Amsterdam, Netherlands

We dig Amsterdam!

Jenn

Amsterdam was our longest leg thus far and definitely one of our favorites! The cooler weather was a bit of an adjustment at first but we quickly came to appreciate temperatures in the high 60’s and low 70’s every day. Jenn even cooked a spicy pot of chili the first night!  We spent 11 days in another Airbnb apartment with a picturesque canal view. It was a 20 minute walk or 10 minute bike ride to the city center and most places that we went. Our apartment had a lot more space compared to our last with 2 floors, a washer and dryer, and 2 bikes to take us around town. We were happy the minute we stepped inside. With great recommendations from friends, family, and those we’ve met on this journey, our list of places we wanted to see was pretty lengthy so having bikes was an added bonus from our hosts!

Biking is the primary way people get around the city and it’s no joke! Bikers always have the right of way which took “look both ways before you cross” to a different level. There are more bikes than people in Amsterdam which became apparent to us by the bike bells that chimed at pedestrians day and night. Although a bit intimidated at first, we quickly got the hang of riding like a local. Our first trip was to Vondelpark which had a very chill vibe and a ton of people hanging out, playing music, running and picnicking. Another trip was to the Anne Frank House which was well worth the 2 hour wait in line. Most know the story but actually walking through the small space where 8 people lived in a secret annex, secluded from the world for 2 years, while fearing for their lives was chilling. What a humbling experience.

Through our thorough food research we found some local and budget-friendly gems including a hip hummus joint located in the quaint Jordaan neighborhood outside of the city. It served the some of the best hummus and pita we’ve ever had! We also found a doner shop that came highly recommended and certainly lived up to the hype! It’s official – we’re on the quest for the best doner throughout our travels and so far Amsterdam is leading the race!  One afternoon we stumbled on a cookie shop after a run and rewarded ourselves by splitting a delicious chocolate sensation from Van Stapele – it’s literally the only thing they make and well worth the 2 euro per cookie!  During a visit to the Albert Cuyp Market we got to sample another local Dutch treat – the Stroopwafel!  We watched as our thin cinnamon and butter scented waffles were cooked and slathered with a warm caramel center. Heaven on earth. Another food highlight was trying the Indonesian Rijsttafel or Rice Table. Most places are pretty pricey and cost around 30-40 euro a person but we happened to find Aneka Rasa, a more affordable option and we left very satisfied! We also enjoyed a tasty Flammkuchen, a very thin flatbread, from a cute bar/restaurant called The Lobby Nesplein. One of our favorite places in Amsterdam is a beach bar called Hannekes Boom and we were fortunate to visit it on the hottest day year-to-date. At Hannekes we sat right on the water, watched boats come and go, enjoyed a few local IPA’s and tried a Dutch bar snack – Bitterballen. Think extremely thick beef gravy coated in breadcrumbs and deep fried. The flavor and texture didn’t do it for either of us and although they’re a staple on every menu we saw, the experience was a one and done.

We did another Sandeman’s Free Tour tour which was great! Our guide Axel was a local and the tour was well worth the time spent walking and learning about the past and current culture of the city. We started at Dam Square which is the heart of the city center and where the Royal Palace used to be. From there, we toured the Red Light District and learned the history behind The Old Church that sits directly in the center of the district. It’s the only place on earth where you will find prostitution and religion right next to each other and the story behind it is very interesting.  Sailors would come in for short stints, repent their sins the next day and be on their way.  Smart marketing by the church!  From there, we visited the Jewish Quarter which was commissioned to be rebuilt after the war in the 60’s by college artists.  We saw the reason it is now referred to as “Legoland on acid”.  We learned that marijuana is not legal in Amsterdam however it’s sold at hundreds of “coffee shops” across the city. Hence the term “plausible deniability” which is one of three things considered when determining whether something is really illegal in Amsterdam.  The second is whether it’s “good for business” and the third that it “isn’t hurting anyone else”. We thank Axel for the quick Dutch legal lesson. We also learned about the Dutch East India Trading Company which is known for creating the world’s first stock market in the early 1600’s. Back then investors pooled their money and each received a “share” of the profits made from spice trading voyages. At the end of the tour we got to sample some cheese from Reypenaer Cheese Shop and ended up booking a cheese tasting at the same shop a few days later. The tasting was a treat and we actually met a couple from Richmond and a solo traveler from Arlington – what a small world indeed!  The hour long tasting included a lesson, 6 cheeses, along with red, white and port wine and was well worth the 15 euro/person. One other thing to note is that several movies are currently being filmed in Amsterdam and we happened stumble onto the set of The Hitman’s Bodyguard starring Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson. We had a front row seat to a motorcycle scene through an outdoor market!

The Van Gogh Museum was great and we highly recommend spending the extra few bucks for the self-guided audio tour. Although it was busier than we expected on a Thursday morning, the crowds moved at a decent pace and we were able to see everything, including the new exhibit that had opened only two days earlier called On The Verge of Insanity. It chronicled Van Gogh’s mental illness and displayed many paintings he created during the last few years of his young life. Experts are still trying to confirm a diagnosis by analyzing hundreds of articulate letters he wrote to family and friends.  We were both surprised to learn that his career as an artist only lasted about 10 years and that he didn’t start to gain recognition until after his death. Almond Blossom, Red Cabbages and Onions, and Landscape at Twilight were among just few of our favorites.

Toward the end of our stay, Jenn’s cousin Jackie came to stay with us for 2 days which was awesome.  She’s traveling solo through Europe for 6 weeks so we made plans to meet up!  We had a great time on a canal cruise, checked out the famous bench from The Fault in our Stars, Museumplein and the I Amsterdam sign, and also had a beer at the Brouwerij’t IJ brewery located directly under a huge windmill. It was great to catch up with family and have another person to show our favorite sites to!  

Some of our favorite places to eat & drink include:

Some of our favorite places we visited include:

 

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6 Comments

  1. Malcolm
    July 27, 2016 at 11:28 am — Reply

    Sounds good. You guys be careful. I would be leary of large venues. Not to put a damper on your ongoing adventure. God bless you both. Whats next? Thanks for the posts!

    • Jesse
      July 28, 2016 at 10:44 am — Reply

      Hey Unc – good advice. There have been a couple of events we would have liked to go to that we skipped. We are in Germany for the next couple of weeks and will be visiting some of Jenn’s family in Mainz.

  2. carnescassell@msn.com
    July 27, 2016 at 1:33 pm — Reply

    Looks like you guys are having the time of your life, and it is. We have never been to Amsterdam, and the Nordic countries, it’s still on our list. We get doner at the local Greek place here in Flushing, it’s one of my favorites, and we love humus, and I make a good one too. Now you can see the quality of life they have there, and see why they rank in the top 3 in the world, Us is way down the list.

    Understand you will be heading to Prague, a very beautiful city, untouched by the Nazis because the Chechs caved in to Germany during the Nazi takeover, so Germany didn’t destroy the city…all the great architecture is still there. Take the metro there, fun experience. We had our first Mojitos there about 10 years ago when Mojitos were a What? drink because nobody knew them yet. We stayed in a neat little hotel up on a hill where we could see the whole city at night while we sipped our mojitos.

    The world is a big place and travel is such fun…may your journeys be wonderful experiences that will be fond memories in years to come. Even the nightmares that we all have now and then on trips become laughs later on. At least they become good stories to share with others.
    Tyler & Elana

    • Jesse
      July 28, 2016 at 10:52 am — Reply

      Hi Tyler & Elana – thanks for the info on Prague! We are definitely enjoying exploring Europe and seeing new places and meeting new people. We’ve learned that things won’t go perfect all of the time but in the end they will work out. Thanks for following along.

  3. Elizabeth Kregloe
    July 27, 2016 at 3:32 pm — Reply

    So happy to hear of your happy travels and that you are having a wonderful time. You are providing a welcome relief from the doom and gloom of the international news ! Keep up the good work. The good life is the one for you and us ! Much love, Liz

  4. Jesse
    July 28, 2016 at 10:58 am — Reply

    Thanks, Liz! We are having a lot of fun on our journey. Today we are leaving for Mainz to visit some of Jenn’s extended family. Talk to you and Dad soon!

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We dig Amsterdam!

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