Monthly Archive: April 2013

Wednesday

17

April 2013

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Amsterdam Day 4

Written by , Posted in Travel

Amsterdam Day 1Amsterdam Day 2Amsterdam Day 3 

Our fourth and final day here in the beautiful city of Amsterdam. Sigh.

We had high hopes for getting out and doing a countryside bike tour today with Mike’s Bike Tours and hoped to visit the Van Gogh museum afterwards to round out our tourist activities for the trip. When we woke up we decided that we were in the mood for a more laid-back kind of day so we threw those plans aside and came up with new ones. Obviously I had been hoping to visit both of those places but sometimes you just have to call an audible and change things up a bit!

We started our day with another fantastic breakfast, this morning at Singel 404, a small little café just down the block from our flat. After yesterday’s super-size breakfast we decided to share a plate so we would have room to try a few more treats throughout the day. We had the 3 fried eggs breakfast served with 3 slices of bread, ham, cheese, and chives and it was delicious! All the other plates coming out of the kitchen were mouthwatering as well; if we had visited this café sooner in our trip I’m sure we would’ve stopped in for one of their tasty looking melts for lunch! (Although I can’t say we were really ever hungry for lunch during this trip!)

Amsterdam Singel

Amsterdam Singel

Amsterdam Singel

 After breakfast we headed over to our first stop of the day, De Negen Straatjes or Nine Little Streets. This is a small neighborhood in Amsterdam that is made up of nine little streets (surprise, surprise) and has an abundance of cute little shops filled with unique items, perfect for an afternoon of shopping. We stopped at Patisserie Pompadour for chocolates and macaroons, De Kaaskamer for a lovely block of Gouda cheese with truffles, and DR Wonen and de Weldaad for a few unique decorative gifts before continuing on our way.

Amsterdam

Amsterdam Pompadour

Amsterdam Cheese

Amsterdam Cheese

From De Negen Straatjes we headed for the adjacent Jordaan neighborhood, which has been likened to Greenwich Village in New York City-more cute shops, small streets, and old homes. We (I) did a little more shopping, stopping off at a cute little shop called Juffrouw Splinter and the Tulip Museum for a few not-too-touristy souvenirs to bring home. We stopped for a quick drink at Wester Café and sat along the canal, enjoying the views of the Westerkerk (West Church) just across the way. This is also where you can find the Anne Frank House, which we visited later in the day.

Amsterdam

Amsterdam

Amsterdam

Amsterdam

Amsterdam Tulip Museum

On the north end of Jordaan we stopped for a slice of some very popular apple pie at Winkel 43. You’ll see this kind of apple pie all over the city, but no place that I saw had a whipped cream maker right on their counter! They pile a healthy dollop of this fresh whipped cream on top of your pie, a treat worth stopping in for!

Amsterdam Apple Pie

Amsterdam Canal

Amsterdam Canal

We returned to our apartment to relax a bit after our long afternoon of shopping, walking, and eating…tough life, I know. About a week prior to our trip I purchased tickets online for the Anne Frank House. As we witnessed earlier in the day while walking around Jordaan, the line for tickets is extremely long every day of the week and when you buy your tickets in advance you are able to bypass the line and go right in. When I booked, the only option available during our stay was 7pm on Tuesday evening. I’m not sure if they make more tickets available closer to the actual day or if that was really all that was available for pre-sales for those days, but if this is something you want to do (which I highly suggest that it should be!) you’ll want to purchase your tickets ahead of time.

Amsterdam Anne Frank House

I’m not a history buff by any means, but for some reason I have a very strong interest in World War II history-from internment camps in the US, to POWs in Japan, to the Holocaust, and everything in between. Fiction or non-fiction, museums, exhibits, etc-I can’t read and learn enough about it. That being said, you don’t have to have a special interest in WWII to enjoy the Anne Frank House, and I would HIGHLY recommend it to anyone visiting Amsterdam.

Amsterdam Anne Frank House

The tour is self-guided and when you walk through the house there really isn’t much to actually see, but there is an endless amount to think about, knowing about the things that took place so many years ago, right where you’re standing. There are photos to look at and videos to watch throughout the house and at the end they have actual pages of Anne’s diary on display. Overall Anne Frank House was a very interesting place that Mike and I are both happy to have had the opportunity to visit.

Amsterdam Anne Frank House

Amsterdam Anne Frank House

Amsterdam

 After that sobering 45min-1 hour experience we headed over to BeerTemple-the only craft beer bar in Amsterdam specializing in American beers. They are the sister bar to Arendsnest that we visited on Sunday.

Amsterdam Beer Temple

We weren’t incredibly hungry for dinner so beer, sausage, and more cheese at Beer Temple fit the bill. We saw a lot of familiar beer brands and were very excited to try 2 Three Floyds beers that aren’t even available in the US: Bitch Please, a collaboration with Brew Dog brewery in Scotland that is aged in Islay single malt whisky barrels for 18 months and Hvedegoop, a wheat wine (barley wine) that is a collaboration with Mikkeller. We enjoyed our beers and snacks and just reflected on our last few days; it was the perfect laid-back way to end our last night in Amsterdam.

Amsterdam Beer Temple

Amsterdam Beer Temple

Amsterdam Beer Temple, Three Floyds, Brew Dog

Tuesday

16

April 2013

1

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Amsterdam Day 3

Written by , Posted in Travel

Amsterdam Day 1 and Amsterdam Day 2.

I can’t believe it’s the end of our third day here in Amsterdam! The time has flown by; we’ve had the chance to see and do so many cool things, but I’m sad that the end of our trip is drawing near. I think Saturday-Tuesday (leaving Wednesday) was the perfect short trip to Amsterdam for us. We had the weekend to explore and experience all the hustle and bustle and now we have 2 weekdays to see the museums and other points of interest with less crowds. If you’re planning a short trip here, that would be my recommendation, although I could definitely stay here for another week or more!

Our B&B (MNQUE) is really turning out to be the perfect location. We’ve been able to walk nearly everywhere and there are so many great bars and restaurants right outside our door, including today’s breakfast spot- Broodje Bert. First off, I need to say that the coffee in Amsterdam is awesome. Very strong, more similar to espresso I would say…is that a European thing?? I’m not usually a coffee drinker but I’ve had it here every morning and am loving it! Anyways…we each ordered the Suisse Omelet and I’m pretty sure we could’ve shared just one. It was hearty and delicious and held us over until dinner!

Amsterdam Broodje Bert

Amsterdam breakfast

After breakfast we caught the #5 tram and headed to the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam. A little history on the Rijksmuseum-it is an art and history museum that was originally opened in 1885 and just reopened this past Saturday after 10 years of renovations. So crazy that we were here right when they reopened! The outside of the museum looks a lot like a fairytale castle while the newly renovated inside is sleek and modern. We were afraid it would be too crowded to have a comfortable visit but we waited until Monday and, although there were still crowds, there were far fewer people than there appeared to be when we first walked around the Museumplein on Sunday.

Amsterdam

Mike and I are not the most avid of art enthusiasts, so we were in and out of the Rijksmuseum in about 2 hours-stopping for the highlights and getting a quick look at everything else. The ticket lines were long but fast moving. I believe you can buy tickets ahead of time and skip the lines but we didn’t have a printer available so we were stuck waiting. There will be 2 lines when you walk in-the ticket line is ON THE RIGHT. Gardenrobe means coat check, that is on the left. Yes…we waited 15 minutes in the coat check line before figuring that one out, even though the word “Tickets” is on the wall near the ticket side…but let’s not get into that….

So…the Rijksmuseum has one of Europe’s top collections of art and historical items and the world’s largest group of Dutch Master paintings. Easily the most famous painting at the Rijksmuseum, Rembrandt’s Night Watch can be found in the same room as it was prior to the renovations at the center of the building on the 2nd floor. Other highlights include Rembrandt’s Waterloo and a Van Gogh self-portrait, along several others that I recognized but didn’t know by name. I would definitely recommend a visit to the Rijksmuseum to anyone visiting Amsterdam, even if you don’t have much time you can at least breeze through like we did in just a couple hours.

Amsterdam Rembrandt

Amsterdam Picasso

Amsterdam Rembrandt

After the Rijksmuseum we stopped at the “I Amsterdam” sign for some quick tourist pictures. The sign is very crowded, even on a Monday, so don’t go thinking you’re going to get a picture alone with the sign because it ain’t gonna happen!

Amsterdam

From there we headed to Stadhouderskade 30 (right in front of the Hard Rock Cafe) to hop on a Blue Boat Company canal tour. We took the City cruise that was 15€/person for a 75 minute tour. Most of the boat is covered so they run rain or shine but they also have an open area in the rear which is great for an unimpeded view. Inside they offer headphones with pre-recorded audio commentary, which you won’t get if you sit outside. Mike opted for history inside and I opted for photos outside.

Amsterdam canal tour

Amsterdam canal boat

Amsterdam

Amsterdam canal tour

It was cool to get a view of the city from the canals and if you have the time I would definitely do the canal tour and the bus tour because you get such a different perspective from each. However, if we had to choose between a canal tour and a bus tour I think we enjoyed the views from the bus to be a bit better. If you opt for the bus, try and board the bus at Centraal or the stop right before Centraal so you can get a front seat on top for the best views.

After our boat tour we walked up the street and enjoyed the sunshine and a drink at the Leidseplein, a square filled with tables and chairs from the surrounding bars and restaurants for outdoor drinking and dining. I could sit here all day long and be perfectly content!

Amsterdam

From the Leidseplein we walked up Leidsestraat and stopped into some of the many cute shops along the way. There is definitely no shortage of cute little shops in Amsterdam! We stopped for another quick beer at Gollem Beer Café before heading back to our apartment for a quick rest/happy hour before our 8pm dinner reservation at Vlaming Eten & Drinken.

Amsterdam bar

Amsterdam Vlaming

Amsterdam Vlaming

Vlaming was the one restaurant I picked out and made a reservation for prior to our trip. Usually I’m a little more structured with restuarants but we wanted this trip to be more of an “on a whim” type thing so I restrained myself. Vlaming is rated the #2 restaurant in Amsterdam on Trip Advisor and after dining there it’s really no surprise. The service, the food, and the wine were all great and we were very happy with our choice. Mike ordered their giant burger and I went for the pork tenderloin in a truffle sauce. We finished our meal off with the BEST hot chocolate cake I’ve ever had. You may think that one chocolate lava cake is the same as the next, but in Vlaming’s case it definitely is not!

Amsterdam Vlaming

Amsterdam Vlaming

Amsterdam Vlaming

Amsterdam Vlaming

Towards the end of dinner we heard about the tragedy that happened during the Boston Marathon. It’s crazy how quickly news can travel via email/social media. We were both very affected by all the news coming in so we headed back home just in time to watch President Obama address the nation. It’s difficult to enjoy the rest of our time here knowing about the tragedy that continues to unfold in Boston, but we have one more day here and are determined to make the best of it.

Monday

15

April 2013

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Amsterdam Day 2

Written by , Posted in Travel

For those that need to catch up, here’s Amsterdam Day 1.

Sunday, Day 2, our first full day in Amsterdam. Today was spent doing touristy things and getting a better lay of the land. We started out with breakfast at Gartine [again]. I made a reservation yesterday because I knew I wanted to bring Mike back. Today he got the large breakfast and I switched it up with a croissant and scrambled eggs on sourdough. The eggs were scrambled with fresh chives and served on top of the thick sourdough…so delicious, as expected. This place was such a cute little find and if they weren’t closed on Mondays and Tuesdays we would probably return for breakfast the next couple mornings as well.

Amsterdam, Gartine, Breakfast

Amsterdam, Gartine Kitchen

After breakfast we set out for tourist activity #1- finding a double decker bus stop. Mike and I are big fans of the double decker bus tour when we first arrive in a new city because it helps give us a quick overview and lets us hop on and off to cover more ground in one day. We rode the bus to the Heineken Experience where we got off for tourist activity #2.

Amsterdam

Neither of us are big Heineken fans, but we figured we might as well make the stop to see what it’s all about. We’ve been on several brewery tours in the states and we both agreed that this was probably the most impressive tour we’ve been on. It was definitely designed to be visited by those who have stopped off at a coffee shop beforehand (i.e. people that are high), but it’s still pretty cool for those who haven’t (in case you were wondering, we were definitely the latter!). It’s an interactive, self-guided “experience” where you stop along the way to watch videos, pose for photo ops, and participate in other activities. A lot of time was put into this place and it shows. I’d say it’s worth a one-time visit if you have enough time. At the end of the tour we enjoyed our 2 Heinekens that were included in the 16€/person price and moved on to our next stop.

Amsterdam Heineken Tour

Amsterdam Heineken Tour

Amsterdam Heineken Tour, beer glass

Next we walked from the Heineken Experience over to the Museumplein. This is where you can find the “I Amsterdam” sign, the Rijksmuseum (reopened after 10 years this past Saturday), and the Van Gogh Museum (currently undergoing renovations and relocated to the Hermitage Amsterdam). With the Rijksmuseum just opening the day before and it being a Sunday, it was very crowded but we just kind of strolled around the grounds and took it all in. We plan on going back on Monday or Tuesday when it’s not so busy.

We hopped back on our double decker bus and made our way back towards Centraal to check out a beer bar I had heard good things about, Arendsnest. On the way we stopped for chocolate covered waffles-because there is always room for chocolate covered waffles…

Amsterdam Waffles

Amsterdam Beer Bar

Arendsnest was very cool, just a small little place next to a canal with a large list of beers and friendly bartenders. We had no idea what any of the beers were because they were all Dutch, but we just asked for a stout, an IPA, etc and they were able to recommend a few that we enjoyed. After beers we headed back to our apartment, stopping to admire some of the house boats on the canals along the way.

Amsterdam Beer Bar

Amsterdam Beer

Amsterdam canal

We picked up some more wine from a great little shop called Cave Rokin as well as cheese and sausage from Cheese & More and settled in for happy hour at our place. Today was the first nice day in Amsterdam this year so the streets and bars around us were even more lively than yesterday. A guy showed up breathing fire right outside our window and some rowdy football fans decided it would be a good idea to burn the other team’s flag….

Amsterdam

Amsterdam

We took a quick nap and gathered up some energy to do a little more exploring. We grabbed a couple quick bites at Tapas bar Catala because it was literally 10 steps from our doorway and decided we should probably go and see what the Red Light District was all about.

Amsterdam Canal, Night

I was extremely nervous about exploring the Red Light District at night. I had no idea what to expect but I was afraid it was going to be super sketchy and people would harass me, even with Mike there. We showed up on the main stretch along the canal and the picture I had in my head couldn’t have been father from actuality. Mike compared it to Bourbon Street in New Orleans, but thought that Bourbon St. might actually be a little more seedy! It was probably around 9:30pm when we got there and people of all ages were roaming the streets-we even saw a couple children in strollers. Just tons of tourists doing the exact same thing we were doing. Yes, there were scantily clad girls in windows trying to convince you to buy them, but it was nowhere near the shady underground scene I was afraid of.

We lucked out near the end of the strip and found a small pub called Cafe De Zeevaart that had a few tables outside so we snagged a couple seats and settled in for a little people watching. It was such a nice night, the atmosphere was so lively, and let’s be honest-who doesn’t love a great people watching spot?! We stayed for a little over an hour before deciding to head home and then one of the best stories of our trip happened…

Amsterdam Red Light District

Across the canal from our patio seats were several windows filled with working girls. Of course this was another plus to our people watching spot and obviously we were waiting for some shady business to go down, but the majority of the time we were just talking to each other and/or eyeing up the passersby. After our last drink we decided to walk down the side of canal in front of these girls, since we had come up the other side. As we’re passing one of the girls’ doors, she opened it up and started throwing some type of carbonated beverage on us, saying we’ve been “giving her shit all night”. Mike and I just looked at each other kind of mystified, thinking she must be throwing this soda on one of the other people walking around us. No…she was definitely throwing it at us. I don’t know exactly what we did to set her off, but we both can now say that we’ve had soda thrown on us by a whore in Amsterdam. Ok…we’ll probably have to put some context around that sentence when telling people the story…but still, it’s a pretty good one.

With half of our bodies damp from the soda, we headed towards home, still in disbelief about what had just happened, and decided we probably needed one last beer before calling it a night. We found another small pub called Cafe de Dam that looked right up our alley-small, old, and full of character. We chatted with the very friendly bartender, met an American that had just had her passport pick-pocketed in Brussels, had one last beer, and THEN called it a night….after one last stop for a late night french fries and mayonnaise of course! Solid 2nd day in Amsterdam…can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings…

Amsterdam cafe


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