(or: the place where everything has my name on it)
Once again as a result of the world’s greatest (most dangerous) website SkyScanner.com – I landed a pair of cheap airline tickets and found myself a weekend trip to Amsterdam. Having never been to the Netherlands before, I was pretty psyched. Let’s also take note that my last name is HOLLAND and that makes everything even better. My dad was predicting I would be offered a place at the royal palace thanks to said surname and my stunning Dutch looks. I would be happy to tell you what really happened at the palace, but then I’d have to kill you.
Here’s what I can tell you: Amsterdam is great fun. An important side note in this venue — I don’t smoke. So even though my hotel, its patrons and 75% of the city smelled like the stuff – I did not partake.
Thursday morning saw us awake before daybreak, and passed out on a plane bound for the Netherlands. Here’s a map of our travels (sans Eindhoven, which is where our flight landed. A cheap & easy bus + train combination (approx 14 euros) from there brought us into the heart of Amsterdam / Central Station and a tram ride delivered us to our hotel.
The beauty of the godawful early flight was that we had the whole day laid out before us, and we took advantage of it – under the cover of approximately 4 layers of clothing. The Sex Museum was our first stop in the city that uses “xxx” on everything from its sign posts to its government buildings. Quite a collection, and more than a few eyebrow raising articles. In the meantime, I was also raising my eyebrows at the prices of food in the nearby restaurants. At first I thought this was because we were in one of the main touristy areas. Not so! Take note: Amsterdam is not cheap.
Foodie friends, I will say that once we located the bargains it was so worth it. Falafel, french fries, delectable pancakes at Pancakes! Amsterdam, stroopwaffles, epic apple pie at Winkel and wicked Indonesian food at Sama Sebo .. just to name a few. Perhaps its the city of the munchies? Who can say. However, the coffee is a major letdown. After departing from Spain, country of the cortado (glorious espresso + steamed milk) – I could not fathom the bitter brew with disposable creamer. Luckily, we found Shane & his partner next door at Two for Joy Coffee Roasters. At the brilliant hour of 8am (pre-Anne Frank house tour), we stumbled out of our hotel and into this delightful café for a truly delicious pair of lattes. Shane is a fascinating Irishman who makes a mean cup of joe, with a smile and an attentive manner. If you are in the Fredicksplein area – stop by and give them our best!
At the suggestion of a friend, we booked a half day tour that promised windmills, wooden shoes & cheese (!). Ultimately, this was a great choice and super affordable – check out Key Tours Holland for more info (our tour was #5). We drove outside the city to Zaandam, a tiny town with original windmills (including one still in operation as a saw mill). This town also included a wooden shoe factory (+ demo) and a cheese farm (+ tasting). Onward to the increasingly tiny towns of Edam (home of cheese) and Volendam (home of fishermen) where we dined on fish and chips and tried not to freeze our own chips off. These places were quite different from Amsterdam and I’m glad we were able to take the time outside of the city. Thanks for the trip, Alicia!
Our museum touring included two must-sees: Van Gogh and the Anne Frank House. In both cases we were able to buy our tickets online and avoid a wait. Given the frigid temperatures, I was exceedingly glad we didn’t have to stand outside and wait for entrance into either one. Both museums are a bit pricey (AF at 9 each / VG at 14 each), but I thought they were worth it. If you’re a beer drinker, you won’t mind the entrance price at the Heineken Factory (a whopping 15 each) – you do get two free drinks with your entrance fee.
Round out the weekend with a trip to the Red Light District (questionable), Noordmarkt (awesome) and Blumenmarkt (bloomin’) and we had a very full and enjoyable weekend. Next time: tulips 🙂