A long weekend in Amsterdam

Back in October, EDP had to go to Amsterdam for work.  So I went, too.  And we had a lovely long weekend in that beautiful city.

We landed on a Thursday morning and after dropping bags off at the hotel, we ventured over to a part of the city where there are a large cluster of museums.  We started off at the Rijksmuseum, which is a national museum and home of many amazing works from the Dutch Masters, including Rembrandt's Night Watch, which was incredible.  Though, as amazing as it was, the best part of the museum for me was the stunning library.  I could have spent hours in it but I don't think EDP would have let me.  After Rijksmuseum, we headed towards the Van Gogh museum.  We stopped for a quick lunch at a little food stand along the way where we had some tasty soup and were greatly amused by the dog that must have belonged to the owner.  He would drop his ball at someone's feet and bark until they threw it.  Problem was - he was VERY well trained and if the ball went beyond where he was allowed to go, he'd just stand and stare at it until someone threw it back to him.  Very amusing for us.  The Van Gogh museum was wonderful.  I loved seeing the progression in Van Gogh's style and learning more about his life and now I really want to read the book of letters to his brother that was published after his death.  After the museums, we headed out for dinner at a lovely little French place that felt very French and very rustic and then it was back to the hotel for a well-earned sleep.

By far, the highlight of our trip was our food tour from Hungry Birds that we took on Friday.  It's the first time we've taken a food tour and it's made me realize we should take one every time we travel.  Our guide was Zosia and she was a wonderful guide and adorable person.  Our group was small - just four of us plus Zosia.  We met at the corner of the Albert Cuyp Markt, the largest outdoor market in Amsterdam.  It was on a list of cool places to check out in the city so we got very excited when we got to the tour meeting spot early and had time to wander through.  Amazing stalls of cheese and meats and fish and vegetables and fruits and flowers...  I would love to have something like that daily to do shopping at but that's just not how things work here!  Once our tour started, we were taken to about 10 different places throughout the city, including a couple of places in the market.  We got to try some traditional Dutch specialities - stroopwafel, gouda, pickled herring, genever  - along with other delicious treats from many different cultures.  Amsterdam is one of the most multicultural cities in the world and their food scene reflects it.  It's hard to get traditional Dutch cuisine and if you ask for a recommendation for a restaurant, it won't be anything Dutch!  In addition to all the delicious food we had, we also got to see a lot of the city, including this beautiful "secret garden" that was so peaceful and quiet.  Once our tour was done, we headed over to the Rembrandt House Museum to see where Rembrandt lived and worked for about 17 years.  Very interesting!  Then it was back to the hotel to relax for a bit with some cheese and bread and wine before heading back out to check out the Red Light District.

Let me tell you - that was something else.  It's really quite touristy.   Well, touristy and bachelor-party-y and 18th-birthday-party-y.  It was cool to walk through.  We ended up getting there a bit earlier than expected so we wandered a few streets over and found a carnival set up in a square.  I got cotton candy.  It was enormous.  We had hoped to find somewhere to get hot chocolate for our wandering through the Red Light District but no dice.  It's not as big as I expected - one main canal with ladies on either side and a number of tiny pedestrian alleys.  There were tour groups wandering through and lots of young gentlemen out and about.  And lots of tourists.  

Saturday was another busy day.  First, we got up and went to a market near our hotel so I could get a pancake from Tom.  Zosia told us that Tom made the best pancakes in the city.  When we found him, he told us we heard wrong - he actually makes the best pancakes in the country!  Tom used to be a top chef in Amsterdam and quit a few years ago to set up his own pancake stand.  He built his own cart and now spends his days making pancakes.  You can tell he loves it - and loves talking to his customers.  He let me go into the cart to get my picture taken with him.  Next time we go back, I'll go out of my way to get another pancake from him.  It was delicious and he was lovely.  After that, we rented bikes and biked along the Amstel out to a small village.  It was a beautiful day for a ride and we enjoyed seeing some of the countryside.  Once back, we took a boat tour through the canals, learning more about the city and seeing areas we hadn't seen yet.  I particularly enjoyed seeing all the houseboats - some are quite the extravagant set ups! Then it was on to dinner, which was rijsttafel, which translates to rice table.  You get a big bowl of rice and then all these little dishes of different things to try.  It's Indonesian, so lots of peanut-y things.  And quite delicious.  

Sunday was our last day in the city.  The Amsterdam marathon was on so there was no transit.  We earned our breakfast by walking into the city centre to a little place called Gartine that was recommended to me.  AMAZING eggs Benedict.  One of the best I've had.  After that, we ventured over to the Royal Palace.  It's not technically a museum - the palace is still used by the monarchy but I think mostly for really significant events.  It was beautiful.  The chandeliers were particularly stunning.  Once we were done at the palace, we headed back to the hotel for a bit more relaxing, one last dinner and then called it a night since I had an early flight out the next day.

I absolutely loved Amsterdam.  It's tied with Prague for my favourite city in Europe and I can't wait to go back!

Swimming with the Fishies

We leave for Belize in a week