Tag Archives: Netherlands

Ten things to do in Amsterdam

(that aren’t the red light district or the Heineken brewery)

I lived in Amsterdam for six months while I was on an exchange through university! I spent my days cycling around the city, searching for the coolest, trendiest, and most Dutch places I could find. This is a list of ten of my favourite activities and places to go in one of the most beautiful cities in the world!


1) Get around like a local


Amsterdam is probably the most bicycle friendly city I have ever been to (Copenhagen is a close second…), and I firmly believe you can’t go to Amsterdam without renting a bicycle. Not only is the city built completely for them — it is faster to bicycle anywhere than walk, take a tram, or drive — but the bicycle is the king of the road, and has the right of way. The best place to rent your bicycle from is Starbikes located behind Amsterdam Centraal. It is not cheaper than any other bicycle rental place, BUT it does not have a huge “I am a tourist” bicycle rental sign plastered on the front. The bicycle you rent here will allow you to blend in and you will get less eye rolls from the locals on the bike path.


2) Learn the difference between a cafe and a coffee shop.


A cafe is where one can purchase coffee, tea, sandwiches, cakes, etc. A coffee shop is where one can purchase different varieties of smokeable herbs… Coffee and Coconuts in De Pijp is a cool old theatre that’s been turned into a crazy, 5 story loft Cafe with organic food and delicious tea and coffee. Coffeeshop 137 is a really cool cannabis store in the Jordaan area. You can tell them how you want your weed to make you feel and they will recommend the perfect blend for you. This coffee shop is a little less cliché. You won’t find any Bob Marley references here, and you may not even see another traveller here — just locals!

3) Wander around the Negen Straats (the Nine Streets)


In the heart of Jordaan, you will find nine intersecting streets that are home to super hip vintage shops, artisanal restaurants, and designer clothing stores. A lot of the clothing stores are expensive, but the streets are beautiful to wander along. My favourite store is The Darling on Runstraat. They sell cute, vintage clothes, and cupcakes!

4) Head to the Cheese Museum!


This is a museum/cheese shop, on Prinsengracht near the Anne Frank museum. It is free to get in, but really touristy. It’s a bit crowded, there are people wearing fanny packs all over the place, and it’s a bit chaotic, BUT, they have all of their cheese out for samples. I have been there many many times and have filled myself up for free with delicious Dutch cheese. They do have some cheese paraphernalia downstairs too, so you can actually learn something while you’re there! (Or just eat cheese).

5) Have brunch at Staring at Jacob


Open Thursday to Monday, Staring at Jacob is a super hip, restaurant east and a bit outside of the city centre. To get there is a delightful bicycle ride that takes you along canals and more classic Amsterdam canal houses. My favourite menu item is their chicken and waffles — real maple syrup (which is important to a Canadian), home made hot sauce, and flaky fried chicken. OH my damn, it’s good. They also have a hefty list of alcoholic brunch beverages, so take your pick and enjoy your ‘hair of the dog’ in the sun!

5) Have a beer at Hannekes Boom

Located just near Amsterdam Centraal, close to Nemo (the huge science centre), is Hannekes Boom. This bar has a backyard that overlooks the canals, with about 100 picnic tables each painted by a local artist, and a killer tree swing over the water. If in Amsterdam on a Sunday, try to go and snag a table! They have different bands play every Sunday around 4pm and you won’t disappointed. Live music, cheap beer, bearded men, and the feeling of a music festival. It’s the perfect Sunday afternoon!

6) Watch the sunset from a canal bench


Albert Heijn, the main grocery store in Amsterdam, sells pretty cheap wine. I’m talking €3 a bottle. Buy a bottle of wine, some plastic cups, and hang out somewhere! You can drink anywhere on the streets, unless it’s marked otherwise. One of my favourite places was sitting on the bench where Prinsengracht and Brouwersgracht meet. It’s a lovely place to watch the sunset over the canal, and watch boats go by.

7) Indulge in a slice of pie from Winkel 43

In Jordaan, across the street from the big, old church, Noorderkerk, is Winkel 43. Here, you will be able to order the best and biggest slice of homemade apple pie in the city. If you go in the afternoon for a coffee and a slice, prepare yourself for a long wait for a table. If you’re like me and don’t like waiting, go to Winkel 43 in the evening, after 7pm. You will be able to find a table, and they will happily still serve apple pie. The crust alone is worth the wait for a table at this cafe.

8) Rent a paddle boat and cruise the canals!


Paddle boats (or bicycle boats) are really cheap to rent and SO funny. Cruising the canals of Amsterdam in any watercraft is a must, and a paddle boat is a cheap and funny way to check it off your bucket list. Just beware of the huge canal tour boats, they don’t like when you get in their way, and will honk their horn to tell you! If a pedal boat isn’t your style, you can rent a motor boat from boats4rent (their website here). It is a cheap option as well!

9) Have a slice of cake at Zoet en Hartig

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Directly translated from Sweet and Savoury, Zoet en Hartig is the place to go for any kind of food craving. They have a delicious spicy chicken wrap for lunch, and totally beautiful desserts. My favourite treat were the hot chocolate spoons, you melt it into hot water and it becomes delicious hot chocolate. You can also try their alcoholic spoons with whatever your favourite liquor that releases into the milk as your chocolate melts!

10) Try a classic snack at Cafe Thijssen

You can’t go to the Netherlands without trying some of their classic snacks. Cafe Thijssen serves the most delicious bitterballen — a ball of doughy deep fried perfection served hot with grainy mustard. You can also try their modern twists of the classic favourite! Two glasses of Amstel and a plate of bitterballen to share will set you back about €6, what’s not to like!

Read about more of my Dutch adventures here!

Celebrating King’s Day in Amsterdam

April, 2015

This morning I woke up with a spring in my step! It’s King’s day!! Koningsdag!! The biggest birthday party in the world!! I donned my orange feather boa and my orange feathery crown. We hit the streets and wandered through Haarlemmerstraat. It was packed to the brim! People (in orange) walked along the street shoulder to shoulder. Little stalls set up on the sidewalks with kids selling lemonade, parents selling old clothes, toys, and other various items. Music was playing around every corner, and not one face was frowning. It was wonderful!


We saw boat after boat filled with orange people. There was one boat in particular carrying only boys all wearing orange onesies, orange afro wigs, and orange sunglasses. They were quite a spectacle! We figured it was a good time to stop and have some lunch. We sat on the canal edge, with our feet dangling over, and ate our snacks. We watched the boats go by and laughed at the characters on each. One boat looked like a giant floating dance floor! One boat that went by set off a confetti cannon!! It was magical and wonderful! I think confetti cannons are up there among a few of my favourite things.


We found ourselves at the stage on Westerstraat and danced to the awesome music they played. We were dancing with two guys dressed in big, furry, orange onesies. I laughed at them. Over their shoulders, I could see a third and a fourth dressed in the same outfit. Then a fifth and sixth. Then a seventh. Sally said, “there are SO many of them wearing that onesie!” I laughed as I looked around at the sea of furry, orange men. I looked over at the buildings surrounding and there was one window in particular that made me smile. There were four older ladies dancing at the window and taking part in the fun! it was so fantastic to see them dancing along to the tunes, cheers’ing their drinks to each other, and looking like they were having such a good time.


We decided to call it a day and head home. We sat on my rooftop balcony for about an hour, directly in the sun. I could have fallen asleep right then. I think everyone could have. MY goodness I’m tired! And SO happy with my King’s Day. Happy Birthday, King!


A HUGE Pillow Fight in Amsterdam

We walked quickly across the city towards Dam Square. Amsterdam is a very bicycle friendly city, where bikes have the right of way. Pedestrians, on the other hand, are low on the priority list and you really risk life and limb navigating your way. We weaved in and out IMG_3686of the crowds of fellow pedestrians, dodged trams, cars, and bicycles, and finally found ourselves in the shadow of the National Monument. We and perhaps 1000 other people. Music radiated through the square, people were dressed in all kinds of costumes, chatting and laughing, and everyone, I mean everyone, had a pillow in hand.

The crowd enthusiastically counted backwards from ten. 10…9…8…People stretched their backs and arms, limbering up for the fight…7…6…5…grips tightened on pillow cases…4…3…2…1…GO! The fight began! Pillows were flying through the air, smacking people in the face and back. Before long, feathers had been freed from their cases, and were exploding into the sky. I almost drowned in down! People were stumbling out of the crowd, breathless, covered in feathers. Some had lost their pillow in the fight, others were lucky enough to still be holding on to, and flinging their downy weapon around. It was hilarious! The music was blaring, the sun was shining, and everyone was covered in feathers and laughing. And how could they not be laughing when the music is blaring, the sun is shining, they are covered in feathers, and they are in a pillow fight with 1000 other people, in the middle of Amsterdam?!


Taking Goat Selfies in the Amsterdam Forest

May, 2015

Sally and I went on a bike ride to the Amsterdam forest today! The ride there through the city was quick and once we entered the forest, super tall trees towered over the path and shaded us from the sun. Everything was so, incredibly green. It was stunning. We found a field by a lake and decided to camp out there. We put our picnic blanket in the shade of a nice tree, took off our shoes, and got out our books. The temperature was 25 degrees and there were no clouds in the sky, both rarities of Amsterdam in May.


We spent a few hours by the water, consistently distracted by the other people in the field. A group of teenagers sat nearby, smoking and looking cool. An old Dutch woman sat, topless, her saggy, yet remarkably firm breasts hanging out, next to where some children were playing a rousing game of football. An extremely handsome man came over to the water front and played fetch with his dog. The time got away from us.


When it was time to move on, we packed up our things and asked the handsome dog guy for directions to the goat farm. Yes. The goat farm. He had no idea where it was, so we went in the opposite direction of where he said it wasn’t… We biked through what Sally called, “carpets of flowers” which were beautiful, and a bunch of tall ass trees!!! We really didn’t know where we were headed until I saw a sign that said something about “geiten” and an arrow pointing down a path we hadn’t gone down yet. I pointed the direction of the sign’s arrow, and exclaimed “THAT WAY!” We cycled and Sally asked how I knew. I told her the sign said “geiten” which means goat in Dutch. How do I know that? From eating so much goat cheese.


We arrived at the goat farm and jumped right in. Literally. We climbed into the goat’s pen. Pen? Cage? Room? Anyways. There were tons of them. AND PIGS! They came over to us and nibbled on our clothes, backpacks, shoelaces, hair, really anything they could put into their mouths. Instead of being annoyed with the goats for doing this, we took the opportunity to take a million selfies with them. They came so close, and probably assumed we had food in our hands, when we held our phones out, they sniffed them. I have a million goat selfies. This is not a thing I am ashamed of. I think these are the best selfies I have ever taken. Hands. Down. Soon, the goats nibbling on our clothes, backpacks, shoelaces, hair, and really anything they could put into their mouths, DID become annoying, and it was time to leave. We went to the washroom to wash the shit off our shoes (and Sally’s pants), and scrub our hands.


A cheesy day in Alkmaar, Netherlands

April, 2015

I woke up this morning at about 6:30am because the early bird catches the cheese! I rolled out of bed, grabbed an orange and a granola bar, put on clothes and head out the door. I met Rebecka, Line, Tine, and Fanny at Centraal station at 7:30. Phew it was early. It’s my own fault, it was my idea to meet this early. We caught the train and in no time, we arrived in Alkmaar! We were here to partake in the infamous Alkmaar cheese market. We wandered from the train station to the main square. On the way, we found ourselves caught up in a cluster of old people getting off a bus. They were slow moving and seemed to be creaking as they walked. We were able to outrun this gaggle of geezers and we reached the square. It was empty. I felt silly. First of all, I forced my friends to wake up SO early, and second, we dipped and ducked through that hoard of octogenarians like our lives depended on it, only to find there was no reason to rush. Line, Tine, and Fanny decided to go for a coffee, and Rebecka (bless her) and I stood in the front row, waiting for the show to begin.


It did and I couldn’t stop giggling. We were introduced to the Cheese Father, but I couldn’t figure out why he was called the Cheese Father, or what his significance was other than his orange top hat and silver cane. The 13kg wheels of gouda cheese were loaded onto cheese boards and run from the stacks to the weigh house, then back to the wagons. There were people walking around tasting, examining, and buying the cheese. img_4063

It was such a silly, hilarious event. Rebecka and I were even able to hold a wheel of cheese! We didn’t last for the entire show, because the tourists behind us were becoming very aggressive. One man kept using my shoulder to steady his camera. The woman next to me took around 300 photos. I was being pushed into the gate like I was at a rock concert. We snuck out of the crowd.


We went to the cheese museum next, so we could have a free piece of cheese, and learn a bit more about the cheese processes. After all the cheese-centric activities, the only thing missing was beer. We sat on a patio boat outside the beer museum, and enjoyed a nice, cold beer.

Today was brought to you by cheese! I just wrote “cheese” 13 times…14 if you include this sentence.


Taking in a Sex Show in Amsterdam

April, 2015

Kelsey and I decided to do what every British ‘Lad’ does when they come to Amsterdam on a Monday night— go to the Red Light District! We wandered around the streets, in all their Monday night glory, which could be confused for Friday or Saturday night glory, honestly. It was very busy! We were enthralled by the prostitutes in their windows. They were beautiful!! I don’t know what I expected. I thought maybe Monday’s prostitutes wouldn’t be as good as Friday’s? At any rate, I was an uncomfortable, prudish Canadian, and awkwardly smiled at each when I accidentally made eye contact after they tapped on the glass, coaxing me to look. We were surrounded by men, mostly British, mostly drunk.

After a lap of the main two streets, we decided to take the leap! We walked into the Moulin Rouge, paid our entry, and were ushered up the stairs. We jumped at the opportunity, to sit in the very front row! We took our seats, ordered our drinks, and eagerly awaited the show to start. Please note, that words used in the rest of this story include, ‘breasts,’ ‘vagina,’ ‘sex,’ and ‘cum’. Viewer discretion is strongly advised.

The first lady of the evening was dressed in a sexy milkmaid outfit, and brought a banana out with her. She came down from the stage to choose volunteers from the audience, but not before she took Kelsey’s hands, put them on her breasts, and shimmied. Kelsey exclaimed, “they’re real!” The stripper said, “I’m saving for silicone!” and laughed. She brought up four audience members. They were all so embarrassed. It was great! She danced a little, took off her clothes, and then slapped each of the ‘volunteers’ in the face with her tits. It was amazing. I didn’t even know breasts could do that! She peeled her banana, took a chunk off and held it in her mouth. One of the guys had to eat it! She put the next piece in between her breasts. The next piece, she put on her stomach. The last piece was still in the peel, and she put it in her vagina. The faces of the guys on stage were as red as cheeks could be. She would be my favourite of the evening. The next woman lit a candle and balanced it in her vagina as she somersaulted and rolled all over the stage. The next kept a ribbon bundled up inside her and had an audience member hold one end as she danced around the stage and on the pole, and the ribbon unraveled.

Then it was time for the main event. The woman walked out wearing a cape, devil horns, and she carried a giant book. Then the man came out wearing a mask and a cape. She undressed, then he undressed, then they had sex. You know what, it was actually quite boring! The woman made not one facial expression. At all. It was robotic, forced, and very anti-climactic. Literally. Not that a cum shot would have made the show any less exciting, but it would have been a less uncomfortable way to end the show. I am glad we did it, because ‘when in Rome’, but I don’t think I would see a sex show again. Unless it was the banana girl, she was highly entertaining.

Photo by @seattletoshanghaiandbackagain

Cycling through Tulip Fields in the Netherlands

April, 2015

This morning, I met Sally at the bikes and after a quick stop at Albert Heijn for some picnic snacks, we cycled over to Centraal. There we met Rebecka, Line, and Lucinda, and began our epic adventure day! We rolled our bikes into the station and to the ticket machines. Sally informed us we were to train to a place called Voorhout. She did not know how to get there, just that we had to. I googled it, and it showed we had to train to Haarlem and then transfer to a Voorhout train. We bought the tickets and rushed down the platform to the train. There is nothing more awkward than walking a bike through a train station. Scratch that. There is nothing more awkward than taking a bike up an escalator in a train station.

Cut to five foreigners on a train gasping and squealing at the sight of every tulip field we past.


We arrived in Voorhout and were almost immediately lost. We tried to find the signs that were to guide us along the path, but we couldn’t find any. Finally, we consulted a map. Once we were on our way, we knew we were on the right path, because there were massive tulip fields everywhere. Tulips, tulips, tulips. What a beautiful and totally frivolous crop to grow. I love it. We cycled past fields and fields of them. We cycled past daffodils too, and then hyacinths, hyacinths, hyacinths. The smell of these flowers is intoxicating and almost suffocating. I couldn’t believe there were fields and fields of them.


We were lost again. And then again. The signs we were looking for were few and far between, and if we saw one, the numbers were so unsystematic, we had to keep referring to our guide to remember which number we were looking for next. The path was kind of a nightmare.

We cycled past the huge fields of Keukenhof and saw a guy surfing in the canals! He was riding a wakeboard and held onto a rope that was being wound in by a huge crank. A guy on a nearby ladder took epic photos of this guy wake boarding through tulips with windmills in the background. Oh Holland…


It was time for lunch, so we found a nice little green spot next to the tulip fields and spread out our picnic. It was nice to sit in the sun, smell the flowers, eat our snacks, and drink beer. And what lovely company with whom I shared this moment. We soon continued our cycling. I had to make a few executive decisions because at the rate we were going— stopping along the way to take pictures of/in front of/with every single tulip field we went by— we weren’t going to be done until midnight. We ditched the bicycle pathway and cut back towards Voorhout. We bicycled right past many tulip fields on the way, but one hyacinth field in particular had “photoshoot” written all over it! We took photos and videos in the fields, and I could have passed out from the smell. It was phenomenal.


After six hours of cycling through tulip fields, we had become desensitized to their beauty and on the train home, not one of us made a peep as we trained by the multitude of flowers. We were coming up to Haarlem and Line suggested we have dinner there! We hopped on our bikes and trained to the city centre. We found a patio square in the sun, near a cathedral and a carnival, and declared it the perfect place for dinner. I had a delicious sandwich and a well deserved glass of wine. After dinner, we walked over to the ferris wheel to inquire about prices. It was only €2 for a ride. How could we not. We rode that ferris wheel as the sun went down over the cathedral. It was the perfect end to the perfect day.

“Flowers for sale”