Oh, hi. I’m back from writing hiatus. At least I hope. I’ve been jetsetting across multiple destinations—first, Amsterdam and then back to my semi-normal reality. And what a whirlwind it has been.
So, yes, baby went to Amsterdam, with the husband and two amazing pals, Ryan and Sarah. Along the way, we met up with a swell bloke, Marcus, a friend of Ryan and Sarah’s across the pond. It’s safe to say that a grand time was had by all.
I mean, how could you not have an amazing time here?
Amsterdam’s beautiful old buildings, cobblestone streets and prolific canals were bewitching. And combined with the culture, food and lifestyle? They made Amsterdam the first place I’ve visited recently in which I could actually envision myself living.
Notes on lifestyle
Beyond the beauty of the city, what impressed me most about Amsterdam (which is also true of the few European cities I’ve visited) is its slower pace. People just seem to savor life a little more. Afternoons are spent at cafes lingering over coffee or a beer with friends. Dinners are events that last hours. It’s refreshing. In fact, finding fast food restaurants or carry-out coffee shops in Amsterdam is rather difficult. And if you do, they’re likely American chains in tourist areas. It’s a good reminder that we Americans shouldn’t rush through life so quickly.
I was surprised that the cafes were so packed outdoors. While we love patio dining in Chicago, we’d scoff at the notion of sitting outside in 45–50 degree weather. Talk to us in May when the weather is in the 60s.
Oh and the bikes! Dear lord, the bikes. Adults on bikes. Children on bikes. Adults with children on bikes. Everyone rides bikes. Drivers seemed to be more respectful of bikers, which is perhaps while you never saw anyone wearing a helmet. It was kind of unnerving (especially having seen countless bike accidents stateside), but I was told it was because of the slower pace of street traffic. Related: I never saw one overweight person in Amsterdam, most likely due to the lack of fast food and everyone being so active.
I imagined my dear pal Megan whizzing by with baby B on one of these. Perhaps they’re just coming back from Noordermarket with some fresh produce and cheese. I would want them to be wearing helmets though.
Also, the locals were extremely friendly and accommodating. I never got a sense of disapproval of our Americanism. Aside from a few Aussie dudes we met. That doesn’t count.
Notes on food
I’m guessing people don’t visit The Netherlands for its food like they might visit Spain or Italy. From what I’ve read, traditional Dutch cuisine consists of a lot of sausage, potatoes and greens. While we didn’t end up dining at a traditional Dutch restaurant during our trip, we did sample quite a bit of delicious local fare. Some of the highlights include:
Dutch pancakes (pannekoeken)
Sweet Dutch pancakes are famed, however, I prefer mine savory. Spinach, tomatoes, onions, pine nuts…incredible.
You know that phrase, “As American as apple pie?” I’m not sure how we got that national accolade. Dutch apple pie is incredible.
Dear god, we ate so much cheese on this trip. I am saying this like it’s a good thing. I felt like we ate approximately this amount.
Of course, many beers and cones of chips were consumed as well. Being an international city, Amsterdam offers practically every type of cuisine. There were notable amounts of Argentinian and Indonesian restaurants in particular.
Notes on being a tourist
Part of what makes Amsterdam accessible is the fact that almost everyone speaks English fluently. Which is good because I found Dutch to be impenetrable for the short time I was there. (Give me more time and some formal training though, and I would give it my best shot.)
Like lots of people, I like to do as the locals do when I travel. Given that we stayed in an apartment in Jordaan area, which is a lovely neighborhood a little ways off the tourist strip, it was pretty easy. We hit up corner pubs and cafes, perused the local markets and dined in nearby restaurants. We wandered, window shopped and languished in the Dutch way of life.
But of course, we did the touristy things as well. My favorite was the countryside bike tour during which we saw a windmill and visited a farm that produces cheese and clogs. My other favorite was the Anne Frank House, which was powerful, moving and every bit like the house I had imagined from reading her diary. We also went to the Heineken Experience, which is very touristy but mandatory, as well as the Van Gogh museum. Next time I make it back, I’d love to see the Rijksmuseum and Rembrandt’s house.
And of course, I’d be remised if I didn’t mention Amsterdam’s notorious vices. Everyone knows that prostitution is legal and marijuana is decriminalized in Amsterdam. It was interesting to experience a place with such relaxed attitudes about typically taboo practices and learn how their legalization or decriminalization has contributed to less crime overall, and in some cases, a healthier economy. I digress.
Anyway, we had gaggles of fun in Amsterdam. If you’re going soon, can you take me with you?