DM and MM's Europe 2022 Diary

Day 11 - Amsterdam by foot

Monday, 27 June, 2022

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We woke up late and prepared to go out for our full day in Amsterdam. The forecast was for morning showers, developing into steady rain after midday, but the morning was dry and although the sky was overcast it didn’t threaten any rain soon. The plan was to walk to the Albert Cuypmarkt to have a look at that and get some breakfast there. It was only a short walk from our hotel and we arrived about 09:10. Information I’d seen online was contradictory, with Google saying the market opened at 09:00, but the market website saying 09:30. It turned out the latter was more accurate, as most of the stalls were still setting up.

Albert Cuypmarkt
Albert Cuypmarkt setting up

A few were open, and M. got a coffee from one, and then we bought some poffertjes to have as the first round of breakfast. These were served with a big slab of butter and a large sprinkling of powdered sugar. They were nice, but sweet, and we needed something else to add to make up a proper breakfast.

We hoped there would be some bakery stalls at the market to get some fresh bread or pastries for breakfast, but we didn’t spot any. It seemed much less of a farmers’ market and more the sort of market with fast food stalls and lots of stalls selling knick-knacks and souvenirs and clothing and so on. There were a couple of fruit and vegetable stalls and maybe a deli stall or two, but otherwise nowhere where you’d go to buy fresh food to take home.

Instead we found a bakery shop in one of the buildings towards the western end of the street market. M. got a croissant and I got one filled with ham and cheese, warmed up by the lady in the shop before handing it over. It was delicious, with nice flaky pastry. Having walked the length of the market while most of the stalls were still setting up, we didn’t feel a need to retrace our steps to see the stalls all open, so we continued on our walk. We walked past the Rijksmuseum and admired the exterior architecture. But alas we didn’t have lots of time so we didn’t go inside, as visiting this world renowned art museum could easily have eaten up an entire day.


From here we walked north across various canals until we reached the Bloemenmarkt floating flower market. I was looking forward to this as flower markets are generally vibrant and full of colour, and make good photo opportunities. However I was rather disappointed to discover that there were almost no fresh cut flowers here at all. Almost all the stalls were selling flower bulbs and cuttings and seeds, as well as small potted plants such as succulents, cacti, and other random things. Most of them also sold touristy souvenirs. In short, it was nothing like what I had hoped for.

Flowers at Bloemenmarkt

We stopped at a shop on the landward side of the market which specialised in peppernuts, small gingerbread biscuits that are a local specialty. Here a friendly woman gave us numerous samples of the biscuits, coated in all sorts of flavours of chocolate. M. decided that some of these would make good gifts for people back home, so we got four small packets.

Continuing our walk, my plan had been to go down the main tourist drag towards Dam Square. But having done that last night, and had enough of this overly touristy area, we cut that section off and proceeded to the Nine Streets neighbourhood, which was supposed to be more elegant and interesting, with picturesque canals and streets lined with boutiques and eclectic shops. Well, it was okay, and there were plenty of nice views, but it wasn’t quite as nice as I’d expected. There was a lot of construction work in progress in various streets, which didn’t help.

Berensluis, Brug 65
Prinsengracht canal, north to Westerkerk steeple. Nine Streets neighbourhood

We stopped in a cafe (Jan told us not to call them “coffee shops”, because that was a totally different thing, meaning places that sold marijuana) for a drink and to use the toilets. It was a nice place with a friendly owner and we used the WiFi a bit before leaving. (The password was “nooffice”.) Actually that’s a thing we noticed here - most places when you ask for the WiFi password, they take your phone and type it in for you, rather than have a sign saying what it is, or just telling you. (Although here at this cafe the guy just told us.)

The Nine Streets area was smaller than I expected, and it was really only three of the streets—the east-west ones—that were really worth walking down (actually it turns out these are in fact the “nine streets”, each one split into three separately named streets). The north-south streets along the canals were almost entirely residential, with no shops or food places. They were fairly scenic, but not much different from other parts of the city we’d seen already, and in many places any potential photo opportunities were spoiled by the construction work. So we finished traversing this area faster than anticipated, and then headed across the canal west in the Jordaan neighbourhood.

Atlas Maior Bridge, Brug 120
Atlas Maior Brug, Bloemgracht canal, Jordaan

Again, I’d read that Jordaan was worth exploring. It was a more residential area and looked like a trendy and moderately expensive place to live. The main street had a selection of slightly more mundane shops than the boutiques of Nine Streets, so it felt more lived in. We detoured around a bit to take in some of the residential vibe, but again this didn’t take too long.

We did find a great place for lunch. M. spotted a delicatessen across the road at Rozengracht 32 and we went over to take a look. The name was Fa. H. Wegewijs, and it sold deli meats and cheeses, but also had a sandwich bar. The woman behind the counter was very friendly and made M. a sandwich on a long thin wholegrain baguette, with pesto, aged gouda, cucumber, and tomato. When the lady asked which cheese M. wanted, she answered gouda, and then the lady asked what type of gouda! Then she shaved off some bits of young gouda and aged gouda (or “old gouda” as the woman said) so we could try them. The aged was really nice, so M. got that. I also had the aged gouda on a sandwich with ham and mustard.

Gouda sandwich
Gouda sandwich, Fa. H. Wegewijs

We sat on a bench in front of the shop window to eat our sandwiches. This was a perfect lunch - somewhere nice and local that the residents visit to buy supplies and the vast majority of tourists would probably never stop at.

Fa. H. Wegewijs
Fa. H. Wegewijs

From Jordaan, we continued west toward De Hallen. My original plan was that we would approach this area close to dinner time, and potentially eat in the food hall here. But we made it by early afternoon, so had plenty of time to spare. We arrived just as it started raining gently, so it was good timing. It turned out that De Hallen was also a kind of small shopping mall in what looked like a historical warehouse or something similar, but with a small number of fairly large and interesting things, including studios and a cinema. One shop had a large selection of eclectic and interesting artsy things for home decor or artistic inspiration, and we browsed in here a bit.

Across the interior hall from there was a denim shop and fashion design studio called House of Denim. The front looked like a jeans shop, but along one side were banks of sewing machines, with some people working at them, and along the other were large rolls of denim material. A man told us about the place: It was a design school for fashion designers and creators, to work specifically on denim wear. Students were there to learn and practise and hopefully go on to make their own fashion labels. Many of the jeans and other clothing in the shop were made by the students. And at the back of the shop and also upstairs were classrooms and more banks of sewing machines where students were busy assembling clothing. We were allowed to wander around and watch them working. Some of the clothing on display was very creative, using denim not just for pants, but also jackets, dresses, and so on.

House of Denim
House of Denim, De Hallan

We went into the food hall nearby. This was an area with maybe one or two hundred tables for dinners, surrounded by about 30 or 40 different places selling food ready to eat, as well as a handful of bars selling drinks. We managed to find a table among the people and had a drink and a mid-afternoon snack. M. got a yoghurt topped wth caramel sauce and chocolate chunks.

There was a place making bitterballen, and so I had to try some. They had about 7 or 8 different flavours. You could get 3 or 6 or 10 balls of one type, or they also had a sampling board with one of each of five different flavours. This wasn’t as economical, but I had to try the different types, so I got one of those. “Bitterball sauce” or mayonnaise were extra, but mustard was free for some reason, so I got mustard to go with them (also because I like mustard). The woman cooking the bitterballen just threw all the orders into the deep fryer at once, and then when she pulled them out in the fryer strainer she had to pick up with tongs and inspect each one closely before deciding what flavour it was and adding it to the correct order. There was quite a wait, as about 5 or 6 people had ordered before me.

Bitterballen sampler, De Hallen

Jan had warned us that the way to eat bitterballen was to bite the crust off first, as the outside is usually much cooler than the molten lava of the middle. So I avoided biting deep into one and burning my mouth, which was good, as the inside was indeed very hot. The crust was extremely crisp and crunchy, a nice contrast to the soft interior.

We figured we could have a leisurely afternoon sitting here and snacking on things, rather than having a large sit-down dinner later on. But M. wanted to get a coffee from a cafe that she’d spotted outside as we’d approached De Hallen. So we went out there, braving some spitting rain, and got seats in the cafe. M. had her coffee while I went around another corner to get some ice cream at another place we’d seen while going out to the cafe. By now the weather had turned and besides raining it was chilly and windy. I now wished I’d brought my jacket to wear. But as the woman at the ice cream shop agreed with me, it’s never too cold for ice cream! It turned out the cafe owner was from Australia and the woman who was serving was from New Zealand, so we had a quick chat with her.

While going to get my ice cream, I’d noticed a large pet store just around the corner from the cafe. We went in here to look around and find a present for Scully. I found a soft plush toy in Dutch orange colour, which we got. Interestingly they also had “dog beer”, which came in beer-like bottles and two flavours: original and chicken. Both with 0% alcohol and various meat proteins and stuff. I assume they are like a broth.

Dog beer!
Dog beer!

From here we began walking back towards our hotel, as it was getting to early evening and we had come a long way. We walked back a different way, going through Vondelpark, a large forested park and one of Amsterdam’s main attractions. It was beautiful, with gravel paths leading through dense forests, which opened out into ponds, lakes, lawns, and formal gardens in places.

Vondelpark bridge
Vondelpark bridge

We passed along a stream to the rose garden, which contained dozens of varieties of roses in many colours, laid out in a pattern of hexagons. There were many birds too, and I counted about 14 different species using eBird. It was raining steadily when we arrived, but it eased off as we explored the park and had stopped by the time we left. We passed a lake across which were several very expensive looking houses that backed onto the lake. They must have incredible views.

Vondelpark houses
Vondelpark houses

We continued walking, getting quite tired and footsore by now. We still wanted something for dinner, though something fairly light as we’d eaten snacks in the afternoon. M. spotted a place called Soup En Zo, which served a selection of soups, salads, and little bites like cheese pastry sticks and quiches. M. got a Moroccan chick pea soup while I got the zucchini and parmesan. She also got a small pumpkin quiche, and we grabbed some chunks of bread to go with the soups. They were all really good. Again another local place off the tourist path.

Chick pea soup and pumpkin quiche
Chick pea soup and pumpkin quiche, Soup En Zo

A light dinner eaten, we continued on back to the hotel. It was quite a hike and we were exhausted when we got in. We gradually closed the thick curtains to block out the sunlight early so we could adapt to the dark and get some sleep before it got too late. Because we planned to be up at 06:00 tomorrow to leave and head to the airport for our flight, which is scheduled at 11:15.

There have been horror stories about Schiphol Airport recently, with enormous queues and waiting times of several hours to get through security. My friend Allison messaged me via Facebook that we should get to the airport five hours before the flight, as she was in some travel groups that were saying that the average waiting time was four hours, and she had a friend who had had to wait six hours! But I’d already seen signs at train stations and advice on the Schiphol Airport website saying that you should not show up more than four hours before your flight, because if you were there earlier they wouldn’t even let you into the departures hall, and you’d have to wait outside. hen there was other info saying that the queues were very long and in some cases the queues extended outside the building! And when I asked the hotel staff about how to get to the airport, they told me to catch the number 4 tram to Centraal Station and then a train from there, and we should aim to be there four to five hours before our flight.

Well, we didn’t want to get up at 04:00, so we decided 06:00 was good enough, as that should get us to the airport by around 07:00, just over four hours before flight time. That decided, we packed our bags and returned a bit early.

In complete contrast to ’s-Hertogenbosch, we haven’t had any problem with our Visa cards here in Amsterdam. In fact, many places we’ve been in have had signs saying “No cash. Chip and PIN only.”

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