Would you believe me if I told you that in our entire 4 1/2 year relationship Marcus and I had never taken a vacation? Don’t get me wrong, we have been on many weekend trips and even extended trips for the holidays. However, those trips were (almost) always with friends, or to visit family. There are a couple weekend road trips I can think of that were just the two of us, but this trip to Amsterdam was the first time we packed up, hopped on a plane and had more than 2 nights away with just us. It was long overdue and we sure did enjoy every moment!
When we started getting serious about planning this trip Marcus told me that he had always wanted to stay in a hostel. I had to admit that I also was curious about it. When you think of staying in a hostel you think of meeting people from all over the world, sharing stories and experiences and becoming friends. At least that is what we thought of. The thing I don’t think we realized was that most of the travelers staying in hostels are a bit younger than we are (by about 5-10 years!), and they also have slightly different ideas of what to do when traveling. To get the full ‘hostel experience’ we booked a shared room, with 6 roommates. Yes, 8 strangers in a room full of bunkbeds. It almost sounds like an episode of MTV’s ‘The Real World’ right?! Since this was my first time booking a hostel I didn’t know to specify that we would like to share a bed. There was one bunk bed in our room that had double beds, rather than the typical twins. We did not get that bed. We each had a twin bunk, one of top of the other. This trip was the first (and last) time I will ever sleep in bunkbeds with my husband. The first couple nights we tried to sleep together. The two of us on the smallest twin mattress you have ever seen. It turned out to be a terrible plan and we finally sucked it up and slept apart. The bathroom situation was also interesting. There were 2 itsy-bitsy-teeny-tiny bathrooms on our floor, one of which only had a urinal and no toilet. In addition, there were two ‘shower rooms’ that were just barely large enough to stand in, hang your things on the door and be able to turn around. I must say the bathrooms and showers were impressively clean though. All in all it was an experience we won’t ever forget. The highlight of the hostel was the location. We were right next to Vondelpark and just a quick bike ride away from nearly everything!
We touched down in Amsterdam at about 6:00pm on a Thursday evening. After finding our way to our hostel we decided to head out to explore the area a little. We were hungry and happened to stumble across FEBO! If you have been to Amsterdam, you know how amazing FEBO is. If you haven’t been, allow me to introduce you to the most delicious food you will ever get out of a ‘vending machine’. FEBO is a fast food joint. They have a counter where you can order food, but they also have this amazing wall filled with various burgers and our favorite, krokettes! We probably could have eaten just these for the rest of our trip and we would have been content.
We called it a bit of an early night because we had an early morning on Friday. I booked us a bike tour with Mike’s Bikes and we couldn’t have had a better time! The forecast called for rain all day, but we decided to go for it anyway. It was a quick walk over to the bike shop from our hostel.
Once we reached the shop we had a quick info session and we were given our rain ponchos before we headed out to ride. There were about 15 people in our group and Marcus and I quickly realized that many people are not so great at riding bikes. We made our way to the front of the pack early and we sure were glad. We got to hear all the info that our awesome guide, Pete, had to offer. We rode up and over countless canals, through the Red Light District, near the Albert Cuyp Market in the Pijp neighborhood, through Jordaan, past the Anne Frank House, the Van Gough museum and the Rijksmuseum. And that doesn’t even cover it all! It was wonderful to cover so much ground and it really gave us a sense of where things were for the rest of our stay. It was literally pouring rain for the majority of our ride and we made a pit stop to a ‘brown cafe’. The brown cafes in Amsterdam are what a pub is in London. The name comes from the dark, but cozy, wood interiors. Some of the brown cafes date back to the 1600’s! We were happy to get out of the rain and we found a cozy corner to enjoy a few drinks.
We are all about giving the local favorites a try. The traditional drink in a brown cafe is a beer and a shot of genever. You don’t shoot the shot though, you sip on it. It definitely wasn’t the tastiest drink, in my opinion, but it did warm me up and for that I sure was thankful!
From the brown cafe we made our way back to the bike shop. Pete, our tour guide, invited us to stay for a drink and we were happy to oblige. After all, it was still raining and we didn’t know exactly where we were headed next. We got to know a little more about Pete, his girlfriend Mike and Amsterdam. There was even a bike shop kitty that looks like my cat that I had to leave behind when we moved. I was happy to spend some time giving her some love. When we were headed out we were thankful to accept an umbrella from the ‘lost & found’. That umbrella kept us dry for the remainder of our trip!
After our day of riding in the rain we were ready for a bite to eat. We rode around until we found something that looked good and ended up at a great Irish bar & cafe. We had a delicious lunch and enjoyed some downtime.
We headed back out for some more exploring, and eventually some dinner. When we returned to our hostel after dinner we headed to the bar for a nightcap. We were quite surprised when everyone in the place, with the exception of the two of us, was dressed up for a 60’s costume party. I’m talking completely decked out! We had clearly missed the memo. To say we felt out of place was an understatement. We called it a night and headed up to our room to attempt to sleep.
We started our Saturday morning off with a walk around town, with a final destination of The Lobby for breakfast. I did quite a bit of research before we took our trip and The Lobby was highly recommended. It surely did not disappoint!
As we continued on after breakfast, we stumbled upon a bike rental shop. We decided to grab a couple cruisers for the remainder of our trip. We rode around the Museum Quarter and wanted to visit the Van Gogh however, the wait was around 2.5 – 3 hours! There was a huge event going on for the unveiling of a new entrance to the museum, and it attracted quite a crowd. We aren’t exactly the type to stand around for hours so we decided to put the museum on our list of to-do’s for our next visit…when it isn’t peak tourist season!
We did get to see some art in the making. This artist was painting a scene right outside the museum. We had fun watching for a few minutes. I am still curious as to what the finished piece looks like.
Next we found our way to De Pijp, a trendy residential neighborhood in the south part of Amsterdam. It is home to the Albert Cuypmarkt and we were so glad we took some time to check it out. It’s an open air market with a wide array of vendors selling everything from pottery, clothes, and flowers to delicious food. We browsed, we shopped, we ate. It was wonderful!
Our next stop was Brouwerij’t IJ, Amsterdam’s leading organic brewery located in an old bathhouse at the foot of the De Gooyer windmill. The atmosphere was second to none, with a spacious outdoor patio featuring long community tables and market lights overhead. We enjoyed some delicious craft brews along with some tasty meats & cheeses.
We ended our evening checking out the views from the top floor of the Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam (the Amsterdam Public Library), Europe’s largest public library.
Sunday was our last full day in Amsterdam and we wanted to take full advantage of our time. We heard about a few festivals going on in Noord, so we rode down to Centraal Station and hopped on a ferry, bikes and all. Our destination was NDSM, the docks across the Het IJ in Amsterdam-Noord (North Amsterdam).
One of the many things Noord is known for, is the art scene which includes street art. It didn’t take us long to find some seriously amazing stuff. My younger brother, Jeremy, is a very talented artist. Marcus and I both grew to really love and appreciate street art during the 2 years he lived with us.
All of our morning explorations had us ready for a bite to eat. We found the most amazing cafe, Noorderlicht. The building resembled a greenhouse, and it was so cozy inside. The wood burning stove definitely added to the warmth and we found a snug little corner with a leather couch and a makeshift table that was actually a (really awesome) vintage trunk.
We ordered the bruschetta lunch, which was 3 varieties of bruschetta and a pieperrada; a typical Basque dish prepared with onions, green peppers and tomatoes and flavored with red espelette pepper. This dish also had roasted artichokes, goat cheese and boiled eggs with a crostini on the side. I would take a trip back to Amsterdam for this meal alone! It was so savory and delicious. I will definitely be attempting to recreate the pieperrada at home.
Right across from Nooderlicht was another area with some great street art. This wasn’t the last time we would see the work of Pipsqueak, a duo of artists who work together on pieces all over Amsterdam. Their style is so unique and unmistakeable. We became quick fans!
Our next destination was a community park that was hosting a festival. On our way there we passed through an area with a handful of antique shops. If you know me personally, you know that I absolutely delight in browsing antiques. Obviously we had to make a pit stop! It was perfect timing as the rain started to come down heavy again. As we wandered through the warehouse sized shop, we wished we had our old Dodge 2500 long bed with us so that we could load it up with all of the treasures we were finding. Since we were on bicycles with only a backpack to carry items, I had to settle for a small consolation prize; a gravy boat. It may sound like a silly choice, but I’ve been needing one and now when I use it I will always think of our trip and that wonderful shop.
Once we finished browsing, we continued on and finally made it to our destination. The park was abundant with lush, vibrant greenery. Being a California girl living in Southern Spain, I wasn’t used to the bountiful landscape. It was simply gorgeous, and an amazing backdrop for a fun festival. The festival was going full swing when we arrived and we jumped right in! There were 2 stages hosting musicians simultaneously, an area with a lovely selection of food vendors and some fantastic activities for kids. There were people of all ages dancing and enjoying the afternoon.
I was so impressed by the children’s activities. There were humongous paper boats for children to draw and paint on. There was an area set up with supervision where children could practice circus tricks, like walking on top of a large ball. All of the play structures were made out of wood. It was the first time I had seen a play area for children that was so organic, and it seemed to really encourage the children to use their imaginations.
We have always loved live music and we were happy to find some on this trip. The first set that we heard was a group of guys who spoke English and Dutch, and sang in Spanish! They had an awesome salsa/jazz vibe to them. You know we were getting down on the dance floor! It was a ton of fun. The second set we heard was a group of guys with a jazz/folk/spoken poetry kind of feel. Their lyrics were bold and current and really carried a message. We got to chat with them a bit when they were finished with their set, and we learned that the lead singer is from Colorado!
If you were wondering if there was some more street art at the park…there was! There were a few pieces by Pipsqueak. The one on the right takes the cake for my favorite piece of the day!
As the rain started to come down again we made our way back to the ferry to head home. It was unanimous that this was our favorite part of our entire trip. We loved the vibe in Noord. There was just something about the people and the area that made you want to come back and spend more time. We definitely plan to! We had a nice dinner in Leidseplein and called it a night.
We had an early morning on Monday so that we could squeeze in a few more things before we had to fly home. Since the Van Gogh museum was still overcrowded, we opted for a trip to the Rijksmuseum. We literally walked right in, no lines at all!
The museum was ginormous! We could have spent days perusing the exhibitions. We had to narrow down our focus and choose which areas we really wanted to see. I had taken an Art History class years ago in college. I never thought that class would have much relevance until we visited the Rijksmuseum. I remember class discussions about some of the pieces that were housed in the Rijksmuseum, most notably the ‘Milkmaid’ by Johannes Vermeer. It was fascinating to see it in person.
The museum library was one of my favorite features.
This vintage FK23 Bantam from World War 1 was one of Marcus’ favorite exhibits.
A trip to the Museum Quarter isn’t complete until you have a photo with the IAmsterdam sign.
Our time in Amsterdam was coming to an end. After the museum we had to return our rental bicycles and retrieve our luggage from the hostel. We had just enough time for a quick bite to eat before we made our way to the airport. We stopped in at Hoopman’s Green Bar in Leidseplein. We had a couple pints, a panini and Oma Bob’s bitterballen. Our lives were changed forever. Bitterballen is the single best food I have ever had! It is basically angus beef gravy, breaded and fried. Very similar to the krokettes at FEBO, but even better. Thankfully we don’t live in Amsterdam because I would eaten bitterballen every day. Seriously. It is that delicious. As we were enjoying our meal there was an incredible street performer jamming out on a guitar with some topnotch vocals to go along with some hardcore strumming. This guy was amazing! We got to chat with him a bit and learned that his parents are Greek, but he grew up in England. He spent many years in Barcelona and now he spends his summers in Amsterdam and his winters off the coast of Africa. Doesn’t sound too bad, does it?
And just like that, we were serenaded out of Amsterdam! Until next time…
Love Life Travel