I took my first trip to Amsterdam in March 2009 as part of a week vacation visiting The Netherlands, Brussels, and France with my partner. During the trip we visited many sites and had a great deal of amazing food! This is my journal...
by ch2001 on August 27, 2009
The NH Caransa was situated on the north-facing side of Rembrandtplein, a bustling square surrounded by cafes and restaurants (no street noise could be heard in the rooms). We stayed for three nights and booked our hotel through Priceline.com - we named our own price for $86 a night. We arrived at 9am, and as expected, our room was unavailable, and they stored our bags. Our room was on the fifth floor and had a view of neighboring rooftops and distant church spires. The room was clean, modern, and spacious for European hotels. The bathroom was a good size as well. Each morning the hotel had an assortment of croissants and muffins for the guests.
We ate at Cafe van Zuylen the first night of our stay in Amsterdam. Initially we stopped in for a drink around 5pm; we each had a glass of Grolsch draft. We left to find a restaurant, and after seeing the prices for the surrounding restaurants we went back. We ordered a slice of spinach pie for an appetizer (see the photos). For the main course we each ordered a dish with roasted chicken (leg and breast) over roasted tomatoes in a buttery sauce – it may have been the special. Over all the meal was excellent and the atmosphere was great – although don’t go here if you want a quiet, intimate setting, it was a bit noisy.
After landing in Amsterdam early in the morning we needed something fast for breakfast, and ducked into the first place we saw. Delifrance is your typical European fast food cafe with pastries and sandwiches, and it looks to be a chain. It was clean and cheap. The pastries were delicious, and the coffee was strong - just what we needed.
by ch2001 on September 23, 2009
We decided to visit Rembrandthuis because it was included in the I amsterdam Card, and I am extremely glad we did. They provide free hand held audio-guide, available in many different languages. This perk really makes the whole experience. In each room you are told the how Rembrandt used the room and the story of the objects in the room. In Rembrandt's studio a museum employee shows you how Rembrandt made his paints and demonstrates some of the painting techniques he used.A problem with most museums dedicated to historical figures is that the houses are set up in the way, and filled with items, typical to that time period. This is not the case with the Rembrandthuis, because when Rembrandt went bankrupt the bank made a list of the items in each room, and maintained information on where each item went when auctioned off. Many of the items in the house are Rembrandt's personal possessions the museum was able to track down, and all the items are placed where Rembrandt had them.This really is a must visit for visitors of all ages.
The Esnoga is a beautiful site in Amsterdam that few people take the time to visit. From the outside you would have no idea what the building holds inside. To enter you are buzzed into the reception area/gift shop, where you purchase your ticket, and enter the courtyard that surrounds the synagogue.The inside of the synagogue is immense - three/four stories tall. The entire structure is a work of art - from the over 200 year old benches to the painted wooden ceiling.Tickets cost 8 euro for an adult, but it's free with the I amsterdam Card. FROM THE WIKIPEDIA ENTRY:On December 12, 1670, the Sephardic Jewish community of Amsterdam acquired the site to build a synagogue and construction work began on April 17, 1671 under architect Elias Bouwman. On August 2, 1675, the Esnoga was finished.The inscription above the entrance is from Psalm 5:8: "In the abundance of Thy lovingkindness will I come into Thy house". The sign also contains "1672", the year the building was supposed to have been ready, and "Aboab", the name of the chief rabbi whose initiative it was to build the synagogue.The building rests on wooden poles and the foundation vaults can be viewed by boat from the water underneath the synagogue. Around the main edifice a row of low buildings house the winter synagogue, offices and archives, homes of various officials, the rabbinate, a mortuary and famous Etz Hayim library.During the 1955-1959 renovation, the former Etz Hayim seminary auditorium was redesigned as a winter synagogue with central heating and electric lighting. The benches were taken from a synagogue originally built in 1639 and the Hechal dates from 1744.The floor is covered with fine sand, in the old Dutch tradition, to absorb dust, moisture and dirt from shoes and to muffle the noise.
The Hortus Botanicus, or the Botanical Gardens, is a great place to take a break from the city. It's just southeast of the city center, and is an easy twenty minute walk. Admission is € 7, but free with the I amsterdam Card.We visited in early spring, so most of the flowers hadn't bloomed yet, but nevertheless the gardens were pretty. The main structure features subtropical, tropical and dessert climates with a wide assortment of plants from each. There are a few smaller structures including the palmhouse and a butterfly house. The gardens are small, so walk slowly and enjoy your experience.The Orangery is their very popular cafe, and if the weather permits, they have outside seating. They serve coffee and Holtkamp pastries, as well as sandwiches and salads - all of which are organic.
The Van Gogh museum was a highlight of our trip, and from the line to get in it's a popular site for most visitors. There are a couple ways to avoid the line: buy your ticket ahead of time or buy an "I amsterdam" card (free admission to museum).The museum displays his work chronologically, from his early days in The Netherlands to his later days in France. In between the sketches and paintings the museum has provided text telling the story of Van Gogh's personal life, and tells how his life influenced his painting and drawing. The second floor houses many of Van Gogh's sketches.The museum comprises two buildings, the main building houses the main collection - all of the paintings I just mentioned. The second building houses special exhibitions. When we visited the exhibition focused on his Starry Night painting, and how other artists capture the night sky in their works.The cafe is a great place to rest between the two buildings. It was reasonably priced for a coffee and a snack. And don't forget to stop by the gift shop - there were surprisingly some nice items.
In a city with so much history and culture, it slightly embarrasses me to say that the Heineken Experience was one of the trips highlights. First off, the tour is in English, so after two days faced with the language barrier I was happy to completely understand my surroundings.The tour started with a video running through the founding and evolution of the company, followed by a maze filled with historical Heineken objects.Eventually you make your way to the brewery littered with large copper colored cisterns and the smell of barley. In this room you can read and hear about the beer making process, and taste the wort separated during the mashing process.Next is the "Brew You Ride", a virtual experience that takes you through the beer making process (in English of course), complete with a moving platform, wind, and mist. This was a definitely a "is this real?" moment.After the ride, you enter a room with two star shaped bars tended by English speaking dutch bartenders. There they crack some jokes, explain why beer is supposed to have head (including a fairly comical joke for those English speakers), and give you your first sample.From here the tour transitions to a bit of a fun house atmosphere - Heineken video games, short videos displayed in single person pods, Heineken sports memorabilia, and loads of other things to overload your senses.The finale is, of course, a bar with another sample. Your ticket includes two samples, but they weren't stopping at two. Try the Heineken '0' - it's kept at zero degrees Celsius, so it's refreshingly ice cold.Don't forget to swing by the gift shop on your way out - it's reasonably priced and their pint glasses make great gifts.
Our last night in Amsterdam we wanted an authentic, hearty Dutch meal. We found it at De Keuken van 1870. The dining room is a large two-story room with a few smaller tables in the front and two/three long rows of tables butted against one another in the center. The rows of tables create a communal dining feel, and it's impossible not to strike up a conversation with your neighbors. The food is delicious. It's well seasoned, large portioned comfort food. If you arrive early in the evening you can get their special - three courses for under 10 Euro. Entrees on the regular menu are priced between 8 Euro and 20 Euro. Great meal for the price.
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