Amsterdam! I’m sorry! How I misjudged you!
It took three times but you are now officially one of my favourite European cities.
For those who follow me on social media you will notice there have been a few changes in my life since my last blog post back in May. Dubai is now home and I am so proud to say I am now part of the Emirates cabin crew family. The last two months of my life have been entirely dedicated to training and over the coming days I will be sharing my experiences with you all. However, trying to find the words for what has been the most rewarding and empowering period of my life, namely because of the incredible people I have met along the way, is proving difficult.
As a recent graduate of the Emirates Training College, Amsterdam is now forever stamped in the story of my life. This quaint Dutch city marked my second flight with Emirates and my first layover. I will never forget the support of the crew or our beautiful passengers who made the experience even more special. Thank you for the cheers and round of applause upon landing when it was announced I was a newbie… it may have brought a tear or two to my eye.
In addition, the layover allowed me to catch up with an old friend from university who was kind enough to take me around Amsterdam on his bicycle. The layover was filled with delicious food, vegan festivals, fresh summer air, cocktails by the canals, dancing in Dam Platz and pure joy.
Rick, my A380 crew and passengers this blog is dedicated to you all.
Now we all know what factors make Amsterdam unique and famous and it is these factors that undoubtedly attract millions of tourists every year. But there is so much more to the city. Amsterdam is place for artists, foodies, historian junkies, lovers and travel soloists. This is a place where you can enjoy a drink along the canals after cycling all day as you listen to live music. Or should sitting on the sidelines not be your style jump in a small boat and cruise the Venice of the north. Amsterdam is brimming with quality food to sample so be prepared for your pants to judge your indulgent choices. Let that diet go and embrace every moment in the Netherlands.
Where did you stay?
Located literally adjacent to the airport one could easily assume the hotel would me loud let alone the best place to relax. Having had a wonderfully peaceful nights sleep I can safely say BANISH such thoughts as the Hilton Schiphol is one of the best hotels I’ve had the pleasure of staying at.
Understandably, I can appreciate would be travellers are more inclined to stay in the heart of the city centre but I implore you to give the Hilton Schiphol a chance. Not only are you within walking distance from the airport (all undercover and no stairs), which is ideal for those disembarking from long haul flights or passengers with early morning flights but the metro will bring you into the heart of the city in a little over 10 minutes for just under 10 euros.
The hotel is modern, vibrant and quintessentially Dutch in terms of décor and style. More importantly the staff are very welcoming and the facilities on offer so addictive you will have to remind yourself to actually leave the hotel for sightseeing duties. As for the most important meal of the day, the breakfast spread simply does not get any better than the wide selection available to guests from enticing omelette stations, fruits of the month and several gluten free options. For those wanting to relax enjoy a 30 minute massage at the Eforea Spa for 40 euros or simply venture to your room where even the complimentary tea clearly has carefully been selected to aide sleeping.
Where to find the best stroopwafels in town?
A couple of years ago as I ventured through Europe I stumbled across pure heaven on earth in the form of a caramelised biscuit known as a stroopwafel. I have been hooked ever since. You have not lived until you gorge yourself silly on these Dutch delights. Needless to say they can be found everywhere but I was determined to find the best in town and with the help of my adopted Dutch local Rick, I think we might have found them at Banketbakkerij Lanskroon.
This delightful little café is very well priced and compared to many stroopwafels on offer throughout Amsterdam are generous in size and caramel. Two of these bad boys and much needed coffees only cost 10 euros which appeals to all budgets. If anyone judges you for over indulging remember there is no such thing as a stroopwafel addiction, but a stroopwafel commitment.
Interesting places to eat and drink?
The winding streets of Amsterdam are littered with eateries of all shapes and sizes. I assure you that you will not have any issue in sourcing quality food but I do suggest venturing a few streets always from the the main attractions to gain more of a relaxed vibe or simply to feel like a local. A trip to Amsterdam is not complete without a trip to the Foodhallen which I have no trouble renaming as The Foodies Paradise. Open everyday from 11.00am to 11.30pm (1.00am Fridays and Saturdays), this international indoor food market will appeal to all tastebuds come rain, hail or shine. Though it can get a little busy the area is wheelchair accessible and you will be able to immediately share your experiences thanks to the free wifi on offer.
The highlight of my trip was stumbling upon a vegan food festival within Foodhallen and devouring undoubtedly the best vegan ice cream of my life from Icy, the vegan food truck. Giving up dairy is never easy when you are addicted to ice cream and cheese and let’s be honest sometimes those cravings win namely because it is a struggle to find vegan substitutes for my favourite foods. This ice cream feels that void to the extent I would say it is better than the real thing. This company needs to go global!
For those looking for a place to sit and unwind be sure to grab a drink at Waterkant. Prices for both alcoholic and non alcoholic beverages are reasonable and the environment perfect for those lazy Sunday afternoons. If like me you can’t or don’t drink sample their home made gingerbeer and thank me later.
To bike or not to bike, that is the question?
Anyone who knows me can testify that my ability to steer anything like a car, bike etc is severely limited namely because crowded areas make me too nervous to function. Give me a wild horse and I will be fine but given my clumsiness that’s where my abilities stop. So with that said take my opinion on biking through Amsterdam with a grain of salt.
Renting a bike is possible in Amsterdam, however I would advise throwing on some comfortable shoes and leaving that mode of transport to the locals. As my parents used to say when I complained why I couldn’t go out as a teenager, “it’s not that we don’t trust you, we just don’t trust other people.” This same notion applies in Amsterdam. There is a lot to deal with in terms of situational awareness combined with road rules/ etiquette that you may not be familiar with. You will be sharing the roads with cars, trams and other cyclists but the biggest hazard will be other tourists. Amsterdam is relatively small and the number of tourists extensive. It is not uncommon to find bike lanes being used for walking or people standing in these lanes to take pictures unaware of the hoard of cyclists approaching. So exercise caution. Though I was fortunate enough to ride around with a local if I was travelling solo I would opt to explore the idyllic neighbourhoods by foot or take a canal cruise. However, if you are quite confident in your skills investigate the myriad of guided bike tours on offer by clicking here.
Top tricks and tidbits?
If you’re venturing to Amsterdam for the first time I would recommend spending roughly two nights in the city giving you three full days to explore. This will provide you with enough time to see the major tourists attractions like the Van Gogh Museum and Anne Frank’s House, the latter of which will require patience and time due to lines, whilst also allowing you time to simply explore the city and soak in the serene ambience.
First timers might also be interested in purchasing the I AM AMSTERDAM card which offers a free canal cruise, unlimited use of public transport (excluding airport connections) and most importantly significant discounts on major attractions. Lastly be sure to download these useful apps:
I amsterdam City Guide
Bike like a local
Schiphol Amsterdam Airport
Amsterdam, The Map
Amsterdam has an electricity about it yet maintains the calm and relaxed atmosphere which will leave you increasingly jealous of the Dutch lifestyle. You might even find yourself contemplating moving there after your visit and not just to feed your stroopwafel habit. The city truly inspires me with its liberalism and genuine friendliness.
We could all learn something from the Netherlands.
*Disclaimer: My posts are my personal views. They do not represent the views of Emirates*