After a cold, but very enjoyable experience in France, we decided it was time to explore a bit more of Europe. This time, we went a bit earlier in the year to aim for slightly warmer weather while still missing the busier and more expensive peak travel times. We had the additional joy of visiting family who recently moved to Amsterdam for a new job. The cloudy weather proved to be a challenge for any vibrant or breathtaking photography, but the cities themselves were charming enough just to enjoy. Despite its reputation for seedier pursuits, I’m interested in returning to Amsterdam again for the wonderful small city feel and the abundance of canals, streets, and restaurants to explore.
Facts and Favorites
Favorite Eats: In Amsterdam we went to Bakers and Roasters twice, so it probably earns the title as our favorite. The upbeat and busy breakfast/brunch spot had delicious food and friendly service. In Brussels we really enjoyed the atmosphere of Fin de Siecle. The food was quite good and hearty – perfect for a chilly evening.
Favorite Pastry: Probably the pies and tarts at the very crowded and tiny De Laatste Kruimel.
Favorite Coffee: Luckily, Amsterdam was home to much better coffee than France. There were plenty of locally owned coffee shops (actually serving coffee, rather than pot) that had good coffee and nice atmosphere. The title goes to Back to Black or the coffee at Bakers and Roasters.
Favorite Site Visited: Rather than a specific site, the beautiful tree-lined canals throughout the center of Amsterdam won us over. We never got tired of roaming the canals and were constantly rewarded with beautiful new perspectives on the city. In Belgium, our favorite was even more broad – the entire city of Bruges. It was a very well preserved city that has parts approaching 1,000 years old. The entire center city is a maze of surprising architectural detail, more canals, and hidden oases of green space.
Favorite Travel Tip: Don’t be afraid of Amsterdam – the seedy side of the city is contained in a relatively small area, and visitors will be rewarded with days of exploring in peaceful, beautiful, and classy parts of town to the south of city center. Do prepare for a decent transit time to the airport if you choose to take public transit – you’ll likely take a trolly to the train station, and then a train to the airport. Change for train and trolly tickets is not easy to come by, but you can likely buy an OV-chipkaart (smartcard) in one of the train station’s stores, rather than in a kiosk if you don’t have change.