Eating in Amsterdam

I am probably not the best authority to write about the cuisine in Amsterdam but I will give it a shot.  Thom and I have very simple tastes and are very happy eating a picnic on the train and don’t frequent fine dining establishments.  Foodies we are not!  As I think back on the best food I ate on our trip, the cheese with basil and dried tomato stands out as does the hot, buttery sugary poffertjes  and waffles from the markets.  Yum! I do like my dairy and sweets.

Poffertjes-little pancakes with butter and sugar!
Poffertjes-little pancakes with butter and sugar!

That being said, if you have finer taste buds (and most do) there is a wide variety of restaurants for everyone’s taste in all the places we visited.  As always, ask your concierge at the hotel for recommendations on their favorites.  Here are some other observations:

Coffee–Screaming Bean (in several locations) delivers the best cappuccino in Amsterdam and maybe the world.  Thick and creamy foam tops a rich smooth coffee underneath.  Super friendly folks serving in a quaint coffee shop make it a must try when you are here.  Many thanks to my friend, Kurt, for recommending to us.

Screaming Bean cappuccino... so rich and delicious!
Screaming Bean cappuccino… so rich and delicious!

Grocery–There aren’t many groceries and practically no competition in the city but Albert Haijn does have whatever you need for a first-rate picnic for the park or train or hotel room.  Also a good place to buy chocolate for the perfect souvenir to take home.  We got some awesome salads to go one night for a quick, cheap diner (under $10 euros for 2 people).   I also saw some Aldi Food markets but didn’t go in to check them out.  I also found a smaller Mqkt chain that had a cheese to die for–basil and dried tomato–that pared well with salami and pears and raisin bread.  Perfect picnic!

We didn’t eat out many times but did stop at one German restaurant that promised authentic cuisine.  Thom proceeded to have weinerschneitzel and fries.  Initially, he said he didn’t want ketchup or mayo but decided he needed some mayo.  Now, based on the waiter’s prior attitude and the steep stairs he had to climb to get to the kitchen on the floor above, I knew this would not go over well and it didn’t.  “You said you didn’t want any!” the waiter growled at Thom.  “Yes, but I changed my mind.  Okay?”  Grudgingly, ten minutes later Thom finally got his mayo and felt compelled to eat it fearing retribution from the waiter if he did not.  Were we in Paris???

Pancakes with brandy-soaked raisins paired with red wine!
Pancakes with brandy-soaked raisins paired with red wine!

I got the brandy-soaked raisin pancake that filled a plate and paired nicely with a Merlot.  Yep-when in the Netherlands, drink with your breakfast-type food.  Every bite was enjoyed.  No butter or syrup was offered and I was afraid to ask the testy waiter.  They are tight with the butter here.  At our great breakfast at the Andaz, when you ask for toast, you get barely warm bread, no butter.  Today, I asked specifically for “crispy” bacon and got the limpest fatty slice of meat you would ever want to see.  Really????  Crispy means fry that sucker!  Same with eggs, unfortunately.  I remember also having this issue in China and having to keep asking for “hard scramble” several times to get barely done eggs.  Oh well-first world, five star hotel issues I guess.

We don’t go for fancy restaurants but we walked by many in Amsterdam including one, MoMo in the area near the museums.  Swanky!  There are many white-table cloth type places as well as many beer halls with outside seating and lounge seats and heaters for the cool nights-even blankets at some places.  You can find all types of ethnic food easily too.  Lots of Argentine steak houses along side the pancake houses.  We even found a place today, Bagels & Beans, that is a chain around town and has great bagels served with the largest pile of cream cheese that you could ever eat.

So, whatever you like to eat, you can probably find it in Amsterdam.  Happy eating!

Uniquely Amsterdam

So beautiful!
So beautiful!

Uniquely Amsterdam:

*buildings lean and tilt at odd angles-not sure if the insides are as lopsided but the outsides sure are crazy

*with fries, you can get either ketchup or mayo–your choice but they may charge you .50 euros for the condiments FYI

*taxi’s are surprisingly upscale as  many are Mercedes and even saw a Tesla–expensive rides for a taxi

*don’t expect street signs in English-there aren’t any.  Pull out your map provided by your hotel and figure it out–nice locals will stop and ask if you need help.  Say YES!

*you get menu’s for your weed selection in the cafes all over Amsterdam..coffee shop is code name usually for pot café served with a side of caffeine too

*people are impossibly thin and healthy and gorgeous–what they must think of us when they visit the US where we don’t live this healthy lifestyle and more food is considered better

*no need for gyms here with all the biking and walking–saw very few gyms

*no helmets on the bikers, even the kids, which is counter to all safety precautions in the US

*Thom and I are amazed that there aren’t bodies littering the streets with no stop signals and bikes/scooters/walkers/cars/trams going every which way but somehow it all works

*just like Vietnam, life is enjoyed on the sidewalks but in Hanoi locals are sitting on plastic stools eating phao and here they are reclining in wicker cushy chairs enjoying Heineken with friends under heat lamps

*not alot of public bathrooms so just like China, there are men pissing in the streets-day and night.  In the train stations, you can find public bathrooms but have your .50 euro coin ready because you have to pay attendant to get in to use.  If you are out and about, you can also usually just walk into any nice hotel and act like you belong and use their lobby facilities

*work days start at 10 a.m. with lunch and then off by 5 p.m. to enjoy happy hour–quite the life style but don’t expect to get a cappuccino before 8 a.m. when the cafés open up vs. Starbucks back in Seattle that open at 5:30 a.m. to provide caffeine for commuters

*people like to display their little collections on the ledges in their street level apartments–we saw Pez collections, photos, etc.  Cool glimpse into their lives that they share.

*no big tacky mega stores like Target or WalMart–lots of little groceries, boutiques but not a lot of international brands-no Gaps, etc. that I saw

*bookstores everywhere and vinyl/cd stores–peeking into apartments, we saw lots of floor to ceiling bookcases just filled with books… my kind of place

*in the US you see folks at cafés on their devices but here everyone is just drinking and actually interacting with other human beings vs. their devices… very refreshing

*love the practice of getting a little ginger cookie with every cup of coffee-yum!

All in all, the European lifestyle is one of enjoying life to the fullest with families and friends, whether with food, music, art, literature,  architecture, wine or beer.  I think they have their “priorities in order” as Hermione famously told Ron in Harry Potter.  🙂

North Sea beauty!
Good Bye Netherlands!

 

Enjoying Vondelpark in Amsterdam

The sun was shining so off we went to the park to enjoy life as the locals do on our last full day here in Amsterdam.  Damn, they’re healthy here!  Not only do the folks who live here bike/walk everywhere but on the weekends they take to the park to do yoga outside, bootcamp, jog, walk their dogs and enjoy the great outdoors. 

In Vondelpark, we saw it all but especially laughed when the pregnant ladies lined up around the tree bench we were sitting on and proceeded to do push ups as part of the Moms in Balance group exercise.  One old guy rode by on his bike and said something off color-it was in Danish but you could just tell he was being bad and the ladies just laughed!!

Vondelpark in Amsterdam
Vondelpark in Amsterdam

Thom stalked a couple with their Vizsla out playing ball.  This dog was young and much better behaved than our Izaak-he stayed with them even off leash.  Izaak would have been a menace to all the joggers/bikers filling the park lanes.  I miss my puppies!

Poffertjes-little pancakes with butter and sugar!
Poffertjes-little pancakes with butter and sugar!

After we experienced the lakes and trees, we cut back into the city, promptly got a bit lost but, as usual, ended up just where we wanted to be six miles later.  We love open air markets and this one on Albert Cuypstraat was a huge one filled with fruits/vegs, cheese, clothes, and anything you could want.  We ended up buying an extra carry on bag for all our stuff we bought and Thom promptly found a vinyl store and bought 3 albums that he couldn’t have gotten in the US.  More music!

I had been told that poffertjes were everywhere over here but I was having a hard time finding the little pancakes covered in butter and powdered sugar.  EURECKA-they were in the market and hot off the press.  Thom and I gorged on a large order loving every sinful bite.  Hey, we’re walking 10 miles a day so bring on the sweets!

Now, we are off to the Foam, which is a photography museum.  More walking and fun on our last day in Amsterdam!

Our European Adventure continues..

So, I’ll try not to gush too much but OMG do I LOVE EUROPE!  I love the history and architecture, the lack of tacky skyscrapers and shiny malls, the friendly folk who love football (soccer to you Americans) and laidback lifestyle.  Yes, the coffee shops don’t open until 8 a.m. but since they don’t appear to go to work until 9-10 a.m., that works.  Three hour dinner-sure!  Keep on drinking and eating with your buddies-no rushing home to get some zzzz’s and be at work by 8 a.m.  At our hotel today, around 3 p.m. a hotel employee was seen taking two huge bottles of icy vodka into a meeting room for a group-think it was a bank. Now that’s how you should conduct business!  Think up an idea-take a shot to celebrate!

Luxurious elegance in lobby at Hotel Des Indes
Luxurious elegance in lobby at Hotel Des Indes

We have received such wonderful service to the point where we have to wrestle our bags away from well-meaning hotel staff who want to assist us.  We are very self-sufficient and used to wheeling around our own stuff, thank you.  Get us museum tickets?  Get us football tickets?  Change out our cash to Euros?  SURE!  Our slightly ditzy hotel staff member was changing out some cash for us and doubled what she should have given us.  Realizing her error, I handed her back $100 Euros and hopefully she will tell others, giving US tourists a good name for their honesty.  Good karma, baby!

Speaking of good karma, how about that Pope flying around DC in that modest Fiat?  Love that he is eating with the homeless instead of all those corrupt bickering politicians.  You go Father!  CNN International is covering all Pope all the time over here.  While there are a few shows in English, the street signs here are all in Dutch-even China was easier to get around with signs everywhere that we could read.  So far, we just guess and ask for help and everyone is quick to assist.  Most people do also speak English which makes it easy to get around.  BTW, always carry .50 euro coins with you as the public bathrooms all have attendants collecting money for use.  At least they aren’t squats like China-hallelujah!

antique and book market in front of Hotel Des Indes
antique and book market in front of Hotel Des Indes

Today, we finished up our time in The Hague, a truly lovely city which Rick Steves doesn’t even recommend visiting.  Rick, come on, don’t be a Hague-hater!   I disagree with Steves-lots to enjoy there with the beach nearby and the Peace Palace and museums galore.  We loved walking out of the Hotel Des Indes and seeing an antique/book market going on in the square.  If only I had a huge container to utilize to send back furniture and paintings!!!  I settled for a jazz CD and some antique postcards–my luggage is stuffed as it is.  Then it was off to the Mauritshuis Museum to see the Vermeers, Rembrandts and Reubens in a beautiful mansion built in the 1600’s on a pond.  So gorgeous and small enough not to overwhelm the senses.

Then, it was off to the train to zip back to Amsterdam for another stay at the Andaz-the best hotel chain around.  If you haven’t stayed in one, treat yourself.  We were lucky enough to stay for two months at the one in Shanghai as my temporary housing and they are in many cities now.  The one in NYC is right by the library.  They are small, well designed with unique rooms and the service is the best I have ever experienced.  TOTALLY!  With free mini-bar in room, free bikes to use (if my shoulder wasn’t hurting so bad), lavish breakfast included and free happy hour, it can’t be beat for amenities.  Cheers! Tonight, we’re off to the Red Light District and a jazz club!

utter elegance at musem
utter elegance at museum
Rembrandt
Rembrandt

The Hague-surprisingly awesome!

I gasped when I entered our room at the Hotel Des Indes.  So, we’re staying in The Hague primarily due to my desire to utilize all those wonderful hotel points I’ve accrued from my travels.  When you use points, sometimes you get an awesome room and sometimes you don’t.  Luckily, this was one of those awesome times.  With twenty foot ceilings and a canopied bed, the old world furnishings and world class service made us feel like royalty. SCORE!

Old world elegance at Hotel Des Indes
Old world elegance at Hotel Des Indes

Open since 1856, this hotel has been “the” place for politician and celebrities like U2, Prince and the Rolling Stones to stay when visiting this capital of the Netherlands which also hosts the Peace Palace, home of the International Court of Justice and the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

Classy and stylish, the Hotel Des Indes is the bomb!
Classy and stylish, the Hotel Des Indes is the bomb!

In our usual style of just wandering, we first hopped on the tram to see the North Sea to enjoy some beach time but on the way back, we jumped off to see the Peace Palace.

 

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The Peace Tree filled with words of hope from international tourists.

I’m so glad we did because the story of how it was founded in the early 1900’s with seed money from Andrew Carnegie was fascinating.  The Court was in session so we didn’t get to go in the building but we did take the audio tour on the grounds.  We even got to join with international tourists and write out our hopes for peace onto the official Peace Tree outside.  Very cool moment for our trip!

Looking forward to going to a tapas restaurant tonight after taking a wrong turn last night and missing it.  Never fear, we ended up on a rainy night just finding another place that I had read about on TripAdvisor, Garoeda, that had tasty Indonesian cuisine.  Feasting on tempura shrimp, chicken satay and rice, we’ll just go tapas tonight instead.  After enjoying the sauna room (hot Damn!) and a refreshing dip in the tiny pool which had jets so you could simulate swimming against a strong current (how cool is that??), we are ready to relax and enjoy an evening on the town in The Hague at Oker’s.  Tomorrow, we are off on the train for another adventure to…….

Enjoying café life in The Hague
Enjoying café life in The Hague
North Sea beauty!
North Sea beauty!

Amsterdam First Impression-Bikes & Beer

Hot Damn-I finally made it to Amsterdam!  I have dreamed of this trip for years and I was right-it is gorgeous AND the perfect walking city for us to explore.  My Fitbit is loving me with 12,000+ steps in on our first day.  Touching down at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday, we fumbled our way through buying a tram ticket at the machine, dealing with ALL our credit cards being rejected before I finally got an ATM to spit out some euros with the debit card.  Then, we were jumping on the #5 tram with a little help from a local who scolded us that the tram lets people off first, moves down the lane and THEN you are allowed in.  Okay-I had to appreciate the orderly fashion that they follow here in public transportation vs. my fond memories of the clusterf*&k of using China mass transit.

Bikes, Beer and Canals!
Bikes, Beer and Canals!

First impressions–bikes, German beer, brick streets and bridges over impossibly picturesque canals where the tour boats glide by slowly.  The architecture reminds me of SoHo in NYC with no big new ugly buildings ruining the vibe of little boutiques.  We noticed quickly that every building has a large hook hanging from the roof, probably we figured out to haul up furniture and such into the apartments.  Quirky and charming, our neighborhood is the perfect blend of residential and commercial.

After receiving the best service EVER from Corrodo at the Andaz Amsterdam, we checked our bags and off we went.  Learning very quickly that the sidewalks are narrow with random steep stairways to lower levels jutting into your way so you have to watch every step or fall, it seemed a relatively quiet Sunday with primarily (not a helmet in sight) bike riders and some sassy scooters filling the one way streets lining the canals, I can’t imagine the chaos that will ensue tomorrow when everyone jumps on their bikes to go to work.  We’ll be dodging and weaving to cross the streets for sure.  I figure if I lived through China though, I’ll probably survive here.

Gorgeous Andaz room!
Gorgeous Andaz room!

We ducked into the local grocery to check it out-to feel the culture is to see how the locals shop.  Lots of prepared foods and smaller portions (didn’t see a lot of families living around here) bread, waffles, chocolates and calories galore.  YUM!  Got a small bottle of wine tucked into my bag for later.

Cozy nook to sip wine at Andaz
Cozy nook to sip wine at Andaz

We’re saving the famous red light district for another night.  More to come on that experience!  I hear it is quite interesting.

For those not familiar with the weed culture like we have in Seattle, there is probably interest to visit the head shops here.  I’ve smelled more pot in the hallways of our building than I have here so no big deal for us.

Tomorrow we leave for the Hague and another train trip.  Every day is an adventure!