After doing my homework for our trip to Amsterdam celebrating the hubs’ 31st, there was one too many unmissable restaurants than nights. Fortunately, we crammed in a full day of work, hopped on a quick flight, and landed just in time to squeeze in a late dinner at Envy. Shared charcuterie and a glass of wine was the perfect way to end the night and start our trip. Resisting the urge to explore the entire city that night, we headed back to the hotel eager for the sun to light up the lovely looking canals.
Friday morning, I treated the birthday boy to Dutch pancakes at Panckes! They were delicious, and the coffee even came with Stroopwafels, a Dutch delight of waffles made from two thin layers of baked dough with a caramel-like syrup filling in the middle. Two meals in, we were in love with the city.
Itching to roam around, we spent the next couple of hours in the Jordaan district. Once a working class neighborhood, it’s now one of the most expensive and luxurious areas in all of the Netherlands. The district is sprinkled with picturesque streets lined with gorgeous houses, cafes with so much character, shops, galleries and a crazy number of antique stores. I was ready to move and play house swap.
Mid-afternoon, we held tickets to the Anne Frank house to see the Secret Annex. Online booking in advance saved us from waiting in an extensive line. I was in the middle of rereading the book and it was really meaningful to see the actual house where Anne wrote for over two years. Seeing the layout in person and visualizing the Frank family and their hiding mates was a powerful experience. The dedication of Anne’s father, Otto, to publishing her diary and restoring the house for visitors to see is admirable. Shocking is the realization that these families had to hide simply because of their religion just 70 years ago, a time that our grandparents lived through.
For lunch, we were in a pub sort of mood, and De Reiger fit the bill. With a great Belgian beer selection and fresh, seasonal dishes, it hit the spot. There was garlic bread soup for the hubs (why didn’t I think of that!?) and a spinach salad with grilled pumpkin, hazelnuts and Dutch cheese on top for me. It was DELICIOUS! Resisting the urge to cozy up for the rest of the afternoon, we set out to tour a bit more, and in search of our planned apple pie spot.
After walking a respectable number of steps, we earned the much anticipated apple pie at Cafe Papeneiland. Holy wow, it most certainly surpassed all expectations, and the magnificent atmosphere didn’t hurt!
A trip to Amsterdam isn’t complete without seeing the Red Light District, so we walked through just as the sky turned dark. Literally lit up with red lights, it was a fascinating experience. While it doesn’t feel dangerous or dirty (in the literal sense), the numerous smoking shops and countless streets of one-room cabins rented by “ladies of the night” was surreal. You can’t walk down a street without seeing something within arms length that’s typically publicly invisible.
Walking back, we passed through the Old Town area which was beautifully lit up, but incredibly crowded and metropolitan feeling compared to Jordaan.
Later that night, the birthday dinner was planned for De Belhamel. We were luckily seated in the window overlooking the canal. It was really romantic with Parisian decor and phenomenal Dutch/French fare. On the way home, we toasted to the end of the hubs’ 30th year with drinks at Vyne. Saturday morning, brunch was a little more like lunch at Restaurant Oud Zuid. The hubs was less than enthusiastic to find eggs missing from the menu (cough::hangovers hurt when you’re over 30::cough), but you can’t win them all. Grumpy after settling on yogurt with homemade granola (womp, womp…), we walk to the Van Gogh museum, which we had also thankfully booked tickets. I am not a museum person, but this one was quite captivating with it’s short snippets of information scattered throughout. Following the floors was like a timeline of Van Gogh’s life and made seeing his works adjacent to the information all the more interesting. We wandered around Oud Zuid, a posh area housing the Museum District, and inadvertently ran directly into the Albert Cuyp market. This super long street market was chock-full of juice, cheese and flower stands, antique shops and home decor stores, along with a bunch of tchotchke stands and booths selling random things like batteries.
Post juice, we were ready for a real lunch and Bakers & Roasters served up one of the I’ve ever had- a warm winter veggie salad for me filled with roasted parsnips, carrots and Dutch cheese, and a savory pie for the hubs. We couldn’t resist a couple different cups of fancy coffee (the flat white was the best), and once my eyes hit the dessert display, it was all over. After I’d surveyed half the staff for their favorites, I decided on the Mississippi Mud Pie. It was so decadent and the best birthday dessert by far!On a mission for Christmas gifts and Dutch treasures, we stopped the taxi back to the hotel mid-street upon sighting a shop full of Delft pottery. I found a beautiful, small vase and a few gifts later on while shopping De Negen Straatjes (Dutch for “the nine little streets”).
Our last dinner at Balthazars Keuken was the icing on the hubs’ birthday cake. The intimate atmosphere and open kitchen just next to our table made for a lovely evening.
There were probably more amazing sightings over the weekend that I’ve forgotten here, but like my 19th century comrade, Benjamin Disraeli, once said….