I find Amsterdam to be a great city for two friends to reconnect or just for a quick mini-break vacation. I met Ms Lee in Dubai nearly 7 years ago. She is a crazy, tiny Korean woman with sass and a lovable nature. And we clicked the very first time we met. When we moved to Germany she moved back to Korea, and I missed her dearly. But we made sure to stay in touch and she even visited when I was pregnant in 2014. We ended up going to Cologne for the weekend and it was awesome!
Skip a few years and after losing contact for a short while, due to her moving back to Korea and other unforeseen circumstances, we found ourselves together again, this time in Amsterdam. And what a weekend it was.
I love Amsterdam! It is one of the cities that is super close to my heart, in that it was my very first international city after I got my very first passport. It also has two of the best museums I have ever had the pleasure of visiting: Van Gogh and the Rijksmuseum. And of course: Boat Cruises (I mean Amsterdam has 165 Canals stretching over about 50km and with 1281 bridges, a boat trip is a must!).
Getting there...and around
Ms Lee landed in Düsseldorf and spent the first few days getting to know Miss E and catching up with me. We had already planned the trip to Amsterdam and with me as her companion, she knew she was in good hands. We took the train from Düsseldorf to Amsterdam on Friday morning, and with only four stops in-between, we found ourselves on Dutch soil just before noon.
Now, I find public transportation super expensive in Düsseldorf and surrounds. Amsterdam was super cheap in comparison. We took a Metro three stops from the Main Station to our hotel. Later that day, we each bought a 48hr ticket which allowed us to make use of the trams as well as buses and the underground metro - all this for as little as EUR12,50! I pay more for a Day Ticket for 2 zones in North-Rhein-Westfalen!
Where we stayed...
We managed to get an early check-in at our hotel, the Hyatt Regency Amsterdam. What a lovely hotel - the benefits of working in hotels, thanks Ms Lee! We had a beautiful Canal View Room, complete with twin beds, Nespresso Coffee Machine and a rain shower!
The hotel itself is botanical-themed. With plants and trees everywhere. The lobby wall had plants growing up along the wall and flower pots dangling from the ceiling. Inside the elevator, the walls were covered in leafy wallpaper and when we got out on our floor, we were once again hit by plants and leaves. Even our room looked out to greenery and partial canal. It was all very botanical, serene, natural.
Well, with so much to see and do, we freshened up and headed back downstairs to get some 'insider tips'. The lovely lady at the front desk gave us a map and pointed out some hot spots as well as local gems.
Albert Cuyp Market...
I love a good bargain. Who doesn't? And so of course when the Receptionist showed us the way to Europe's biggest market (as claimed on their website), we had to go and check it out.
***Whether or not the Albert Cuyp Market is Europe's biggest market, I would say is still up for debate, because I have also been to The Hague Market, which claims to be "one of the largest multicultural markets in Europe" - they were both quite impressive.***
Anyway, the market was a short 20 minute walk from the hotel and the sun was trying its best to push through the darkening clouds. Even though the clouds would not budge, we kept our spirits up and enjoyed each other's company.
This market was amazing!!!! Not only were there stalls, but some stalls were in fact extensions of the tiny shops behind them. There was everything from street food to street art; from handbags to shoes; from Stroop Waffels to Poffertjes (both made right in front of you). I mean, we really didn't have to go shopping after visiting this market.
We both had to admit that we were starving by the time we left the hotel. So of course we decided to try out the street food on offer. There was one stall selling Chicken Sandwiches, and they looked so delicious. The first bite had us both lost for words. The chicken was so well-marinaded and it was super tender. Ms Lee chose to have cheese with hers and I stole a piece. It was so yummy, I sent hubby a text saying we have GOT to come visit together, just so I can buy him a chicken sandwich!
There was one guy who was selling cone-shaped waffles with cavity-inducing toppings. I was too full to buy that and wanted to walk off the chicken sandwich first. We ended up having a large Stroop Waffel instead 🙂
A dark cloud then sauntered over the market and we decided to go find shelter. We went into a side street and found a cozy little pub with outside seating. After some drinks and after the rain stopped (it really was just a quick downpour of like 7 minutes), we headed back out and made our way to Andaz Amsterdam.
With Ms Lee working in Hospitality, we were able to secure a 'site inspection' of sorts of this funky hotel. Neither of us have had the pleasure of visiting an Andaz property before and we really really wanted to. So we were super happy that they could squeeze us in.
My word! The thought that comes to mind, when I walked into this hotel was: hip, chic and oh so feisty! Andaz is a Hindi word that means Personal Style. And the architect and Designer of this hotel, definitely took that phrase to a whole new level. I was in total awe when entering through the front doors. Part of the Hotel was initially home to the Town Library which was moved to a new location. From the outside Andaz doesn't look that big, but it has 122 rooms, cute little lounge area and a Restaurant and Bar called Bluespoon.
The decor hits you the moment you step foot into the building and in a sense: keeps messing with your senses throughout the hotel. The lobby is definitely not traditional: with three tall cocktail tables and few 'roaming' 'Front Desk Agents' holding tablets. From the ceiling above hangs three large white bells. I'm already in love!
Everything from the wallpaper to the Prince Statues and the visual art to the various bedroom design - it all screams Andaz! Even the employees are sassy, energetic and all of them (those we talked to) bring their own personal style to their 'station'. I enjoyed the short visit and would definitely want to visit again!
We headed back to our hotel to freshen up and then headed out once again to get to our boat for the evening boat cruise. We booked with The Blue Boat Company, and the Boat Captain was a charming lad with a wicked sense of humor, which unfortunately was wasted on the crowd in the boat. I found his jokes rather funny - so a larger tip was given 🙂
The first round of drinks was included in our ticket and so of course, child-less I ordered the house red. Our boat took off at 7pm and it was such a beautiful evening. The tip we got from a local Amsterdam(er?) was spot on: exploring Amsterdam from the Canals was very much different than experiencing the bridges and ally-ways by foot. And with headsets plugged in, we sat back and enjoyed the cruise whilst listening to the rich history and traditions of Amsterdam.
Calling it a night...
After our cruise ended, we disembarked and headed across yet another bridge towards the Hard Rock Cafe Amsterdam. Of course, being the spontaneous duo that we are, we had no reservation and there was already a really long line outside. So we checked out the RockShop, decided that a t-shirt for a 2,5yr old was just way too expensive and headed out again.
It then started to rain, and I don't mean a short cloud burst either: it was a 'raining cats and dogs' kind of downpour. We had 1 umbrella and I'm fat! We managed to get to a tram stop and only had to wait about 8 minutes in the pouring rain. Once we got off the tram near our hotel though, it was merely drizzling.
We had dinner at Mama Makan - the restaurant at our hotel that serves Indonesian dishes. I had the Gado Gado which is a scrumptious salad with betawi vegetables, egg, tempeh and peanut sauce. Anyone who says "Peanut Sauce" and I am so there!
We ended the day with a couple of drinks and chatter. But I will admit, that we ended the day pretty early too. Friday night and we were both knocked out by midnight!
Night night, my Lovelies...