Les Vacances: Amsterdam

Amsterdam street art

Cheese for sale at a market

Amsterdam in a nutshell: bikes, canals, coffeeshops, pancakes, walking, walking, walking, hispster grunge fashion, red lights and almost-naked women, great gouda and hard cheeses.

Two American girls, three days in Amsterdam! I boarded a train bound for Amsterdam early Tuesday morning with my friend, Becca. We stayed in a fantastic hostel that was just outside the red light district.

I loved meandering the streets, admiring the canals, and dodging bikers and the trams as they vazoomed by. Amsterdam has a distinct vibe. It’s more casual than Paris. Becca and I explored the many vintage shops and outdoor markets. The layout of the streets makes sense- it’s somewhat grid-like but also circle-like, with the grid fanning out.

We struck up conversation with a friendly elderly man in the first café we went into. He told us much about the city and circled his favorite spots on our little touristy maps. We giggled as he pronounced the foreign-sounding street names.

Map of Amsterdam

We spent our first afternoon browsing the shopping district (known as the 9 streets). And of course, sampling local cuisine! We also stopped by the “Heineken Experience,” an extremely touristy tour of the original Heineken brewery. I learned a lot about how beer is brewed- the mash, the hops, etc. I also never knew how highly acclaimed Heineken beer was/is! It has won many international awards… go figure. We got to taste two week old Heineken- SO DELICIOUS! Much lighter and tastier than the bottled stuff! Part of the “experience” also included a short boat tour, so that was also fun!

That night we tried out dutch pancakes, the “specialty” in Holland. I would describe these pancakes as a cross between crêpes and American pancakes. Dutch pancakes can be eaten with meats and cheeses, like a crêpe. I was glad I tried them, but they weren’t my favorite.

My favorite food in Amsterdam would have to be stroopwaffles- caramel-filled waffle cookies. Yum.

Stroopwaffles, caramel-filled waffle cookies

Some more food for thought: a friend told us to get appletaart, apple pie, at a restaurant called Winkel. AMAZING. I’ve been pining for apple pie for a while (it’s one of my favorite desserts and is usually the birthday cake stand-in on September 22, my bday.) While French apple tarts are good, they don’t hold a candle to the apple pie we tasted at Winkel’s… buttery crust and cinnamon and apple deliciousness on the inside. Feast your eyes.

Appletaart at Winkel’s

A highlight of our trip to Amsterdam was our visit to the Anne Frank House- the secret annex where Anne Frank and her family hid from the Nazis in the 1940s. The house is located on a nondescript street right in the center of Amsterdam. The building looks no different from the surrounding ones. We climbed the stairs only to find the rooms in the annex completely empty. Very eerie. Anne Frank’s father (the only survivor in the Frank family) wanted to keep the annex as it was after the Nazis took away the contents of each room. Photos recreate what the rooms used to look like. Even though I never read the famous diary, I enjoyed touring the building and reading the snippets of Anne’s diary that were sprinkled around the museum. Her maturity astounded me! Only thirteen years old, and quite contemplative regarding her horrible situation.

On our last day, we took a boat tour of the city. It was nice to view everything from the perspective of the water! There are a bunch of houseboats along the canals that are quite cool. I learned that apartments used to be taxed by the width, meaning that builders made very narrow buildings. Also, there are hooks at the top of most buildings to assist in moving large furniture to each floor. Too funny!

Pretty canals…

Becca and I walked A TON! We managed to make the most of the dodgy weather. Sometimes raining, sometimes sunny- Amsterdam kept us on our toes. By the time it was time to leave, our feet were sore and our tummies happy.

Becca and me in the Amsterdam sun



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