Friday, January 8, 2016

Amsterdam



Of every country we visited on our trip, Amsterdam had by far the best food. The five extra pounds I came home with (not in my suitcase) were probably due to all the amazing eats. I can’t say we had a bad meal here. During our last few nights in Sweden, Ash and I searched photos of delicious looking food through Instagram and Yelp. De Foodhallen was at the top of our list. This is a must when visiting Amsterdam. It’s a quick tram ride away from the museum quarter making it a great place to relax and grab a bite or two after a museum-filled morning. They also have a cool art collective next door as well as other shops with neat finds.
In addition to Amsterdam having the best food, it was the most fun to visit. There was such a diverse mix of cultures. Much different from what we experienced in Sweden. The architecture is charming and beautiful. My heart lit up as we took a taxi from the train station to our Airbnb. Looking out the window as this magnificent city moved past evoked a feeling of such excitement. I knew that we would have the most amazing time here.

Where we stayed:

Booking an Airbnb for Amsterdam was rather difficult. There was not much availability and the prices were as steep as the stairs. I was worried that the one I booked was too far out from the city center but it ended up being absolutely perfect! It was about a 20-25 minute walk from the main areas we wanted to see, such as the Anne Frank Huis, Red Light District, etc. After spending our days in the heart of the city, with its thousands of summer tourists, it was nice to come back to our quiet neighborhood. We enjoyed relaxing evenings, more eating and watching boats pass along the canal. We lucked out as the time of our stay was during Sail Amsterdam. It’s a maritime celebration that happens once every five years. Tall ships from all over the world travel to this festival. Click here to check out this Airbnb listing.


 What we ate:

Oriental city - Huge selection of Chinese food. We ordered an assortment of dim sum. Everything was delicious but the sesame prawn toast is where it’s at. If you order one thing, get the sesame prawn toast!


Boca’s  - Cute little spot that has the most amazing mini sandwiches. Get a few or several to sample and share. We tried the bitterbal, hamburger with foie gras, gamba croquettes, and gouda with whole grain mustard. This place also had good seasonal beer on tap.


De Foodhallen - This place is a foodie’s paradise. We found it through Instagram and couldn’t wait to try everything.
  • Bulls and Dogs serves gourmet hotdogs. We tried the Luxurious dog - A pork sausage with wild mushrooms, truffle sauce and hazelnuts. 
  • The Rough Kitchen has an amazing pulled pork sandwich.
  • De Ballen Bar offers a sample of one of each bitterballen. They are like mini croquettes.

  • Petite Gâteau specializes in mini tarts. We got several to share because we couldn’t just decide on a couple. Some of their flavors include chocolate hazelnut, salted caramel, panna cotta (our favorite), caramel apple, and chocolate.

The Happy Pig
- Best waffle I’ve ever eaten. Seriously the best! We also tried the the pancakes here but nothing could come close to the waffle.


The Pancake Bakery - This is a famous spot in Amsterdam. They offer savory as well as sweet pancakes. I would forgo the savory. Their poffertjes with butter and powdered sugar are a must. These tiny little pancakes are delicious drizzled with stroop (traditional dutch syrup). We also tried The Dutch, a pancake topped with stroopwaffle chunks, cinnamon ice cream, chocolate flakes and whipped cream.

Cheese - Lots of cheese shops sample their offerings so make sure you pop into a shop or two. Gouda is their specialty.

Ivy & Bros - The best iced coffee I have ever had. It comes with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Enough said.

Home Cooking - There were so many places we wanted to eat but we did need to watch our budget as well. The great thing about renting an Airbnb is having a kitchen to use. We stopped at a nearby grocery store and stocked up on breakfast and snack essentials the first day we arrived. I couldn't believe how inexpensive groceries were. We filled up an entire basket and spent about $20. Each morning I cooked us breakfast consisting of a scramble with a side of yogurt, muesli, and fruit. Some bread too, of course! 


What we did:


Anne Frank House - I would highly suggest taking a tour through the Anne Frank House. It’s best to purchase tickets in advance so you don’t have to wait in a mile-long line. All the tickets were sold out during the time of our stay, so we ended up purchasing a walking tour including admission through a company called Get Your Guide. After a 1 hour guided walking tour of the city, it ended at the Anne Frank House where we got in without having to wait in line. It’s pretty mind blowing walking though all the rooms in the house. If you haven’t read her Diary, I suggest reading it before you go. You will have a much stronger connection and understanding when you tour the house.


The Rijksmuseum - If I had my way, I would have gone to a lot more museums but time did not allow. We decided on one and that was the Rijks. I wish I could have spent the whole day here. They have paintings from famous artists such as Van Gogh, Vermeer, and Rembrandt. It was a really cool experience. The museum quarter is beautiful.



Canal Cruise - We did this one afternoon after stuffing our faces at The Pancake Bakery. It was about an hour long ride and took you along the canals.


Red Light District - Definitely worth walking through. I always thought it was just one little area but it’s actually spread out. Some of the alleyways are so narrow you have to walk in a single-file line. I also thought the girls were behind closed doors but they have their doors open, standing in the doorway making eye contact. It was quite awkward.

Smoking Pot in Amsterdam - There are many coffee shops in Amsterdam but The Bulldog was the first ever pot shop. We stopped in at one of their locations, The Bulldog Energy, after meeting and talking with this sweet English guy we met sitting along the canal. We noticed him smoking a joint and asked where he got it. We had actually already been inside the shop, you know, just to check it out. But we got nervous and left. Neither one of us smoked much back home and even though it’s completely legal in Amsterdam, it felt so strange. Once we got over the initial nervousness and fear we had the best time. What’s nice is they offer different strengths so we were able to get a mild strain. You have to smoke in Amsterdam! It was so cool being able to sit along the canal and light up a joint.  It’s so normal there which is really refreshing. Not all coffee shops are the same. We tried a muffin from one place which was really good. Another day my friend got a brownie from a place in the Red Light District and it was terrible and stale.



Amsterdam, you were truly a delight. I can't wait till the day I return but for now I can look back on the great memories I made in your city.