First off I must apologise for being so very late with this blog post. Seen as my first visit to Amsterdam, for my Lonely Planet challenge (obviously not my first visit ever), was exactly two weeks ago. I could now go on to making a lot of excuses as to why I’m so late posting this, like how I was in France last week and how I’ve had to work an awful lot, but I’m not going to do that. It was just plain laziness I must admit, as there have been plenty of occasions I could have come on here and written this blog. But I didn’t. I blame Skyrim :). Somehow I often tend to choose things like that instead of writing my blog, but when I actually get down to writing, putting pen to paper so to speak, or fingers to keyboard, I really enjoy it. I think I just need to get into the rhythm of writing again. As it has been a while. Also I need to remind myself regularly that I enjoy it and that it isn’t something I should keep postponing.
And now I will get back to the point.
Soooooo Monday the 16th of July I went to Amsterdam. I had a plan, based on what the my friend the Lonely Planet recommended. The plan is written in my last post, if you haven’t read it yet you should read that first as I am not going to repeat that here. My plan did change a bit due to circumstances; the fact that I could have/should have left earlier and the weather.
It was actually beautiful weather when I left for Amsterdam. But when I arrived it was pouring down. And it carried on doing just that ALL DAY LONG!!!
I left my house in Tilburg at around 10 in the morning, like I mentioned before, I should have left earlier to get a proper full day. I arrived in Amsterdam around lunchtime. Which meant my first mission was to fill my grumbling stomach. This whole challenge circles around the Lonely Planet, which apart from sight seeing, also gives tips for food, drinks, entertainment etc. (for those who are not familiar with this splendid guidebook). So I looked up eating places in the centre and the first suggestion they came up with was Vleminckx; the Lonely Planet’s description: “This hole-in-the-wall takeaway has drawn hordes for it’s monumental frites since 1887. The standard is smothered in mayonnaise, though you can ask for ketchup, peanut sauce or a variety of spicy toppings.” It’s also the Lonely Planet’s first suggestion, so it’s the first place I go. I know, I’m a weirdo.
Anyway when I found the place I realised it was very basic, as in it really was just a hole-in-the-wall and chips were the only thing they sold. Usually these kind of places also have a snack-wall (a typically Dutch thing where you can take all kinds of fried snacks out of the wall), but this really was just chips, in just two sizes (small or medium), with different sauces. There’s nothing wrong with simple but the place also didn’t look very attractive, it was greasy, but I guess chips are greasy, it just seemed more greasy than a chippie usually is.
I decided to go for a small portion of chips, in case they were as greasy as the place itself, they were €2.10, so quite fairly priced. The price in my Lonely Planet says €1.80, but it was written in 2010, so it’s just a little out of date in that area.
When I ordered the guy who served me certainly wasn’t the most friendly person on earth. The two other guys in the back looked greasier than the place itself and were both not groomed very well. This place being ‘famous’, at this point I was wondering why and thinking the chips really must be incredible because it could definitely not have to do with anything else.
I received my fried potatoes and searched for shelter. I have to admit the chips were not half bad, in fact they were really good, I wouldn’t say the best (Manneken Pis still do that for me), but pretty close. I don’t think I would go back though, or recommend, as service and image are pretty important to me when it comes to food. Also if I were to write/edit the Lonely Planet, I’d skip Vleminckx and replace them with Manneken Pis instead.
I walked back to the Dam, which wasn’t in it’s most glorious state as they were cleaning up from a beach volleyball tournament (which I overheard later), so there were all kinds of diggers and trucks all over the place. Also it was raining. Usually the Dam is what Las Ramblas is to Barcelona; the place were all the living statues try and stay still so you can have your picture taken with every single one of them. Something that gets kind of old kind of quickly but still somehow kind of has something special… I missed the living statues and the man with a rabbit hat and rabbit puppet on his hand playing the recorder as terribly as possible. The character of the Dam was lost for the day.
I inspected the second world war memorial statue (Nationaal Monument), which is specifically mentioned in the Lonely Planet. It’s one of those things I’ve seen before, but never really looked at properly, whilst it’s worth looking at. As usually when I go to Amsterdam I specifically try not to be a tourist. Playing the tourist is also taking some getting used to. I still feel a bit silly when I’m taking photo’s in all the spots the big tourist groups also take their pics.
The main feature on the Dam is the Koninklijk Paleis (Royal Palace) and it was my first stop.
The Konklijk Paleis is another of those things I’ve seen but never really looked at. To be honest though the outside isn’t that impressive, but on to the inside… The Lonely Planet’s description: “Facing the Dam the Konklijk Paleis is the official residence of Queen Beatrix, although she actually lives in Den Haag. Built as a grand city hall in 1665, the building later became the palace of Napoleon’s brother, Louis. … The opulent, chandelier- and mural filled interior sparkles after a major renovation completed in 2009.”
Basically the palace is set up as a museum. It’s open to the public most of the time unless there are certain events going on in or around the palace. Something I learned while wandering the magnificent interiors is that the queens guests from abroad often stay there. So it’s probably also closed in such situations.
I got in for free, with my museum card, which I am very happy with when it comes to this challenge, as I’ll be able to get into most museums here for free.
I received a listening tour, a phone like object you can scan at certain points in the palace and the digital tour guide explains ‘what not’ about the different rooms etc. within the palace. It was very informative. They also have a special listening tour for kids, I don’t know what they get to hear, but probably more kid friendly information, thumbs up for that.
The look and feel of the palace on the inside is spectacular, I think mostly thanks to Lodewijk (Louis) Napoleon, who as mentioned by the Lonely Planet lived in the palace. The ceilings are filled with murals, the first hall in the tour also has an beautiful floor. Wherever you look in most rooms there’s something spectacular that catches your eye, in fact often more than just one something. I would highly recommend a visit to the palace. Regular prices are €7.50 for adults and I’d say it’s well worth a visit for that price. While I was there, there was an interesting exhibition about the period when Lodewijk Napoleon lived in the palace and the things he did for the Netherlands while in reign as king. It was interesting and well set up.
After the palace next up in the list of places to visit was the Nieuwe Kerk. One word: BORING! I really don’t understand how this place made it into the Lonely Planet. I was glad I got in free with my museum card and didn’t have to pay the €5 regular entrance fee. There are a minimal few interesting features in the church but nothing at all spectacular. The only good thing about being in there was that I was sheltered from the rain for 5 minutes, because I was literally in and out in 10 minutes. So Lonely Planet, you can scrap the Nieuwe Kerk, because it is not even worth a free visit. Maybe when an exhibition is going on it’s more interesting, as far as I know, there wasn’t…
After the boring church I was feeling a bit peckish again as my small portion of chips hadn’t quite filled me up. So on to the next eating place in the centre: Rob Wigboldus Vishandel. Well no, not true, I actually skipped that one… Being a vegetarian most of my life and having only tried different kinds of fish (not all kinds) in the past year or two, I’m still a bit nervous when it comes to eating fish I’ve never tried before. This small shop sells herring sandwiches. I’ve never tried herring before. I stood outside of the shop for 5 minutes or so, contemplating whether I was adventurous enough to go in and order myself a herring sandwich… It became a no, I will, one of the days I go to Amsterdam, just not that day…
I moved on to the next in the list: ‘Skek. “Run by students for students (flashing your ID gets you one-third off), this friendly cafe-bar is an excellent place to get fat sandwiches on thick slices of multigrain bread and healthy main dishes with chicken, fish or pasta.” Sounded good to me. It ended up being quite a walk and when I found the place I was glad to get inside and sit down in a comfy armchair in the living-room style bar area. I ordered a drink and a sandwich. Now here comes a story…
The menu was in my eyes very satisfying, being a (mainly) vegetarian I was very happy to see I had at least three choices of interesting enough sandwiches. I went for the one with hummus and roasted vegetables (courgette, aubergine, peppers), sounds good huh? I love hummus and I love roasted vegetables, so it sounded perfect to me. Now I have this thing with chilli, as in chilli peppers (jalapeño), chilli powder, anything containing chilli. Basically I’m allergic to chilli. Not allergic enough that I could die if I get a bit of chilli in my mouth, but allergic enough that I can’t eat a meal if there’s even a tiny bit of chilli in there. Well I can’t enjoy it anyway. Talking about death by chilli, if it was possible to die by chilli, I don’t think it would be possible for me to die by chilli as I wouldn’t be able to eat enough of the stuff to die from it. Seriously one bite and I can go no further. Now I often forget to mention that I’m allergic to chilli, especially when ordering something I least expect to encounter it in (like cheese fondue for instance), these days I’m not often surprised by anything containing chilli though, but I still manage to forget every now and again. This time though, I didn’t forget, as I know that sometimes hummus contains chilli. So I asked the waitress if there was chilli on/in the sandwich. She didn’t think so but she’d check in the kitchen to make sure. A while later the sandwich arrived in front of me, so I guessed that it didn’t contain chilli (as she hadn’t come back to confirm). So I started eating the sandwich. After one bite I knew it: “There is chilli on this sandwich”. So I went to the waitress and said: “sorry but I believe there is chilli on the sandwich blablabla”. She shot into defence mode as she’d asked in the kitchen and they’d said no, so I explained that they’d maybe made a mistake and there might be chilli in the hummus itself (if the hummus they used was shop bought and they hadn’t looked at the ingredients). So she went to ask again. She came back apologising and said that there is chilli in the hummus, but there wasn’t yesterday, so there was some confusion in the kitchen. At least a good sign that they make it fresh. After that she couldn’t stop apologising and I got a free drink, whoopee(!), the perks of being allergic to chilli. I chose a new sandwich, this time with crushed broad beans, salad, a boiled egg and mustard mayonnaise. Also sounds good, no? I can tell you… IT WAS! I was actually glad the hummus ended up having chilli in it :).
Really good. So conclusion here, good service, as I got a free drink and a new sandwich, plus the girl was overly sorry (she won’t make that mistake again), student discount which was brilliant because it meant I paid hardly anything and a really nice relaxed vibe and living room setting. The only minus was that at one point they started playing Jack Johnson and I can’t stand Jack Johnson, at least not more than one song, as they all sound THE SAME!
I will definitely go back and I would recommend it to anyone, especially students. I’m looking forward to trying out an evening meal there as it’s good quality food for a very low price and also very creative and I like creative food.
I spent a little more time in ‘Skek than I had planned, mostly because my nose was stuck in my book and I was dreading going back out in the rain. Once back out in the rain I almost walked to the train station to travel back home, but then I decided I should try a coffee shop (the Dutch kind). As the Lonely Planet also has a list of those I went through the list and this time instead of going for the first one I decided to choose the closest one. It was called the Greenhouse, there wasn’t much of a description in the Lonely Planet, but they mentioned high quality weed and hash. Quality is important, especially in Amsterdam as there are so many tourists that it’s probably easy to sell stuff of a lesser quality there than anywhere else. When I walked into the place the first thing I noticed was that it was packed. As in I had to wait about 20 minutes before I could order anything. Next thing I noticed was while waiting in the queue, photo’s of the owner of the place with celebrities. I’m guessing celebs who he met in his shop, which made me giggle. When I finally ordered I asked for a weed with a relaxed high, the guy was very friendly, probably happy to hear a Dutch voice, he advised me and I took home his recommendation. Seen as I’m writing this blog so late I can also tell you about the weed. It’s ok stuff, not the best I’ve ever smoked, but it does what I asked for and the taste is subtle.
As you have probably noticed, I did a lot less than I was supposed to according to my itinerary in my last post. I mostly blame this on the rain as it made me groggy and slow. I’m going to try and make the next trip happen asap, I would write the plan now, but as I’ve just spent quite a long time writing this post, I’m tired and my wrists are starting to hurt from all the typing. I’m not going to say when I will post the next itinerary, but it will be soon… I hope you enjoyed reading, feel welcome to leave any comments, critics, remarks… Oh and spread the word if you liked reading it and know other people who you think might like reading it too. Remember this may be the beginning of my road to fame :)