Amsterdam was a dream.
Being in Europe makes me feel invincible. With every other destination on my travel bucket list a stone's throw away (or a EUrail ride away), Nic and i were spoilt for choice. But of course, having fallen in love on a previous solo trip, he begged for us to go back so we could experience the little quirks and charms of Amsterdam together.
We stayed at a hotel that was slightly on the outskirts of the city centre, but still perfectly situated right outside the metro. Volkshotel is a cosy hotel cum co-working space with a brilliant open concept type lobby. Think concrete floors, hanging plants and all the jazz. On one end there was a bar, reading room and sofas and the other, rows of working tabletops and quiet corners. Quite a space, i'd say!
We had a wet and foggy start to our trip, especially with the darkening skies at four pm. Thankfully, it improved miraculously the next morning (thank you, Big guy) as we breezed through the hoards of cyclists on our two wheels.
"The best way to see this city is on a bike, you know"
I told Nic that i wanted to see the city like a local and immediately, we went to rent bikes at a place nearby. Bike rental places are commonplace here, especially since everyone cycles here. Moms with kids sitting in a little basket in the front, kids, senior citizens. Literally everyone cycles here! (Okay, they drive cars too...). After two days of cycling, I was navigating and signalling like a pro. I may have failed in attaining my driving licsense but I have succeeded in becoming a pro cyclist.
DUMMIES GUIDE TO AMSTERDAM, OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT.
WALK — walk everywhere! Take in all the sights. Get lost in the streets. Discover hidden gems. That's what we did. Nic brought me to a local bakery he fell in love with the last time he visited, and he found it whilst walking back to his hotel that was along the same stretch of streets. Inside, I had the best stroopwaffels and surpisingly, a mozzarella and salami croissant slathered with tons of pesto. So good, I recreated it when i got home in London. The Red Light District was an interesting place we got lost at, actually. And after a while of turning into dead ends and seeing the same woman in the exact same window, we stumbled onto the grounds of the Oude Kerk, or Old Church. I love this about exploring a new city or even one that's close to home, that every time you get lost you find something new.
MUSEUMS — Visiting the museums in Amsterdam has got to be one of the most enriching experiences ever. I remember studying a couple of dutch painters in year one of poly and to see them in the flesh feels absolutely surreal. The entry fees are a bit pricey (average of 15-19 euros, depending on the museum) but luckily for us, we bought the IAMsterdam card. This entitled us to three full days of free entries to many of the Museums like the Rijkesmuseum, Foam Gallery, Stedilijk Museum and much more. We even got to go on a canal tour, and just in time for Amsterdam's Light Festival. (P.s, we also got 25% off our meal at Pancakes Amsterdam because of it)
EAT — FRIES. The one staple in my diet and Amsterdam is full of it. FRITES. I've been told that Manneken Pis serves up some of the city's best double-fried frites, with a range of different dipping sauces that range from wasabi mayo to sambal. When I first saw sambal on a menu here, the asian in me did a little skip of joy. There's just something about being out of your home country that makes you crave for asian food all. the. time.
And if you're like me and you can't live without a bit (ok, who am i kidding... A LOT) of asian food, take a walk down the chinatown of Amsterdam — I've had both Thai and Chinese and it definitely fared better than some of the better places in London.
Also, when in Amsterdam... always pick pancakes whether it's breakfast, lunch or dinner. We had traditional dutch pancakes, which they also eat during dinnertime by the way, at a well-known joint called Pancakes Amsterdam. The difference between dutch pancakes and the kinds we make at home is the texture and thickness of it. The dutch pancakes we had were generally thinner and flatter, with the ingredients that are either savoury, sweet or both — I had a banana, bacon and chilli pancake, the best of both worlds.
Getting around Amsterdam was also pretty easy, not forgetting the commute to and fro the airport is one of the least exhausting experiences i've had whilst travelling abroad. Spain takes the cake, but that's a story for another day. We cycled almost everywhere, enjoying every minute of the wind in our hair and also avoiding being hit by the oncoming traffic and other cyclists (I almost died, twice) But i guess these are all the type of memories we all live to reminicse on a rainy day.
I'll see you soon Amsterdam, but the next leg of our journey brings us to... beautiful Barcelona! Stay tuned.