Jon and I were lucky enough to have a few extra days in Amsterdam after visiting the many tour attractions in Amsterdam (Part 1) with my sister. Having this extra time allowed us to visit the nearby city The Hague and treat ourselves to a fancy seafood dinner.
Day 4 – Sunday, June 7, 2015
Although it was finally a warm sunny day, Sunday was a bit sad. We had to bid farewell to both Marisa and to our accommodations. The morning started a little later than it should have, but eventually we were all awake, showered, and packed. Luckily we still had a little time left on our 24 hour bus passes and so we waited for the for bus to central station. The bus took a while but our passes didn’t expire. Still using our 24 hour pass we changed to a tram and went back to Pancakes!. Pancakes! was open (it hadn’t been the previous day), but there was line longer than we had time for. We retraced our steps to a cafe we had spotted near the tram stop which advertised pancakes. Cafe de Oude Wester was on a bright corner and we sat outside in the sun. The pancakes were actually what we Americans consider to be crepes. They had a large variety of both sweet and savory. Our table sampled the spinach and goat cheese, Hawaiian, and apple cinnamon.
We were starting to cut it close to the time Marisa needed to leave for her flight, so we headed back to central station. The wait at the tram stop took a very long time. Only a few buses went past and no trams did. We tried to board one bus and the driver didn’t let us on telling us to ‘wait for the tram’. The next bus did let us on, but had a different ticketing system. When we reached central station, Marisa bought a ticket for the airport train. We only had time for a hasty goodbye before she ran off to try and catch the next train.
Jon and I made our way towards the new apartment where we would spend the remainder of our stay in Amsterdam. We arrived early and sat down at a cafe, Hesp, one block from the new digs. Jon ordered an appetizer since the pancake hadn’t been enough for his large appetite. At 2pm we met a property manager outside of the apartment and were let in. This was one of the nicest apartments we’ve stayed in. Much more modern and roomier than the previous unit in Amsterdam. The management company was organized with a magazine about local sites and owners manuals for all of the appliances. However, they weren’t completely organized. The wifi password was incorrect and they had to return with a pillow case. Luckily they forgot to ask us for a $35 cleaning fee which wasn’t included in the prepaid amount.
We laid around and started to catch up on our budget, work, and travel planning. We also, sadly, booked a flight home in July. When we got hungry we went to the grocery store and bought provisions (chocolate covered waffles, cereal, and bananas) as well as some pork chops and vegetables to cook that evening for dinner.
Day 5 – Monday, June 8, 2015
Waking up with an apartment to ourselves inspired laziness. Jon went back to working and I tried to catch up on the blog which was neglected when Marisa was around. (Besides the distraction of people and books to read, I knew Marisa was keeping great track of everything we had done while she was visiting so I gave myself a reprieve.) No matter how lazy we wanted to be, we had dinner reservations at 8:30pm and knew that we would regret our idleness later if we did nothing else. We bought tickets online for the Heineken Experience and walked there at 4:30pm.
The Heineken Experience is a very popular Amsterdam attraction for two reasons; its high tech tour and beer. The self-guided tour route was crowded from start to finish. An introduction video was shown and we had to bypass some photograph opportunities because the lines were too long. Historical information about the company was displayed in what used to be silos for the ingredients. This led to the simulated factory tour and discussion of beer making process. There was a short ride (with a long line to enter) and then a beer tasting. The rest of the tour was about the Heineken brand name through rooms adorned with beer bottles. The tour might have been good, except that I had been on the Heineken experience 11 years ago and remember enjoying that one much more. It was less crowded, and started down a replicated 1900’s street. The simulated factory was about the same, but the brand-name rooms had seemed more interactive years ago …or maybe it was just that without the crowd I got to do more. At the end of the tour (today and 11 years ago) is a bar with a few free drinks. On our way out of the Heineken experience, we were handed coupons for free souvenir half-pint glasses from the Heineken Brand store in the city center. We had more than an hour until dinner, so even though it was the wrong direction, we walked to the brand store for our glasses.
We made our way slowly back across town towards the restaurant. To stretch out the time until our reservation we stopped at a small park along the way that had an interesting chalkboard for people to finish the sentence “Before I die I want to…”.
Vis aan de Schelde is a nice and very popular seafood restaurant. I had wanted to celebrate Jon’s birthday with a meal similar to how we would have treated ourselves to at home, but waited until Marisa left because of her aversion to seafood. The meal was spectacular. We were given several amuse-bouches; a bite of shrimp with bouillabaisse sauce and foaming celery soup. A half dozen oysters was next. For dinner I had red bream with octopus, but Jon’s meal was the real show stopper. Jon ordered the ‘fruit del mar’ and received an enormous platter of crab, shrimp, dutch shrimp, conch, oysters, clams, razor clams, mussels, winkles, and scallops. At the end of the meal, to celebrate Jon’s birthday, the waiter brought out a small plate of sherbets adorned with a firecracker. The Dutch must enjoy their firecrackers!
Day 6 – Tuesday, June 9, 2015
One benefit of travel with today’s social media is how easy it can be to meet people from around the world and keep in touch with them years later. Three years ago in Peru, Jon met Gijs who, when he saw on facebook that we would in the Netherlands, invited us to spend the day touring his city of Den Haag (or The Hague). Den Haag is the third largest city in The Netherlands and is the seat of the government. We were very luck to have Gijs to show us around and had a great day visiting him.
The train from Amsterdam took less than an hour and Gijs was waiting for us at the train station. With much to catch up about after three years, we started our day by going to a cafe where we could talk. Jon and I talked about our travels, but we also had tons of questions for Gijs about places in Europe he’d been to or could recommend for us.
Den Haag has several excellent museums. The Mauritshuis, which displays fine art, is the most popular museum but we elected for the more unique experience of visiting the Escher in Het Paleis museum. Escher in Het Paleis is a former royal residence, with its own history, which has been converted into an M.C. Escher museum (€9). The museum discusses a lot about what Escher was trying to accomplish and his work methods. It makes you want to go home and try to draw a complete Metamorphosis of your own after reading about the techniques utilized, however later you realize you probably still can’t draw like that. The museum was small but interesting and displayed Escher’s evolution from landscapes to reflections to more and more confusing angles of perspective until finally the impossible buildings he created on paper.
We walked down a few nice streets in Den Haag, past sculptures, stores, and government buildings. We ate lunch at ‘T Goude Hooft where Gijs helped us to ordered authentic Dutch meals. Lunch was of croquettes, a meatball with peanut sauce, and cooked meat. It was very good. On our way out of the city center, Gijs walked us through the Parliament building and passed a stadium being built for the beach volleyball world championship.
From the center city, we caught a tram to Scheveningen. Scheveningen is Gijs’ neighborhood but also where the beach is. We exited the tram near docked fishing boats and walked to the wide, sandy beach. It was a chilly day but, there was wind so the surfers and kitesurfers were out in the water. Very few other people were at the beach.
On our way back, we stopped in a small seafood shop near the docks to try another Dutch classic, herring. The herring is served raw. The head and bones have been removed, but the tail is intact to hold the filleted fish together. The herring was fatty and delicious. It was one of our favorite new foods of Europe.
Gijs invited us to his apartment where we relaxed and drank some local beers while chatting. For dinner we went to Hudson’s bar and grill restaurant which had very good food. The restaurant and food reminded me of home more than anywhere else we’d eaten while traveling. When we left the restaurant it was almost 9pm so Jon and I had to head back to Amsterdam. We had a lovely time with Gijs and hope to return the favor if he makes it to DC.
Day 7 – Wednesday, June 10, 2015
Our final day in Amsterdam was another slow day for us. We had purchased too much food and knew we didn’t want to waste any of it. Eating our snacks kept us in for breakfast and lunch. Late in the day we did head out, to a small cafe which had been recommended to us by a friend who spent a few months living in Amsterdam. It was also our last chance to take pictures of Amsterdam’s beautiful canals and architecture.
We decided to get dinner from Wok to Walk. Wok to Walk was a popular stir-fry chain we had seen around town but never had the chance to eat at. We weren’t particularly hungry so we only ordered one meal to split. It was good and I’d go to Wok to Walk all the time if they were in America.
Day 8 – Thursday, June 10, 2015
The morning was spent packing and cleaning up the apartment. At the 11am check-out time we pulled the door closed behind us and headed to Central Station. Our train wasn’t until 1:00pm, so we found a bench and waited. We got seats together on the train and relaxed for our 6 hour train ride to Berlin.
Please see our follow up post Amsterdam; Travel Insight for information on Amsterdam sights, visas for Americans, transportation, restaurants recommendations and more.