Amsterdam: A quick guide

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I thought I’d do a quick post about our favourite places in Amsterdam. We so love Amsterdam, and it is our favourite European city. We find the people to be friendly and happy, with generous spirits, and I feel a major affinity to the people and the culture. I could go on for hours about my love for Amsterdam, but I won’t bore you with that. Instead, I’m just going to give you a run down of where to eat, what to eat, what to drink (I’ll give you a hint: it’s always beer), and things to see. I’ve even done the work for you and added all the links you need!

  • Stacey’s Pennywell – The best place to have lunch. Have a Stacey’s All Time Favourite Sandwich. Trust me. It. Is. The. Bomb. Located very close to Rembrandtplein.
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  • Café Luxembourg – Some of the best Croquettes and a very good Eggs Benedict, located on Spui.
  • Coco’s Outback – Out favourite spot for Bitterballen and beer. It’s an Australian pub with very reasonable prices (quite cheap actually), with a good vibe. It’s located right by Rembrandtplein. Bitterballen is an absolute must on your trip.
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  • De Brabantse Aap – Another favourite for Bitterballen, but a little more pricey than Coco’s Outback, located also on Spui.
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  • De Ysbreeker – If you recall, I did a post about our Croque Monsieurs, and I mentioned where the best Croques I’ve ever eaten was. This is the place. Do it. You won’t be sorry. They are pricey, but well worth it. You could also do an Uitsmijter, which is amazing too. Located on Weesperzijde.
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  • De Biertuin – Amazing burgers for a decent price. It’s a little bit further from the centre of the city, so it’s not very touristy. It’s where the local young people hang out, and reservation is a must. Find directions here.
  • Café Stevens – A lovely little bar with an amazing variety of beers to try. It’s quite close to the bustling touristy red-light district (De Wallen), so if you take a stroll down there to have a look-see, Café Stevens is the perfect place to fill your belly with plenty of beer.
  • Café Kale – This is our favourite place to eat Vlammetjes, which is also a must have while you’re there. Located on Weteringschans.
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  • Bar Lempicka – A bar with a great atmosphere, day or night. It’s situated right on the Amstel river in Sarphati straat.
  • Vooges (Harmsen Restaurant) – A lovely place to have dinner, if you’re looking for something that doesn’t include burgers and run of the mill food. The cuisine is exquisite, the service so friendly, and the frites are to die for. Located on Utrechtsestraat
  • McDonalds. Don’t shoot me. Yes, I just suggested you go to McDonalds. But hear me out. The franchises in the Netherlands have a speciality not available anywhere else. And I am recommending that you have it. It’s the McKroket. Try it. Please.
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If you’re staying in Amsterdam for an extended period – and not necessarily in a hotel, then you might need to buy some supplies. Our favourite go-to shop for anything from bread, milk, cheese, to surprisingly tasty ready-made Creme Brulee, meat, wine and everything in between was Albert Heijn. Just a traveller’s tip though – they won’t let you pay with a Visa card. Even if it’s a debit card. There are ATM’s in the shop though, so it’s not that big of a deal.

For more of a farmer’s market feel, you should definitely visit Albert Cuypmarkt. It has fresh (FRESH) fish, homemade breads, cheeses of all shapes and colours, poultry, fresh vegetables and flowers. While you’re there, stop by the Stroopwafel stall, and get a fresh and hot Stroopwafel. It will change your life. It is crispy on the outside, made with a ginger and cinnamon infused dough, filled with a sweet, all-butter, very sticky and sweet caramel. Mmmhmmm. You can also find almost anything else at the market, from socks, to beads, crockery, fabric and upholstery, clothing, shoes and bags. It’s a lovely outing.
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You can’t visit Amsterdam without doing the historical and cultural circuit. So here’s a quick run down. I’m going to start with the Anne Frank House. We go every time we’re there. I’ll keep going. Every time. It is something so powerful, a humbling experience like no other. It teaches us what humanity can be if we let it. It’s a somber reminder of what cruelty truly is. It also teaches us that the human spirit is an unyielding and beautiful thing. You really should visit. You can (and I recommend that you do) book your tickets in advance online. And try to book it for the earliest time slot possible. It gets busy, and it’s really an experience you want to have when there aren’t that many people around. And please, if your children are not old enough to understand the gravity of the place they’re standing in, keep them reigned in. The people who go there have an emotional experience, and unruly little brats running around screaming, not only lessens – nay, ruins – the experience for other visitors, but makes you look bad too. (Preaching over) When you’re done there, you can pop in right next door at the Westerkerk. There is also the Oude Kerk to visit, which is located right by the red-light district. Two museums worth seeing: Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum. You can buy your tickets online. Try to get there early too, to avoid the masses.

The squares I mentioned in the food section of this post, are all beautiful places too. Even if you don’t visit the restaurants, take a stroll through Rembrandtplein, Leidseplein, Frederiksplein and Spui. For shopping I highly recommend going to Kalverstraat. You can find just about anything there, and it includes some of the world’s most popular brands – like Guess, Steve Madden, Levi, Fossil and so on. You should be able to pick up some great bargains if you’re there around the time that they have end of season sales. I also love walking through Utrechtsestraat, which has more of a quirky feel to it, with smaller stores, speciality shops and small eateries. It also happens to be very pretty. If you happen to be strolling through Utrechtsestraat, you should pop into Kaldi. It’s a speciality coffee and tea shop, where I could spend hours selecting teas. It’s lovely. My last little shopping gem is the 9 Straatjes. It is a 3 streets x 3 streets block of little cafés and specialty stores, ranging from a shop that exclusively sells buttons, another selling only board games, vintage shops, toothbrush shops and tea shops. The shops there only open at 11am on a Monday – remember that.

In terms of transport, you could rent a bicycle and do it the way the locals do it. I don’t though. The rules are very different than they are in my country, there are trams all over the place, cars, buses and pedestrians. It’s scary. But if you have the bravery – go for it! Many family members adore cycling in Amsterdam. I prefer using the trams and metros when I need to, but we tend to walk most places we go. In fact, the walking helps ease the guilt of consuming so much beer and Bitterballen. You can buy a chip card to use on the metros and trams, which works on a prepaid basis. You load your card with a certain amount, and every time you use it the card will be deducted with the fee of your trip. This is important though: REMEMBER TO CHECK OUT EVERY TIME YOU GET OFF. Other wise it will deduct about 4 Euros from your card. The trams are very easy to use, super accessible and there are regular trams coming and going throughout the city. There’s a very useful app that you can download which can tell you which tram to take depending on your destination, and their stops, and their times. The app can be downloaded on iPhones and Android phones – just search for 9292 OV app.

That’s it from me, I think. If you have the opportunity to see Amsterdam, you should grab it. It is a magical place.

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Back to school…Back to reality

Well, not really. But you get the point.

So I’m back from my fabulous Amsterdam trip. Sigh. But it was an amazing experience, and I will go again. It is such a beautiful city, with unique people and too much beer and bread. I am happy to say that two weeks after my holiday, I am back to my pre-Amsterdam weight. Whoohoo! Now, I have a couple more kilo’s to lose, but it will come, all in good time. I’m being positive you see.

I have such a full day ahead of me, it feels like my head is about to explode, and it’s only 9am. We’re right smack bang in the middle of a move, into a cool flat, and the last of the stuff has to be taken there tonight, before we move the furniture. Last night, as I was packing, I realised that I have way too much clothes. I threw a bunch out. It was hard, but I did it, and it’s going to charity anyway! That said, after I threw out all of the things I don’t wear anymore, I was left with about 7 huge suitcase full of clothes! And that’s not even the shoes. Back to my hectic day, I also need to fit in the time to bake 60 (yes, sixty!) muffins for tomorrow. The things I get myself into!

I have decided to enter a blog competition, where I can win 12 pairs of shoes! I do love my shoes, and to get them for free, is like true love. It’s rare and special. I just have to decide what to write about, which is a bit of a stumbling block. So today, I will also be looking for inspiration in this small town. Cross your fingers.

Here are some of my holiday snaps. I’m so in love with travelling! Enjoy!

Beer and Bread

Day 2 and 3: What a wonderful experience! Really extraordinary. After we got home on day one, and had a much needed shower, the man and I went for a beer (biertje). We walked to Rembrandtplein and had a tiny little Heineken draught at the 3 Sisters Pub, under an umbrella and did some people watching. As we were sitting the first impression I got was a very Cape Town feel. It really does feel like you’re sitting somewhere in Longstreet. The fashion sense…hmmm. Not so good. But then again, not everyone can look great, right? As it got later, the light had not just not faded. (As I’m typing here, it’s 20h00, and it is still light outside. Not even dusk yet. It only starts getting dark at about 23h00)

On Tuesday morning, we had a lovely family breakfast and went out exploring Kalver straat. This is an extremely looooooong shopping street, where there is a shoe store everywhere you look (awesome!) They have summer sales on at the moment, which is great, as we’re moving into summer when we get back. We had an amazing lunch at Loup Diner. I had the most fabulous Hummus and grilled veggie sandwich. De.Lish.

With all the walking, you can imagine the state of my feet. Blisters from the first day already, and my muscles are not used to walking so much. Today, we took a train to Utrecht, and did some more shopping. Thus far, I have bought gorgeous new heels, two dress/tops and a fabulous new watch. Still, I have not spent more than 70 Euro’s.

Tomorrow I am making Paella for the family, which i am quite excited about. They are leaving on Friday morning to go to Spain. Speaking of them, the twins. Gracious, those boys have stolen my heart. They are only three years old, but so amazing. Beautiful little boys, I can barely stand it. Every night before they go to bed, I get a ‘Knuffel’ which is a hug/snuggle and they leave us with big smiles and a friendly “Dag Dag”. That’s the greeting in the Netherlands.

It is hot here, but a very different kind of heat I’m used to. It’s very humid. But I am enjoying myself so much. I smell food. I better run. By the way, the food is lovely. And the beer…is making me fat. But when in Rome…

Much Love