Sunday, July 8, 2012

Safari #59B: A Bostonian in Amsterdam

I've been fortunate to travel to many places, and I've never visited a place quite like Amsterdam - and for bike riding, long walk taking, water loving Bostonians, Amsterdam is perfect offering you whatever adventure you may be seeking.

Getting Around
Public transportation is excellent in Amsterdam, but as we Bostonian's know, walking can be so much more fun.  I couldn't enjoy the strolling more - heading out of my centrally located hotel (Hotel Amsterdam) and walking my feet off every day.  If you don't want to stroll, rent a bike.  Keep in mind that there are bike lanes on nearly every street (don't walk in them!) with their own set of traffic lights.  So long as you follow the rules and pay attention, riding a bike is a safe and effective way to get around.

A trip to any European city really isn't a trip if you don't visit a local museum.  The national gallery is the Rijksmuseum, which at the time of my visit, was under renovation.  It houses all of Holland's best known artists including Rembrandt.  While a limited portion of the collection was available for viewing, it was still thrilling to see the work in person.  My favorites were Rembrandt's Self Portrait at an Early Age and Johannes Vermeer's The Kitchen Maid.  Unfortunately, the Stidelijk Museum of Contemporary Art was closed for renovations at the time of my visit.

Amsterdam's Open Markets
If you really want to stroll, you have to visit at least one (if not all) of the following open markets.  Of course, this is still a short list as there are many others to check out as well. If you enjoy vintage shopping (clothes, accessories, and housewares) and fresh produce (don't miss the freshly squeezed orange juice), this list is a good start.

  • Waterloopein - this market specializes in touristy items (mostly new) and very specific vintage items such as military gear (boots, jackets, pants, etc.).  There are also a large number of leather goods.
  • Albert Cuypmarkt - Did you lose your luggage?  If so, head here to find all forms of cheap under clothes and toiletries in addition to fresh snacks and produce. 
  • Noordermarkt - This large market offers an unbelieveable amount of vintage clothing, housewares, and art.  If you are looking for a unique piece to take home, spend most of your time looking here.  Fresh produce is also available.
  • Bloemenmarkt  - some might argue that locals do not shop here, however, flowers are flowers folks, and if you saw the selection of fresh flowers and bulbs, you would want to shop here too.  If you're hoping to take bulbs home with you, don't miss my tips.
  • Nieuwmarkt - If you're staying in Dam Square, this market is a short walk down Damstraat. I was glad to walk to this market and purchase fresh fruit for the refrigerator in my hotel room. To get there from Damstraat, turn left onto Klonveniersburgwal and keep walking.  The market will be on your right. 

Curious to know which market was my favorite? Hands down, Noordermarkt. Seriously.  I wish I brought an empty suitcase with me for all of the housewares and old prints I wanted to bring back.  Sigh.

Eating Like the Dutch
Yes, it's true that the Amsterdammers enjoy their Indonesian food - and if you feel compelled to enjoy the popular rijsttafel (ricetable), please do so.  However, there is absolutely nothing more authentic than eating raw herring.  That's right, lightly brined and served whole or sliced, you can enjoy this summer treat via kiosks located around town.  I decided to try it on a bun with onions and pickles.  It was awesome, and I ate one every single day.  If you enjoy fresh fish, don't pass this up.

Drinking Like the Dutch
You already know that this traveler appreciates craft beer, which means I had to find the best I could while in Amsterdam.  I certainly did.  Don't miss the chance to grab a seat at t'Arendsnest to try the best in Dutch craft beer.  Every beer I had was better than the last.  It was truly an experience, and I could not recommend a better place.

Picnicking at Vondelpark
We Bostonians love our parks, so it's impossible not to visit Amsterdam's Vondelpark.  With green, open spaces and a series of connected ponds, this peaceful park is the best place to rest your weary feet and enjoy a picnic.

As I mentioned in my previous post, enjoying a sit down dinner in Amsterdam most times requires a reservation.  If you're hoping to try Indonesian food and you don't make a reservation, you may not get the chance.   In addition, if you're looking to try Indonesian and not spend $40 euros on your meal, try take out.  There is a delicious a take-out restaurant near the park where you can choose small, medium, and large portions of dishes perfect for sharing.  I stumbled upon Ed's Indonesian Deli one evening and picked up a number of small samples perfect for enjoying in the park.  If you ask, they will heat all of the items for you.  Ed's in generally known only to local's, so consider this one of the best tips I can give you.  Ed's is located at 31 Alexsander Boersstraat, which runs along the southern side of Vondelpark.

Canal Tours
You simply cannot visit Amsterdam without taking a canal tour.  I read about canal tours from Boom Chicago, which in truth are not really tours, but more a local's insight into canal system's most enjoyable sights.  In addition, unlike other tour company's, Boom's boat is small allowing you to gain entry into smaller canals and neighborhoods.  More than anything, if you take a canal tour, do like the Amsterdammer's do and bring food, drinks, and a party attitude.  Most of all, enjoy the views and smile at passersby.

"Other" Things to Do
I'm sure that many of you are wondering about "other" things to do in Amsterdam.  I will share this - the Dutch believe strongly in the idea of personal responsibility.  If you're going to do anything, do it responsibly so as not to place either yourself or other's in harms way (and if you place yourself in harm's way, it's your fault).  Whatever else you choose to do while you are in town, do it respectfully and take notice that the Amsterdammer's (no matter what state they may be in) always have their act together.

Happy travels.

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