Exploring Amsterdam

Amsterdam

View from my hotel room

I slept pretty well and woke up at 8am for breakfast. Even though Hotel Ajax was a two star hotel, my stay included breakfast.

I went down to the lobby which also functioned as the breakfast venue. The food were placed on a corner table. The food wasn’t fancy but there was a good variety. There were toast, buns, cereal, cheese, ham, hard-boiled eggs. Little packets of spreads were available and I took the chocolate spread. It was quite nice and tasted like Nutella. For drinks, there were milk, water and an orange-colored drink. If I wanted hot drinks like coffee, I would need to buy from the expresso machine so I took the orange-colored drink thinking that it was orange juice. I should have known better. It turned out to be some kind of orange cordial.

I went back to my hotel room after breakfast. There was no point going out until it was after 10am as the shops would still be closed. I lay on the bed and watched TV. There was only CNN or the home shopping network available so I fell asleep after a while. I woke up 30 mins later and found that it was almost 10am. Although I would not mind lazing around in the hotel room for a while longer, I decided that I should go out and take a look at Amsterdam.

I did not do my homework before I arrived in Amsterdam so I had no idea where to go and what to see. I took out the map that KKH and I obtained when we transited in Amsterdam previously. It was the perfect tourist map as the shopping streets were marked clearly on the map. I wasn’t into shopping but there seemed little else to do. I did not feeling like taking river cruises or visiting museums. In fact, I did not feel like doing anything that would require me to spend my diminutive amount of Euros. I was determined to make my €59 last for my whole stay in Amsterdam.

I studied the map and plotted a path around the city that would take me through some shopping streets and some parks. Feeling satisfied that the route would get me through the day, I set out from the hotel. I planned to walk all the way so as to save money on transport. I found Amsterdam to be an easy city to walk in. With the help of the map, I managed to reach all my destinations. Even though I did get lost once or twice, it was pretty easy to get back on the right track again without needing to ask anyone for directions.

Museumplein

I headed first in the general direction of Museumplein, a park surrounded by several museums. The most famous of them was probably the big gray modern-looking Van Gogh Museum. It certainly stood out from the rest of the buildings which were in traditional European style.

I amsterdam letters in front of Rijksmuseum

Nearby I found the “I amsterdam” letters in front of Rijksmuseum. In front of these letters was a shallow pool and in the pool stood a rather ugly sculpture which looked as if it had boobs for eyes. There were a pair of these I amsterdam letters. One was permanently in front of Rijksmuseum while the other set of letters would appeared at various locations around the city.

Swans

There were a lot of canals in Amsterdam. In one of them, I spotted a mother swan and her babies.

Albert Cuyp street market

Then I stumbled upon the Albert Cuyp street market. There were a variety of stalls selling foodstuffs to clothes and accessories. Of course what interested me most were the food stalls. There were quite a few stalls selling fresh fruits and vegetables. I was tempted by the berries packed into little baskets but the portions felt too much for one person. There were also stalls selling cheese, honey and jams. I even spotted a fishmonger with his fish laid out neatly on the folding tables. It felt like this was the wet market equivalent of Amsterdam.

At the other end of the street market were stalls selling cooked food. There was a fried food stall which seemed to be pretty popular and a burger stall which was packed with people eating burgers and drinking beer. The menus for the stalls were all in Dutch so the street market felt like it was meant more for the locals than tourists.

Sarphatipark

I decided to skip the food for now and headed south towards Sarphatipark. It was a nice little area surrounded by old European buildings. I sat on a park bench in front of the Samuel Sarphati monument and read for a little while.

Waterfowls

There were ducks and waterfowls in the park. Most of the time, they stayed near the ponds and ignored humans unless we were holding bread in our hands.

Albert Cuyp street market

Leaving Sarphatipark, I walked back to Albert Cuyp street market. Throughout my walks around Amsterdam city, I passed by many restaurants. There were Italian pizza restaurants, Argentinean steakhouses, Uruguayan steakhouses, Chinese restaurants, Middle Eastern kebab restaurants, Indian restaurants, sandwich delis, hot dog stalls but I did not come across one that seemed to served traditional Dutch cuisine. Although I had to admit, I did not know what was Dutch cuisine but I felt that there must be something that was unique to Netherlands, something that the locals enjoyed. The closest thing seemed to be those massive cones of fries that people munched on as they walked along the streets.

Poffertjes

The other dish that seemed to be a Dutch specialty seemed to be pancakes and that’s only because I walked pass a restaurant that said “Dutch pancakes”. I wanted to try at least one local dish so I bought some poffertjes from one of the stalls in Albert Cuyp street market for €1. The poffertjes were mini pancakes made with yeast and buckwheat flour. They were traditionally served with powdered sugar and butter. The pancakes were nice and spongy. They were hot off the grill so the butter melted pretty fast.

The poffertjes were nice with either the butter or the powdered sugar but not both at the same time. The butter dissolved the powdered sugar so in the end there was only the taste of butter. I preferred the powdered sugar as the melted butter could leave a oily taste in the mouth.

Amsterdam

I ate the poffertjes as I walked. I headed in the general direct of east, through some housing estates, over a huge canal and through some more housing estates to Oosterpark. Although the weather was quite sunny, the temperature was still cold enough that I had to wear a sweater.

Oosterpark

Oosterpark was the first park built by the Amsterdam Municipality. It was a bigger place than Sarphatipark and there was a cafe in one part of the park for people to sit and have afternoon tea. Stepping through the front gates of the Oosterpark, my first sight was of a crew packing up after an event. They kept the equipment and loaded them onto a lorry. This seemed like a happening park.

Oosterpark

I walked around the park and saw many people on bicycles or walking their dogs. Then I found a quiet part of the park with stone benches under tall trees and surrounded by tiny white flowers. It looked like a good place to stop and rest so I did. I sat and read until a water droplet splashed onto the screen of my ebook reader. Then another. And another. I got out the windbreaker from my bag and wore it. It had a hood and was a little water resistant so it could keep me dry unless the rain was really heavy. It was time to leave.

A little further away, I saw some people taking shelter under the trees. Thinking that I would never be able to out walk the rain clouds, I joined them. Now I know that in school we were taught that standing under the trees during a thunderstorm was dangerous but there was no thunder or lightning present so I felt that it should be safe. Some rain got through the canopy of leaves but the rain did not get heavier so it was alright. After five to ten minutes, the rain stopped.

So I moved on. From Oosterpark, I walked in a northwesterly direction, passed Natura Artis Magistra and Hortus Botanicus. Remembering that Singapore Botanic Gardens was free to visit, I decided to see if Hortus Botanicus was free as well. It turned out not to be the case and the entry fee was €7.50. So I did not enter.

Amsterdam

From Hortus Botanicus, I had to cross the canal. As I walked across the bridge, I heard a ringing sound. I did not realize what the ringing sound meant so I  ignore it and continued walking. Then I saw that the safety barriers were down and I realized the bridge was going to be raised. I stood there dumbly for a few seconds, not knowing if I should run forwards or backtrack. I saw a few tourists running in my direction and the sight spurred me into motion. I quickly ran back to where I came from and stood there with the rest to wait for the boat to pass. The watchman must think that I’m an incredibly stupid tourist.

I stopped by at a nearby McDonald  and bought dinner. Actually I wanted to try this doner kebab shop that I passed by earlier in the day. But try as I might, I could not find it again. I walked to where I thought it should be but it wasn’t there. After searching the nearby streets, I concluded that wherever the doner kebab shop was located, it was nowhere near my current location. Dejectedly, I went to the McDonald outlet near the hotel to see if they had anything interesting on their menu.

McDonald

In the end, I bought the Italian Special which was a burger patty on what looked like pita bread. It looked pretty nice on the advert. I decided not to eat in the fast food restaurant and brought it back to my hotel. I reached my hotel at 5pm. Although there was still about four hours of daylight left, I was too tired to venture out again. So I headed back up to my room and went straight to bathe.

McDonald

I opened the box and found that the burger was stuffed with so many veggies that I could hardly see the meat patty. I guessed some people would consider that a good thing. The burger had turned cold by the time I ate it but everything was washed down with a cup of comforting Coca-Cola so it was a pretty okay meal after all.

I watched a movie on TV called Covert One: The Hades Factor before I went to sleep. It was more interesting than yesterday’s movie but it still felt like a B grade movie.

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