When asked what Amsterdam was like to visit, I respond with a singular word, ‘pretty’. All stories from the red light district aside, there is something enchanting about the century old canals, the clutter of bicycles, narrow wonky houses and pot plant covered houseboats. Following a few days in Amsterdam, we traveled to Rotterdam to board the ferry bound for the UK. The guys behind passport control eagerly told us we were missing out having not spent time in Rotterdam, the city has much more to offer. That said, I am thinking we definitely have to return to the Netherlands. One thing on the bucket list is to, DIY a bicycle holiday around the dutch country. I think that would be super fun!
It was a great opportunity to visit Amsterdam and here are a few words about our time in the city of canals and ladies of the night!
Where we stayed
Steep, vertigo inducing stairs, cosy rooms and narrow corridors, I absolutely loved staying at Hotel Nadia! The family run hotel is housed in a traditional dutch building and even the resident cats have their own quarters, undisturbed by passing guests, merely turning their noses up and rolling over. The location was sublime, positioned along Keizergracht canal.
Hotel Nadia www.nadia.nl
Biting into custom made beef burgers and shoveling Belgian frites in between mouthfuls at the Burger Bar. Burgers on a holiday seem to be the comforting home away meal for us. We found a bigger presence of fast food in Amsterdam then any of the European countries on our trip.
Burger Bar www.burgerbar.nl
In and around Leidseplein Square we frequented a cluster of restaurants offering patrons a free glass of vino with reasonably priced 3 course meals.
What I brought
Souvenir clogs, that now sit in my kitchen window and a pair of sturdy high heel boots I like to call my farmer boots on steroids. Completely impractical in Australia unless it snows.
Worth the money
The touristy blue boat ride along the water canals presents a different perspective of city life in Amsterdam, the locals display some innovative ways in building a life on a houseboat. Small potted gardens on decks. Pets basking in the sun and occupants enjoying the fresh air, sprawling the morning paper over a table with a coffee in one hand.
The canal tour doubles as a nifty way to orientate yourself around the city in a short space of time.
Van Gogh is an 1800’s famous dutch painter who for the most part led a troubled life. It wasn’t until he died that his paintings started to surface, as is the case for most of histories world renowned artists. In the centre of Amsterdam the Van Gogh museum houses a massive collection of his artwork. As we wandered through we saw the progression of his craziness in the paintings. My favourite painting of a more peaceful time is the Almond Blossom.
The drunken foreigners and as a result a strong police presence in the evening around the red light district. I have never seen so many police (with machine guns) on horseback before.
Seeing a live sex show at Theatre Casa Rosso. You are reading this correctly, we sat in red velvet cinema style chairs watching an erotic and at times a humorous show unfold on stage. Parts of the show were interactive and I sunk lower into my chair when a member of the audience was asked to volunteer! Secretly hoping Derek wouldn’t volunteer me! No cameras allowed and viewers can order drinks from the comfort of their seats.
Warrants a return
Wandering around cocoa town. It’s not really called that, but, it was our first impression of Zaanse Schans and as we made our way from the train station we were treated to the aroma of the nearby cocoa factory. Zaanse Schans is a picturesque town north of Amsterdam, it’s known for the 8 windmills around the river Zaan. There is a saw, oil and mustard mill to name a few. We caught the train from Amsterdam station to Uitgeest and found a lot of ground to cover on foot. A bicycle or scooter would have been better and that’s why we have to return!
The coffee we drank
Drinking a morning espresso in a cafe located on the former docklands alongside clog wearing retired sea captains.
The cakes we ate
The green cakes were crazy good. This Europe trip introduced me to the world of waffles and in Amsterdam I tried them all – hard icing covered stroop waffles and warm waffles covered in chocolate sauce and cream. The ice cream sundae from The Church in the red light district was a real treat.
We walked through Albert Cuyp street market one day after cycling around the canals. I bought gypsy bead bracelets and Derek ate poffertjes (dutch pancakes). We stopped to watch a musical time machine pass through the crowds. A typical European market affair.
Caught my eye
The varied coloured brilliance of tulips at Bloemenmarkt. The flower trade has been a part of Amsterdam’s history since the 1880s and although flowers are no longer shipped along canals on the barges, there are rows of shops along Singel Canal to explore. The variety of bulbs is bound to please any green thumb!!
Something you do not see at home
Well, apart from the ladies in the windows of the red light district, seeing scooters, motorbikes and quad bikes driving on the footpath spun me out a little bit! In the city centre, the speed is capped at 30km p/h and therefore riders of these vehicle are allowed on the footpath. We hired a scooter from Boka scooter rentals for an expensive 50 euros for the day and rode all the way to Muiderslot Castle on the footpath. This was a bit of a novelty for us! Not having to navigate traffic was awesome!
What I love about Amsterdam
The bicycle culture and being able to ride everywhere with no dramas, cars give way to bicycles in the city. The locals seem to be very good at navigating around clumsy foreigners but it doesn’t take long to get used to the reality of cycling with hundreds of other cyclists around. I should be living in this city!
A random and unplanned adventure on scooters took us to Muiderslot Castle, built in 1285! A real life medieval castle with many tales including the one of Count Floris V being captured and imprisoned in his own castle! Without a map we headed blindly north on a footpath, remembering vaguely what we had seen on Google maps the night before. Luckily, when we felt doubtful we saw a sign pop up in the distance. It was so much fun scootering on the footpath but the wind was bitter cold whilst riding. Unfortunately we arrived to a magnificent castle that was closed. In all our excitement about the plan, no one thought to check to see the opening times! We can blame the cakes for this! After taking a few pictures, we energized and warmed up around a coffee vending machine before hitting the road footpath back to Amsterdam.
Did you know?
The Schiphol international airport is located on what once was a bay, a century ago. Amsterdam is built on reclaimed land and the Royal Palace stands on 13,659 piles that are driven through the mud into bed rock.
In Amsterdam we couldn’t help but observe the number of feline friends – houseboat cats, restaurant cats and hotel cats. Perhaps to keep the rats and mice away!
A bicycle friendly city
The wonky terrace homes in Amsterdam
Drinking coffee outside on a winter’s day
Century old canals
Just after dawn in the dam and its blissfully peaceful
A lifesize dollhouse
Derek halfway up the stairwell to Hotel Nadia
Me and a bicycle parking lot in the background