A couple of weeks ago I got to experience the wonderful city of Amsterdam with seven other colleagues who were wonderful travel companions.
We enjoyed our little weekend together so much and was satisfied with everything from the hotel, sights, people and excellent food. I was the group’s official photographer (brought along the Canon 5D Mark III, the macro lens 100 2.8 L IS, 50 1.4 and 24 1.4, and the 50 was most used) and it was fun to look through the city and the experience through the camera lens. At some of the free time we had, I spent most of it alone exploring the streets and canals to document the trip and the place. I spontaneoulsy took a map and sketched my journey with an eyeliner, paper map and tripadvisor app, planned in less than 15 minutes, and headed out the door.
We took a short train ride to Amsterdam city and walked towards our hotel from the central station. The weather was at its finest, and throughout the journey we were praising the weather which for just a week ago was chilly and with occasional rain.
Our hotel was a small and initimate one with perfect location in the heart of the city and had nice staff and clean apartment-like rooms.
I had to of course drop by Starbucks for some missed Frapuccino to cool me down in the Amsterdam summer heat. I liked the fact that there wasn’t Starbucks in all street corner. In fact, through all my walking, this was my only encounter with the coffee shop giant.
This branch was so light and airy and some really cool textures on the wall and ceiling. The table in the middle was filled with students with their laptops the following day.The Singel Canal, one of the many canals running through Amsterdam, was in immediate viscinity and you can find the flower market here which Amsterdam is well known for.Our very first dinner was at an Argentinian steak house in the paralell street, Gauchos, recommended by the hotel. We had a really service-minded waiter (I think he was spanish or portugese, europe based not south american, though he knew his argentinian beef).He kind of reminded me of Allan in Two and a half men. Needless to say the beef was tender and sumptuous along with its sauce and side dish. I devoured a crepe with ice cream and dulce de leche for desssert.Later that evening we had a quick night trip in the streets and it was filled with happy tourists, strollers and partygoers.A funky window display as we were nearing the well known Red Light district.It was a surreal experience walking through Red Light District. Not at all entertaing and we felt more pity for the young girls who exhibit themselves in the diplay window to a crowd of men and women in what looked like a freak show. I caught a photo of this rather ironic signage.
The following day, equipped with camera and a paper map (roaming 3G is ridiculously expensive), I scoured the streets and the nooks and corner of Amsterdam. It was practical to be alone so that I could do this at my own pace and really stop and enjoy the sights. I did this in two rounds. Went home and changed and had lunch and then back again for a new route that I again planned impromptu.Amsterdam is a charming city with friendly people, majority fluent in the english language. I found this father and daughter sitting on the stairs. We had a short chit chat, I asked for directions and permission to take picture and then went onward in my solo journey.The architecture is well kept and I loved the ornamental details and the colorful blooms that surrounded the buildings.This little flower shop had a unique set of candy colored flowers which was a joy to look at. I just love that muted greeen with the violet.Some art work in a little corner wall attracted a small crowd.I entered into this charming soap and interior shop. It smelled wonderful. I bought a cosmetic pouch for my sister in law which had a lovely picture of a vintage girl and I was told it was handmade in France.Many of their window displays was filled with baked goods that appealed to the senses.And what’s Amsterdam without cheese. I took with me some of their cheese, red and green pesto flavored and a spicy one and some dutch honey mustard and it was very good. I bought mine though at “Henri Willig cheese and more” which they had plenty of branches scattered through out the city.Bicycle seemed to be the number one preferred transportation of choice. In the beginning we were overwhelmed by them. And we witnessed a lot of “almost-accidents”. As you can see, it does end up on the pavement sometimes. I don’t think that they are fond of us tourists who doesn’t know better and occupy their lanes (they seem to have more priority than pedestrian as far as space allotment is concerned). We got accustomed to it in the end. They also had other unconventional and unique means of moving around the water and the streets as seen below.Lunch time on saturday was at Greenwoods. Greenwoods was one of the highest rated eating place in trip advisor. It was a small and cozy restaurant which seem to be managed by some nice englishmen. We all loved the food and we were served generous portions which left us all really full for many hours later. I had a refreshing yoghurt fruit shake drink and for lunch I had a flavor filled lamb burger and the blue cheese sauce was really creamy and complimenting, not overpowering the meal. Fresh greens and potato with mayonnaise sauce accompanied the lamb. Everyone was also raving of the bread which seem to be freshly baked in the kitchen.After lunch my mission was to find the “Iamsterdam” letters and a technical “map error” due to tripadvisor and also at a point, temporary loss of inner compass, threw me off the route. It was all good and it led me to discover some other worth while places and I had a little adventure. Tired from all the walking, I took taxi on my way back to the hotel, with a friendly chatty taxi driver originally from france (and settled in amsterdam because of love) in the driver seat.Our very last dinner was at Indrapura. Indonesian food served in small portions and many options (somewhat like tapas). This type of serving is more commonly known there as rijsttafel which means rice table. The popularity has its stems from the colonization times.We had a refreshing exotic drink in the beginning and followed by a feast of many indoneshian dishes. I loved it, but it was kind of overwhelming with all the different flavors, all very prominent flavors, some sweet and some spicy. In the background was live piano playing, and it was a nice last dinner in the city of Amsterdam.In Rembrandt plein, a band with young members filled the park with relaxing light rock/pop music and we hung out a bit with the night time crowd.You can clearly see who reigns supreme in the streets, the bicycles! Rembrandt square, we would afterward discover was filled with a lot of hang out places for gays. I went home early to freshen up, but ended up staying in bed. I had a lot of impression to digest and my feeet and back instructed me to just stay in bed.
On our very last day on sunday, we enjoyed a canal tour. It was amazing to see the scenery and know the background and history of the sights. This was defintely a different perpective to see the town from.To the left, you can see seven consecutive bridges running through the canal and this is referred to as one of the most romantic spot.The narrow building is obviosuly the most narrow building in the whole of Amsterdam. The captain of the canal ride and our guide said it was small people who lived there. How much truth lies in that is rather doubtful, but really, how can one live in there? One thing is for sure, the owner can’t be claustrophobic! To the right is the only building with south african architecture.These houses were originally build by an italian merchant back in the days. I love the well preserved architecture here. There is so much soul and history in the buildings.As we came to more open water, we saw a lot of interesting buildings. To the left is a floating house, and to the right is a museum designed by a famous french arhcitect if my memory serves me right.And what is Amsterdam without the characterisitc leaning buildings?! They have been there for years and built under sea level, thus the leaning.Every place has also its down side and it is a shame that garbage seem to be a great problem and spoiling their beautfiful city. Other than that it was really a fabulous place which I could definitely go back to. It also seemed safe to walk around and not many suspicious characters lurking around.
Last hours was spent shopping with my colleague Widet and I got me some good bargains and nice summer outfits. Now I am hoping the weather will improve here in Norway so that I will be able to wear them! By the way, I really loved observing fashion and style here. It also looked like there were several models residing here. Lot of gorgeous well dressed and well groomed folks.And of course, I had to shop something for my boy. And his smile tells it all. A great and short trip, but this is where my heart truly belong, to my family, and boy did I miss them.
Amsterdam, highly recommended though!And some more images in this slideshow if you would like to see more of Amsterdam. Thanks for dropping by and if you are planning a trip and have any question, do leave a comment or get in touch and I can see if I can be of help ;)