Amsterdam! The Las Vegas of Europe! Well, except for that part about it being really old and authentic. OK it does not have showgirls, garish signage, or a lot of gambling but it does have a sinful, naughty undertone. It seems like a risky and devilish place to go.
Yes, some things are different in Amsterdam but I am sorry to disappoint, it is all very innocent and discreet.
Our mission was not to investigate the underbelly of this watery village but to attend and enjoy the Top Gear Live show. Well this was not MY mission, I was tagging along with hubby and friends. My mission was to wander aimlessly in Amsterdam and be entertained while the men did men things like go to the Heineken museum.
We got into town Friday night and arrived at our fabulous hotel smack dab in the middle of everything. The Radisson Blu Amsterdam could not be in a better location. No more than a 10 minute walk to anything you want to do in the Venice of the north.
After getting settled at our perfect hotel, we hurried off to dinner at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Amsterdam. We had been to Fifteen London some years ago and had the 7-course menu with paired wine. That was a fantastic evening, so I was very optimistic for this dinner.
Fifteen Amsterdam had a good atmosphere but the food was so-so. Not the mouth-watering morsels I remember from our London trip. I had the slow cooked pork and it was moist and a little smoky but was missing that little extra you expect from something affiliated with Jamie Oliver. I would like to make a special mention about our sommelier who was friendly, knowledgeable, and quick to pour a glass – satisfaction guaranteed. Well our bar tab implied that we like everything he served up!
If you are in Amsterdam and looking for a trendy restaurant with a youngish staff and crowd, make a reservation! Fifteen restaurants are a bit special as they are charity organizations and the employees are in a training program. Read more about the Fifteen concept here.
So Saturday while the men were learning about beer, I wandered the streets looking for a deal. I started at the Waterloo market looking for something old but the cold winter temperatures were keeping the good dealers away. Did get a nice caffè latte at Bagels and Beans which is like a Dutch Starbucks. One has to be a bit careful with the term “coffeeshops” in Amsterdam, you know.
I was navigating my way around with the help of my Amsterdam map plus two apps I had installed on my iPod touch “Amsterdam mobile guide” and “Amsterdam mobile city maps”. The former gives you a mini-database of Amsterdam sites and the “near me” function tells you what is closest to where you are. The latter gives you a good city map of Amsterdam and uses the GPS in the iPod touch to find your location on the map. You may be thinking that this is overkill but this city is a maze.
I had also done some planning beforehand (yes, I am a Virgo) and had several stores and markets I wanted to visit. I had set up an account with Iamsterdam.com, which lets you save places you want to see to “+my Amsterdam”. I had saved the locations of some English books stores, the flower market, the nine shopping streets of Amsterdam as well as Anne Frank’s house and our hotel. When I was ready to leave for Amsterdam I needed to print out my travel guide (since they do not have an app) and their site was having problems. I could not get the guide printed out so I was a bit peeved about that but the worst part was that not all the things I saved showed up in my list either. Arg! So instead of what I thought would be one elegant piece of paper with all the things I wanted to see I ended up printing off a booklet (and it was not even set up for printing because the header printed on a separate page) Double Arg!
My pre-trip planning did not turn out so well so I wandered, and it was fun. I ended up totally and completely lost. It seems every time I went into a store I came out and went in the direction I came in, so I thought I was heading north but no actually I was traveling south. If it had not been for the minus temperature the GPS might have worked, unfortunately it took me 2 hours to realize this. My bag got heavier and heavier and when I thought my sore feet could take no more the shopping angels led me to the Chinese foot massage parlor, which you will find many of in Amsterdam. A lovely and angry little woman pounded on my feet and snapped my toes making it possible for me to walk another 2 hours without tears welling up in my eyes.
After a rest back at the hotel we were off to Top Gear Live . I was hoping the James May would be there but as expected, this show was a bit too porn for sweet baby James. Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond had the stage all to their over- testosteroned-selves and it was all about burning rubber, fire throwing and beautiful cars! Wow!
Sunday we had some time before we needed to be back in Emden and took the opportunity to pick up some flowers at the flower market, head to the Nemo Science center for some brain food and then ate at Sea Palace Chinese restaurant barge. This was our second trip to Amsterdam and I wouldn’t do a darn thing different but I will do it again!
Ten things you need to know about Amsterdam!
- Everyone speaks English
- Don’t mess with the cars in a cross walk
- No consideration for personal space while queuing up or walking about
- Otherwise very friendly and fun-loving people
- Stylish things in the shops
- Crap web sites and iPhone apps
- Great Chinese restaurants and foot massages
- It is one of the safest cities in Europe (ref city of Amsterdam stats)
- You need a proper map
- You need a couple days to get the feel of the city