THREE DAYS IN AMSTERDAM
The second week of October we had five girlfriends come into town. After their time in Rome, two of them had a trip planned to visit family in Amsterdam and Jaime and I were invited to tag along. This was our first time in Amsterdam and it was such a great time being able to have a more local experience.
But first, what is travel without a little hiccup? There was a miscommunication about what time we were leaving and we started the morning basically running to the train station to make the train and not miss out flight. It was 60F and we arrived at the train station sweaty at 07:20AM. We made the 07:24AM train and arrived at the airport with enough time to enjoy a cappuccino before boarding — which is the most important part of every morning.
Our friend’s aunt picked us up from the airport which was a really great start to our trip because we had an immediate warm welcome to a foreign country. She also gifted us a reloadable card to use for all public transit systems: buses, trams, and metros. Amsterdam’s public transit system is extremely efficient and easy to use with Google Maps. After mastering Rome’s public transit system I feel like no public transit system can compare. On the day I’m writing this blog post, my friend and I waited 40-minutes TWO times for buses throughout the day. The Rome bus app said one thing while the digital sign at the bus sign said another… and if you didn’t already guess the bus showed up according to neither of those times. This is just a typical day in Rome.
During this trip to Amsterdam we didn’t have a lot of touristy things planned, museums to visit, etc. Our main goal was to eat all the food and experience the city as the locals live it. The first thing we had off the metro from the airport was a doner kebab and frites served with mayo. OMG. Have you had fries with mayo? Maybe it sounds weird because we never had it in the states, but it is so good. The mixture of mayo and ketchup is amazing, but mayo by itself is also great.
Like a typical day in Amsterdam, it rained most of the day. We stopped at a bar for a drink before heading to meet the rest of the family for dinner and celebrating our first night in Amsterdam over Rijsttafel, a Dutch word that literally translates to “rice table”. It’s an Indonesian elaborate meal adapted by the Dutch. All you Californians will definitely understand my surprise when we saw dozens of rowers practicing in the wind and pouring rain. In contrast, a sprinkle in San Diego typically causes multiple car accidents and you should expect to be an hour late to work.
Jaime and I pretty much love any cuisine we’ve ever tried, so it was no surprise that we absolutely loved the Indonesian meal we had. I can’t really tell you what we had because the order was placed a few days in advance since there were 13 of us, but trust me when I say it was amazing. If you haven’t had Indonesian food before, you need to search for your nearest one ASAP and run, don’t walk, there. I don’t have great photos from the food spread at dinner, but check out these Google Images to see what we had. If you’re interested in having a similar Indonesian meal, check out De Poort Van Muiden. You’ll need a car to get to the restaurant because it’s in the small village, Muiden, just outside of Amsterdam. The restaurant and the small village are both worth a visit.
Saturday morning I had my first chai latte since moving to Europe. We spent 30-minutes walking around the beautiful historic center of Amsterdam before meeting up with our friends and some of their family members. They took us on a canal tour, which is touristy, but is such a great way to see a lot of the city, experience the canals, and learn a lot of history. We must’ve brought Rome’s sunshine with us because there was no rain in sight on Saturday. Amsterdam has over 1,000 bridges and 160 canals spanning over 100 kilometers (over 60 miles). The city sits about 2 meters below sea level and has caused a shift in the soil. Because of this, houses were built on stilts which have also shifted and resulted in leaning houses. You’ll also find houseboats along the canals that were a product of a housing shortage. The ones that are legally there have gas, electricity, and running water.
Amsterdam is a beautiful city. It’s a big city that still has the feeling of a small town. Jaime and I walked up and down almost every canal and we could not get over the beauty of the houses, buildings, and canals. Right after the canal tour, we took a 20-minute walk to The Pancake Bakery, a popular restaurant that serves Amsterdam’s famous pancake, the pannenkoeken. The pannenkoeken is flatter than American style pancakes, thicker than a crepe, and served sweet or savory. Jaime enjoyed a sweet pannenkoeken with nutella, strawberries, and bananas and I had a savory pannenkoeken with egg, bacon, and mushrooms. Pannenkoeken is a must-have when visiting Amsterdam.
Needing to walk off our delicious lunch, we headed to the dock to take the ferry across the river to grab a beer and more frites (because why not). The ferry across the river is FREE. Coming from America (where basically nothing is free), we were in disbelief when they told us the ferry didn’t cost anything. It leaves every 5 minutes and is about a 5 minute trip across the river. The taxes are extremely high in Amsterdam (over 30%), but even as a visitor is was very apparent how those were taxes were used to benefit the community.
We took the ferry back to Amsterdam’s historic center and spent the rest of the evening exploring the town. Jaime and I stumbled upon Tales and Spirits, “a cocktail bar with restaurant serving exquisite drinks, amazing food, and bar bites in contemporary, unique, and vintage glassware”. If you’re looking for great cocktails with cool bartenders, a chill space, and good bar food check out Tales and Spirits. The drinks were priced similarly to upscale cocktail bars in America ($10-20 a drink). While the drinks were delicious and the overall ambiance of the bar demands a return visit, it definitely hurt the heart after becoming accustomed to €6 aperol spritzes and glasses of wine starting at €3.
One of the coolest things about social media is that you can virtually meet and become friends with people you’ve never actually met. An Indonesian friend I’ve kept in contact with on Instagram (and am meeting in a week here in Rome at a jazz festival!!!) recommended the Albert Cuyp Market for street food. The market had everything from produce, meats, food, souvenirs, clothes, to home goods. We did a full scope of the market walking from end to end to decide what we’d be trying.
First stop was for a freshly made stroopwafel. A stroopwafel is two dough disks stuck together with caramel. While the stroopwafels we bought at the store were good, nothing compares to a freshly made one. The booth we stopped at also served them with nutella and chocolate on top, but we opted for the traditional version with only caramel.
Our last stop at the Albert Cuyp Market was at a Middle Eastern booth serving hummus, aioli, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, dolma, and more. We ordered a small sandwich with hummus, marinated olives, and sun-dried tomatoes grilled in a panini press. You’re probably thinking, “wow, that sounds so basic”, but as we took our first bites about 5-steps away from the booth we immediately pivoted back for a second sandwich — this time we ordered a regular sized sandwich. Those sandwiches were life changing. If you truly know how much I love food, you know I can be a little dramatic about food. But hear me out, when food is amazing it deserves the respect of being dramatic about it. As we were leaving the market I turned and told Jaime our next visit to Amsterdam needed to be in a hotel near the market because I needed to have that sandwich every morning. They also had freshly made dolma! Do I need to keep going on about how amazing this food was?!
Sunday was a day filled with more and more food. Immediately after eating at the Albert Cuyp Market we headed to Foodhallen, a food hall highlighting international foods. While you’ll be hard pressed to find Dutch food there you fill find dishes from Mexico, Spain, India, China, Japan, and more. In Dutch fashion, we started the eating experience with more frites and mayo #noregrets, had a few beers, and then of course had to stop by the taqueria, Lima. I’m pretty sure I haven’t even seen the word “taqueria” written anywhere since we moved to Europe and I jump at any chance to eat Mexican food whenever it’s available. I ordered the adobada tacos that were served with a pickle, adobada (marinated pork), cilantro, a spicy crema, and pickled red onions. While not a traditional adobada taco that you might find in California or Mexico, they were by far the best tacos I’ve had in the last 9 months. I never knew how deprived I could be from food and specific flavors, but it became very real to me when I tasted that cilantro.
After stuffing our bellies, we said goodbye to our American friends and new Dutch friends and headed back to the hotel to pick up our luggage to go home. We took in the beauty of Amsterdam one last time and enjoyed its efficient public transit all while being rained on as we said goodbye to the city. Jaime fell so much in love with the city that he wouldn’t stop talking about returning to Amsterdam all weekend and actually looked into purchasing property there as soon as we returned home to Rome. While Rome still has my heart and is where I consider home, Jaime deemed Amsterdam as his new favorite city. We can’t wait to come back… until next time!