Sunday, August 26, 2012

Europe - Pit Stop 5 - Amsterdam - Day 1

Paris, day 3 - The alarm goes off at 5am in the morning, I wake up sleepy and dazed. Our train for Amsterdam leaves at 7am. Quickly I brew a cup of coffee for both of us and wake up Siddharth. 6:30am and I am standing in a slow moving line at the hotel lobby to check out. Cursing the inefficient staff, I try to keep my calm even though my mind and heart are sprinting. 6:35am we hop into the cab and request the guy to drive us to the station as fast as he can. He looks at us like we are crazy and nods his head as if we should be prepared to miss our train. Whizzing through the empty streets of Paris, I pray we make it on time. As soon as the cab comes to a screeching halt we spring out of our seats and I begin to run. 6:55am - huffing and puffing we board the train and take our seats. I check 3 times to make sure we are in the right train in the right seats! 

The next 3hr 20mins are a breeze. Smooth as silk! I weave in and out of dreams, eat my scrumptious breakfast and wait in excitement for our final destination. Finally the train pulls into Amsterdam Central train station and I am AWAKE. 

Amsterdam is called "Venice of the North". It's known both for it's canals and it's past position as an economic powerhouse. It's a place of good living, cozy cafes, coffee houses :), great art and the attitude of live and let live. It has 790,654 people and almost as many bikes. 

We checked in at the Renaissance Hotel (read my review here) and headed out for lunch. Based on 
Rick Steve's recommendations we decide to try out an Indonesian restaurant,  Restaurant Kantjil en de Tijger. They are famous for their three rijsttafels (traditional rice tables with a dozen small courses). You can read more about my restaurant review here. I'd just like to entice you with some pictures of the scrumptious meal we had. 

Iced ginger, lemongrass tea
Veggie Fritters
Spring Rolls
Chicken Skewers
5 minutes in the city and you will realize 2 things: There are bikes and canals EVERYWHERE. I must admit it was intimidating to walk on the streets because you really had to look out for the bikers. They would come from nowhere. There were bikes in all shapes, sizes and colors. It was a feast to the eye.

Canal boat tours like the one shown below are a popular way to see the city. You can see the entire city from a different level.

Here are some typical houses in Amsterdam

And here is a house boat
A typical boathouse 
Walk to the museum
Flower museum outside the Anne Frank's house 
After a quick nap in the afternoon we decided to visit the Anne Frank's house. Now if you are someone who had read the book "Anne Frank's Diary" you would understand the significance of this house. On the other hand if you are clueless and have never heard her name, I would recommend you go with an open mind. It's hard to understand what's so special about this house/museum.

The house immerses you into the struggle and pain of the war years. It's converted into a museum and you can walk through the rooms where for two years, eight Amsterdam Jews hid from the Nazi persecution. Tickets to the museum are available online but you have to purchase them well in advance.  if not you will have to stand in line which can take anywhere between 45 min - a few hours depending on the crowds. Each adult ticket costs 9.50 Euros.
People sitting outside the Anne Frank's museum
The line to get into the museum
More line for the Anne Frank museum
I was very excited to visit the museum. Once inside, I quickly noticed how they have done a fantastic job at maintaining everything in it's original condition. The house is really narrow and the stairs are steep. You can wind your way in and out of the rooms. My heart skipped a beat when I reached the secret annex hidden behind a bookcase. I was in awe when I entered the annex and realized how small and narrow it was. 8 people cooped up here for 2 years in pitch darkness was unimaginable. The rooms were filled with pictures, sayings and memorabilia each one trying their best to transport you back into the the 1940s. It definitely was an emotional and a very heart touching tour for me.

Located right next to the Anne Frank's museum is this landmark church - Westerkerk. It's famous because it houses Rembrandt's body somewhere under the pews and also has Amsterdam's tallest steeple. The interiors of the church are barren but the tower is open for tours for 6 people at a time. It's a beautiful church but we decided to skip it because the lines are really long.
Walking around Amsterdam is a delight. One could just be entertained by purely walking around. Cafe's like this are all along the canals and buzzing with activity at various hours of the day. Evenings are the best, people are relaxed, happy and it feels like the entire town is enjoying themselves. All you need is a beer, some yummy fries and a seat to gaze around. It was just perfect!! 
A beautiful cafe on the canal

For dinner we chose Cafe Restaurant de Reiger. Famous for its fresh ingredients and delightful bistro ambience, served us one of the best meals on this trip. Read my review here. It does get crowded in the evenings and on the weekend and it does not take reservations. The food however more than makes up for the wait. It's absolutely delicious!
An awesome restaurant 
Loved the table decor- simple and elegant
Started off with a crisp bread and olive tapenade
How cute are the wine carafe?
Tuna Tartare served in a sesame cornetto 
Tomato Basil soup
Lemon Pasta - Excellent 
Burrata Salad 
House Salad 
French fries with mayo
Lemon Cheesecake
After an amazing day and two very satisfying meals we strolled around a bit more before heading back to our hotel. I was absolutely smitten by Amsterdam and could not wait to explore it more on Days 2 and 3. Next to come is the Van Gogh museum, the Red Light District and more. Stay tuned!


Tiffany said...

Sigh, now I want to be both in Paris and Amsterdam. ;) Great photos too!

Shruti Kapoor said...

Tiffany,you will love Amsterdam, it's a food paradise :)

Borjana said...

Oh my!This is sooo amazing,honey!Love it!;)

Shruti Kapoor said...

Thank you, glad you liked it :)

Savita Chaudry said...

Shruti- I absolutely love the pictures!! Amsterdam is such a lovely city..You captured its essence beautifully:))

Shruti Kapoor said...

Thank you so much Savita. So glad you liked it :)

Julie said...

Amsterdam is my favorite city in Europe. I LOVED it. I got to visit in 2008 and hope I can take my husband there someday. Sounds like you had a great time in the city as well.

Shruti Kapoor said...

@Julie, i absolutely loved Amsterdam. It truly is such a fun city :) I hope you can take your husband there some day!!

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