My first impression of Amsterdam? Geez I know they said there’s a lot of bikes but holy cow that’s a lot of bikes! All kinds. I could do a blog post entirely on this mode of transportation. The baskets filled with fresh flowers. The speedier ones packed with a briefcase. The ones trailing with dogs (and children!) The Canal homes are strung out in a tangle throughout the city. Unlike apartment complexes in other cities, they max out at 5 stories high and have more windows than they do walls. Imagine all that natural light!
I sat in the Corner Bakery with wooden floors, window nooks and marble tables that are softened by cozy pillows and reindeer fur blankets. I ordered some Eggs Benny while Rihanna classics crooned in my ear, and sat opposite the window so I could watch the day unfold. I could see a woman directing a remodel inside the flat opposite, and a shaggy dog trotted by with the biggest smile I’ve ever seen a dog wear. He skipped alongside his human who was, of course, on a bike!
Out of nowhere the rain came, the sun still peeking through the clouds and I realized it was time for some museums! If this is on your to-do list (and it definitely should be!), make sure you book your tickets in advance. These lines can be heinous, so planning will save you. My flight had been delayed so I only had a short time in the Rijks, but I still got to see the classics like Night Watch and Milkmaid by Rembrandt, as well as a whole Delftware collection that had my jaw to the floor. There’s so much to see here, so give yourself at least 2-3 hours to explore at a leisurely pace!
Next, I walked across the street to the Van Gogh Museum which felt a bit like cheating on my favorite, Monet. But after exploring this collection and learning the story behind each piece, I have a true appreciation for Vincent Van Gogh – my redheaded comrade who painted way ahead of his time. He employed complementary colors to represent what is real and what we feel, and I was near to tears the whole time. Definitely invest in the extra 5 euros for a media guide with these museums. Worth every penny!
With a rumble in my tummy and a secret desire to at least get a glimpse of the red light district (in the daylight when it’s slightly more modest), I took the tram towards Sichuan Restaurant which served up the best Chinese food I’ve had in all of Europe! ‘Twas a feast. But now that it was dark and a little more seedy, I exchanged a lot of awkward looks with people on my way back to the main square to head back to my Airbnb in East Amsterdam.
The next morning I rose bright and early for a relaxed breakfast at Coffee & Coconuts in the De Pijp neighborhood. This 2-story bohemian cafe was the ambiance I craved. Upside-down wicker baskets doubled as light fixtures, Edison bulbs hung in chaotic harmony and gigantic bowls of fruit were everywhere. I sat on a sofa against exposed brick while sipping my cappuccino and journaling for the first time in too long.
Feeling ready to take on the day, I walked around the corner (literally!) to the Albertcuyp Market. The weather was not cooperating (per usual) so many of the stalls were closed, which is a shame because I think it’d be a really neat market on a good day. You can expect food, clothes and a few vintage treasures here, and luckily I was able to snag a couple lambskin scarves in an effort to achieve that chic Dutch look.
I headed towards the Anne Frank House next – again, best practice to buy your tickets a couple months in advance for this one. You’ll have a specific time slot, and even then you’ll still have to wait. But it is not to be missed. Just like Dachau, this was such a sobering experience. To see where these 8 people, these 8 lives, lived in hiding for 2 years before being arrested. We often fall into the trap of putting a mythical halo around this story – after all it has been made into plays, musicals and movies. But this was a very real, very horrific thing that happened not long ago, and it’s important to remember and reflect on each of these lives so nothing like this ever happens again. Because the truth is, it could. What surprised me most was the pictures and magazine cutouts Anne had plastered to her wall. She was a normal teenage girl… Again, this is not to be missed.
It was about lunchtime, so I headed towards the Nine Streets in hopes of finding a hole in the wall. Success! Libertine doesn’t look like much from the outside, and I almost passed it by had I not been in tune to the laughter inside. They serve up Italian dishes, and I tried the baked eggs with prosciutto and asparagus + a Heineken on the side. My first ever, in fact! But when in Amsterdam, right?
The rain began to pour, so I spent most of this “walk” ducking into different stores and ended up walking out with one of those long black trenches to complete my Dutch transformation. There is so much shopping in this area, so do save a few hours for this! At this point, I decided it was time for a canal tour. They’re not as easy to find as I had expected, and there’s not a great source out there for information on all the different companies (i.e. schedules, locations for pickup, etc). I wandered forever until I stumbled upon the Rijksmuseum again, and bought a ticket for the first boat I saw. This was a mistake! Definitely do your research because my boat ended up missing 2 of the pickups (later on) leaving me standing in the rain for 40 minutes and then neglecting to stop at the scheduled stop I needed. There are so many companies out there so pick one based on what you’re near and definitely read the reviews.
Dinner this evening was at Cafe George, a Parisian bistro that felt a lot like NYC and situated right along the canal. It had a wonderful mood, and the food was excellent! Definitely make a stop here if you can and order either the steak frites or risotto of the day.
My last day called for a breakfast at Pancakes Amsterdam, and I went to the little one located at Berenstraat 38. I’m glad I got here early because by the time I left, there was a line out the door! I was amazed by the lemon + sugar Dutch pancake, and I’m not even sorry I had 2 orders of bacon on the side. There are lots of locations throughout the city, but I loved that this was situated in the Nine Streets. So if I could do it again, I’d start a day with breakfast here, shopping + pictures of all the pretty canal homes and a quick lunch at Libertine!
Feeling like I needed to embrace the full Dutch culture, I borrowed my Airbnb host’s bicycle for the morning. I almost died 4 times, and within my first 10 seconds on the bike, I had run into a parked car and fallen on my face. But if you haven’t almost gotten killed riding a bike in Amsterdam, then have you really even been? Anyways, I summoned the courage to get back on for a ride through Vondelpark, which I’m going to write an entire post on later. Everyone in Amsterdam is here on the weekends – running, cycling, playing with their dogs. It’s definitely worth a stroll or picnic! Even a run if that’s how you vacation.
All in all, it was a wonderful weekend! I was a little hampered by the fear that Amsterdam would be nothing but cannabis and ladies of the night (as I had been told by many), but I’m here to say that these parts can be avoided if you plan the right way. I hope to come back for springtime soon to see all the tulips in Lisse!