Travelogue – Weekend in Amsterdam

From New Amsterdam to Old Amsterdam, a group of girlfriends and I decided to hop the pond for a weekend in Amsterdam to celebrate a special birthday.  I had never been, figuring I would get there “one day” and tack it on to another European vacation, it wasn’t super high on my list of must-see places to get to.  I’m not sure if it was my low expectations or the fact that I took a back seat in planning so I didn’t have much of an agenda, but the city stole my heart and just might be my new favorite European city!  It was easily walkable, cute shops, great restaurants, and picture-perfect at every turn.  I’d highly recommend putting this to the top of your travel list, I’m already scheming how and when to return!
We stayed at the Seven One Seven boutique hotel on the Prinsengracht Canal.  With only 9 rooms, the hotel is very quiet.  Service was impeccable but it’s not the 24 hour full-service you might receive at bigger chain hotels.  Breakfast is not included and runs an additional 20 EU; there are some great restaurants and cafes nearby that make a fine place to start your day for much less.  The rooms were huge and the entire hotel is decorated with a mix of antiques and collectibles making it feel like the fabulous home of a well-to-do art collector! 
We enjoyed the common areas, having wine and cheese in the library one night before dinner.  I would love to return in winter and sit next to the cozy fire! 

We stayed in the Tolkien and Schubert suites, both were huge and Schubert looks out directly over the canal.  
We took a redeye flight on Thursday and arrived at the hotel by 8:30am, the city is very easily accessible to the airport (40 minutes +/- by either bus or train).  This gave us almost 4 full days and 3 nights, which was the perfect amount for what we did. 
I always like to start any trip to a new city with a walking tour to get acquainted with the area and learn tips and tricks from fellow travelers.  We chose this free walking tour to show us around, there are several tour companies that meet in Dam Square, we simply chose this one as the time worked best for us.  
We had to peel off a little early from the tour for our Anne Frank Museum visit.  This was the one thing I knew I wanted to see while in Amsterdam.  Make sure you plan ahead as tickets sell out weeks in advance and the museum is only open to non-ticket holders from 3pm til close (and the lines were hours long).  
We hired a boat for a 2 hour canal cruise.  We were able to bring our own wine and cheese on board for the perfect cocktail hour.  Unfortunately the weather was a bit unpredictable, swinging from warm and muggy to drizzly in a matter of minutes!  Luckily no showers seemed to last for long and it would clear up as quickly as it started.

The weather was much better our second day.  We headed straight for the Saturday Noordermarkt and started our day with a slice of the famous apple pie from Winkel.  I can’t even begin to describe my love for this pie, and I don’t even like apple pie!  It was almost a mix between a pie and a cake, with a soft inside (but not too soft or too mushy) and a crumbly crust; it made for a perfect breakfast!  It was absolutely amazing, I’m still dreaming about it!  It was so good in fact, that we went back on our last day.  The Noordermarkt happens on both Saturdays and Mondays, with Saturdays being more focused on fresh fruits/vegetables and meat/cheese stands with a small number of antique dealers.  Monday features mostly antiques and a larger market nearby with discount fabrics and new knickknacks (junk).  I’d recommend going early, grabbing a slice of pie and a coffee before perusing the market.  Lines started to form at Winkel after 10am. 
The Saturday market was a perfect place to stock up on picnic provisions or cheese and meat options for your canal cruise.  You can even have Champagne and freshly shucked oysters!
Every cheesemonger should provide samples!  It makes for such an easy purchasing experience, especially in a foreign country!
These mini pancakes were just too cute to pass up!  And that butter…..
This stand had the most beautiful display of fresh herbs.  They also sold several different kinds of fresh salsa!
After the market we spent the afternoon wandering and shopping.  The city is so manageable to walk everywhere.  We couldn’t help but take a picture at every turn as it was just so picturesque!
I fell in love with everything in this store, gorgeous home goods, knickknacks, clothing in a beautiful space.
On Sunday we took a countryside bike tour with Mike’s Bikes.  Amsterdam is home to just about 800,000 people, and 1 million bikes!  It’s a bit intimidating to bike in the city with all those “professionals” so it was nice to take a ride to the country.  We rode about 18 miles over 4 hours and none of us were even sore the next day, it was very easy!  We stopped at a farm where they showed us how they make Gouda cheese as well as traditional wooden clogs (one of only 3 artisans still making wooden shoes today!)  We also stopped by a windmill and gained insight and history throughout the tour.  I would highly recommend if you have an extra day.  Had we not done the bike tour, I think 3 days / 2 nights is plenty of time in the city.     

Stay tuned for part 2 and all the eats we enjoyed!

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