The following morning, we slept in until lunch time and were frankly still exhausted. We grabbed some sandwiches from the small cafe in the hotel lobby and made our plans for the day. Aside from food, my number one “must-do” was a canal cruise tour. Initially, I had planned on doing a meal cruise of some sort – everything from pizza and burgers to a 5-course meal. However, because of our late start to the day and the fact that we already had plans for dinner, we opted for one of the many one-hour guided tours.
Based on reviews, we chose the Gray Line 100 Highlights canal cruise tour. Did you know… the canals were such a vital part of European history, they have been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site? During our tour, we learned a lot of interesting facts about the city, from architectural trends to rumors and folk lore. We also shared a somber moment as we passed the house where Anne Frank and her family sought refuge during the Holocaust. I took way too many pictures (over 100), but the city was just so beautiful from the water. It is said you haven’t truly seen Amsterdam until you see it from the water, and I must say I agree.
We spent the afternoon exploring shops around the city (and checking in on the score of the American NFL football games). We made a quick stop back at our hotel before meeting with my husband’s friends for dinner. At their suggestion, we met at the Leidesplein tram stop and walked to Dubbel Eten en Drinken. All of us had the steak frites, which was seriously amazing. The steak had a delicious peppercorn glaze and the fries were served with frite sauce that is most similar to mayonnaise. For dessert, we each got something different and shared among the table, all of which were very good.
After dinner, we opted not to visit one of the coffee shops Amsterdam is famous for. According to our local friends, marijuana in the Netherlands is like alcohol in the US – exciting when you first come of age and then something most people only do on occasion, if at all. Instead, they took us to a local late-night bakery to cross another item off my Amsterdam must-do list, stroopwafels! These cookie-like treats are made of two thin waffles pressed together with caramel or syrup in the middle. They were good, but a little too cinnamon-y for my liking – I’m told there are different flavors and these weren’t the best representation, so I’d definitely give them another shot.
To finish off our evening, we went to a local bar called the Water Hole. There was a live blues band playing in English, Dutch, and Spanish (color me impressed). Each of them were incredibly talented on their respective instruments and just watching them play was entertaining in its own right.
I noticed a few major differences in this bar and the ones I’m used to back home. First, they don’t allow smoking in bars… sort of. The non-smoking bar isn’t entirely foreign to me, though most of Kentucky’s bars allow it. What was surprising was the fact that, if you get caught smoking, it’s the bar that gets in trouble so they really pay attention to it. I learned that bars will sometimes have a separate smoking room where you can smoke, but the servers and bartenders are not allowed to enter so you have to carry your drinks with you. I was also struck by how calm the bar was. People were drinking, dancing, and singing along with songs they knew, but there wasn’t any yelling or fighting like can often occur after midnight when alcohol is involved. People were just kind of swaying to the beat and I’m pretty sure if we weren’t indoors, there would have been lighters waving in the night. I was sad to leave, but we had an early flight to Paris in the morning and needed to finish packing everything up.
Explore new places, but Never Grow Up!