Amsterdamned if you do Sept ’18
So outraged am I that I did not immortalize our lovely trip to Amsterdam of September 2018 that now several months later I plan to do so. Of course much will be missing but I will do my best to recreate the watery magic (it did rain pretty much nonstop) and give you a glimpse into our long lost weekend. But how will you do this, I hear you cry. Well by copying all the reviews I did and joining them together of course!
We were up at the crack of dawn on a bright September Thursday morning and flew from our lovely tiny local airport into one of the biggest and busiest in the world without incident. Pretty easily we bought tickets and hopped on the train into Amsterdam Central. Everyone speaks English and a few words of Dutch and a smile will get you far. The train ride didn’t take very long and we were soon arriving in the centre of Amsterdam, Yay! I haven’t been for YEARS and JHubz had never been, so it was all pretty much new for both of us.
Our hotel was only a short (gorgeous) walk away in the Jordaan, a very nice area filled with interesting shops and restaurants and a great place to base yourself to explore Amsterdam. It really is as pretty as a postcard, canals splitting the city practically every other street. We arrived a little damp and were checked in by a super helpful chap who showed us a whole host of interesting things to visit then led us up to our room. Which was pretty huge, super clean, with a range of gadget chargers, TV, fridge and kettle and the bed was comfy and the shower was great, basically it was an absolute score! Especially the radiator as the following day we were caught in a downpour and were soaked down to our socks so spent the night drying our jeans and shoes. But that wasn’t yet…
Having dropped off our stuff and refreshed we stumbled across Noordwest quite by chance while looking for somewhere to have a hot lunch and only finding cafes that served sandwiches and boy are we lucky we did! We had flank steak, salad and chips which might sound pretty ordinary however was truly exceptional. The meat was seasoned and cooked to perfection. The salad was far too tasty to be a salad and the chips fluffy and crunchy, my favourite. The dessert was a parsnip, peach and white chocolate marvel! Parsnip in a dessert?! Yup! (It was so yummy we went back for our final lunch. Interesting, well prepared and delicious food with friendly service).
After lunch we went for an exploration of the city ending up quite by chance at Body Worlds. I don’t know if you know anything about Body Worlds. They’ll say it better than I can so here is some bumph:
Over 200 anatomical specimens reveal the magic and mysteries that lie underneath the skin using a wide-range of insights into our body and mind which show the effect lifestyle choices have on our health. BODY WORLDS is the original exhibition of real human bodies, created by world leading anatomists Dr Gunther von Hagens and Dr Angelina Whalley. All specimens have been subject to Plastination, a ground-breaking preservation technique that was invented by Dr Gunther von Hagens at Heidelberg University in 1977. Plastinating a full human body requires approximately 1,500 working hours.
Basically they plastinate donated dead people and slice them up, peel bits back and pose them. Freaky awesome huh! We’d wanted to see them for some time and they are truly fascinating, especially the slices. Really very very cool. Shame then that the entire exhibition is drenched in self help gumph which we found way over the top, but oh those bodies are amazing.
On the way back to the hotel for a rest before dinner we wandered past T Goede Soet. A tiny chocolate shop on the corner of a street where we discovered the most amazing smooth delicious chocolates. The Slagroom truffles may not have the most appealing name but they were a total revelation. Hard chocolate truffle shell and fresh whipped cream centre! Hells yeah! How do they even do it! We went back twice for more in our four day stay! And yes this might be one of the reasons I am now on a mahoosive diet
We did skip dinner that night, stuffed from lunch and truffles.
The next morning we started our adventures by partaking of a food tour, this one around the neighbourhood we were staying in. We love a food tour, you probably know this and are amazed we are not both the size of houses, such a love of food tours we have. We do them in every place we visit, as they go this one was at the top end price wise but not at the top end experience wise. It was great if you drink, as beer was offered in most of the places we stopped at, but neither of us are big day time drinkers and so it didn’t feel like great value for money compared with other food tours we’ve done.
There were 13 of us on the tour which is also a little much without a second guide, especially when we were the only non-Americans. Dudes y’all get everywhere dontcha! There were some interesting stops and our guide Aileen was lovely and deserves a 5 star. She was informative and friendly, sharing about not only the food but also the neighbourhood and Amsterdam as a whole but it was not a tour I would recommend.
We wandered around a bit afterwards and decided as it would be rude not to, to squeeze in a quick KIN boat Amsterdam tour. And were really pleased we took the time to do it. We decided last minute and were on a boat within ten minutes. Vincent, our captain was great, funny and informative. Seeing the canals and surrounding houses from a different perspective was lovely and even the rain returning couldn’t dampen our enjoyment. It was about the same price as the overcrowded tourist boats for a sturdy but much smaller boat and more personalised experience.
Fresh from our cruise we headed to the red light district which is really a must if you are in Amsterdam for the first time. It’s as you imagine in a way seedier and in others not as seedy as you expect. Sex shops and peep shows everywhere and the occasional prostitute sitting in their windows touting for trade. This was about 4pm so most of the windows were empty. The area and profession is very well regulated for the protection of both worker and client.
Sights seen we headed to Little Saigon Zeedijk for an early dinner. It’s a tiny little restaurant with maybe 10-15 covers. We love Vietnamese food in any country. Our noodle salads with spring rolls and minced pork were delicious, fresh and huge and as tasty as any in Vietnam.
On the Saturday morning we woke to a market in the street in front of our hotel stretching as far as the eye could see. Having lived on a market street for most of my life I think elves must have set this one up as we didn’t hear a thing! And by 10am the majority of the stallholders were set up and sales were in full swing. We walked the whole length past gorgeous bread and flower stalls, delis galore and saw massive 2 euro each slagroom truffles (which we refrained from trying).
Having walked the market in its entirety we wandered aimlessly coming across Monte Pelmo Ice cream where I had the praline and JHubz the stroopwafel ice cream, both were absolutely delicious and we would for sure go back for more! Rain, snow or shine, there is always room for ice cream! Another reason for the diet.
Then it was time for our Windmill tour and what a wonderful wacky experience that was. We’d paid for a small group tour and went to a place called The Zaanse Schans. They describe it as a residential area in which the 18th and 19th centuries are brought to life. Why anyone would want to live in this tourist trap model village I do not know but they do and apparently the houses rarely come up they are so sought after. Most odd. There are a few windmills, a clog factory – pretty interesting to see them made though, for reals. A cheese factory and some other bits and bobs. Our tour guide was awesome, dressed authentically head to toe and with the keys to one of the private houses showed us a side that made the trip memorable.
Much later we headed to De Reiger for dinner. I always research a place before we visit for great local restaurants and this one certainly fit the bill. It’s a very popular restaurant serving interesting and delicious food. The corn soup was outstanding and the lamb with lime risotto a treat for the palate, the lamb soft as butter. The restaurant was very small and when full, we were cheek by jowl with our fellow diners, and the noise was quite overpowering however the staff and food were both excellent making it well worth a visit.
At some point over the four days we walked past Het Oud-Hollandsch Snoepwinkeltje sweetshop which deserves a mention for its lovely old fashioned sweetshop vibe and jars upon jars of every liquorice imaginable and gelatin free hard violet gums, which I had no idea I was even missing but have a very old memory of loving, and love them I do. The sweets are sold in earth friendly paper cones which made me love them even more.
We liked Amsterdam a lot and had a pretty awesome time, but it didn’t feel like somewhere we needed to keep going back to but I think the weather may have played a big part in that. Because it really did rain an awful lot while we were there and being damp is no fun at all.
We’ve just booked to go to Zaandvoort by way of Amsterdam to have dinner in a restaurant Ma says we HAVE to try before we leave the UK and Het Oud-Hollandsch Snoepwinkeltje, T Goede Soet and Noordwest are all on the agenda!