in the main room that also had French doors, which opened up to a small (but high!) balcony. Adam slept in the other room (I say ‘other’ loosely, because there were no doors separating the two, only a wall) where there was also a little table to eat at. Although, we only ate in the BnB one time and we sat on the balcony to do so. I mean, why wouldn’t you, right? Then of course there was the bathroom with a freestanding bath and a walk in shower. It was all very modern and clean and we liked it a lot. The only challenge was the three flights of incredibly steep stairs we had to climb to get into it! I’ve added a picture, but honestly, it doesn’t do it justice. I get the impression most town houses in Amsterdam have these!
That evening we decided to go across to the Foodhallen, which was just across the square from our accommodation. Imagine a huge food market, but every stall is a restaurant. The communal seating area in the middle means that you and your friends don’t all have to eat at the same place. We actually ended up going there twice… it was so good. The first night I had a veggie mushroom burger from a place called Padron (Green Dutch Cuisine). I know what you’re thinking; how un-imaginative to serve a Portobello mushroom on a bun as the veggie option. I know, I think that too when I see it on the menu. But this one was a cut above; grilled halloumi sandwiched between two Portobello mushrooms, caramelised onions, salad and a ‘secret’ sauce. It was divine. Adam and Leanne both had pizzas, but I can’t remember the name of the restaurant. If you’re in Amsterdam, please head west and find the Foodhallen, you will not be disappointed. Food choices range from sushi, dim sum, Mexican, burgers, tapas, pizza, frozen yoghurts, ice cream and waffles… mmmm #takemeback
We of course managed to do other touristy things. As I mentioned before I’m a bit of a geek with a keen interest in history and Amsterdam certainly has its fair share of that due to the Second World War and the persecution of the Jews. So of course I wanted to go to the Jewish Museum and the Holocaust museum (there’s five sites in the Jewish quarter and you can buy a ticket for all five for around €18). I won’t go too much because this blog is fast becoming a novel and if you’re still reading then I’m impressed. As you can imagine these museums were somewhat sad, but the part that nearly brought a real life actual tear to my eye was in the Holocaust Museum (Plantage Middenlaan 27). One of the exhibitions ‘Almost Lost in History’ (on till the 15th October 2017) shows the work of two ‘photographers-in-exile’ Annemie Wolf-Koller and her husband Helmuth Wolff. The couple took portraits of Jewish people during the war as an act of active resistance. Their collection was thought to be lost until after the death of Annemie (long after her husband’s suicide) and many of the pictures are now on display in the Holocaust Museum. What really got to me was the number of Jewish people photographed who are still, to this day, unidentified, but very likely died during the war.
There is so much to do in Amsterdam and I won’t go on much longer, I promise. We also visited the House of Bols (which I highly recommend, it was so much fun and you get cheap cocktails at the end. What’s not to love!) and of course we went to the Anne Frank Museum (we tried to book in advance, but tickets were sold out so we had to queue. For an hour and a half, nearly. So if you plan to go do remember to book a few MONTHS in advance!) We wondered through Vondelpark, which is huge and came across a little brass band playing. We wondered down the slightly creepy red light district; my mum put it perfectly when she said she didn’t know whether to feel empowered by the women or feel sorry for them. I couldn’t agree more, I was very torn and I have to say I felt quite uncomfortable.
We were only there for 3 nights/4 days so there wasn’t enough time to do everything Amsterdam has to offer. We didn’t do bike rides (so scary trying to cross roads in Amsterdam cause of bikes, cars, trams and I swear I have some kind of anxiety triggered by bike bells now), we didn’t do the Heineken Experience, we didn’t do any of the museums in the museum quarter and we didn’t really have a night out (collapsing into bed at about 11pm in the evenings after a full day of walking/exploring!). So there’s definitely a few good reasons to go back!
All in all I loved Amsterdam and I’d genuinely consider living there. The flights were less than an hour and about the same price as I pay to fly from Bristol to Edinburgh. It’s a city, but it’s laid back and pretty. With beautifully narrow canal houses (fun fact: the houses are so narrow that it’s too hard to get furniture up the stairs so they have winches on the outside of the buildings!) and churches everywhere. Huge big green spaces. Canals, obviously, with boats to hire and paddle boarding on offer to make the most of them. Cafes and restaurants everywhere and a pub on every corner. It’s my kind of place!
So I’ll stop rambling on now, but if you need me you’ll find me looking up rental prices in Amsterdam and trying to think of a business case to present to my work so they’ll let me work remotely from The Netherlands… 😉