48 Hours In Amsterdam
It was my birthday and so time for another trip. Sticking with Europe, we decide to venture to Amsterdam for 48 hours. No sooner had our flight taken off, we were landing, having only been in the air for 45 mins! We flew into Amsterdam Airport Schipol, where we found a sign with Barry’s name on (he’d always wanted one of those!) and we called the number for our pick up. After a short drive down a dark canal side road, we arrived at our home for the next three days.
For our short stay in Amsterdam, we decided to live like a large population of Amsterdammers and stay on a House Boat. With so many different places to choose from it was a hard choice, but we settled on Minties Floating Bed and Breakfast. The owners of the B&B lived on the bottom floor of the floating boat and upstairs were two rooms with en-suites for guests. There was a decking to sit out on that overlooked the canal and for just €10 per person you could have a delicious breakfast of cold meats, cheese and croissants. At €120 a night, it was a great little place to stay!
Cycling Around Amsterdam
With an estimated one million bicycles in Amsterdam, it was only right that we explored the city on them. We rented two bikes from our boat house for just €2.50 each. Every road in Amsterdam has a cycle lane so it was really easy to navigate around and no visit to Amsterdam is complete without venturing out on the two-wheeler!
Being the largest city park in Amsterdam at 120 acres, Vondelpark was definitely best explored on a bike. It was filled with lakes and fountains, beautiful trees and even a little rose garden filled with brightly coloured roses. One of the lakes was lined with the most amazing houses. It was so peaceful I could see exactly why Amsterdammers would want to live there. Despite the weather report showing that it was going to rain the whole time, the sun stuck around and brightened up what started as a cloudy day.
Van Gough Museum
For some reason Barry decided he wanted to do something cultural. We’re much more into outdoorsy stuff so visiting the Van Gough Museum was a bit different for us. After paying €17 each for the entrance fee, we headed in. As we walked around trying to be interested in the art, Barry kept talking about the Starry Night painting. Turns out this was the reason he wanted to visit. We walked all four floors of the museum and whilst we did get to see the famous Sunflowers painting and learn about Van Gough himself, we couldn’t find the one piece Barry really wanted to see. Taking to Google, we soon learnt that Starry Night is actually showcased in a gallery in New York! Barry was gutted.
Obviously one of the most renowned things about Amsterdam is the fact that Cannabis has been decriminalised. Whilst it’s not technically legal there are hundreds of ‘coffee shops’ lining every street where you can buy all types of the green stuff and openly smoke or eat it. Neither Barry nor myself condone drug use, however, we always like to try the local delicacies. Remember kids – DRUGS ARE BAD! It just so happened that in Amsterdam, one of the local delicacies is a brownie containing the active ingredient contained in cannabis, THC, which gives you that “stoned” feeling. After not feeling any effects of the legal cannabis laced sweets Barry tried when we were in Aspen, Colorado, we felt that whilst we were in Amsterdam it was a good opportunity to try the Space Brownie. We found the local coffee shop – Boerejongens Coffee shop, and away we went. It was a weird little set up when you walked in. There was a counter with all different products lined up on shelves behind – like an old fashioned sweet shop. They did serve actual coffee, so we got a coffee each, Barry bought a Space Brownie made by Amsterdam Genetics and we took ourselves to the ‘rolling room’. It was a bizarre thing, watching strangers sit around you rolling joints, but I guess that’s just life in Amsterdam! After reading the warning on the packet where it said not to eat more than one brownie due to the amount of THC it contained, Barry ate just half of the brownie. After a couple of hours it hadn’t taken any affect so he scoffed the second half. Sad to say, he didn’t feel any affect from it, but I wouldn’t use this as a recommendation to go against the instructions as I’ve read lots of stories where it’s had the complete opposite affect! Please remember that consumption of cannabis is totally legal here, don’t start going up to people in your own country asking to buy it. You may just get yourself in trouble!
No trip to Amsterdam is complete without seeing some tulips so we went for a walk along the floating flower market, where all the stalls are lined up on the canal. The market sold every sort of flower, real and wooden, along with lots of touristy trinkets. Being the open-minded place that Amsterdam is, it was even selling starter kits of cannabis plants and all varieties of magic mushrooms. The market was bustling and was filled with hundreds of people perusing the different varieties of blooms.
Anne Frank’s House
For me, Anne Frank’s House was a must see and somewhere I’d wanted to see for a long time after reading her diary. Tickets need to be booked well in advance as only a certain number of people are allowed in at any one time, so if you want to visit be sure to book online before you arrive. The house wasn’t quite what we expected. There was a big museum built onto it which made it hard to distinguish between the original house and what had been built on. However, the minute we got to the famous bookcase (which was still the original one) it all started to feel familiar. Inside it was a lot bigger than what I imagined it to be and there were a number of rooms the Frank family had to hideaway in. It was a bit eerie walking around knowing the story behind the house. Although all of the furniture had been removed at Anne Frank’s Dad’s request, the wallpaper and posters that lined the walls were all the originals. Within the museum it housed Anne’s actual diary which was showcased in a glass cabinet. There were lots of stories from people that had known Anne and it was all quite moving but well worth a visit and a definite highlight for me.
Raypanear Cheese and Wine Tasting
Another thing that Amsterdam in known for is its cheese. So, with me being a big lover of the dairy product, I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my birthday than Cheese tasting along with some wine for good measure. There was a small cheese store called Raypanaer not far from Anne Franks House and downstairs was a basement where we sat with 9 other couples and sampled 6 cheeses and a different wine or port with each cheese. We were taught the history of cheese and educated on the best way to sample it – the thinner the slice the more flavour you will get! Like wine tasting, I’m not sure either Barry or I could really taste all the different flavours other people said they could, but we did enjoy filling ourselves up and getting a little tipsy. We even got a certificate to certify us as chief cheese tasters!
Blue Boat Company Boat Trip
There are 165 canals within Amsterdam and you really can’t walk down a single street without being alongside one. The best way to get a taster of life on the canals is with a boat trip and needless to say there were plenty of companies willing to take you out. We chose the Blue Boat Company as we booked a combined tour with the cheese tasting. Like most European cities Amsterdam was filled with beautiful architecture and there were headsets you could wear which talked you through the history of the buildings and Amsterdam. It was interesting even if a little cheesy at times, when the narrators who were supposedly a married couple had a fake argument and made digs at each other!
The Red-Light District
The notorious Red-Light District is something you have to experience whilst in Amsterdam. When I say experience, I mean just take a look at and wander around. Obviously if you want the full experience then you can, but it wasn’t something Barry and I were going for! We stumbled across a narrow little alley way and followed a group of people down. Within a few seconds, we were met with girls in their very skimpy underwear hanging in the doorways. They were so close you could touch them. I thought they’d be set back and behind glass, but no, they were right there, up close and personal. Not what we were expecting!
In the vicinity of the Red-Light District was a strange little store called the Condomerie. It was filled with all sorts of shapes, sizes and patterns of condoms and accessories. The place was filled with people and I wasn’t sure if it was a tourist attraction or an actual store that people shopped at. The range was so vast and some of the products were comical but it was definitely something to go and gawp at!
The Sex Museum
It is as the name suggests – a museum dedicated to the fornication of the human being. Because of the adult tones of the exhibits, if you want to see some of the photos we took, please click here to open up a new window. Be warned, some of the photos are VERY graphic! Believe it or not, not everyone wants to see pictures of man junk and lady pillows so we thought we’d leave it up to you if you wanted to view them!
Where Did We Eat?
There are so many cafés (not to be confused with Coffee Shops) and restaurants in Amsterdam, we were spoilt for choice with where to go, but with pancakes on the list as a traditional Dutch food, this was top of our agenda for places to try!
Old Dutch Pancake House
We found this place alongside the Flower Market which was littered with places to eat and drink. The Old Dutch Pancake House was a quiet little spot with a very chatty waitress. We chose a table outside so we could people watch those perusing the market. We chose to have the traditional Dutch Poffertjes which are small fluffy pancakes. I opted to have mine with banana, cream and chocolate and Barry had strawberry and chocolate. We washed these down with a coffee for Barry and a traditional Dutch Heineken beer for me!
Having tried the traditional Dutch pancakes we now wanted to sample the type of pancakes we were more used to. We chose Pancakes which was a short walking distance from Anne Franks House. The place was heaving with people and we just managed to get a seat before a long queue formed at the door. The menu had an extensive range of all sorts of different pancakes and toppings and we really were spoilt for choice. It was a tough choice but I went for Camembert, chicory, ham and raspberry sauce and Barry went for bacon and maple syrup. They were good and filled a gap but the Old Dutch Pancake House was much homelier.
For my birthday we wanted somewhere special to have dinner and based on a recommendation from a friend who had lived in Amsterdam for a while we headed to Juuls. It was a little further out at about an hour’s walking distance from where we were staying but it was well worth it. We arrived just after they opened at 6pm and asked for a table. Initially they told us they were fully booked, but after seeing our sad faces and hearing how far we’d walked they managed to squeeze us in and we were so glad they did. We opted for a five-course dinner for €49 each. I can’t begin to describe each individual dish we had as they were a fusion of so many different ingredients and flavours but it was outstanding and like eating in a 5-star restaurant. Every dish was explained and came with a recommended wine. The staff were friendly and down to earth and I was so glad we picked the place for my birthday.
To finish off our time in Amsterdam, before we headed to the airport we had a craving for something sweet. In the train station, we found a tiny little place called the Chocolate Company and their signature was the hotchocspoon. It was a wooden spoon with a solid chocolate lump on the end which you stirred into your hot milk and watched it slowly melt. They were available in about 50 different flavours so the decision was hard but I opted for ginger and lemongrass and Barry went all out with an alcoholic shot of Irish Whiskey with his chocolate. They were so good, we sat and salivated over them as we watched them slowly melt away.
The Wrap Up
All in all, I’m glad I was able to tick Amsterdam off my places to visit list, but I don’t feel any urge to go back. It was a pretty city, with beautiful canals and bridges but I feel like now I’ve seen it, there’s no need to go back. The people were nowhere near as friendly as those in other places we have visited lately. That’s not to say they were rude, they weren’t, but they’re so laid back that you don’t feel like they go out of their way to help you.
I would highly recommend exploring the city on foot or bike. They do have a good transportation system, but my preference would always be to walk as much as possible so you can really see what is around you and you can definitely do this here.
I guess if you’re content to sit in a coffee shop and smoke or eat a brownie then you could return time and time again but given that’s not my scene I’m content with just the 48 hours in Amsterdam!