23 Aug 2019

Honeymoon in Amsterdam

Today's post is all about the final leg of our honeymoon! As mentioned in this post, we sailed up the Rhine River for the longest leg of our trip. The ship's final docking location was Amsterdam, so we decided to stay there a couple extra days to make the most of it! With the help of our amazing travel agent, we selected a hotel and made a couple dinner reservations ahead of time. We're foodies, so like to put a bit of thought in our restaurant selections and there was a lot to choose from in Amsterdam. We had a jam-packed weekend and wouldn't have done it any other way!

We technically spent the Friday in Amsterdam as part of the cruise, but didn't spend much time exploring the city. We chose to make the most of the time we had left with our fellow cruisers, knowing we'd get to spend a couple days exploring at our own pace.

On the Saturday, we woke up very early to finish packing. It's crazy how settled you get on a cruise. I had unpacked everything so packing to leave was a bit of a production. I went around the room checking every nook and cranny making sure we didn't forget anything. Also, my husband was out late the previous night, so I helped him gather up the rest of his things too. All packed up, we left our room for the last time and headed off to breakfast. This whole morning was bitter sweet. On the one hand, I was excited to set-off on our own for the last leg of our journey, but on the other hand I was sad to have to leave our friends. I was a big ball of emotions and totally shed a few tears...

Before we knew it, our cab had arrived to pick us up. So we said I final goodbyes and off we went! Our cab dropped us off at our hotel around 9:30 a.m. We knew we'd be checking in early and that our room would likely not be ready until later. For that reason, we packed strategically and made sure our day bags contained everything we'd need. We checked-in, dropped off our luggage and chatted with the concierge to get our bearings. We took out a map and asked where the restaurants at which we had made dinner reservations were located. That way, we could plan our days around those because they were our only set plans. He was actually quite impressed with our choices, which we saw as a good sign! We also asked about bicycle rentals as my husband was eager to peddle his way around town. He suggested a nearby spot for lunch and pointed us towards the Nine Streets to get us on our way.

We figured exploring the Nine Streets would be the perfect way to start our stay with a bit of scenic walking and local shopping. It was still early in the day, so the city was relatively quiet. We strolled along and paused to take in the views of the canals and leaning houses. I got a pair of cute otter socks for my colleague (because she is obsessed with otters and we have this thing where we gift each other cute socks!) Other than that, I was very reasonable and didn't get anything for myself because my suitcase was already at capacity. I was tempted though!

We actually had a really great encounter that morning. We happened to come across the store of the guy my husband met at the bar the previous evening! They had hit it off and my husband really liked the essence of the brand of clothing he sold, A Fish Named Fred. Naturally, he bought and shirt and we had a quick coffee with the guy. It was such a cool happenstance! What are the odds we'd bump into the same guy the very next morning?

After walking almost every street of the Nine Street district, we were ready for lunch! We decided to go to Café George, as recommended by our concierge. It was a really cute place with a laid-back feel, perfect for a relaxing meal. I had the best croque-monsieur and tomato soup ever!

With full bellies, we walked back to the hotel to see if our room was ready. We stayed at the American Hotel, right in Amsterdam. It was a very beautiful building, the room was gorgeous (although I found the lighting to be on the dim side), the staff was very friendly and helpful and the on-site restaurant was great for breakfast. It's well located: not too close to the downtown core, just between the canal rings and Vondelpark. Our room was ready, so we checked it out, had a quick change (because it got warmer) and headed out on a mission to rent bicycles.

I was very apprehensive at the whole idea, not having had the best experience in Cologne... We found a bike rental nearby and took the plunge! We rented for a 24 hour period as we weren't going to be in Amsterdam for that long. After getting the how-to on the locking, we were off. My husband thought it would be nice to bike to the ferry and cross the harbour to check out the highest swing in Europe. He has a really great sense of direction and has always been very comfortable on a bicycle so he led the way. I, on the other hand, am not very at ease on a bicycle and the addition of being somewhere unfamiliar did not help in the slightest. Not to mention the complexities of navigating the roadways and other vehicles and cyclists. Might I also point out that by this time, it was late afternoon and the city was busy. We somehow made our way to the ferry unscathed and boarded. It's a short ride to the other side and we parked our bicycles to head to the swing. Turns out the wait to go up was very long and I wasn't feeling it at that point. We decided to sit and take a little break overlooking the harbour. By this point, my nerves were getting the best of me and I was more apprehensive about the ride back because now I knew what to expect and it did not sit well with me at all.

I put on a brave face and hopped back on my bicycle. My husband tried to go a different way as to avoid the busier streets and got us back to our hotel safely. I was completely spent by that point and decided to take a nap before getting ready for dinner. Contrary to me, my husband decided to bike around and explore a bit more. He took a few wrong turns, but always managed to find his way. 

After my nap (and his joy ride), we got ready for dinner and decided to walk to the restaurant. It was a short walk through Vondelpark. We had a reservation at Blauw for a traditional Indonesian rijsttafel. We always like to do cultural things when traveling as it really immerses us in the local culture of a place we are visiting and what better way is there of doing that than through local cuisine? A rijsttafel is a meal comprised of a multitude of small side dishes served with rice. It was delicious and there were so many different preparations and a great variety of ingredients. We certainly ate very well and highly suggest the experience to anyone traveling to the Netherlands!

We took our time as we strolled back to the hotel through Vondelpark. It's such a beautiful haven in the middle of the busy city. Even at dusk, it was bustling with people feeding the ducks, listening to music, chilling with friends, etc. We sat on a bench for a little moment looking out at a pond. 

We also decided to go check out the Red Light District, as one does in Amsterdam. Being Saturday, the area was very busy and swarming with people. However, police and security was very present and managing the flow of the crowd. We walked around for a bit and saw what there was to see. It's one of those things you do when in Amsterdam. I can now check it off my bucking list! 

On our way back to the hotel, we bumped into our friends from the cruise, so we made plans to meet up the next day, because it was very late (or early) at this point! We decided to take a rickshaw back to the hotel because we had done enough walking for one day. 

The next morning, we slept in a bit to make up for the late night. During breakfast, we planned out our last day of honeymooning. Since we still had the bikes for the morning, we figured we'd go on another bike ride to makes the most of it before returning them. I suggested we go ride in Vondelpark, as it seemed less daunting than the streets themselves. 

Today was much warmer than the previous day and we realized it was the start of the big heat wave Europe got at the beginning of summer. We hopped on our bikes and headed towards the park. We had to go down a few streets to make it and this is when things got interesting. My husband was leading the way as best he could and I was trying to keep up, as best I could. He took a turn where he wasn't supposed to (obviously not knowing this) and I followed him, cutting off a car! The driver started honking at me and I was like a deer in headlights trying to get me feet back on the peddles to get out of traffic. All the while, a local lady was yelling at us in Dutch, which did not help matters! We managed to get back to where we were supposed to be and found our way to the park without any more hiccups. I'm chalking it all up to being part of the experience! I mean, have you really biked in Amsterdam if you've not been yelled at and almost run over?

Riding in the park was okay, but I was not feeling the best after the recent experience. I think everything was finally catching up to me and we had to stop for a break and a mini meltdown... I was also sore from riding the previous day (hello cobblestones!) and was just so over the whole biking thing! My husband, being the ever so understandable person he is, heard me and was empathetic towards my feelings. We decided to finish the loop around the park and return the bikes after that. I admit I was feeling increasingly comfortable and in control of the bike by the end of it, but riding in the streets of Amsterdam would take me a lot more getting used to. Ultimately, I am proud of myself for having stuck it out and gone through with it, but I won't be riding a bicycle in Amsterdam again anytime soon!

Free from our two-wheelers, we decided to go to a museum: the Moco Museum to be exact. My husband is a huge Banksy fan, so this was the one to visit for us! It was a very quaint little museum in a converted house. It was chock-full of colourful and interesting pieces at every turn. By the end of the visit, I was feeling a bit nauseated. I think the heat had something to do with it, but we also hadn't had lunch yet. We grabbed a quick street hot dog on our way to lunch and it seems to have done the trick! 

We had lunch at Casa di Sergio. To be honest, we hadn't planned a specific place for lunch and just decided to eat here on a whim. We figured we couldn't go wrong with a plate of pasta. It was okay. Not the most amazing meal we had, but it hit the spot. Following our quick lunch, we walked back to the Museumplein to meet up with our friends. They had to wait for access to the Van Gogh Museum, so we just hung out in the shade on the lawn in front of the museums. There was some sort of fair going on that day, so we did like the locals and just hung out under the trees. It was so hot that this was the best thing to do to get out of the sun and relax. 

After having said goodbye to our friends for the last time, we headed back to the hotel to get ready for our final dinner. Tonight, we had a reservation at Daalder! We were particularly excited for this restaurant and saved the best for last. We love discovery menus and, after researching options in Amsterdam, settled on this one because it was the only restaurant that featured its chef. To us, that is a big sign of a great, high-end dining establishment. 

Seeing as this restaurant was located in the Jordaan district, it was a bit too far to walk to. We decided to take the tram! It was an adventure because we had no clue where to go. Luckily, armed with a map and a husband with a great sense of direction, we managed to hop on the right tram and get off at the right stop! We then had to walk a few streets over to find the restaurant nestled in a quiet neighbourhood. We chose to sit at an outdoor table on the side walk. It was quintessentially European: the table was slightly off-kilter and we watched the world go by while enjoying a romantic candlelight dinner.

We had chosen the seven-course discovery menu with wine pairings. Every dish was as delicious and unexpected as the next. It was a real delight to the senses! The wait staff was exceptional in every sense and we felt truly pampered. Our dinner lasted well over four hours, but we could have stayed all night! We were just living in the moment and taking it all in. It was the perfect ending to the perfect honeymoon! 

Following dinner, we moseyed on over to the tram and headed back to our hotel. We packed up our things for the last time and headed to bed with a head full of wonderful memories!

We had an early wake-up call the next morning. We got up, packed up the last of our things and grabbed a quick breakfast at the hotel before hoping in a taxi to the airport. We had a long travel day ahead of us with an 8-hour flight to Toronto followed by a connecting flight to Ottawa. Everything went smoothly and we made it back home. The memories made on this trip will stay with us for the rest of our lives. We couldn't have imagined a better honeymoon and are already planning to go back to Europe in the future!

I hope you've all enjoyed coming along on this journey with us and that it has inspired some of you to travel as well!

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