Today was a very exciting day. One of my top bucket list items is to ride a bike around Amsterdam, so off I went this morning to do exactly that. I was on the search for a typical Dutch bike, with the awesome wheel locks, the step through frames and extreme lack of gears and/or brakes.
I know everyone says it – but it is such an awesome bike city. As a cyclist back home who took my life into my hands every time I left the house, this was magical. So many ‘bike-only’ roads, cyclist traffic lights everywhere, and motorists who keep an eye (and wide clearance) of cyclists at all times. I zoomed around on my little bike, riding aimlessly up and down the canals. I had no real destination, I just stopped every now and then to take a photograph and went on my way.
If you read often, you will know I am a huge fan of pie (ok, pastry in general) so I was on the hunt for the best Appeltaart in town. Some online research led me to Winkel 43, where plate after plate left the kitchen, warm and piled high with cream. I was told by Eating Amsterdam tours later on that while Winkel does a great version, their personal favourite is at Cafe Papeneiland. Too late for me, but if you are heading there perhaps you can try both!
I continued on my way around the Jordaan district, one of the prettier places to cycle around. There are hundreds of gorgeous cafes, designer shops and bookstores that you can jump off your bike and wander into.
I head down south to the Rijksmuseum, one of the most important museums in Europe. Home to works from the Golden Age of Dutch Art (1620-1680) there are some of the most important artistic works in history here – from Rembrandts, Vermeers to Van Goghs. The building itself was also incredible, and while I took a 2 hours highlights tour of their collection there were hundreds of paintings and artworks I rushed past, representing some hugely important parts of human history.
There were even doll houses from the 1600’s, that were built by wealthy women as a hobby. Some even had running water!
The Rijksmuseum partners with local coffee roasters Douwe Egberts, and they created a special blend for the museum. An afternoon tea pitstop after exploring the museum, I had a coffee muffin with the special blend.
The sun sets late here, close to 9PM, so I still had ample time to ride down to Vondelpark, a gorgeous midcity park full of flowers, lakes, bikes, and life.
I stopped off at Groot Melkhuis, on the banks of a lake, and tried some Bitterballen – a Dutch deep-fried specialty, a little like a croquette filled with a creamy veal ragout.
I rode up back towards Jordaan, and started meandering along the canals again.
I was riding past a cafe, when I saw a guy with a plate full of the freshest most colourful food. I unintentionally slammed on my brakes, and after he got over laughing at me invited me to join him. I grabbed a huge plate of organic, vegan dishes and sat out the front of De Bolhoed on the edge of the canal.
After dinner, we head over to the Red Light District. I was staying right in the middle of it at the famous Bulldog, but hadn’t actually been out there yet. We wandered up and down sighseeing, and then ran into a big street party with a band playing in the middle of a cobblestone square. There were rides, bars, and an amazing, relaxed vibe so typical of this town. Everyone seems so content!
We remarked on how amazing and relaxed people lives seem here – riding around the canals you see people eating their dinner and drinking wine on deckchairs on the street – the only real traffic is cyclists, so unlike anywhere else sitting on the street is actually pleasant. It is balmy, sunny and warm for hours after people get home from work – and they just come out the front and eat dinner on the street with their neighbours. What a blissful life!