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Amsterdam

Canal Canal

This was our first time in Amsterdam. We had booked into an Air BnB and although the streets may be flat, the plentiful internal staircases are not! This is because houses used to be taxed on width, not height. The door opened to our abode straight on to, what seemed to us, two neck breaking sets of stairs which were spiral as well. We immediately enlisted the help of our young greeter and his friend to get our luggage up to the apartment. I'd recommend looking for a ground floor place to anyone heading that way with heavy bags.

Staircase Staircase

The steep spiral stairs also featured in some cafés - either to go up to a table your order in hand (doubly daunting) - or down to the bathrooms. Between climbing stairs and bicycling everywhere the good citizens of Amsterdam must be very fit.

 

It's an easy city to walk around as it's extremely flat, punctuated by lots of pretty canals with picturesque bridges densely lined with swarms of chained up bikes. Although cars and trams are common, the most prevalent way to commute is to ride. Young, old, no helmets, casually attired or dressed to kill, the bicycle is the most common form of transport. And woe betide you if you stop suddenly or are too slow, as we saw a couple of incidences where older men were impatiently hurrying up the young tourists in front of them. Think of the ire of the locals before honing your biking skills!

 

Bikes Bikes

We chose to walk. Also a little hazardous as you do need to watch out for all those cyclists. Amusing though, as you often smell marijuana wafting down the streets from the 'Coffee Shops' which may indeed have a coffee machine, but also offer the good citizens either marijuana or hash. Perhaps that's why bikes are safer! Certainly it is not a seedy city, quite the opposite.

The Dutch are architects and artists so beautiful historic buildings, antiques and museums abound. We should have pre booked tickets to Van Gogh as the hour long queue was too long for us on a chilly day, so we went to Moco instead and enjoyed an Andy Warhol and Banksie exhibition. We also headed to the Stedelijik Museum which whilst being mainly contemporary also had a good smattering of Picasso and Van Gogh.

 

 

Locally made cheese is an obvious national passion with Henri Willig and other cheese stores dotted everywhere. Some offered Gouda flavoured with red chilli, coconut, curry or sambal as well as cumin and fenugreek. Hmmm. 'What flavour and what age Dutch cheese would you like?' seemed to be the main question. Mustard as well as chutney seems a common accompaniment - and some young German tourists were very disappointed that wurst and cured meats were not in the same shop.  Blue and white porcelain pieces which may look dated in a New Zealand context fit perfectly there. I was even tempted to get a little clog for toothpicks.

 

White asparagus, a seasonal treat, was abundant. Mackerel, languostine, salmon and wild trout featured heavily on menus as well as lamb and beef. The cafés often offered alcohol and good coffee along with cakes, pancakes, waffles, bacon - and eggs. One trendy café we patronised had the long name: 'Gs a really nice place'. They also specialised in Bloody Mary's, though if you were game there was a 'Faberayo' peanut butter milkshake with bourbon, peanut butter, maple syrup and icecream - or a Wake-up-tini with espresso, vanilla vodka, Kahlua and Baileys. It was a busy place.

 

As expected, tulips are noticeable with dedicated shops and market stalls - and once you are further out into the country, there are also operational windmills, and some very stately riverside mansions.

No time to make it to the Red Light District this visit!

If you want to read more about our adventures, read...

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