14th of June, 2016 – Amsterdam

So after our busy morning in Haarlem, we still had a glorious afternoon and evening in Amsterdam.

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We booked into the Rijkmuseum which was pretty good and we tried to be tourists by getting pictures outside the Amsterdam sign. Amsterdam had not been busy throughout our stay but we saw more people here than anywhere else. We decided to get a quick snap because there were too many people and we didn’t want to risk being concussed by a selfie stick (or two, or a thousand). Alex got to pose next to the ‘A’ and so I didn’t miss out on the fun Alex covered half of the ‘M’ so it looked like an ‘N’!

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Magna Plaza

We popped into the Magna Plaza, not for any particular reason, but just to get a feel for a Dutch shopping mall and compare it to others we have seen around the world. I wouldn’t waste much time going there as there really weren’t that many shops and given how beautiful Amsterdam is, you’re much better off wandering the streets – near Dam Square for the chain shops and along the canals for the design and individual shops.

Before dinner we decided to find somewhere to have a drink. We went to Bleu to have a cheeky cocktail – the food looked good here as well, so it could be worth checking out.

Then for dinner we went to Vapiano. Now Alex and I aren’t really fans of going to chain restaurants when abroad (we prefer to try local restaurants) but we didn’t even realise it was a chain outside of the Netherlands until I looked it up after. It is safe to say I will be heading to the London one now I’m back in England. It is an Italian place where you go downstairs to watch the chefs make your food and customise the dishes. The prices are really good and its a totally different dining experience!

 

 

15th of June, 2016

More exploring and wandering…

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For the last lunch we decided to head back to our lunch spot on the first day for their speciality dish. It was brown bread with goats cheese and walnuts, glazed with honey. They also served it with the most delicious salad with a slightly spicy dressing. All their paninis and sandwiches are roughly €5 and for the quality and quantity that’s a lot better than your average cafe in England.

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On the last day we went to the Vincent Van Gogh Museum. I’m quite fussy about museums and the only one where I can really be entertained for hours is the Natural History Museum in London. That being said I thought this museum was really well organised with lots of text on the walls giving an insight into what was going on in Van Gogh’s life when he wrote each painting. There were also pieces donated from Vincent’s friends and colleagues which mixed things up a bit.

We got to the last day of Amsterdam and I couldn’t believe that we hadn’t tried some pancakes! Pancakes are one of my favourite foods and as a Dutch speciality, finding a pancake place was on the agenda for the day.

We found Toos en Roos on Berenstraat and popped in for an afternoon pancake (or 4) to keep us going as we had a final wander and shop for gifts.

Then it was back to our hotel to check out and head to the airport for the second leg of our summer holiday … Copenhagen, Denmark.

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The Student Hotel

We absolutely loved our stay at The Student Hotel and would really recommend it to other young travellers. Right outside the hotel is a metro and tram stop which meant that we never had to wait longer than 2 minutes to set off. To get to the main tourist/canal area, it would take us about 12-15 minutes but it was well worth being slightly out of the centre because it meant we could save a lot of money.

The rooms were pretty basic (like uni accommodation) but when you are out and about all day all you really need is a nice comfy bed and a bathroom. We spent a lot of our downtime before heading out in the evenings to dinner/night cruise/ice bar playing table tennis or pool and other students were watching the Euros in the lobby.

Houses of Amsterdam

The Amsterdam houses are obviously iconic, being narrow and high and built with their doors and windows raised from the ground. There are about 5 different types of gables, and they as well are characteristic of the Amsterdam houses.

Whilst we may have looked like stalkers taking pictures of peoples’ houses, I wanted to take a closer look at the houses after Alex had made a comment about the colour scheme. All the houses were differing shades of brown, grey, white and black – a loose monochrome. Alex wasn’t so keen on this and prefers a more vibrant look (which there was plenty of at our next destination – Copenhagen). By the end of our stay in Amsterdam, I concluded that I in fact did like the colour scheme. I think that it is beautiful because it is subtle and it allows you to focus on what you want to focus on when walking along. Bright colours and garish designs force you to look at them, whereas the Amsterdam houses you can look at and appreciate but at the same time you are able to completely ignore them and look at the canals and the colour of the bikes and flowers on the bridges and the shop awnings and all the other colours that are present. I think the strict colour scheme also suits the layout of the city. It is very structured with the rings fanning out from the centre and symmetrical bridges and the discipline of the colours works with that order.

Sorry for the rambling … a short summary – Amsterdam is personally the most beautiful city I have visited (so far) and the houses are just one of many things that contribute.

Of the 7 houses below, tell me .. which one is your favourite?

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1 – the house with the blue bike
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2 – the house with the green bike
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3 – the house with the red roses
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4 – the house with two bikes
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5 – the house with the owner that likes the colour red
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6 – the house with the bench
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7 – the house with many flower pots

13th of June, 2016 – Vondelpark

Vondelpark

We headed from our hotel on a cloudy but dry morning to Vondelpark. Before we entered the park we had an amazing coffee and cake (as breakfast because when travelling who cares what you are allowed to have at what time of day) at Anne&Max. Now, if being totally honest I have to say it was not what I expected. Living near London I am used to seeing the city parks full of people, bikes. noise, picnic blankets, ice creams etc.. but there was none of that here. There were a few cyclists around the edges of the park but asides from a few dog walkers the place was completely deserted. I think it’s because we weren’t there in the peak season (more like July and August) and it wasn’t the most glorious weather because since the trip I have seen plenty of photos of a busy Vondelpark.

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Is the photo the right way up?

Although the park was lovely, our favourite aspect were the residential streets running off the park. We ventured off the main paths and went into the courtyards of the most beautiful traditional houses surrounded by roses and ornate iron gates.

In June do not be expecting lots of colour because aside from the rose garden we photographed there really wasn’t must else to be seen but green.

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Caught being a tourist

June 13th, 2016 – Evening on the canals

Night tour of Amsterdam.

This was the best part of the holiday and definitely down on the list of the best nights of my life. We boarded the boat as the sun was setting and there were not that many on the boat which was great. We had headsets with information on the city but most of the time Alex and I were out on the deck taking pictures and feeling the wind. We spoke to an American student roughly our age and we had a nice talk, comparing student life between the US and UK and talking about our summer travel plans.

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I’m not usually one to write reviews of hotels, restaurants and trips online but I loved this tour so much I felt that I just had to encourage others to go on the tour. I think the way that we did it by seeing the canal in the day by the cheaper pedalboat and by night by the boat was the best was to do it. Make sure you book late enough so that you will be able to see the city lit up.

It was also a good opportunity for us to see the Red Light District at night from a distance. If you are interested in going on the tour, I booked with Viator – it is a 90 minute guided tour with a drink and nuts for only £15, which is a very good price compared to what you would pay in some other metropolitan European cities.