This weekend brought me to Amsterdam – the city of canals, bikes, and other things I’m sure you’ve already thought of. Although a beautiful city with fascinating architecture, the mix of the good and not-so-great moments left me slightly uncertain as to how I feel about Amsterdam. Not going to lie, Amsterdam has taken the number one spot for fails in my solo adventures. For some reason, the city’s transportation and I did not fare well together, and a lot of what I had expected/planned to do never really seemed to go according to plan. However, despite the various snafus I came across, my overall experience was still quite positive. Now, without further ado, let’s get into what I did and what I ate in Amsterdam!
For many, they go to Amsterdam for the night life or other things I won’t mention here. But for me, I went for the tulips. I know that I sound like an old lady when I say that but before embarking on my study abroad journey, I had this vision of going to the Netherlands and seeing rows upon rows of vibrantly coloured tulip fields, and that was genuinely the main reason I decided to go to this city, which brings us to Keukenhof.
Wanting to beat the crowds, I planned to try to get to Keukenhof as early as possible. I left my hostel at about 7:40 AM, got on the tram to Leidseplein for the 397 bus to Schiphol airport (I had purchased a combination ticket which included entry as well as transportation from Amsterdam city center to the gardens). Not knowing where the bus stop was, I proceeded to wander around almost aimlessly with a not-so-useful Google Maps. After about 30 minutes, it was only thanks to a group of people carrying their suitcase towards a bus stop that I knew where I had to be. Everything was smooth sailing after that, but let’s just say I arrived at Keukenhof two hours later (it was only meant to take about one hour). Nonetheless, the garden was absolutely beautiful.
The weather was gorgeous and the flowers that had bloomed dazzled my eyes with waves of soft pastels and vibrant jewel-toned petals.
I spent quite a few hours at the gardens admiring the multitude of tulip species (and there are A LOT), enjoying a simple picnic on the grass, hanging out with my favourite goat as well as seeing a pretty cool birds of prey show.
All in all, Keukenhof really has a lot to offer people of all ages and really did exceed my expectations.
Now one thing that didn’t go as accordingly was my idea to bike alongside the tulip fields. A lot of the tulips aren’t quite in peak blooming season yet since spring only began recently, so the image of fields upon fields of colour wouldn’t really have been possible. So I decided to save my 14 euros and call it a day.
But don’t forget that transportation was my main fail of the trip. On my way back, my ticket (which was on my phone) decided it didn’t want to show up anymore, resulting in me talking to various staff at the airport so that I wouldn’t have to buy another bus ticket. But alas, I ended up having to do so. Major tip: if you go to Keukenhof, buy the combination ticket but print it out! Don’t be like me and have a major transportation fail! 🙂
Around the city
On Sunday, I didn’t have as much set in stone (aside from breakfast and visiting the Anne Frank House). After a DELICIOUS breakfast (more to follow) I went to the Red Light District with Rick Steves as my buddy (I was listening to his FREE audio tour). I definitely didn’t mentally prepare myself enough for it since I knew it was a Sunday morning, but I definitely did get taken aback at some moments… Anyways, it was quite interesting to see how Amsterdam approaches various things like drugs and prostitution.
After a few hours of meandering around some more, I headed off the Anne Frank House. It was quite difficult to truly imagine what it would have been like in their shoes having to hide away for two years only to be discovered near the end of the war. However, the visit did remind me of how far and wide WWII stretched over Europe (and the rest of the world). Having pretty much ended my day with the Anne Frank House, I decided to headd back to the place where I met/ate the best apple pie I’ve ever had. Which bring us to the food.
As you know, when you are sick/congested, the taste of food is essentially reduced to nothingness. Unfortunately, this was the case for me the first day I arrived in Amsterdam. The first day, I ventured to the Albert Cuypmarkt and tasted broodje haring (herring and bread) as well as stroopwaffel.
Now considering I had a serious lack of taste, the only way I can describe both dishes is as such: firm and slightly vinegary (for the broodje haring) and sweet (for the stroopwaffel).
I’m sure if I had a sense of taste, I would be able to describe it a lot more and this would continue on when I went to Food Hallen for dinner. I went there went a goal of eating bitterballen and tosti (more Dutch classics) and ended up with chicken tikka masala (which I could only describe as extremely spicy) and frozen yogurt (which just tasted cold to me..).
However, miraculously, after having dosed my body with medicine on the days leading on to my trip, my congestion cleared up a little on the second day! This was the day I would discover the best apple pie I’ve ever had. I normally don’t have “best I ever had” moments when it comes to food, but the apple pie at Winkels is genuinely the best apple pie I’ve ever had. The combination of the lightly sweetened cream with perfectly spiced apples encased in a buttery and crisp crust was just a match made in heaven. It was so good I went back for another pie the next day. If you ever are in Amsterdam, this is a place you HAVE to go to. (Tip: the apple pie isn’t actually on the menu! So you just need to tell the staff and they will bring you that slice of perfection.)
As for the delicious breakfast I had mentioned earlier, go to Pancake Bakery for amazing pannenkoeken. I highly recommend going earlier as this place fills up really quickly and is extremely popular with both locals and tourists!
Another thing that is a must do is to purchase a small morsel to eat at FEBO, a Dutch fast food chain that keeps individual servings of kroketten (croquettes), burgers and more in tiny boxes. (See image below)
I bought a flat kroketten with unidentifiable meat (it may have been chicken or beef?) and was thoroughly surprised by how crisp, warm and juicy it was! FEBOs are all over the city so definitely give it a try! It’s quite an enjoyable experience!
Amsterdam was a mix of fantastic moments and not-so-great ones. However, at the end of the day, everything always worked out despite the bumps along the road. I think because of that, the biggest lesson I learned from this trip was to just go with the flow and try to move on when things don’t go your way. You never know! You may end up discovering the best pie you’ve ever had!