We arrived into Amsterdam after a few minor mishaps with finding a train and found where we were staying for the next two days. I had booked an apartment through AirBnb which was my first time using the website. Definitely can recommend AirBnb for finding accommodation – but more on that in a later post. The apartment overlooked Vondelpark – Amsterdam’s largest city park, in a funky little neighbourhood. We made ourselves at home (read: sprawled out on the couches exhausted from a day of playing tourist) before having a walk through Vondelpark as the sun went down. The 120 acres that make up Vondelpark were opened in 1865 and has about 10 million visitors annually. This is a beautiful park, with lush greenery and flora, including the infamous tulips which are scattered in colourful bunches around the park. We wandered until it became dark and we went in search of dinner. Much like the previous night, we wandered around indecisive of what to eat before coming back to the Italian restaurant practically across the street from our place, where we gorged ourselves on authentically Italian wood-fired pizza and watched Harry Potter until we fell asleep.
The next morning I woke early, eager to see as much as I can of Amsterdam. While its my fifth visit to the capital city, I still have lots to see, however B was keen for a sleep in so I went hunting and gathering for food and coffee which eventually lured him into starting the day. We walked through Vondelpark to the Museumplein where we were greeted by the glorious Rijksmuseum which was buzzing with people. We walked through to the I Amsterdam sign and took the token touristy photos with the sign. It was my third time seeing the sign but I still get ridiculously excited over it. The sun was starting to come out from behind the clouds and when the wind persisted for awhile, the weather was beautiful. Spring has definitely sprung!
Our next stop was the Heineken Experience. At first, I wasn’t so keen on going – it’s definitely a big tourist trap and I don’t even like beer! But I have to admit, the Dutch (or at least, the Heineken marketing team) has done a fantastic job creating and promoting the Heineken Experience, even so much that a total anti-beer drinker like myself was impressed. Opened in 1991, the Heineken Experience offers four floors of multimedia exhibits, historical brewing artifacts and a tasting bar. There is also a fun 4D adventure that transforms you into a beer and takes you on a journey of how a Heineken beer is created. It is incredibly touristy and ultimately is one big marketing ploy for Heineken, however putting that aside it was a bunch of fun and we also got a few free beers as well as a couple of goodies from the gift store. I recommend getting a Heineken pint glass engraved, the lady does it on the spot and she is incredibly talented!
We discovered that you could get a free boat ride to their brand store where you can pick up a freebie, so jumping at the opportunity for free stuff we boarded the bright green Heineken boat and enjoyed the leisurely float down the Singel canal passing the famous flower markets (Bloemenmarkt) and the wonderfully Dutch canal houses wonkily lined up next to each other. We even had a tour guide for the half hour boat ride who told us many funny facts about Amsterdam and their canals. Apparently on average, a car a day falls into the canal and approximately 10,000-12,000 bikes are retrieved each year from the canals. A less funny fact is that around 11-12 people die each year from falling into the canals. According to our tour guide, almost two-thirds of them are drunk men relieving themselves into the canal. I guess it’s an interesting way to go. We reached the brand store but decided to come back later when to crowds dropped a bit so we searched for a bathroom and some food before picking up our freebies. One large patat frites (hot chips) with mayonnaise and satay sauce and a toilet break and we were good to keep continuing our Amsterdam day.
We walked through the Bloemenmarkt, checking out the vast range of flowers on sale and sampling some cheese at the Old Amsterdam Cheese shop. Walking to Dam Square was a mission with the thousands of people milling around, the Easter Long Weekend sure was popular here! As we got closer we discovered there was a mini-carnival happening in the Square, complete with a Ferris Wheel, Haunted House and those bungee type rides that fling you hundreds of metres into the air, potentially creating a disaster for anybody with a weak stomach. We pushed our way through de Dam and towards the notorious red light district where I stopped for coffee at Metropolitan Cafe while B had a sneaky look around the red light area. Metropolitan Cafe is one place I will return and recommend a visit to anybody. They have a wide range of delicious gelato and delectable treats which are terrible for you, but being Easter I indulged in a chocolate brownie and it was so worth it! B returned from the depths of the drunk/high/pervert-filled area known as the Red Light District and we walked up to Centraal Station to catch the tram to our apartment so we could grab some things for a picnic in Vondelpark for dinner. A quick stop at Albert Heijn for some wine, cheese and Stroopwafels and we headed down to the park to watch the sun go down. It was a little chilly but that didn’t stop people from laying out on the grass enjoying the beginnings of Spring. We picnicked until it became dark and then retreated to our apartment for an early night, totally buggered from a big day wandering around.
Easter Sunday was started leisurely by pancakes made by yours truly and a Skype call with half my family. We yabbered for an hour or so before B and I had to get a move on to Den Haag. The train ride was quick and very pretty as we passed the masses of tulip fields near Leiden. Our next place for the night was also an AirBnb discovery and this one seriously did not disappoint. 39 floors up on The Hague’s highest building, we had scored a luxury apartment for the bargain price of 70 euros. We reached our room and was taken aback by the view of the city and the fact that we had this huge apartment all to ourselves. Our earlier ambitions of seeing the Keukenhof and Madurodam where crushed as we plonked down on the couches and watched the city from above, too lazy to do anything. Eventually we got ourselves organised and caught the tram to my neighbourhood Scheveningen where we walked along the boardwalk and enjoyed a glass of wine on one of the couches at beach club Bora Bora. We caught the tram back to the centre of the city and walked around finding something for dinner. Being Easter Sunday though, most places were shut so we settled for a pub meal at the English pub Fiddler’s. After scoffing down our dinner we headed back to the apartment to catch the sunset over the city. It was slightly cloudy but it was still amazing to watch from so high up. I could definitely get used to living like this!
The following morning B had an early flight so we said our goodbyes for another month, where we would be meeting again in Italy and I grabbed a coffee and a banana before heading back to the apartment to enjoy the luxury for a couple of hours before begrudgingly checking out and catching the tram back to normality at my house in Scheveningen.
My first Easter abroad was a great one. While it didn’t really feel like Easter it was so nice to spend it showing B around my part of the country. I was feeling the holiday blues as I unpacked my bags but with Kings Day coming up on Saturday and my trip to Hungary, Slovenia and Croatia starting on Sunday I could hardly stay depressed. Fingers crossed the next four days go quickly!
From the girl who thought a tram was a bus, and was reminded so kindly all weekend about it.