48 hours in Amsterdam
I know, Amsterdam probably isn't the most typical way to celebrate your first wedding anniversary, but it turned out to be one of our most chilled trips yet.
Once Daniel told me he'd booked us a beautiful hotel in Amsterdam for two nights to celebrate our first wedding anniversary, I decided to do a little bit of research. He'd only given me five days notice, and as we only had 48 hours in the city, I decided to keep things short and sweet. As with every trip, food is a key pull for us, but as well as looking for solid vegetarian options, there's also the Instagram factor to consider, obvs. As D's a pro barista, I looked for some good cafe options, and of course, we had to look up some weed cafes too. Aside, from that, we weren't too fussed about doing anything obviously tourist-y. Below are the details of where we went, and what we loved.
The first night, walking through Amsterdam (mostly Jordaan)
If we'd had a little more time, we definitely would have jumped on the whole cycling around Amsterdam thing, but as we arrived late on a Friday night, we took to the pretty streets of Jordaan on foot - even though the hotel receptionist told us our destination was faraway, it really wasn't. (That's one thing we've noticed a lot, wherever we visit; when someone says a place is far, they're usually someone who isn't used to walking.) We'd decided that, as it was open 'til 1am, Foodhallen would be a great option, especially as we were starving. The first indoor market in the Netherlands, Foodhallen is a huge multi-vendor space that offers everything from seafood to Italian faves, all with a great DJ playing proper '90s RnB. Unfortunately, although it's open 'til the early hours, it's mostly because it turns into a place for drinks and tunes. Many of the vendors shut up shop around 9pm, so we literally just managed to get a few good plates together. We had some amazing sweet potato fries, some good sushi, a memorable tuna taco at Taqueira Lima and probably the best falafel I've ever had in my life - and I've had a lot.
Walking back was so picturesque; seeing all the lights from the buildings glistening over the canal, was just like a Van Gogh painting. So pretty, I wish I'd had my camera with me. But sometimes, food trumps everything else.
The first morning
The next morning I was intent on shooting amongst all the flowers at the floating market, Bloemenmarkt: check out the hashtag on Instagram and you'll see why. However, once we walked down, we realised that a) it doesn't technically float - it's more like a large container and b) it must be a seasonal thing as all we saw were stalls selling tulip bulbs - I mean, every single stall. We saw one shop that actually sold flowers but it wasn't anything to write home about. There goes my Insta-opportunity! Maybe it looks different in the Spring...
After that disappointment, we decided to head to Pluk, yet another much-Instagrammed cafe. It has two locations, both in very close proximity, but we went to the one on Reestraat. On arrival the staff were super friendly and knowledgeable, and the cafe itself was bright and pretty. As well as smoothies, cakes and breakfast, there were also homewares and some cool headscarves for sale. Although the cakes were extremely pretty - see below - we decided to go for a Mermaid Smoothie Bowl, pancakes with maple syrup and fruit, and avocado toast with poached eggs.
We waited 25 minutes for a smoothie bowl. If you've ever made one, you're probably wondering what the bowl was made of, and with. As you can constantly hear the buzz of blenders going, we really couldn't find any reason why ours took so long, but we also noticed several customers looking around for their food - some looking angry, others just nervous and hungry. We sipped our coffee a while because I'd wanted to shoot the whole table of food first. Fast forward (or should I say, slow backward?) another THIRTY minutes, and our food still hadn't arrived. I'd already asked a couple of staff what the problem was and they told me they only had one chef in. On a Saturday. And he was doing his best. Okay...
So of course I tried to muster up patience - but when you've only got 48 hours in Amsterdam, waiting an hour for food becomes a little testing. Anyway, the food came and:
The pancakes were burned. Like, black on the bottom.
The poached eggs were cooked (yay!) but ice cold. No yay there.
The toast was actually just bread. But we learned that toast isn't really a thing in Amsterdam, so that's on us.
Needless to say, as two hungry people, we decided to ask for our money back and left. In short, Pluk is super pretty, and maybe this was just a very bad day, but I can't recommend it based on our experience. The coffee was okay though.
We headed down the road to Ree7 and had the most amazing Red Velvet pancakes with white chocolate and berries. Honestly, the pancakes were so good, soft and cake-y with a crispy outside, and the white chocolate was just the right hint of sweetness. Their Eggs Benedict was so rich, served on brioche - definitely worth sharing.
Once we were (finally) fed, we just walked, and walked. We had a few weed spot options, so we decided to walk until we came to one. Walking through Jordaan was just so chilled. It's the least tourist-y place I think we've seen - it seemed more like locals doing their Saturday errands. After mooching around, we settled on Paradox, a very unassuming, efficient coffee shop that you wouldn't really visit for the coffee. The menu seemed comprehensive enough for any weed connoisseur (which I am not), so I just went for a Thai joint, a medium high, while D went for a Bio joint. I loved how the options were divided into Stoned or High at various levels of intensity, and that the Space Cake was labelled with a lot of exclamation marks, signalling how strong it was. We sat down with a borrowed lighter and people-watched. There was a table of 60-somethings who looked totally zoned out and red-eyed. One lady looked like she was trying to work out if she'd left the cooker on at home. There was a young guy staring at me; like, really staring. If we had been in any other situation I probably would have asked him what the hell he was looking at, but Daniel reminded me that he was likely totally out of it. We ended up sharing my Thai joint and saved D's for the following day. We suddenly felt like we needed fresh air, and decided that it was the perfect time to visit the Sex Museum, natch.
Prior to this, we'd both said we weren't interested in visiting the Sex Museum, and I wish we'd stuck with that plan. Walking to the museum we suddenly realised, this was the Amsterdam that people talk about. It's like London's Leicester Square, but slightly worse. Heaving with tourists carrying overflowing Primark bags and eating chips with tons of mayonnaise, this was easily the least enjoyable part of the trip. It was truly like entering a different world, and we instantly felt drawn to checking our valuables were safe. We paid our €5 entry fees and walked into a world of fake groans and the biggest porn collection I've ever seen. Call me naive, but I kind of thought that a museum of sex would include a little history, and little science, and yes, some naked bits. Instead it was just the tackiest array of porn through the ages. While we found the Japanese section interesting and fun, the rest of it felt torturous. Maybe I sound like a prude, but it was just naff to me.
Once we escaped, we decided to check out Body Worlds, an exhibition I have been fascinated with since it launched way back in the late '90s. I'd always meant to visit when it was in London but never made it. I think it cost around €44 for the two of us, and I definitely think it's worth it. The exhibition takes place over five levels, taking you through the various functions of the body. The overriding theme was happiness, how we show and feel it, and how it affects our bodies, but we were more interested in the functions of the body, from reproduction (which should probably have some kind of warning on entry for women who are having difficulty getting pregnant, or have experienced miscarriage), to digestion and our nervous system. For those that don't know, Body Worlds is an exhibition of bodies that have been plastinated. The process was discovered back in the '70s and involves the water and fat in the body being replaced with plastic, therefore preserving the blood vessels and various body parts. We saw everything from bodies showing the reproductive system, to the entire nervous system, to a man's head and shoulders being cut in half so we could see his brain and throat, to several almost full-term babies. I found it fascinating, but then I have a fascination with the human body and darker themes, so if you're squeamish, you might find some areas a little weird.
After all those blood vessels we decided we needed a snack to keep us going until or dinner reservation. We'd passed a couple of Libertine cafes on our walks, so we decided to head to one of them. The first one, Libertine Cafe Cafe, was super dark but had looked inviting. However, when we walked in we just got stared at by the staff, and ignored. We walked out and headed to Libertine Comptoir de Cuisine (above) instead, and the reception couldn't have been more different. I don't get how brands can have such discord when it comes to customer service across their offerings! Either way, the staff and the food at Comptoir de Cuisine were great. We ordered two very simple things but they were done to perfection; I went for a Croque Monsieur with just cheese (divine) and D went for mushrooms on toast; perfectly seasoned with just the right amount of truffle.
The second night
Between us we've got several friends who've been to Amsterdam in the past, and not one of them could tell us of a 'fancy' place worth celebrating our one year anniversary in. The general feedback was that Amsterdam's so chilled, it doesn't have much in the way of fine dining (although it does have various Michelin-starred restaurants). Based on recommendations, we booked a table at Blauw, an Indonesian restaurant that specialised in what they called 'the rice table'. The women who served us were extremely nice, fun and informative and the food was amazing. We went for the rice table because we'd heard it was epic, and asked for all vegetarian options. I believe alcohol was included but we only had one drink each as we were so hungry. After three starters that I can't remember the names of (they tasted great though) the staff began bringing out the rice table. As well as fried rice and steamed rice there must have been at least another 15-18 small plates filled with the most moreish options. Favourites that really stood out include tofu in Thai curry sauce, the most delicate vegetables in coconut broth and sticky battered banana. Dessert shouldn't have been an option but we didn't want the meal to end, so we both ordered the most perfect trio of chocolate ganache, Thai pancake and ice-cream.
The last day
On our last day we decided to have breakfast at the hotel, as we'd already paid for it. Despite being in beautiful surroundings, it was a very average brekkie. There was a single two-slice toaster - a SINGLE two-slice toaster - that was meant to host everyone's needs, and basically just a few sliced cheese options, some meat, yoghurt and cereal. Oh and fried eggs. I ate one greasy egg and a piece of toast but D said he'd rather wait, as we knew there were plenty of options elsewhere in De Pijp, another area on our list. Head up: I'll be doing a full review of our hotel later this week.
De Pijp is basically a far, far, prettier version of London's 'trendy' Shoreditch. The houses are so cute, and the bars and restaurants all have their own style. It's a great place to just do nothing, until you feel like you need a drink or something to eat. We originally wanted to eat at Bakers and Roasters, a New Zealand meets Brazil cafe, but when we heard the wait was an hour and a half, we decided to check out Coffee + Coconuts instead. Situated over three massive floors of a former Art Deco theatre, the queue went all the way down from the top floor, to the front door. I went for coffee and banana bread, but D enjoyed the breakfast burrito and the coconut pancakes. The staff were cool and crazy efficient, and the coffee was good.
We headed back out to see more of De Pijp, and after a while we found ourselves back outside Bakers and Roasters (above). As we only wanted a drink, we got a table straight away outside, before another queue began to form. Instead of coffee I decided on a Bourbon-laced milkshake and boy was it GOOD. D went for an espresso and we just sat there people-watching. The front of house lady - Helen - turned out to be from Manchester, so I couldn't help grilling her on how she ended up in Amsterdam. Listening to her story I suddenly got it; Amsterdam is just one of those places were you turn up, explore and don't want to leave. We can't wait to go back, and Helen said she'll give us a list of must-do's for next time.
Next up: A full review of where we stayed: Hotel Estherea.
Have you been to Amsterdam? If so, where should we go next time?