I amsterdam

Posted: March 20, 2011 in Family, Leisure, Travel
Tags: , , , , , ,

“An introduction, a slogan, a statement of inclusion, and a physical icon – I amsterdam is the city and its resident’s collective catch cry”.

We all know Amsterdam is the capital and largest city of the Netherlands but wait till I tell you this. I have never visited our northern neighbour until early last week! After residing for more than 15 years in Belgium, I decided to make a trip up north with my other half and 2 boys. I have read a lot (I thought!) about Amsterdam. The sad truth about what you have read may or may not depict the entire picture of the city, as with a million and one things you read in the newspapers everyday!  Drugs, Red Light City, Skinhead, Homosexuals – all rather perverse or negative syllabuses typifying the city of Amsterdam.  These are, but, mere fraction of the truth…

By the way, have you seen this movie, “Good Will Hunting”?  One of my favourites. Here’s one of the best quotes of all time from the film coming out from the mouth of Sean Maguire (Robin Williams) to Will Hunting (Matt Damon).

Quote, “So, if I asked you about art, you’d probably give me the skinny…on every art book ever written.  Michaelangelo? You know a lot about him. Life’s work, political aspirations. Him and the pope. Sexual orientation. The whole works, right? I bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You never actually stood there and looked up at the beautiful ceiling…Do you think that I’d know the first thing about how hard your life has been – how you feel, who you are – because I read Oliver Twist? Does that encapsulate you? Personally, I don’t give a shit about all that, because – you know what? I can’t learn anything from you… I can’t read in some fuckin’book. Unless you wanna talk about you, who you are. And I’m fascinated. I’m in” Unquote.

Seeing is believing. You have to be there first hand to experience the truth, and let the truth be told…

Canals and bridges

Amsterdam has been called the “Venice of the North” for it’s more than one hundred kilometers of canals.  We stayed at the 111-room Rembrandt Classic Hotel which was located along one of the major canals, the Herengracht, an excellent location to exploring Amsterdam in 3 days!

Breakfast

We had a generous breakfast – English plus Continental breakfasts all-in-one of omelette, sausages, bacon, baked beans, cold cuts, cheeses, fruits, vegetables, cereals, mini pancakes, breads and buns, tea, coffee and juices, cakes and apple pie – à volonté, of course 😛

A Hearty and Healthy Breakfast which came in handy as great energy boosters!

Bicycle, Bicycle, I want to ride my Bicycle!

Forget your car.  Leave it at home, or let it park somewhere stationary for as long as you are (still) in Amsterdam! Rent a bike or better still, WALK, like us 😉 We explored more of Amsterdam walking during our 3 days there.  After all, the Netherlands is a rather flat country.  “Nether” means low, hence, “Netherland” is literally translated as ‘low country’. Walking is easy peasy, free and of course, a healthier option! If you rent a bicycle, you need to park your bike somewhere.  The railings or banisters along the canals and bridges are common resting places for bicycles. The bicycles came in all forms, sizes, colours.  Here were some of the many examples of how the bicycles were parked in Amsterdam.

Here’s a bicycle parking area.  I’ve never seen anything like this before and it all happened in Amsterdam, just outside the Amsterdam Central Station.

A Canta, anyone ?

I have never seen a Canta in Belgium, so seeing a closed-up of one was an odd and unexpected treat. You see these mini cars a lot around Amsterdam. Let’s picture this. Statistically, the tallest people in the world, as measured by country, are the Dutch, so imagine a Dutch driving in this teeny-weeny ‘bean’ mean machine. A geek or a genius? You decide. This little car was initially manufactured for the less abled people, but more and more abled “Amsterdamers” are driving these “genius cars” around every nook and cranny of the little one-way streets in the city centre.

By the way, the Canta is manufactured in the Netherlands by a small company called Waaijenberg.

Here were two of the many Canta’s we saw – the red and the white.

Metro

Besides renting a bike or walk or drive a Canta in Amsterdam, the next popular mode of travel in the city is the metro. Normal cars and trams crisscrossed the same roads. Hmmm…. not my cup of tea, I’m afraid.

Rembrandt Square

To exemplify our stay at the Rembrandt Classic Hotel, a visit to the Rembrandt Square was a must.

The Rembrandt Square was originally known as the Botermarkt (Butter Market). As the name suggests, the square was initially used as a dairy market, but as years went by, hotels, restaurants and shops burgeoned with entertainment and bustling activity. In homage of the famous Dutch painter, Rembrandt, the square was named after him – the Rembrandt Square.

Say Cheese!

I have always associated cheese with the Netherlands (or Holland as she used to be called).  But, lo and behold, it took us almost the entire day to discover the first cheese shop. What disappointment as the Kaaskamer van Amsterdam (Cheese Room of Amsterdam) were displaying imported cheeses, from Italy – the Parmigiano-Reggiano.

We did find another cheese shop on our third and last day in Amsterdam!  I was so excited with the display of the many varieties of the shaved try-me-out cheeses. I believe I must have tried every single cheese, or rather, cheeses, on every platter, with the embarrassment of my other half and my boys! LOL!  What did you expect?  They – I mean, the shaved cheeses – were simply DELICIOUS: natural, herbed, spiced, curried, chillied, smoked, barbecued. You name it – I tasted ‘em all 😉

Well, of course, we did not leave the cheese shop empty handed. We bought the goat Gouda, a smooth, velvety and tasty cheese. I’m not a big fan of goat’s cheese, but this one was a winner.

Coffee Shop

Read my lips: “This is NOT the usual kopitiam we know of in Malaysia and Singapore or anywhere else in South East Asia”

You will not find your favourite menu of kaya toast and a cup of kopi O, or kopi peng. The “menu” in a Dutch coffee shop is er… quite something else.  Although I have never been to one (and probably, never will), I have heard about a fair bit of what is being served there.

Van Gogh

I am sure you will have heard or read of Vincent Willem van Gogh and his iconic Sunflowers, and that he cut off part of his own ear with a straight razor during a fit of madness. However, a team of German historians has published a book arguing that the whole tale was untrue.  According to the historians, the story of van Gogh’s madness was part of a cover up by none other than van Gogh’s friend and fellow artist, Paul Gaugin.

Well, I’m not going to delve into all these arguments. Whatever happened, let us all remember that Vincent van Gogh was little appreciated during his lifetime but he left us his gift of great paintings years after his death.

A visit to the Van Gogh’s museum helped us understand and appreciate the master’s works, a huge transformation from when he first started his early paintings and sketches.

From a dark, dreary and somber earth tones, “The Potato Eaters

To a more vibrant and colourful self portrait of the master himself –

During one of our many trips to the South of France, we visited Saint Paul de Mausole at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, originally a monastery, but was transformed into a mental asylum, where Vincent van Gogh incarcerated himself from May 1889 until June 1890, just before his death.  It was here that Van Gogh painted the beautiful “The Starry Night”, which was made popular by the American singer-songwriter, Don McLean. Here’s McLean’s version of Vincent”.

Anne Frank’s House

Do not leave Amsterdam without visiting Anne Frank’s House. Anne Frank’s House was just a stone’s throw from our hotel.

One disappointment though.  We were  not allowed to take any pictures in the house.  I managed to take just this one.

Annelies Marie “Anne” Frank was a renowned and most discussed Jewish victim of the Holocaust. Her legacy was her diary, which documented her experiences hiding in the “Secret Annexe” (Achterhuis) during World War II with her family and family friends.

We visited Anne Frank’s room where she shared with Frtiz Pfeffer, a dentist and family friend of the Frank family.

Here was where it all started, where the diary of Anne Frank became a classic tale of the life and times of the teenaged Jewish girl.

Food

There were more than enough restaurants to choose from; however, I noticed the influx of Argentinean restaurants and many Spanish-speaking tourists in Amsterdam. Could Princess Maxima be the reason for this thriving success?

Wagamama

I was really excited when I found Wagamama! I have heard so much of this eatery from fellow bloggers to the point that I promised myself that should this noodle bar crossed my path; I would just stampede into the restaurant.  Yep, that desperate!  I was NOT disappointed with this action at all.

I was not the only one; my three guys thumbed up to Wagamama!  LOL!

I had the Chilli Beef Ramen.  Absolutely gorgeous!  Yum yum!!

The Seafood Ramen was doubly superb.

My younger son chose the chicken katsu curry from the kids’ menu. He literally licked his platter clean, a great effort for a small eater. He must be very hungry from all the walks…

The desserts at Wagamama were very limited.  Only 5 on the menu card, but if you chose the correct dessert, it’s like winning the jackpot.

My dessert was a winner. I had the banana katsu served with yuzu (deep-fried banana coated with crispy breadcrumbs served with Japanese vanilla and orange ice-cream). It was absolutely divine.

The guys had the wagamama moist chocolate fudge cake served with vanilla ice-cream and chocolate sauce.

Wagamama = positive eating +  positive living!

Memories of China at Mr Tong’s

We had our “last supper” in Amsterdam at Mr Tong’s.  One thing we noticed in Amsterdam was that the restaurants came to live from 3pm onwards.  None of the eateries were opened at noon, at least in the Leidesplein area. Very Spanish, we thought, with the siesta et al.. ??

When the clock struck 3 in the afternoon, we stood outside the entrance door of Mr Tong’s. We were lucky to be there at that hour as it was the Happy Hour with a 20% discount 😉

As we did not have lunch, we were famished. We chose the menu “Memories of China” of mushroom soup, roasted duck, sweet and sour chicken, spicy crispy beef, Shanghai prawns and roasted pork.

And desserts of Java Dream, which turned out to be “pisang goreng” (banana fritters) served with vanilla ice-cream.  Frankly speaking, I preferred the one from Wagamama.

Something Flemish. Something Belgian…

Only in the Netherlands, are the fries called “Vlaamse Friet” (Flemish Fries)

Then there’s the Belgian Beer, the Kriek (Cherry Beer).

Basking in the Sun

We were lucky with the weather, id est, no rain, but the northern winds were extremely chilly.  Here were some of the pictures of the guys basking in the sun, with their coats on! This is to give you an idea of how weak the sun was…

I’ll be back…

Hasta la vista!

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Comments
  1. dada says:

    finally..citer pasal amsterdam. Saw tht in commercials ‘i amsterdam’. Sayang kmk belum ada chan mok gi to the real amsterdam. Klak2 ajak.

  2. dada says:

    i missed the kriek so much, just couldn’t find it anywhere here. So sad. Luv abt ur story pasal cheese ya. I could imagined myself kdak u. Hahaha….mun di ctok, jauh paklis kita tuk akan bli, mun dah kenyang n puas makan, we’ll just say thank u and tinggal kedei ya mantak2…empty handed…hahaha…another good write up..enjoy reading very much.

  3. Nasifriet says:

    yalah, my first trip. For the boys as well. M’s 3rd, and that was many donkey yrs ago…nice place. Will definitely go back. Next time you’re here, we’ll take the Thalys,k?

  4. Nasifriet says:

    Have u checked Ting & Ting? Maybe they hv Kriek there? BTW, the alcohol level is btw 4% to 6%.. fruity. Love it, too.

    Ha ha.. so sakai at the cheese shop. Just had to try out every single one. Was so good. Malu kamek pun laki and a dua aniek kou. That’s y had to buy sigek. K pun choice ya. Nya nang suka goats cheese, kedak EE nya bah. Hee hee hee..

  5. Gerard says:

    wonderful write up. I’m sure you all have a great time in Amsterdam. Coincidentally, my old buddy James Yong was there recently and had posted similar pics and write -up in his blog.

    Dora, wonder when will I ever visit you and Europe. Been tie-up with this new employment.

  6. Gerard says:

    From the pic, I noticed Niels is taller than Mark. Wow! he has really grown.

    Btw, is the food really tastes good as in the pics.

  7. Nasifriet says:

    Thanks, bro! It’s been a while since I visited JY’s blog. Well, Amsterdam is not that big, so every visitor seems to be having the same idea of touristic spots 😀
    Should you come to visit us, I will include AMS in the agenda. It’s really easy to get there with the speed train, Thalys. If only I had known that b4 when mum and Dada were here….
    OMG, your “lao ban” so demanding one kah? Suggest you do high level comparisions Year on Year. Do you hv results of 2009? If input was crap, so results would be “garbage in, garbage out”, hence making comparisons rather difficult. What reporting sys are you guys using? I see you will be very busy this week then, as you need to get back with a comprehensive report before the end of this week!! 😦

  8. Nasifriet says:

    Yeah, N is big boy now. He’s still growing. I will post sth in my blog abt a “height test” soon..

    You will love the food at Wagamama (Japanese noodle bar). My pictures did NOT lie 😛 We have a Wagamama in Antwerp, but hv never been there.. didn’t know that, until I checked the web. The next time around, I will try the Indonesian “rijsttafel” (literally, rice table or buffet). There are so many Indonesian restos around..

    The Chinese meal was so-so. We were too hungry to complain anyway. The pisang goreng was not to my liking. The batter was too thick, not crispy enough… and one drawback, surprisingly, was the slow service. We were there at 3pm. Our food arrived at the table 1 hr 15mins later and we left the resto at almost 6! Quite unusual for a chinese business..

  9. JY says:

    Thanks for visiting my blog. Yeah, we saw some similar sights. We also took one of those coach tours to the countryside to take in the windmills and villages (Edam and Volendam in particular). That was very enjoyable. I have a similar photo in front of that Rembrant statue although in the evening, when we were looking for a particular Indonesian restaurant. The Indon food was so-so, and quite pricey. However on another day, I enjoyed an excellent sirloin at one of the many Argentinian steakhouses.

  10. Nasifriet says:

    It was great that you included the country-side trips. Ahhh… you went to Edam-Volendam, famous for their Edammer cheeses. Love your clogs pics, esp the one you sat on 😀 I did take a pic of a giant pair of clogs (not as big as the one you sat on) in the city centre, but it took me ages to upload all these pics, so had to scrap the write-up on clogs. Hey, you could include a 5th “C” – the Canta. We saw a lot of those smack in the centre of AMS. It looks silly at first, but it has it’s purpose of course… You’re right abt the indon resto. I spotted one at the Rembrandt Sq. I checked the price list, and indeed it was at the high end. We did not have indon food but had Japs (infusion) at Wagamama. Simple but great stuff! We had Argentinean on our first day lunch, but was quite disappointed. The steak was probably not the real McCoy, a bit on the tough side and over-grilled…. a shame really, but of course that does not deter us from going back to AMS…

  11. MaryMoh says:

    Lovely pictures. Reminds me of last trip to Amsterdam several years ago. I remember Netherlands as a place of bicycles, tulips, wooden shoes ad cheeses. Sweet memories 😀

  12. Nasifriet says:

    Yeah, you’re right – bicycles, tulips, clogs, cheeses, windmills and Dutch croquettes (“bitterballen”). You can literally buy these croquettes at the vending machines!

  13. Angel says:

    Hey I just saw this blog entry today while looking to see if you’ve posted anything about MBTs 😉

    Love your food pictures, as usual ;P

    If you ever do make it to Wagamama’s in Antwerpen, there’s an awesome Jap resto right next to it called Kaiseki which is equally tempting, as they have super freshly prepared food for their eat-till-u-drop buffet. Also, their complimentary dessert comes in the form of home-made black sesame/green tea/yam ice cream! Lekkerrrrrr

  14. Nasifriet says:

    Hoi! I did shop last weekend looking for MBT. I spent some 3 hrs in the shop just trying and un-trying and then finally found a substitute. Lagi sui than the real MBT 🙂 will blog abt it… At the same time also got a pair of sandals..

    Oh, would love to go back to Wagamama. It’s simple food, and yet so delicious and healthy. Have been to one all-you-can-eat Japs resto in Antwerp somewhere at the China town. A bit disappointed. Not so good… 😦

  15. Angel says:

    Yerdeh, lagi sui than MBT? Can’t wait to see it! Leme know if your posture etc improves…

    I think I know which Jap resto u meant. I’ve seen a few that area but all kinda dogdy looking. This one is located right in the same building as Wagamama’s and UGC cinema. It was about 25€ p.p. but the food is fresh and really good quality.

    I’m waiting to go try that Thai lady’s cooking in Zaventem. Is next week a possibility? 😉

  16. Nasifriet says:

    Yeah, dodgy looking outside but inside quite sui, but food a bit greasy… will check out the one you suggested one of these days.. We don’t go to Antwerp so often mah..

    You serious abt Anna? OK , deal. Definitely can’t make it on Monday 11/4 ‘cos car will be at the garage. Tue, Thur or Fri? How abt the other girls?

  17. Jacinta says:

    Hello Cuz! Haven’t been in this site for a long time and it’s always fun to read your posts. Reminds me of the time when I was holidaying with my friends in Amsterdam in 2005. I had so much fun. One time, we were out and about and then we got lost, so tired and hungry. I saw Wagamama and decided to check it out. It was superb!! There is another one in Copenhagen and I am so happy about it. Good food and not so expensive.

    How are you and the family? Mimi delivered a baby boy, Zen Satori is the name, on the 15th April. I’m auntie again! yikes! LOL!

    Hear from you soon! Cheers

    Cinta xox

  18. Nasifriet says:

    Hey Cinta, good to see you here (again). As you can see, I’m rather behind in my posts as well. Have been busy at work with the auditors’ queries and Qtr 1 reporting… :-((
    We were in Maastricht recently, and the weather was great. Nice shopping streets and the open air eating on the Square of Our Lady was superb. As for Amsterdam, definitely we’re going back there again…

    Yeah, I got the lovely pics of Zen and a nice story of her extraordinary journey to motherhood. Great to know that mum and baby are doing well.

    I hope to post something this weekend, as I’m taking a long weekend for the Easter..

    Happy Easter “aunty” Cinta 🙂

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