This year has been filled with a generous amount of travel...both business and pleasure. The later of course being the most fulfilling and memorable. This year also marked our 15th wedding anniversary and to celebrate we decided to take an extensive trip to Europe together. Our journey included traveling to Amsterdam, Venice, Florence, Rome and several cities within the region of Tuscany. To say there was a vast amount of planning for this trip would be an understatement. But fortunately all those little details made for a very smooth holiday and incredible experiences we will both never forget.
We began our adventure with a flight from LAX to Stockholm then on to the first city on our agenda...Amsterdam! And let me just cut to the chase here...we both LOVED Amsterdam!
We stayed in an area known as The Nine Streets located in the heart of the city's canal district. It was a beautiful section of the city filled with quaint boutiques, coffee shops and charming restaurants. It felt like a small neighborhood and we enjoyed being able to walk to dinner and the market for our daily breakfast yogurt. Our first meal after getting settled was a Nutella crepe stuffed with strawberries, a ham and gruyere cheese panini and an authentic Belgian waffle.
Choosing to stay at Hotel IX made our visit incredibly special. The well appointed rooms were so beautifully decorated with simple, yet sumptuous, white bedding and a dramatic black and white photo mural of a street scene right outside their front door. And those wood beams!
The large room had a nice seating area, a free mini bar and Nespresso machine and a great bathroom with a walk-in shower. Usually I've found in Europe, hotel rooms and apartment rentals are tiny with even tinier bathrooms. So having such a generous, light filled space was a welcome surprise. One memorable item of note about this hotel (that you won't read on their website or in reviews) are the soft church bells you hear ringing every hour. It's like a daily reminder to savor the moment. Wish there were more of them here in the US. I find them soothing.
Some of the scenes along the canals were the epitome of what I thought Amsterdam would look like. Large trees lining each side, crooked row houses covered in vines, fresh flower stands, old boat houses and bicycles whizzing by nearly every minute. You can rent bikes to explore on your own or with a guide at Yellow Bike and Scooter Rent Amsterdam.
One evening we took the free ferry from the Central Station to the north side of Amsterdam to have dinner at Pllek - a restaurant made out of recycled shipping containers! Inside you can sit by the fireplace and gaze out their enormous floor to ceiling windows with views of the water. It's the perfect date night. They have an amazing menu of sustainably caught seafood and fresh local produce and everything we had was delicious. Oh, and you can see their giant disco ball here!
Some of our other favorite cafes and coffee shops were:
Cafe Bern - For authentic Swiss fondue and local atmosphere. Definitely not touristy. Cafe de Pels - Nice little place to sit by the window, have coffee and watch the world go by. Paper Planes - Great spot for brunch, regardless of their somewhat odd FB page. Pluk Amsterdam - Healthy juices, smoothies and fresh salads, beautiful shop as well. Lot Sixty One - They take coffee seriously...the perfect place for a cappuccino and croissant. Gartine - Absolutely loved this place. The food, decor, staff...even the dishes. Highly recommend! Winkel - Famous apple pie. Or is it cake? You be the judge....either way it was delicious!
There are so many great places to eat in Amsterdam. We didn't have a single bad meal. It's easy to get carried away with trying to hit all the "best" places but I also like to go off the beaten path and just stop when hunger strikes. The Man even ate some sort of crispy egg roll/chicken curry thing from a vending machine at Febo and liked it. Apparently they're a huge hit with the locals.
One of the trip highlights for me was visiting the Anne Frank House. I read her diary several times as a young girl and it had such an impact on me. I believe it was the first time I ever understood the devastation and atrocities humans can inflict on innocent people. Being able to walk through their secret hiding place, climb the same stairs, see the rooms they lived in and her original hand written diary was an extremely moving experience.
There are some wonderful museums, parks and palaces all worth a visit:
Van Gogh Museum, Rembrandt House, Vondelpark, Rijksmuseum, and the Royal Palace just to name a few. You could spend days going through them...if not weeks. We even popped into the little Amsterdam Tulip Museum to see what was inside.
I really love traveling in the fall. The weather is generally mild, the summer crowds are gone, and there is a more relaxed pace to things. We would get up early and walk the canals just as the city was starting to stir. We could hear children laughing on their way to school, watch deliveries being made to local businesses and see beautiful Dutch people of all ages riding their bikes on the way to work. Aside from panoramic views and mind boggling architecture, this is my favorite aspect of traveling. To see how other people live. It's fascinating to witness and hopefully we'll be able take some of their daily lifestyle habits (bicycle commuting) and adapt them into our own life.
In my next post I'll share all my favorite shops! Amsterdam has so many great little boutiques filled with amazing lighting, original home decor, and other beautiful interior furnishings.
Have you ever been to Amsterdam? Would love for you to share your favorite places in the comments!