My first trip to Amsterdam was a week-long whirlwind of trying to cram in as many museums, tourist sights, and local food as possible. It was exhausting and I wouldn't have changed a thing.
The exhaustion hit before we even landed. We were bleary-eyed and achy from the 10 1/2 hour red-eye flight, direct from Los Angeles. Sleep could wait for a few hours, while the excitement of a new city pulled us to explore.
We were staying in the center of Spuistraat, a vibrant neighborhood in Amsterdam that's just a short walk to many of the tourist sites. I can't imagine a more ideal location for a sightseeing home base.
First stop? The Amsterdam Cheese Company! It's never too early in the trip to make your cheese plans. Unfortunately, suitcase space is limited. The thought of bringing an empty "cheese suitcase" was under serious consideration.
We were a two minute walk from the ABC- " The American Book Center". Why should an American tourist go to an American bookstore in a foreign country? First, it's a bookstore. I can't walk past a bookstore without going in. Second, they had an excellent selection of Dutch novels translated into English. Books that I likely would not encounter in an American bookstore state side. I purchased Craving by Esther Gerritsen, and although I've not had a chance to read it, I'm pleased every time I look at my bookshelf and see my Amsterdam souvenir. Much better than a tee-shirt or snow globe!
Any ideas regarding this sign?
We got lost in a series of narrow alleys and discovered a beautiful courtyard.
For lunch, we headed to the Cafe Hoppe. I'm a Southern California native, and the more I travel, the more I realize how lucky I am to live in a place with such amazing food; fresh produce, great meat, and a culturally diverse cuisine. It's the best, especially the Mexican food. I don't know what I was thinking when ordering nachos at Cafe Hoppe. Not good. It recalled my fajitas in England fiasco.
This was my first experience with the local dish, bitterballen. We ate bitterballen every single day of the trip. Bitterballen are little deep-fried balls filled with a mixture of minced meat and cheese. They are served with a mustard dipping sauce. Yummy! The internal mixture is molten, so it's important to puncture the ball to release the heat before taking a bite. This is a lesson that everyone needs to learn only once.
After lunch, we headed to our hotel for a much needed nap. I've been long warned about the small rooms in European hotels. Honestly, I've not found them to be abnormally small. We've stayed in many hotels in Europe and none of them have been too small for two people. Sure, they may be smaller than a comparably priced room in a US hotel, and certainly smaller than the enormous Las Vegas hotels that we frequently visit, but there are still big enough. I think the real difference is city vs country hotels. City hotels are smaller due to space and the expense of real-estate.
Here are some pictures of our hotel, the NH City Centre. The pictures were taken towards the end of our trip, so please excuse the airing of our dirty laundry.
We woke up in the early evening and walked around the neighborhood in search of a restaurant for dinner. The canals were stunning with the soft lights of the street lamps twinkling in the water. Amsterdam is beautiful.
Memories of India was our stop for dinner. Good food, nice atmosphere. We ordered our favorite dishes like Chicken Biriyani and Tikka Masala, enjoying a meal very much like we would get in England or even back home in California. Don't worry, we ate plenty local Dutch cuisine during our trip!