My husband Jason turned 40 this year (2017). I don’t know what it was but I had the idea to visit four major cities in four different countries. 4 for 40, get it? I went back and forth and finally came to a decision of four European places to visit. I am British (and Italian) and Jason is American. Even as a neighbour to Europe; there are many places I haven’t travelled, the same for Jason even more so with him being American. Every year for the last three years, I visit home in England twice a year. Every other year I spend Christmas with my family and he joins me. So with us flying to the UK for some time, I thought there was no better timing. So I am here talking about the first city/country we visited on our trip…. AMSTERDAM!!!
Just one day…. yes! With a mission in mind to see as much as possible that I had drawn out as my own tour guide, we crammed as much as we could into our “Dutch day”.
Arriving at the airport, once we found our bearings it was easy to buy a train ticket to the city centre. The price was just €4.20 one way, per person and a short ride of no more than 30 minutes.
Arriving at Station Centraal , it became very apparent that we had arrived in Amsterdam. I have never been here before but Jason briefly visited some time ago whilst we lived in Germany some moons ago. As you stand at the entrance of the station, look back and take in the special detail on this building, its pretty remarkable considering it is JUST a train station!
Anyway blue skies greeted us with a slight chill that woke us up. We began walking parallel to the canal. I mean, you just literally follow the canals for direction!!!
We soon came to Oude Kerk which is also a stunning building and massive. 800years old!!!!!! We didn’t have enough time to visit the interior but I intend to next time.
To the right are just a few pictures I took in the Koninklijk Paleis (Royal Palace) but you can read more by clicking here for more in depth reading of this special palace.
Following our self guided tour around Koninklijk Paleis, we had warmed up a little bit after being inside so we braved the cold to make our way towards our hotel; NH Caransa. We passed the beautiful Bloemenmarkt which is just full of tulips and other flowers (even in December). I’ve never seen a market like this on the water and I think thats what makes Amsterdam so special, because it is so unique.
Bloemenmarkt – the worlds only flower market situated on the water, and its in Amsterdam. It sits on the cities southern canal belt on Singel and has 15 garden shops along here.
I half expected it to be closed given that we were in late December, but to my surprise they were open and full bloom with beautiful tulips and other flowers. I have also never seen a sale of 50 tulips for only €12.50. Just think; when you go to your local supermarkets; what do they normally sell a bunch of flowers for? Approximately £5-£10 and you probably get 10 flowers!!! So in comparison I think it is really good value for money.
Rembrandtplein (square) is named after the famous painter Rembrandt. This is a major square for Amsterdam that typically has something happening all the time. When we were there just after Christmas; the ice-rink was still open and a few market huts for gluhwein and food. You see these bronze sculptures stand before you and they represent the men depicted in Rembrandt’s famous painting “The Night Watch”. This array of statues were placed here on his 400th birthday in 2006 as a celebration.
The view looked very pretty from our hotel room as it looks out on the whole area, and at night the lights shone brightly and illuminated the special statues.
Let me tell you, this hotel was pretty amazing. To look from the outside is quite deceiving but once you’re at check in – the staff are just super friendly and helpful.
We stayed at NH Caransa and if you do your research; the chain NH has various hotels in this city so make sure you rock up to the right one as we came across two before finding our own.
The image of the plate of fruits & chocs and card (to the right) was all complimentary for Jason’s 40th birthday. I was very surprised that they’d gift that. I didn’t expect much so that blew me out of the water, and Jason too. Again, the genuine friendliness that I experienced in this city was beyond my expectation. It made me feel like I was welcome in their city.
The view onto Rembrandtplein was spectacular at night with all the twinkly lights but unfortunately our stay here was very short with a wakeup call the following day at 4am to be at the train station by 5am. We had an early flight, can you tell!? The walk to the train station really wasn’t that bad but I wouldn’t advise you to walk alone or atleast being a lone female, I personally wouldn’t feel comfortable. If you’re with somebody that is much better (at that time). Other than that, it is a super easy straight walk and even at 430am; nobody bothered us!!
All around Rembrandtplein there are plenty of hotels to choose from. Also lots of bars and restaurants. Within a few minutes walking distance you approach lots of main street shopping like H&M and lots of fun boutique style stores too. We were there when they were having their (what the Brit’s call) “Boxing Day” sales so we bagged a few things.
The picture to the right is of me eating at one of my favourite european restaurants – Vapiano. I am also eating one of my fave dishes; Spaghetti all’aglio, olio e peperoncino. Delicious!!! Basically pasta with with olive oil, garlic and the small red chilli peppers. This is my go to dish if I am super hungry and can’t be bothered to think, or when I am sick and I just want my comfort food. It’s the Italian in me that will always LOVE pasta. It is extremely easy to make too. If you eat cheese, I recommend Parmegiano Reggiano grated onto, or if you’re vegan like me, find a dairy-free Italian cheese and it tastes yummmmy! I have been to this restaurant in Germany and now Netherlands… Vapiano! You order and they make it right there infront of you, you wait, they pass it over the counter, you tap your pay card and everything you order is uploaded onto the card so that when you pay, its all right there! It’s such a genius and easy way to eat great food that is cooked fresh. Pizzas, pastas, salads and desserts!
Enough about food. It’s making me hungry.
Visit my next blog which is just purely pictures from our day trip to Amsterdam, just click here.