For the holiday season this year we decided to take a small trip to Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Because when you think of Christmas, you think of Amsterdam…right?? We took the train from Paris. Due to the attacks in November, stricter security measures were now in place at the Paris train stations. All passports were checked before we boarded the train (and also when we got back to Paris). I’m okay with these measures and don’t mind waiting the extra time to board or get off the train.
The train took just over 3 hours to arrive to our destination. We were finally in Amsterdam and ready to explore! The weather was kind of dreary (grey and misting) when we arrived, but that would be the only time we would have sub-par weather (that evening was okay). We walked from the train station to our apartment in the Jordaan neighborhood. Along the way we saw beautiful scenery and also three prostitutes in the windows. I didn’t think we were walking through the red-light district, but from what I learn later, it is a lot bigger than just the one well-known district. There also might be more than one.
After walking through the mist, we finally arrived to our apartment! It was a great space and the couple that owns it was very nice. We stayed in their spare bedroom. However, we didn’t waste too much time in the apartment and soon we were back out exploring the city. It is very picturesque and interesting at every corner!
Pick up your candy and cookie supply here! Yep, we’re definitely in Amsterdam.
We saw all of these people getting fries at this place, so we decided to check it out. This was so unhealthy, but it hit the spot!
The city was pretty to walk around at night. As you can see in one of the photos, I’m still enjoying my fries!
We may, or may not, have eaten this brownie…
There were so many bikes in the city (more bikes than people is what they say)! I liked the customized bikes with extra seats in the front and back for kids. Look at this bike! I wouldn’t mind having something like that later on.
We had breakfast on Thursday morning at Screaming Beans. I loved the yogurt bowl and the lattes were good too.
Later that morning we met at the National Monument for our free walking tour.
The following are pictures we took along our tour.
This is the Waag, which means weigh house. It was originally a city gate and part of the walls around Amsterdam. It is the oldest remaining non-religious building in the city. This building has served many different purposes. In the 19th century, punishments (including executions) were carried out in front of the building. It is now a restaurant and you can have lunch or dinner outside where people were killed…how lovely.
We also walked into the Begijnhof. This is one of the oldest inner courtyards in the city (dating from the early 14th century). This was built as a sanctuary for the Begijntjes, a Catholic sisterhood who lived like nuns, but did not take monastic vows. Today the homes are still occupied by single women. I accidentally walked over sister Cornelia Arens’ grave (the tour guide situated himself in a place where I was forced to do it unknowingly). She wanted to be buried in the gutter of the court.
XXX is on the Amsterdam flag and found pretty much everywhere in town. No, it does not symbolize the area of the red-light district, but depicts three Saint Andrew’s Crosses or another theory states that it possibly stands for the three main perils that Amsterdam had faced in the past: floods, fire, and the plague (aka Black Death).
We learned that it was not required for the people of the Netherlands to have last names until Napoleon annexed the Netherlands in the 1800s. When the people had to choose their last names, some chose names that had a silly and/or sometimes vulgar meaning because they didn’t think the last name thing would catch on. After they got their country back some wanted to get rid of the last names, but most found having a last name pretty handy so they kept them. If a Dutch person doesn’t want to tell you his/her last name, this could be the reason why. Since they hadn’t had last names before the 1800s, you would find homes with plaques like these on the outside depicting what profession they held. For example, you might have Jan the dentist, Jan the baker, and Jan the sailor. That’s how people would keep everyone straight.
That man looks like a giant in front of those buildings in the first photo.
We were told that many Finnish people will take pictures in front of this statue and be laughing. Our guide told us that this writer’s pen name, Multatuli (multa tuli), in Latin means “I have suffered much.” However, in Finnish slang it means “I just ejaculated.”
Andrew caught the magnificence of my crazy mane of hair as he took a picture of this church down the road.
After the tour, the guide invited all of us to have lunch with him at Café Sonneveld for some Dutch cuisine. We had the stamppot, snert (pea soup), and bitterballen.
We actually go to see a barge that had recently pulled out some of the bikes in the canals!
We had tickets to go to the Anne Frank House later, but since there was no line, we decided to see if we could just use them now (I actually had accidentally purchased 3 tickets – I hope those guys we gave it to were able to use it). They let us go ahead and visit early. It is a strange feeling to be in the secret annexe where 8 people were in hiding for over 2 years. Although the space was bigger than I had imagined, it was still is very small for 8 people. Not being able to go outside during that time and not being able to use the sink or the toilet very much during the day (due to the warehouse workers not knowing there were people hiding) would drive many people mad. Anne was a very insightful girl and it is moving to read her words and see everyone that she has touched with her diary. I hope that we never find ourselves in a position again where hate wins. No one deserves to be treated like this, ever. I feel fortunate that we were able to visit; it really helps with perspective on life. We were not allowed to take photos inside, however, the building with the blacked out windows (using curtains) is the Anne Frank House (actually her father’s former warehouse/workplace).
That night we took the Water Colors boat tour. This was basically a trip through the canals showcasing pieces of art. At first, we hadn’t really understood what the tour was going to be about, but it was still enjoyable. Some of the pieces of art were pretty cool! Click here to see a video of the man running and here to see the row boat.
The train station looks beautiful anyway, but even better at night with the lights and big Christmas tree in front.
I got some wooden shoes. Do you like them?
More fries…we have no self-control. This time I tried the truffle mayo…it was AMAZING.
Later that night we met Devan (my brother Charles’ friend from high school) for a drink at Café ‘t Smalle. This pub was really cute and cozy. We tried the poffertjes (mini Dutch pancakes). These were one of my favorite things to eat this trip.
Hey, do I know you?
On Friday morning, we had breakfast at Pankcakes! Amsterdam. I had the one with goat cheese, spinach, pine nuts, and garlic oil and Andrew had the one with banana, bacon, and chili pepper. Both were really good, but mine was the best!
We also had a bit of caffeine at Screaming Beans again.
Next up on our agenda was the food tour! Our guide started us off at Café de Prins, one of the brown cafés, for some sweet poffertjes. It was nice having these again 🙂
I’ve taken a lot of pictures of the building so far, but I should point out the hooks at the top of each building. This was used to pull up heavy/large items into the apartments. Some people still use the hooks for that purpose today.
Our guide pointed out a butcher shop that had the plaque of a pig above it, previously named The Fat Pig. Today the location is still a butcher shop; however, since it is owned by a Muslim, the name has changed to The Fat Calf and no longer serves pig cuts.
Here we see a mirror hanging out on the side of a window (the middle one). The guide said that people inside used this to snoop on who was walking around outside.
The rails were/are used for hanging laundry out to dry.
The next food stop was at Butcher Louman. We tried the ossenworst (raw, smoked beef sausage) and grillworst (grilled sausage). We even got to see Mr. Frans Louman himself! He held up some meat for me.
A food tour wouldn’t be complete without trying some cheese. We were taken to De Kaaskamer to fulfill this need. We tried three different cheeses: Gouda 3 weeks aged, Gouda 14 months aged, and Farmer’s cheese (raw & unpasteurized) aged 3 months.
Brouwersgracht was dubbed the most beautiful street in Amsterdam. I must say that there are some great views of the canal, but there are so many beautiful views in the city.
The buildings with shutters were warehouses back in the day. Today they are most likely apartments and the shutters are fixed to be open at all times.
We went with the group to Swieti Sranang to try the broodje pom (a spicy sandwich) and baka bana (fried plantain with satay sauce). Both were excellent! This take-away restaurant features cuisine from the former Dutch colonies, Surinam and Indonesia. I wouldn’t mind having some of this food again.
It was time to try some apple pie! Café Papeneiland, one of the oldest cafes in Amsterdam (dating back to 1642) and also a traditional brown café, boasts the best in town! We were served a half piece (which was still pretty big) and it was a pretty good piece of pie.
The famous XXX of Amsterdam.
We found ourselves in another nice, quaint courtyard. I thought the water fountain was really cool.
See the houses tilting forward a bit? They are built this way on purpose. So when the furniture was pulled up by the hooks through the window, it would help it from hitting and damaging the building. Some buildings tilt farther forward than others…maybe they just like their houses to appear bigger too?
We tried herring served with onions and pickles and also fried cod at Vis Plaza. It was pretty good!
These houses are leaning to the side, which is probably a result of being there for many years (300 or so) and due to being built on wooden stilts which have caused foundation problems. Some houses in certain areas appear to be dancing with each other.
Some houses in Amsterdam were built within courtyards and therefore had no view except other houses and their entryways were not in the street, but were in the courtyard. Very cramped quarters…
This area in the back all used the same showers and/or bathrooms way back when. Lots of people for just two showers/bathrooms…
We visited Patisserie Anesta for an advocaat pastry. This was one of Andrew’s favorites! Advocaat is a traditional Dutch alcoholic beverage made from eggs, sugar and brandy. Originally, advocaat was an avocado liquor made by Dutch traders in South America. However, when they got home, avocados were not available to use, but they found that eggs could be substituted to obtain the same texture.
Our last stop was at Café de Blaffende Vis. We enjoyed a beer from Two Chefs Brewing and some bitterballen. Overall, it was a pretty fun tour!
We found Amsterdam to be a bit more festive with the holiday decorations.
This is Café ‘t Smalle during the daytime. Wish we would have sat by the canal! Oh well, maybe next time.
Andrew and I had to visit another coffeeshop at the recommendation of the tour guide (Axel) we had the day before. We made our way straight to Dampkring. We tried a cake and a milkshake. The shop also had a cat mascot.
I told Andrew to go back and see if they were handing out free samples of something and he got pulled in for a demonstration. He was not very pleased and he heard me take this picture from across the street. He has some good ears!
After his demonstration, we continued our journey to the Rembrandt House. Rembrandt was a Dutch painter and etcher. It was cool to see how people lived back in the day. I would not want to sleep in a bed box. In one of the pictures you see (I think by the fireplace) that there is real marble and painted wood to look like marble. They did a good job of painting it to look that way. He had a room full of artifacts…anything from shells to stuffed animals to weapons.
We were feeling a little out of it after the Rembrandt house (maybe due to our stop at Dampkring), but somehow we made our way across town. We stopped at Wynand Fockink to sample some jenever (it’s basically medicine) and is the precursor to gin.
I liked this interesting piece of art on the sidewalk.
This is part of the red-light district. The red lights are where the prostitutes are located. This was an interesting area to walk through. I think we actually walked through a part of it each day we were there. It is kind of hard to miss it.
We found ourselves incredibly hungry (wonder why?) and got some more fries…hopefully we walk off these calories.
The next day we headed out to seize the day! This sign for the button cracked Andrew up.
We had a delicious cheese croissant for a snack. This was good!
Then we had breakfast at Koffiehuis De Hoek.
We made our way towards the I Amsterdam sign in front of the Rijksmuseum.
Finally, we made it! It was lovely with the ice skating rink near the sign!
There was a Christmas market right next to the ice rink. We tried an oliebollen. The one we got wasn’t quite done cooking so we decided to try to find another one to compare, just to make sure it wasn’t meant to be that way.
I thought this was hilarious. The pine trees were bound to this other tree.
More oliebollen and also krentenbollen (with raisins)… These were good (but not as great as Devan had led us to believe) and made my face all a mess.
Baskets of Steamy Goodness is a delicious name for a restaurant. Yummy dim sum! Didn’t eat here, but sounded like it might be good.
We made our way through this market in search of a fresh stroopwafel. I was told that the Albert Cuyp stroopwafel was the best in town.
We found the stroopwafel stand!
This little boy knows what’s up…
Voila! This was so delicious. I’d never had them warm before, but the cold ones are still good with coffee!
We ended up having lunch at Geflipt Burgers. It was our chosen venue because it looked good and I had to go to the bathroom. Sometimes we base many of our decisions around my bladder. Getting older folks…it’s either that or too many fluids. Just in case you’re wondering, lunch ended up being pretty good! Score one point for my bladder.
Walking along the canals… We happened to spot an Egyptian goose that had a tag on his leg.
Somehow I had not noticed that Amsterdam’s logo (XXX) was also on all of the poles that stop cars from driving on the pavement. I also did not notice that it sort of resembled a penis. Thanks for that, Andrew.
We made a quick run through the Dappermarkt. Very festive!
There is Brouwerij ‘t IJ! It’s a modern brewery in a windmill. We did a tasting and then did the very small tour that they offered.
This is the Rembrandt House in the daylight.
I liked this statue. I don’t remember exactly where we saw it, but it was on our way back to the apartment.
It was finally Sunday morning and that meant we only had a few hours left! Here’s Andrew walking down the steep stairs. Three flights of stairs each day was good for our legs.
We had breakfast at Friends because we had passed by it every morning since we had been in Amsterdam. It was a quaint little place and the food was decent. The carrot cake was nice and spicy.
More doors…can’t get enough apparently.
This is the exterior of our apartment building and also the inside stairwell.
Even the aliens are chill in Amsterdam.
They had chocolate sprinkles for toast/bread and plenty of stroopwafels at the supermarket. We never did try the chocolate sprinkles, but the food tour guide told us that he has them for breakfast.
One more stop for fries. I know what you are thinking, we have no shame. However, this time we couldn’t finish them, so that means it is out of our system for a good while.
Hello, Amsterdam Centraal! We are ready to head back to Paris! Thanks for the good times.