Europe Part 1: Amsterdam

Mo and I were had made plans to take a trip to Sydney and New Zealand this past January. Those plans were abruptly cancelled due to my injury just 8 days before we were supposed to leave. We were fortunately able to postpone the trip to next January without too much trouble, but to say we were disappointed would be an understatement. I remember one particular day late January that I was feeling especially down, texted Mo how I was feeling, and his response was, “I have something to cheer you up.”

When he said that, I thought he was going to offer to pick-up dinner that night, not tell me that we would have the opportunity to go to Europe in the summer! He was nominated and selected to be part of a guest audit program with his company in Amsterdam for three weeks. It worked out that I would fly out to meet him for his last week in Amsterdam and then extend the trip another week to see a few other countries together. It was tough narrowing it down, but we ultimately decided on Amsterdam, Belgium, Paris and Prague. The crazy thing, is that if we would have taken 10+ days off for the trip to Australia/NZ, I most likely wouldn’t have had the days to take off for this trip. There’s always a silver lining.

I loved having the days free while Mo was at work to walk around and explore the neighborhoods, browse the small boutiques shops, find cafes and juice shops, peruse the grocery market, and then meet up with Mo and his coworkers after work. Below are the highlights from our time in Amsterdam!

Day 1:

After a long day of traveling, I finally landed in Amsterdam! I spent my first day unpacking, getting a workout in, eating breakfast at the hotel, and taking a nap before meeting Mo up for dinner at Envy, an upscale tapas-style restaurant. We walked around city together and he filled me in on what he had been up to for the past three weeks. We also filled up on this slice of apple pie!

Day 2:

Learn from my mistake – do NOT trust yourself to wake up at a reasonable time without setting an alarm (especially when jet lagged and after drinking wine at dinner the night before). I woke up to the hotel phone ringing… at 2:30PM! Not the ideal way to spend my first full day in Amsterdam, but I quickly got ready and took the train to the city centre. I found a juice shop and ordered a much needed “extreme greens” juice, walked to the Floating Flower Market, got a coffee at a cute little cafe near the market, and then met up with Mo and his coworkers for the Heineken Brewery Tour. We got dinner afterwards at Foodhallen – a big indoor food court with endless options to choose from – charcuterie boards, French pastries, tacos, a gin and tonic bar and everything in between! I was even able to sneak in a midnight workout… needless to say after waking up at 2:30pm, I wasn’t about to go to bed!

Day 3:

I was determined to wake up at a decent time and fortunately woke up to my alarm. I set out to find the “9 Straatjes” (a neighborhood of local cafes and boutiques). On the way there, I got an acai bowl from Juice Brothers and ate it on the edge of one of the canals. I strolled through a grocery market of local products (I’ve never seen so many Tony’s chocolate bars!) and picked up some souvenirs/gifts. I found some beautiful boutiques and picked up a few things for friends… and maybe a few things for myself too! Based on a store associate’s recommendation, I ended the afternoon at Pluk Cafe. This cafe was one of my favorites from the whole trip! I ordered a slice of their carrot cake and a coffee, and almost went back the next day for their “avocado burger” … a burger in an avocado instead of a bun! Mo and I ate the most incredible dinner together at an Italian restaurant before touring the Anne Frank House. We booked our tickets for the tour months in advance, and I highly recommend doing the same. It was a memorable, humbling experience. 

Day 4:

A couple of LinkedIn employees (who take my spin class!) also happened to be in Amsterdam the same week I was there. We met up for Dutch pancakes and hot chocolate. Dutch Pancakes are everywhere in Amsterdam with a variety of savory and sweet options, but we went with three different savory varieties. My favorite was the cheese, bacon and apple combo. SO GOOD. After having breakfast together, I made my way to the Van Gogh Museum and Moco Museum. The paintings in the Van Gogh Museum and the contemporary, controversial art in the Moco Museum could not have been any different, but I enjoyed them both very much. After the museums, I walked to Voldelpark, a huge, gorgeous park in the city. Whether you go to picnic, people-watch, walk, run, bike… you won’t be disappointed. Mo and I did a canal boat tour before having dinner and drinks at a local bar, Hannekes Boom.

Day 5:

I couldn’t leave Amsterdam without taking the ferry to the A’DAM lookout! I almost went back to Juice Brothers for another acai bowl, but decided to do a few things I hadn’t done yet. I walked through the Red Light District, sat and had a coffee at a rooftop cafe with panoramic views of the city, and ended the afternoon with a cheese tasting at Henri Willig. I made some new friends there, tasted a lot of different cheeses, drank wine and learned how cheese is made. Afterwards, I met up with Mo and his coworkers for dinner at a Brazilian Steakhouse, and we danced our last night away at an EDM club.


Where to eat:

Breakfasts and Cafes

  • Blue Cafe – rooftop café with panoramic scenic views of the city
  • Juice Brothers – cold-pressed juices and THE BEST acai bowl I’ve ever had
  • Pluk – café with a cute, local gift shop
  • Juice by Nature – cold-pressed juices
  • The Pancake Bakery – Dutch pancakes are everywhere, but this particular location was recommended by a friend

Lunch and Dinner

  • SLA – salads to eat in or take-away; conveniently located next to Vondelpark if you want a healthy, easy picnic option
  • La Luna Brazilian Steakhouse – great wine and steaks in a small
  • Envy – a tapas style menu with a variety of upscale dishes to try
  • Cinema Paradise – wine, bruschetta, pasta, tiramisu… need I say more??
  • Foodhallen –  an indoor foot court with everything from poke to charcuterie boards, to Indian food. A great place to go if you want to try a variety of cuisines, or just can’t make up your mind!

Drinks

  • Honnekes Boom – a bar with recycled furniture, bright colors, and live music on the river
  • Foodhallen – the gin and tonic bar is a must!

Desserts

  • Apple pie with whipped cream – we got a slice from Café Papeneiland, a cozy cafe that was 400 years old

What to do:

Mo and I purchased a Holland Pass before the trip, which I highly recommend if you plan on doing any tours or activities. We used 5 of the 6 credits so I would say it was worth it!

  • Heineken Experience – Heineken Brewery tour
  • 9 Straatjes – local cafes and boutiques
  • Floating Flower Market – flower shops floating on the canal
  • Grocery Market – market of local products
  • Cheese tasting at Henri Willig
  • Anne Frank Huis
  • Van Gogh Museum – Van Gogh’s masterpieces on display
  • Moco Museum – modern art museum
  • Vondelpark – a huge, gorgeous park in the city
  • Canal Boat Cruise – a chance to see the city from a different perspective. Our boat was a bit bigger and more touristy because it came with our Holland Pass. I would suggest doing a smaller, more intimate boat cruise.
  • A’DAM look out – a short, free ferry ride to get to the lookout
  • Paradise Club – EDM club for a night out dancing

Where to stay/how to get around:

Mo’s company booked the Sheraton Hotel connected to the airport. There was a great gym that is open 24 hours, perfect for those midnight workouts! (#jetlag) The hotel was connected to the train station, which was perfect for me to catch the train into the city centre every morning. Even better than the gym and the location was their breakfast! A personalized omelette station, poffertjes (traditional Dutch mini pancakes), pastries, bacon, waffles, a yogurt parfait bar, cheese and cold cuts, various vegetables, cold salads, coffee and more. By far the best hotel breakfast buffet I have ever had!

I purchased an unlimited 24 hour train pass every day that allowed me to get into the city and back (20 minutes each way). Once in the city, I would walk… that was half the fun! Riding a bike is by far the most-used form of transportation, but I didn’t want to risk it since I am still not fully recovered from surgery. But if you can, definitely rent a bike!

Next up… Belgium, Paris and Prague!

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