Live from Paris, it’s my blog!
A few years ago, I made traveling to a new (domestic) city part of my annual bucket list, but when my plans to sing karaoke in Tokyo fell through due to time and money constraints, I decided to give myself a traveling break…and then, naturally, I’m offered several chances to travel internationally for very cheap. Go figure.
Thus even though “Travel to a new International City” isn’t officially on my list, I think visiting a new European city (or two) seems bloggable – no?
Rather than give you a long winded (and somewhat narcissistic) narrative of my trip to Amsterdam, I will give you the highlights. If you are hoping to read about the underground secrets off the beaten path, move on. Also, I don’t do drugs – so don’t expect me to talk about the plethora of pot smoke on every corner. I’m just a simple American girl trying to figure out where to get mayonnaise on my fries.
Best way to get around:
We arrived by plane, rode by shuttle, canal boat, and Metro, and walked on foot, and left by train. The only mode of transportation we didn’t use were bikes (ironic for a city of 800,000 people and more than 1 million bikes). My preference? Walking.
It’s summer and nothing is air conditioned, which isn’t that big of a deal, unless you’re stuffed in a small space with no ventilation. For that reason, I did not like the shuttle or the Metro. Riding a bike seemed mildly suicidal unless you were a local. The canal boat gave us a good tour of the city, but that was more of a “look, don’t touch” kind of experience. Everything was centrally located so you don’t have to go far to find food, museums, shopping, etc. That being said, wear some good walking shoes and have your Google Maps handy.
We certainly didn’t go to all the museums, but in three days, we went to a lot. Personally, The Torture Museum was my favorite. Sure, we got to see Van Goghs and Rembrants at the bigger museums, but size of the collections were overwhelming (and packed with people). At The Torture Museum, we got up close and personal with all sorts of medieval instruments of torture – pretty cool! It’s dark and in small windy corridors, and every time we would turn a corner my mom would say, “Now that is the worst one…”
Also, personally, I think it’s super important that we (especially as Americans) are aware of the history of the terrible things people did in the name of government (*homeland security – cough cough*) or religion (*homosexuality – cough cough*). In hindsight, we know this kind of stuff was horrendous (and not effective); in 1,000 years, what will they look back and shake their heads on about our current practices?
Honestly, I didn’t have a bad meal. In fact, I had many great meals, but if I had to pick one, I would recommend an Italian place called Pastini. There are so many restaurants in Amsterdam that it’s overwhelming to a newcomer – but this one was off the beaten path (just a little). The service was friendly and easy going; the menu had entrees and small plates for sharing. Like every other place, there is indoor and outdoor seating, but be advised they are closed on Sundays.
I didn’t eat too many sweets during our time in Amsterdam, but a small place called Chocolate Ganache right on the left side of the entrance to the Oude Kerk Church was a must-visit. For a few bucks, I basically got a Whitman Sampler on crack.
*Bonus – there were a lot of cats outside.*
Best Historical Site
As an avid fan of medieval stuff, the Oude Kerk Church was also a must-see place (and since you’re probably going to go gawk at the Red Light District, it will be really convenient for you). It dates back to 1301, and around every corner there is something weird or old to look at, including engraved pews and thousands of gravestones (including Rembrant’s wife). They still hold Dutch church services so visitors can enter after 1:00pm.
Overall, Amsterdam was a super easy town to navigate. Everyone spoke english, and everything was written in english. My husband, Thor, has visited Amsterdam on business trips and came home complaining about almost everything (terrible restaurant service, bad food, angry bikers, awful weather) but I didn’t experience any of that. My biggest complaint? Too many American restaurants and retail stores.
Pro Tip: Always get the poached egg on your caesar salad.