Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Amsterdam: History, Markets, Exploration & Food

It was Lorcan's birthday last Friday and since it was the first time I was celebrating it with him,
I wanted to make sure it was as memorable as possible.

So what better way than to have our first trip abroad!!
I had been planning this for the past two months or so and booked us

1. return flights from Dublin to Amsterdam
2. a 3D/2N stay at the Ramada Apollo Hotel 
3. tickets to the Ann Frank House and Van Gogh Museum
4. two fancy dinners
4. travel tickets to the fishing villages, Volendam and Marken

For the sake of concealing the prices, if anyone's interested in how much it ended up for your own travel plans, you can message me and I can let you know =)

After getting to Dublin Airport at 4:30 in the morning to catch our flight at 6, 
we arrived at Amsterdam Airport in the early morn ready for adventure!

We caught the complimentary shuttle bus service by Ramada Hotel and when we arrived we were told that we were upgraded to a deluxe room on the highest room floor! 
Every single member of the staff was friendly, very professional and seemed to go the extra mile for their customers.

We even got to check into our room when we arrived at around 11AM which was much earlier than I expected (3PM), So we got the chance to relax before going out on our full day of exploration.
Not to forget, we got the most amazing view of the city and the nearby park from our room.

We bought the 48-hour unlimited travel pass for €12.50 each (as opposed to €2.90 per journey) which is absolutely worth it if you're going to be taking public transport regularly.
We caught our trusty tram no.13 to the city centre from Admiraal Helfrichstraat to Westermarkt and was welcomed with the sunny blue skies of Amsterdam :).

We first headed to the Ann Frank House and went into the very rooms where she and her family had hid during the Holocaust. Photographs weren't allowed in the premises so you would need to go there by yourself to check it out.

If you'd like to go there, make sure to book an appointment slot (which opens a month before your intended date), as they only accept online bookings from 9AM - 3:30PM on the daily.

It was an interesting experience and expanded whatever knowledge I had from my previous visit of the Auschwitz camp and I would recommend it to everyone to get a glimpse of what the not-so-far past was like. 

We strolled down Prinsengracht heading towards the Noordermarkt which is open every Saturday from 9-5. We made a round through the various stalls selling food, clothing, antiques, and jewellery.

And decided that our lunch would consist of a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

First up, we had some quiche.

Next, we had a lovely pulled pork sandwich which had an interesting bun. It was definitely not your typical bready texture. I'm not too sure how to describe it except it was delicious.

Then we decided to go all European and buy some bread and olive paste and ate it by the canal. Not to forget we warmed up with some hot apple cider at one of the stalls (it was only a euro!)

We wandered around town into toy stores where we used Nerf guns and swords against each other. We made sure that we got more of the toys compared to the little children there who clearly didn't appreciate the toys as much as we did :').

We wandered along into the various cheese shops.

And saw their various flavours of cheese! Particularly enjoyed the green pesto one!
Loved the fact that every single shop just had free tasters too.
For us greedy tourists.

We wandered around Dam Square.

And feasted our eyes on the various monuments in the city.
We headed back to the hotel to get ready for our fun mystery dinner.
I had spotted a wonderful Groupon deal for a 7-course dinner at De Compagnon which served Burgundy-style cuisine in a 17th-century building by the canal.

For the first time in my life, the host offered to take my coat, gloves and scarf at the door and brought us to our table down below.

The dinner was going to be a mystery as it was up to the chef to decide what our courses were going to be like.

Course 1: pre-course lentil soup which came presented in test tubes.

The first course also came with a neat little side salad of tiger tomato, quinoa-cucumber package and a vinaigrette of lovage.

Course 2 for Lorcan: avocado wrap with an egg yolk and thin slices of radish and carrot.

Course 2 for me: filet of seabass, poached with bay leaves served with spring onion, mushrooms in a 10-year-old soy sauce.

Course 3: Barbecued octopus, mussels and clams, a white bean froth, with coconut and crispy saffron rice 

Course 4: Slowly braised pork belly, served with sweetbread of veal and an ice wine vinaigrette

Course 5: Airy foam of potato with crispy potato bits, grated summer truffle and mushroom tea (which was poured into it later) - this was absolutely divine

Course 6: Wild deer slowly braised with spices, orange sauce, chestnut cream and ginger.

Pre-dessert: Tonka bean ice cream served on a cold wooden block with a dab of goat's cheese

Course 7: The finale of a chocolate mousse heart with an almond tartlet, tonka bean ice cream and beetroot syrup. 

It was such a lovely dinner and would totally recommend it to both locals and people travelling.
Every single course was a surprise and if you're open to trying new things, it's an experience that you'll never forget.

Every time a course arrived, it did so with a fresh set of cutlery which was tailored to the meal. 
The staff were absolutely brilliant and the ambiance was divine.
It definitely was one way to start our day in Amsterdam!

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