After the most luxurious/decadent meal of our lives we jumped on a flight across the channel to Amsterdam… I know, I know, what kind of a life are we leading in which eating at The Fat Duck and flying to Amsterdam occur in one day?! (A life on a really tight budget for months so that we can afford stuff like this, that’s what!) As it was just the two of us in this big ole country that we are calling home, no families to have dinner or celebrate his 30th birthday with, we decided to really do something nice. And nice things we did.
I. Love. Amsterdam. I would live there if I could!
We arrived quite late in Amsterdam and somehow navigated our way to our apartment with dubious instructions, just in time to go straight to sleep in order to conquer the following day. It was a lovely surprise waking up in our apartment and looking out the window to survey our neighbourhood. I was immediately struck by how beautiful Amsterdam is. We were lucky enough to have a rooftop terrace which we spent a bit of time on across our five days in Holland and although the view wasn’t a conventionally nice one, it’s a really great indication of what Amsterdam is like.
I had feared that it might be trashy or tacky given the reputation, and wasn’t prepared for how truly stunning and romantic it is. The endless canals are beautiful, with boats constantly streaming past, their passengers waving at passers by. We didn’t hire bikes in Amsterdam as we chose to do it all on foot, but it’s totally refreshing to see the majority of the city travelling by bike. It’s a nice contrast to London which seems to be constantly packed with cars and buses and smoggy air. The air in Amsterdam felt clean and was so easy to take a huge gulp. It’s lovely to see all the bikes in all different shapes, colours and sizes – some with little baskets, most with milk crates attached, people really use them like you would a car, somehow manoevering home with bags of groceries and shopping and everything you could think of!
Next up was the Van Gosh museum which was brilliant. It’s a good idea to pre-purchase tickets to this if you can, but you’ll need to do so several weeks in advance. We ended up lining up for just over an hour in order to get in, but it was well worth it. I was blown away but the sheer number of works there. The exhibit traced his evolution as an artist, and although we accidentally followed it backwards, it was very well laid-out and felt like a very true insight into his life and work. Definitely a must-do for anyone, art-aficionado or not.
Sadly I didn’t get any photos there because I was way too engulfed in what was going on. But I DID get some photos of pancakes post-Van Gogh… #priorities
After yet another queue – which seemed to be a running theme across the weekend – we had some insaaaaaanely delicious pancakes at the aptly named Pancakes! cafe. Apple and bacon was my choice, and it was a good’un, whereas Blake stuck to a savoury cheese pancake. It’s a tiny little store packed with people and service wasn’t fast but after hours of queing and traversing the city we didn’t mind the opportunity to sit down for a little while.
We had been advised by several friends to take the Heineken brewery tour, which Blake was pretty excited about. The building no longer functions as a brewery but rather explains the process. It was a bit of a product placement experience and there was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing between rooms filled with posters to rooms filled with not very much at all. It wasn’t the greatest thing I’ve done in my life, though it was quite interesting to see how the beer is made. There was also a hilarious ‘4D ride’ within the tour in which is always good fun. Overall the tour is worth it for a beer or a Heineken fanatic, but not being either of those I could have given it a miss and not felt too much regret.
Just to tie into another running theme – eating – we couldn’t resist trying the famous Dutch frites (chips with mayonnaise) which are available in little hole-in-the-wall stores dotted around the city. They were really very good…
Another sight we couldn’t skip was the Rijksmuseum, which we had purchased tickets for in advance. That was a great idea, definitely do that. With the main building having been closed since 2003 and reopening mid-2013, we got to see this Dutch national museum/gallery in its full glory. It has something like 8000 pieces of art and history on display and we barely scratched the surface before we heard the 10 minute warning of the museum’s closure. It had to be the most impressive museum I have ever been to. It is truly stunning. We saw so many marvelous things, paintings that I didn’t even know that I knew but recognised from various facets of life instantly. It is a really special place that I honestly think about daily and am so grateful to have been able to experience first-hand.
Oh yeah, and we had MORE pancakes at The Pancake Bakery, which was good, but not as good as Pancakes! Amsterdam.
<< Blake discovered the window from our little Eyewitness guide to Amsterdam which helped us out along the way. This was a very exciting moment for him. >>
Anyway, so that rounds up part one, there are so many more things to talk about that I’m just going to have to split it up for another post… Like how we cycled from Haarlem to the most insane tulip fields in the whole wide world…. Now that was amazing…