There is a lot to love about Amsterdam. It’s an easy city to get around. The canals have you dreaming about cruising the afternoon away, rain or shine, with your honey. Her quaint streets and narrow houses invite you to look around. (The fact that the Dutch seem to like to keep their windows free of frivolous drapes or curtains seem to invite you to look inside.)
The last time I visited Amsterdam I was travelling with my Mom. It was 2006; it was her first time in Europe and only my second. We spent a couple days in Amsterdam and were also lucky enough to visit Volendam, Rotterdam, and Maastricht. This time around, I was travelling with D and we only had 1.5 days in Amsterdam. D was there for work; I was there to play. Lucky for me, D had some ‘play’ time too. The best part was that D had never been to Amsterdam. This is a first for our relationship for as widely travelled as D is he had never been to the Netherlands.
I was excited. It was time for me to brush the dust off my rusty nederlands! With a goedemorgen (good morning) I was ready to go.
Or so I thought. After all, it’s been a while since I last heard or spoke Dutch and the rapid-fire pace at which the Dutch shot the words at me had me looking at them like a deer in headlights. The challenge was to be polite with a well-placed goedemorgen all the while letting them know that I am not Dutch.
That was all part of the fun however. On our only full day in the city D and I decided to check out our neighbourhood. We were a couple minute’s walk from the Dam and, despite the grey skies, the square was full of tourists. We continued with our walk while bemoaning the fact that we hadn’t thought to pack an umbrella. The souvenir shop owners are no dummies; you can get an umbrella for cheap. D picked out a neutral black umbrella; I decided on orange.
As the weather didn’t look like it was to improve D and I spied a canal tour and passed an hour touring the city. I’d never toured Amsterdam by canal and I totally recommend it. Unlike walking, however, I don’t find it’s the best way to orient yourself to the city. Perhaps it’s the perspective of looking up to the street level or perhaps it’s because I was in passenger mode and not really concentrating on where we were headed, that makes this my least favourite means of orienting myself. That said, I love what a canal ride offers: relaxation, information, and great photo opportunities. (Hopefully, you’ll have better weather than we did.)
After the canal ride, D and I headed for a non-traditional Argentian lunch. (Yes, we were in Amsterdam but it was raining and the restaurant looked good. It was also my first time having chimichurri. Oh, how yummy it is.) By the time we had finished lunch the rain had eased up. D and I took the time to wander the streets on our way back to our hotel. The sky had cleared by the time we reached Dam square again.
That evening we headed out as the weather had much improved. Our walk took us down Kalverstraat until we arrived at the closed flower market. We were actually walking the canals our cruise had taken earlier that day. We passed the Hotel de l’Europe, with its kitchen that sits half below the water level and finally found the Herengracht. We followed Herengracht with its beautiful old houses most of which are now businesses or banks.
We found a restaurant for dinner and shared a bottle of Bollinger Cuvée Spéciale. It was then that D and I had a brilliant idea! We figured that it would be fun to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Champagne Bollinger. As the house was founded in 1829 we have 18 years to go. We then thought of the other champagne houses and whether they had a cuvée celebrating their 200th year. Wouldn’t it be fun to celebrate that too?! We knew we had already missed Veuve Clicquot’s 200th anniversary — the house was founded in 1772 — but what about Perrier Jouet or Mumm and the others? (FYI: 2011 is Perrier Jouet’s 200th year; grab yourself a bottle and celebrate.)
That would be the end of our love affair with Amsterdam as we left the next day. The rest of the journey passed in a blur. While I’m happy to bask in the sunshine and the warmth of Nice I would have loved to spend another day in Amsterdam.