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Amazing Amsterdam – Part 4

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn no time at all, we were bidding farewell to the beautiful canal-city of Amsterdam, with its unique architecture, complicated traffic system and yummylicious food. I really enjoyed our time there. I think it was mostly because it wasn’t infested with tourists – with the exception of the Diamond Museum and luxury stores, where a good proportion of the sales staff was Chinese!

Most of all, I appreciated how their urban landscape still retained much of its old glory and character. Coming from a country where most buildings seem to have been cloned from one another, I was pretty awed at how different each building was from its neighbour.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWithout a doubt, one of my favourites was their waffles, a delicious sweet snack that’s worlds apart from the fluffy pandan flavoured waffles we’re used to in the tropics. Waffles in Amsterdam are dense, slightly crispy and very sweet, with a touch of cinnamon added to the batter. Lightly dusted with icing sugar, I never failed to order this for my daily breakfast from our hotel (Novotel).

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It was interesting to see how icing sugar seemed to be their solution for everything. The bf and I tried this steaming hot round banana gooey bread thing with icing sugar dusted on top. It was ridiculously delicious in the cold weather.

yep. from the photo you can tell how crazy the wind was that day. What you can’t tell however, was that there were dozens of seagulls overhead, swooping and whizzing past me, attempting to steal my food! In fact, a few of them got too close for comfort and the bf and I were pretty shocked at their blatant boldness. We eventually huddled protectively around this delicious round thing and gobbled it up before the birds could bother us further. Quite a fun experience!

There were many other flavours at this food stall, mostly fruit flavours – such as apples and strawberry. However, they aren’t easy to come by and this was one of the few stalls we saw selling this mysterious gooey balls of awesomeness. Otherwise, I would’ve definitely dragged the bf to sample their other flavours! We paid 2 euros.

Having tried quite a huge variety of street food around Amsterdam, (see what else I sampled here), I think it’s pretty safe to vouch that the quality of street food is good. really good. With the exception of raw herrings, which according to the bf’s colleague – is an acquired taste. Try it if you dare!

Amsterdam is definitely a place where i’d love to return – the people are wonderfully friendly, the street food is yummy, plus there’s lots more to the city that I know I haven’t discovered yet.  On hindsight, I think we would’ve appreciated Amsterdam more had we known about the horrors that were to follow… Hopefully the next time I swing by, it’ll be spring! Then i’ll get to see the beautiful tulips that everyone is talking about (:

In anticipation, I’ve already created a little list of what I’d like to see when I’m in Amsterdam next. I hope that comes soon!

  1. Antiemarkt De Looier – an antiques and curiosa market, specialising in furniture, jewellery, silverware and collectables. Located: Elandsgracht 109, 1016 TT
  2. Art Plein Spui – a market where artists sell original prints and small oil paintings. Located: Spui Plein, 1012 WZ
  3. Rijksmuseum – paintings by Rembrandt and antique objects of Dutch culture.
  4. Dick Bruna Huis – the house with everything Miffy! Dick Bruna is the artist who created the cross-mouthed rabbit of my childhood. Truthfully, I was really disappointed that there was no Miffy mania in Amsterdam at all, with only a tiny corner in the airport selling some tourist-ified Miffy plushies, the most adorable of which had a pen stain so I left empty handed. *sigh*

Any suggestions? I’d love to hear what’s more in Amsterdam that I can discover. Next up, London!

Amazing Amsterdam Part 3

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Like many other European cities, Amsterdam has a wonderful collection of art – in particular, that of Van Gogh. Unfortunately for us, the Van Gogh Museum happened to be undergoing renovations during our visit, so many of the art pieces were housed at The Hermitage instead. We bought a combination ticket, to see Van Gogh’s artworks as well as the history of Impressionism.

It was interesting to learn about Van Gogh, his philosophy and how hardworking he was as an artist. The entire exhibit took us about 2 hours to walk through.

One thing you might not know about Amsterdam is that it’s world-famous for specialising in intricate diamond work.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith our tickets purchased, we entered the Diamant Museum, which was actually housed on a small villa on Paulus Potterstraat, accessible by Trams 2 and 5 and in walking distance from the Rijksmuseum.

Whilst the Museum had very enlightening information on the various types, cuts, shapes and history of diamonds, we were rather disappointed that almost all the diamonds on display were simply high quality replicas. It was however, interesting to note how misleading great quality fakes were. We couldn’t pick out with one was the real diamond!

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The Rijksmuseum was quite closeby, but given how neither of us were all that into art (and had been overwhelmed by the van gogh exibit), we decided to give it a miss.

Amsterdam also has a Madame Tussauds, but research online revealed that many find the main one in London was far more worth it to visit, so we skipped visiting the one in Amsterdam.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Of all the museums, I have to say that the Ann Frank House was by far, the best and most engaging experience.

Set in the very same place where Ann Frank, her family and friends hid from the Nazis, it was definitely an eye-opener. I particularly enjoyed how they included short video interviews and excerpts from the book at various parts of the house, making it a really immersive experience. Without an online booking, the queue is long but definitely worth the experience.

The Ann Frank House is located at: Prinsengracht 263-267, a 20 min walk from Centraal station.

One point to note! The stairs are really narrow, so refrain from wearing heels and be careful about kicking the person behind you in the face. hahaha.

Amazing Amsterdam Part 2

Albert Cuypmarkt

the Albert Cuypmarkt

There are a few things that I always like to tick off my checklist when travelling.

  1. Visit a local supermarket
  2. Visit a flea market / festival of some sorts
  3. Try lots of different food!

I think that visiting the local supermarket and an open market are really the best ways to soak into a foreign land’s atmosphere. You get to see what locals buy, what locals consume and try out their local specialities!

Albert Cuypmarkt

The Albert Cuypmarkt is, in my opinion, a must-see! It’s the largest, busiest market in Amsterdam and stores there sell everything you can think of! From apparels to their famous Gouda Cheese and local favourites like raw herring (which the bf and I refused to eat because the fishy smell alone repulsed us…); but of course when it came to more delectable, appetizing items like roasted chicken drumlets (OMG DROOOLZZ), Stroopwaffles (the large round thing with a soft gooey caramel center) and poffertjes (tiny pancakes generously dusted with icing sugar). We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves that afternoon and it was truly an eye opening experience! Plus we were entertained by some buskers too, who played pretty nice music :)

Seasonal fruits in particular, are really cheap. However, they often come in little baskets that have no means of closure. It was rather heart breaking when I saw all these adorable small little strawberries but couldn’t think of a way to lug them around because we didn’t have anything to put them in. Note to self, bring a plastic bag to the market next time. hahaha.

The Albert Cuypmarkt is
Located: Albert Cuypstraat/Ferdinand Bolstraat, 1072 LL
Tram: Albert Cuypstraat: tram 16, 20, 24 & 25
Open: Monday – Saturday 9.30 am – 5.00 pm

Amsterdam frites

The people in Amsterdam don’t eat a lot of carbohydrates. Much of their food is mostly white meat (i.e. fish or various birds), but frites (fries) are a huge part of their eating culture. Everywhere, you see stalls that have made MOUNTAINS of frites, all ready for serving. The bf and I were pretty stunned. However, given the ubiquitousness of these frites stalls, we eventually decided to give it a try. Imagine our shock when we ordered the smallest size and got such a huge serving.

I noted that the potato was more powdery and soft, compared to fries in Singapore. Perhaps it’s a different type of potato? One can pick from a variety of sauces – the most popular one is a yellow sauce known as frites sauce. It’s pretty good. Pictured above is chilli sauce because we missed it.

 

sights sounds amsterdam street food flower market

Hot chocolate is THE BEST DRINK for winter. ’nuff said.

Besides the Albert Cuypmarket, we also visited the Floating Flower Market (bottom left). Unfortunately, as it was winter, there were no tulips in bloom. We did however, see loads and loads of tulip bulbs for sale. but oh well, we live in a tropical country and the climate would kill the bulb before it took root. So not much for us to see there. One of the main reasons why the flower market is famous is because the whole thing floats on water. I had in mind the idea that I would be hopping from boat to boat to view their wares but the market was actually very well anchored to the street next to it and each store was on top of a barge. In fact, it was so steady that I didn’t feel any difference from being on land at all. I would love to visit it in Spring though, just to see the flowers!

Bloemenmarkt – Flower Market
The only floating flower market in the world
Speciality: Flowers, seeds, bulbs and rare flowers such as black tulips Located: Singel, 1071 AZ
Tram: Muntplein: tram 4, 9, 14, 16, 24 & 25
Open: Monday – Saturday 9.30 am – 5.00 pm

We also visited a supermarket and my jaw dropped when I saw this humungous pizza. Look at the size in contrast to my hand! The bf and I were standing there wondering how people carted such a huge thing home when we realised that oh, they would cut it up and sell it in standard rectangular-sized pieces. There are quite a few supermarkets in Amsterdam, but the one we visited the most was Albert Heijn, for its reasonable prices and wide variety of goods. Water (1.5 or 2 L) was about 34cents!

Next up… the museums we visited in Amsterdam.

Amazing Amsterdam Part 1

Having a pilot for a boyfriend is great! Having a job that has immense flexibility for leave is fantastic. Add the two together & tada! I jetsetted off to Europe for the first time to accompany the bf, who would be training in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Excitement aside, as we knew we were going to take lots of public transport around to save costs, it meant travelling light. & doing that isn’t ever easy for a girl now, is it? However, I persevered and with the bf’s help, managed to whittle down my luggage to a small handcarry. & I didn’t feel that I needed more on the trip! amazing.

packing light

All in all, my luggage was a featherlight 8kg, which meant it was really easy for me to lift it up the never-ending flights of stairs at the train stations of Italy (but that, I’ll talk about another time…). I might have been slightly pouty and hesitant to leave all extra stuff behind, but I certainly appreciated it throughout the trip!

Besides its fame for the red light district and the legitimisation of marijuana, Amsterdam isn’t really a popular tourist destination, so I wasn’t expecting much. So I was pleasantly surprised to see how vibrant the colours of the city were. One could tell that they really took pride in their architecture. Even in a row of seemingly homogenous houses, each building owner took the pains to differentiate his/her building differently, be it with a splash of paint or a smattering of tulips.

On a side note – friends I’ve met up with so far never fail to ask, how was the red light district, did you go?? My answer is… It’s really not what you’d expect. I have to applaud those women though, because even in winter, they’re still in bikinis, at the windows plying their trade (windows are closed of course), but they aren’t of movie-star standard… even though they come in many varieties for men to choose from. lol.

amsterdam

When I saw the majestic looking Amsterdam Centraal Station (bottom right), I was wonderstruck. It looked so beautiful! Orange and red seems to be a favourite colour for buildings around in Amsterdam – and the colour was still very striking. We saw various buildings undergoing cleaning and renovation to maintain the colour. The Amsterdam Centraal Station was a bustling hive of activity, with the train, tram, bus and boat public services all converging in one place.

One thing I was very amused by was their tiny little cars, which seem to be the only ones allowed on the smaller streets in the city, alongside motorcycles. They were mostly 1 seater, and when the average person sat inside, your head would touch the roof. so cute.

amsterdam map

Similar to Venice, Amsterdam is a canal-city, with a regular, grid-like network of canals. So it’s really easy to navigate around. One simply can count the number of canals you’ve walked past, or follow the canals to get to your desired destination – which helps, if you don’t speak Dutch and can’t remember the road names.

swans

I loved peeking at the barge like boats and got rather excited when one bridge I was standing on had to be evacuated so it could be lifted up to let a large barge go through. They do have a rather complicated traffic system of tram + boat + cycling + car network and we got rather confused at intersections because we didn’t know whether we were walking against traffic or not.

Without a doubt, the most exciting part of our time in Amsterdam was when the Dutch instructor (Andrew), invited me over for a visit to the bf’s simulators! It was getting somewhat lonely because the bf had to be away for 4-5 hours each day for his training, so I was delighted and privileged to have the honour of learning more about his work and experiencing a heart-stopping simulated flight (Andrew cut my right engine and I nearly crashed the “fake” plane).

Given that he had to be at the simulators on a daily basis, we stayed at Novotel, which was really close to the airport. The hotel was pretty great, I absolutely loved their breakfast buffet. Free flow of smoked salmon whoo!!

food amsterdam

The dutch seem to enjoy putting unique toppings on their bread – something I’d never seen or heard of before! I brought back a pack each for my family to try.

The top right shows a picture of a fried mashed potato croquette, or “krokette”. Very different from the japanese version in that the potato inside is really mashed, fluidy potato with meat.. and you buy it from a vending machine!! A person stands behind a whole wall of vending machines frying the goods. All you have to do is pop in 2 euros so that you can open a little transparent pigeonhole that has the food on a paperplate inside. It’s apparently quite popular in Amsterdam and can be found quite easily, by the company called FEBO.

amsterdam countryside

I did have a rather nice chat with a taxi driver who hadn’t heard of our tiny little Singapore before. As he drove me past the countryside, he talked about his home (similar to the cottages above) and was shocked that our houses cost so much. & that I live in a country with no winter. hahaha! With its great expanse of land, houses in amsterdam are really cheap. That said, I’d rather live in Singapore than anywhere else. Close proximity to family and friends is my ultimate joy in life (:

More about Amsterdam coming up the next post!

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