Amsterdam Revisited

I am writing to you from my hotel room in Vienna. I am up earlier than expected because I had one of those classic travel moments where you wake up in a hotel room and don’t remember where you are (#relatable). It’s also snowing outside so I may have once again not packed appropriately for the weather. Anyway, while this could have typically been a good excuse for an early start, I’m not inclined to go out in the snow quite yet.

But, we’re back to Amsterdam. It was a quick weekend trip planned because the troop was leaving from Amsterdam that Sunday.

In typical Garbagnati fashion, our day in Amsterdam involved a pretty decent amount of eating and some level of retracing steps from Chris and my trip there the month before.

We stayed at an airport hotel because of their early morning Sunday departure, which meant that getting to town took a while.

We learned that a replica IAMSTERDAM sign exists at the Schipol Airport and decided that we’d rather just go to the practically empty one than fight people to take photos at the one in the city. Okay, so that was some laziness involved too. James also took this as a good opportunity to get a waffle.

Chris didn’t eat until late morning, though, which meant that we had to contend with my hangry husband as we wound the canals of Amsterdam.

Our first actual stop was back to the frites stand we went to last time. With a larger group, we were able to sample more of their sauce options but the classic may have still been my favorite. The bar across the street lets people eat the frites inside if you buy a drink, something we took advantage of given how cold it was in Amsterdam.

We backtracked a little after that to go through the university to get Mia to a yarn shop on some boutiquey street. Can’t remember the name, but I lasted a full three minutes in the shop before going to a nearby print shop.

It was a lot of walking after that as we made our way through more canals towards the Albert Cuyp Market. Along the way, we had a failed stop at a bar for bathrooms, a stop to sample (and buy) some Dutch cheeses, and a short stop by Rembrandt Square so Mia could continue her dog tour of Europe.

We finally made it to the market, which Umma immediately dubbed Dutch Namdaemun and we made our way in. Now, this market was a very controlled experience when it was just Chris and me. With the five of us and everyone’s shiny things complex, the trip was absolute chaos and we spent a lot of time in the markets (no complaints here). Chris and James immediately left in search of a restroom and we somehow lost Mia.

My shiny things moment where I lost everyone came in the form of kibbelings. This could come from years of episodes of Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern’s various shows or my idol worship of Rick Steves, but if I see locals lined up for street food, I’m very often inclined to join. This hasn’t failed yet, even that time I forced everyone to line up at a small stand for small cups of alcohol in Lisbon several years back (we ended up trying ginjinha, which is amazing). Anyway, this time I saw people lined up for an assortment of fried fish. Since I knew I wasn’t going to get anyone to do the herring with me, I went for fried fish. It was delicious. Had a bit of a different flavor than the many fish and chips we had in Edinburgh. I would highly recommend it.

There was a lot more shopping in the market. James decided to buy the bulkiest Christmas sweater he could find because everyone was already stressed about space in their bags. I’m surprised they were able to pack it, honestly. Umma found jewelry and Mia and I found the largest stroopwaffel.

We were cold and exhausted by the time we made it to the other side of the market. Chris also promised Umma some famous hot dog restaurant, but we somehow ended up at a Wok to Wok to get out of the cold and sit down for a while. Also, noodles.

Chris wasn’t feeling well at that point, so we decided we should probably start making our way back to the hotel. This, of course, meant we wouldn’t make it back to the train station for a couple of hours because there was more shopping to be had. This included the flower market because Chris wanted to make some purchases there he didn’t make the previous trip and Uniqlo.

We eventually made it to the train station and thought we barely made the train that would take us back to the airport. Unfortunately, we ended up with a ten or twenty minute delay, which then led us to also miss the hotel shuttle for the hour.

With an hour to spare, we found a cafe to sit at and order drinks. We also took the opportunity to try bitterballs, something that made us almost miss the shuttle again.

We made it back to the hotel and watched them somehow manage to pack all of the day’s aquisitions, including James’s stupid sweater. After all of that, we were still somehow hungry. There was an event space next door to our hotel. There was a churrascaria restaurant that we were not hungry enough for and an Italian restaurant we looked too grungy for. This left us with an American themed bowling alley or McDonalds. So, my last dinner with the family and before they went back to the US was at a bowling alley.

Everyone left early the next morning (ūüėĘ). I initially thought my flight on Sunday was much later and had a whole day trip to the Hague planned before finding out I also left relatively early. It worked out perfectly, though, because I found out on Thursday that one of my mentors, former colleague and dear friend Alison was in Amsterdam and I got to spend my Sunday morning in an international A-Team reunion. We caught up as much as we could over breakfast and a cab ride to the airport. It was a very pleasant addition to the trip and what I thought was going to be an otherwise sad Sunday.

The trip to Amsterdam flew by and was once again full of food. Despite the fact that everyone abandoned me, it was a fun trip.

Eating Our Way Through Amsterdam

Back to Amsterdam, even though it feels like it’s been years since we were there.

We ate our way through Amsterdam, which isn’t the worst way to spend your time in a city. I actually built up the foodie courage to try the Dutch herring this time around, but Chris was not into the idea at all. We’re actually going to be back there next month, so maybe I can convince someone else in the group to do it?

So, let’s start.

We kicked off our food tour with brunch at The Avocado Show, If you can’t tell from the name, it’s an avocado themed restaurant. We learned about this place on a Facebook video. Chris went with an avocado eggs benedict dish. I, on the other hand, went with the much more social media-friendly avocado Wagyu burger. It puts a new spin on the concept of an avocado burger. It was incredibly difficult to eat, but was as good as it looked.

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Almost immediately after we had brunch, we went to Albert Cuyp Market, where we quickly faced the next to things we wanted to try while we were in Amsterdam.

The first were the poffertjes, which are small Dutch pancakes that are cooked on molds that are similar to the Japanese takoyaki molds. We split a small order topped with some Nutella. It was just as fun watching them make the poffertjes as it was to eat eat them.

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They actually had them at our hotel breakfast the next morning. They were good, but somehow not quite the same without the whole market experience.

Almost directly across from the stand selling poffertjes was the first stroopwaffel stand and the next thing we wanted to try to eat. We were understandably a little stuffed at the time, so did what any normal person would do and took a lap around the market before going back for the stroopwaffels.

Now, I love stroopwaffels, but hot, freshly made stroopwaffels are something else. They are messy and get everywhere, but they are absolutely perfect.

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We took a break from eating after that and spent the time touring the city until dinner. We were going to try out Amsterdam’s Korean food scene, but we also walked through Chinatown during our walking tour and I realized that I hadn’t had Chinese food in forever. Our guide recommended New King restaurant. The food was pretty good, albeit a little salty.

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Do you know what else I haven’t had in forever? Boba. I thought I would have to wait until I go home to have boba again, but then I saw the tell tale tapioca pearls and knew there was a place nearby. It was several doors down from the restaurant we ate at. The line took quite a long time (another point for the trope about the Bay Area vibes during our Amsterdam trip) and the use of the Earl Gray tea as the tea base was a little too strong for the taro milk tea, but it was boba and I have missed boba.

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Day two of our fooding around Amsterdam started with breakfast at the hotel. It was standard breakfast spread, with some Dutch food mixed in.

At noon, we lined up at Vlaams Friteshuis Vleminckx for some of the best fries that I’ve had for quite some time. You can choose from a lot of sauces, but we went with the classic sauce.

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Our last stop of our eating tour of Amsterdam was Brouwerj’t IJ, the brewery by the windmill, where we had sausages, Dutch cheese and a lot of beer.

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So, that was our food tour of Amsterdam. I’m sure we may repeat some of these stops next time we’re there (fries, I’m looking at you), but I look forward to trying more food on our next visit.

Exploring Amsterdam

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We had quite an epic food and soccer centric weekend in Amsterdam. When we weren’t eating or watching soccer, we were taking pictures of canals. I have SO MANY pictures of canals. It was quite of amazing. In a strange way, it was also the most Bay Area-esque time I’ve had since I left the Bay. It could be the hyper-millennial brunch of avocados, the craft brewery, boba (!!), or even barcade that made me feel like I was experiencing a bit of home. Also important-esque of note. I’m separating out all of the food stuff we did. That’s worth a post of its own.

We got into Amsterdam late Friday night/early Saturday morning. Our flight was delayed, so we ended up leaving Basel around the time we were supposed to land. Fortunately, it’s incredibly easy to get from the Amsterdam Schipol Airport to the city center, even when you do arrive at 12:30 am. We stayed at the Renaissance Hotel, which was about a 10 minute walk from the train station.

We started our Saturday with brunch, which was across town. While we didn’t get out of the hotel too early, I noticed on this trip that the city center does not wake up that early. Even at 9(ish), the streets were pretty empty. It made for a peaceful morning.

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After our brunch, we went to Albert Cuyp Market because 1) I love markets and 2) there was clearly more food that we had to eat immediately after we ate brunch. There was a little more to the market than just food. There were flowers, clothes, furniture, electronics, etc. While I could have gotten more if I tried (I was drawn to the purse stand), we only really bought Netherlands soccer scarves to add to our ever-growing collection.

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We walked back to our hotel shortly after that for a short break before our walking tour of Amsterdam. We did our tour with FreeDam Tours, who I would highly recommend should you need a good tour of Amsterdam. The tour we went on focused less on the sightseeing and more on the history and culture of the city. This meant we spent a lot of the time in the city center understanding the historical background of the Red Light District and Amsterdam’s permissiveness (not legalization, which I always forget) of marijuana. We also saw some pretty things, though.

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The rest of our Saturday involved dinner in Chinatown,  a post dinner/tour break at the hotel, and the soccer game.

We had a later start on Sunday, leaving after packing up our stuff and enjoying the hotel breakfast buffet. We had a pretty busy itinerary planned for our morning and early afternoon. We started with a walk out through the scenic Jordaan neighborhood to the Anne Frank House. We didn’t have the time to stay in the line to get into the house, but we did see the nearby statue of Anne Frank and the Homomonument (memorializing the LGBT people killed during the Holocaust).

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From there, we did a tour through the Flower Market, where Chris briefly considered buying tulip bulbs to bring home with him.

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We had about 30 minutes before the frites stand we wanted to go to opened, so we went to Rembrandt Square. Our tour guide had mentioned it the day before. What made me want to see it the most was the fact that it’s full of a statues representing his paintings and that people take goofy selfies with them. Probably not the intention of the people who designed a lovely tribute to the artist, but I was sold. For some reason, it got crowded there immediately after we arrived, so we had to do some creative angles to take our pictures.

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Chris had to drag me away from Rembrandt’s Square, but it was fine because we followed it up with the best fries I’ve had in a while.

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Another thing that our tour guide told us about was that there is a barcade in a former Red Light District spot. It was a small footnote of a larger story about how the city has been trying to clean up human trafficking, but he mentioned a barcade and we were all over it. We got ourselves Heinekens (because when in Amsterdam…) and spent the next hour and a half playing arcade games. There was a lot of pinball in particular, but we did end with a throwback to our days playing Bubble Bobble against each other at the Student Center in UCI.

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We ended our tour of Amsterdam with a long walk out of the city center to the¬†Brouwerij’t IJ. It’s a brewery next to the big windmill in the city. In what may have been a throwback to our previous weekend, we had some sausage and beer at the brewery.

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We had to rush back from the brewery because we hit it very close to the time we had for late checkout, but we did make it and had a pretty smooth trip to the airport.

When we went to Amsterdam ten years ago on our backpacking tour, I didn’t really appreciate the city that much. The beautiful canals played second fiddle to the weird feeling that the city seemed a lot more “bro-friendly” than we expected. I guess the fact that we spent the first few hours of our stay waiting in line at the train station for them to figure out how to fix the Eurail pass that Gianni accidentally washed with his pants didn’t help. It could have also been our creepy store friend. Whatever it was, we didn’t appreciate Amsterdam at the time. It truly is a beautiful and fun city.

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