This year, Andrew and I aren’t buying each other Christmas gifts. Instead, we decided to make our Christmas gift to each other a trip….so we went to Amsterdam! Also, the Euro to Dollar conversion right now is more friendly than the pound. (€1 = $1.10 vs. £1 = $1.51)
Amsterdam is such a beautiful city with miles of canals, hundreds of bridges, thousands of bicycles, a large mixture of cultures, and a rich history of tolerance. It’s beautiful, safe, and a great place to tour around. Public transportation was relatively easy to use. The city is flat so it’s very easy to walk around. Although there is probably more English signs in Taipei and Seoul, we were still able to get around since everybody speaks English. Andrew and I loved this city with its beautiful architecture, bright colors, history, and yummy foods.
Their train system and metro system was very convenient. Our friend Googlemaps helped us a lot, but it was pretty easy to get around. The train and metro were very clean, much better than my beloved BART. It actually felt very comforting to take the metro since it felt like home.
We stayed at Qbic Hotel in the World Trade Centre. It’s a modern budget hotel next to the Amsterdam Zuid railway station. It’s a “no-frills” hotel with little amenities (lol, no comp upgrade, no free lotions, no bathrobes, no slippers, no turndown service, and no window for a hotel snob like me), but we had a good stay. This hotel is probably best for couples since there were no doors separating the bathroom and bedroom. Although we did not interact with the staff, we enjoyed our complimentary mint waters each night when we returned.
Our first meal in Amsterdam was at the Pancake Bakery. It was on Buzzfeed’s List of 22 Things Everyone Needs to Eat in Amsterdam. It’s definitely a touristy restaurant since we heard American accents throughout the restaurant and the restaurant has menus in different languages. The food itself was very good. They serve Dutch pancakes (“pannenkoek”). These pancakes are thinner than the typical American pancake and probably more similar to a crepe. We ordered the Caprese pancake which included mushrooms, onions, melted mozzarella cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, pesto, and fresh basil. We also ordered poffertjes. Poffertjes are a traditional Dutch treat that are like mini panckakes with a spongy texture. We really enjoyed our meal here.
We went on a “Free” Walking Tour of Amsterdam on our first day in Amsterdam so we could get a general overview of the city and its history. Through Tripadvisor, I found SANDEMANs New Amsterdam free walking tours. The tour guides are “freelancers” and work on a tips-only basis. You’re asked to tip based on what you think the tour was worth so we could get a good tour in our budget. Our tour guide was pretty engaging and very knowledgeable. The tour allowed us to learn about the Red Light District, the Old Church, the Jewish Quarter, the Royal Palace, Anne Frank’s House, the Begijnhof Convent, and the Dutch East India Company. Our tour guide also brought us to see the widest bridge and narrowest house in Amsterdam and answered everybody’s questions about prostitution, cannabis, and coffeeshops. The tour was about 3 hours long (started at 2pm and ended around 5pm) so it got dark and very cold very quickly. We started our tour next to the National Monument in Dam Square and ended a canal away from Anne Frank’s house.
We went to the Anne Frank House after our tour. We did our tour on a Tuesday afternoon and there was no line for Anne Frank’s house! People say that they line up for hours in the summer and weekends so we were thankful to just walk into it. It’s €9 per person to visit Anne Frank’s House. It’s very surreal to walk in the house and be in Anne Frank’s bedroom where she spent years in hiding. I read The Diary of a Young Girl in middle school so it was very touching to actually see the walls that separated her from the rest of the world. You aren’t supposed to take pictures in the house so I don’t have anything good to show you, except this quote that felt very appropriate for this time in history.
“One day this terrible war will be over. The time will come when we will be people again, and not just Jews! We can never be just Dutch, or just English, or whatever, we will always be Jews as well. But then, we’ll want to be.” – Anne Frank
If you’re really curious to know what it looked like, you can see some of it in the movie Fault in Our Stars.
Amsterdam has these “Frites Stalls” throughout the city. Andrew of course needed to get some. We tried Manneken Pis since there was a line, was highly rated, and we were passing it. The most popular way to have your fries is to smother it with mayonnaise. I don’t really like mayonnaise so we also opted to get mayonnaise and oorlog, a Dutch peanut sauce on our fries. To me, they just tasted like fries, but I devoured them because I was so cold and the fries were fresh and hot.
Since Indonesia was colonized by the Dutch, we thought we should try Indonesian food in Amsterdam. We went to Aneka Rasa in the city center. We ordered The Rijsttafel or Rice Table that allowed us to try many different dishes over rice. We really liked the chicken satay. Their peanut sauce was bomb. I also really enjoyed the beef rendang. Andrew said the food reminded him of his meals in Indonesia, just toned down a few notches.
I also got to meet up with Farah, my Collins College/Cru/CPP friend that I haven’t spoken to in years! She’s lived in Amsterdam since graduation (4 years), learned Dutch, worked at a Christian hostel, got married, and now works for a restaurant called Dignita that is run by Not for Sale, a non-profit that works to protects people and communities around the world from human trafficking and modern-day slavery. It’s so amazing and encouraging to see how God has placed the women in the red-light district on her heart and that she is using her hospitality education and experience to make a difference in their lives. Thanks for meeting up with me!
Farah and I were supposed to go to Winkel43, apparently the best place to get Dutch Apple Pie. It was to busy, so we just got one for takeaway. I don’t think it was the best apple pie I’ve ever had, but I can say that I did try it.
The next day, we went to visit the different markets. We went to Bloemenmarkt (a floating flower market that was filled with tourist souvenir shops) and Waterlooplein (a standard flea market with lots of vintage style items), but our favorite was the Albert Cuyp Market, Amsterdam’s street market. Of course nothing compares to Taiwan’s street markets, but this was a pretty good one. They sold fruits and vegetables (at better prices than in Edinburgh!), flowers, clothes, cheap electronics, and traditional Dutch snacks. We got the raw herring sandwich which was probably my favorite thing we ate in Amsterdam. It definitely doesn’t taste like sushi because I think it’s more pickled. The herring sandwich also came with onions and pickles. Yum! We also got a fresh stroopwafel. A stroopwafel is basically two really thin waffles stuck together with syrup.
While Andrew and I not the best “art” museum people, we still felt that we needed to visit theRijksmuseum (since that’s what you do in Amsterdam). It’s three floors of mostly Dutch art. We saw Rembrandt’s The Night Watch, but we probably won’t return if we’re back in Amsterdam since admission is €17.50! Why so much?!
I also had to take a picture of the I Amsterdam sign like a good tourist. 😁
Andrew also had to try this. He got a kroket (fried gravy) from a vending wall in FEBO. FEBO is a Dutch fast food restaurant chain that you can find throughout the city. They are known for their vending walls of food. You just put in your money and you can open one of the doors to get your fried treat. It tasted alright. Of course Andrew liked it.
We also wanted to try Surinamese food. Suriname is another former Dutch colony located in South America, north of Brazil. We went to Waterkant to try this type of cuisine. I was really curious to find out what Surinamese cuisine is like. Would it be similar to other South American foods? Well, it’s basically a combination of international cuisines (East Indian, African, Indonesian, Chinese, Dutch, Jewish, Portuguese, and Amerindian). Surinamese cuisine uses Madame Jeanette peppers (yellow peppers from Surinam) in almost all of its dishes for spice. We ordered the Dirty Duck Black Pepper Buns, Saoto Soup, and Pumpkin Roti Roll. The Dirty Duck Black Pepper Buns were delicious! It was spicy pulled pork inside of a mantou (steamed bun). Andrew really liked the Saoto Soup. I thought it was alright. It reminded me of pho, but with potato sticks instead of noodles. It also had chicken, bean sprouts, and a boiled egg served with rice and soy sauce. We also ordered the Pumpkin Roti Roll. I really liked the roti, but felt the pumpkin could’ve had more flavor.
We spent our last full day in the Netherlands in Haarlem, a city 20-30 minutes away from Amsterdam. It was a beautiful, cute, and quaint city.
The main reason we went to Haarlem was to see Corrie ten Boom’s house. I remember readingThe Hiding Place in school, but never realized that it was set in the Netherlands so close to Amsterdam. Andrew and I enjoyed the Corrie ten Boom house more than Anne Frank’s. It’s free and you get a guide explaining things and answering questions. It’s so amazing to hear the story of this amazing woman with such faith and a heart for the Jewish people. It is truly an experience to walk through her house and imagine life there during Nazi occupation. You can actually go into the tiny hiding place where 6 people stayed for 2.5 days when Corrie ten Boom was taken away. It’s also very interesting how so many people end up in California. Corrie ten Boom is actually buried in Santa Ana. Corrie ten Boom’s house is now on a major street in Haarlem next to H&M.
I’m not sure if Dutch people just like sushi/raw rish, but we saw a lot of All-You-Can-Eat Sushi restaurants. Andrew had a “Treat Yo Self” day so we went into one of them called Restaurant Sumo. It was beautifully decorated. For lunch, it was €19.50 per person so we went all out. Our waitress even told us to not order so much at one time (but we finished it). Sushi was solid, not the best, but it definitely satisfied us since we haven’t had good sushi in Edinburgh yet.
We also passed through the VU University, also known as the Free University. It was founded by Abraham Kuyper, a theologian and former prime minister of the Netherlands. He is the father of Dutch Neo-Calvinism. Kuyper is apparently very important in the Reformed community (one of Andrew’s heroes), although I personally have never heard of him. It’s interesting because their former prime minister was a theologian yet Amsterdam is such a post-Christian city. It was a nice campus with lots of benches and places to study inside. It was like an outdoor campus inside a nice building.
Amsterdam has their own Chinatown, found next to the Nieuwmarkt square and the Red Light District. I always like to try Chinese food in another country. We went to Nam Kee that is supposedly famous for their black bean steamed oysters because there is a book and film (”Oysters at Nam Kee”) named after it. To me, the oysters were just okay. Our other two dishes were good and tasted like home. We got wonton soup that Andrew thought was similar to his grandma’s wonton and cha siu (bbq pork), siu yok (crispy pork belly), and roast duck over rice that reminded me of Castro Valley’s Hong Kong BBQ restaurant.
Throughout Amsterdam were these little eateries with huge buckets of nutella tempting and asking me to walk in and get some of that chocolate hazelnut yumminess. On our last night, we gave in and found “Yo-tella,” a frozen yogrut nutella place. It was way too cold to truly enjoy it, but Andrew liked it.
Goodbye Amsterdam! We really liked you!