When choosing a travel destination, we tend to create a list of boxes. Then, with imaginary pens we start to mark them with green ticks or red crosses.
**Safe **Compact city easily tackled by foot **Polite happy people
**Romantic **Beautifully designed architecture **Great international food
**Museums **Easy transport from airport to city **History and culture
So far we have seen nothing but green-ticks take over the page.
Amsterdam; offering the best of the world in the one city.
Have I got your attention? Shall I continue?
Amsterdam can easily be described as a city that is more romantic than Paris, plus with more canals and bridges than Venice.
I spoke with the Dutch Consul General for Istanbul, Mr Robert Schuddeboom. He was born in the city of Amsterdam and says, “It is one of the must-see cities of this world. Not only for its beauty, but also especially for how it gives the visitor this feeling of being accepted, welcome and absolutely free.”
He also reveals his favourite thing to do is to go walking along the canals. So, why not take his lead? Go exploring on foot.
It is a city to get lost in and not controlled by guide books.
Museums swallow the city with opportunities to engage in both our present and our past.
The masters of history and art can be seen when visiting the Van Gogh and Rijks museums or the tragedies of war exposed in each room at the Anne Frank house.
The symmetry of the canal system is in contrast to the forward leaning architectural design of some buildings which at times offer a boggling illusion. The leaning apartments also act as an easy hoist system for furniture removalists by using the hooks at the top of buildings, ropes, a strong arm and an empty window frame for access.
A part from history, design and knowledge, there are other things that one simply can not avoid; bikes and worldy cuisine. So why not embrace them all.
It is a city that has a thriving bike culture. There is always a mass of bicycles either parked on sidewalks or swishing past with people commuting to work or rather on their way to meet with friends at nearby restaurants.
After strolling around, over, through and beside the romantic visuals of the above mentioned, the city is also an idealic location to settle in and eat your way around the globe without ever having to leave Amsterdam.
Country 1 #THAILAND
Just out of the city centre, but still close enough to walk to of course, is an area called ‘De Pijp’ or Old Pipe.
And like most of the city, it is a blend of cultures with each restaurant representing a different country.
It is a haven where locals pluck fresh vegetables and fruit from the Albert Cuyp Street Market.
In the middle of these markets one will find Pahop Thai restaurant.
Owner Nok, a Thai, has been here for 30 years. Having spent time in kitchens since she was 12, the now 56 year old says, “We are very busy in the evenings. I cook and the local customers know my taste.”
It is not surprising either that the walls are lined with pictures of Thai celebrities that have dined here.
Nok creates meals with a perfection for flavour, presentation, taste and a generous portion size.
She discusses the characteristics of Thai food saying, “Everything must be cooked fresh”.
Suggestions: Green curry chicken, papaya salad, beef masaman, rice, pad Thai noodles, tom yum soup
Country 2 #India
Step into the Jordaan district and be pleasantly surrounded by a funky working class suburb that is beginning to trend to the upper class.
It is enough out of the city to serve quiet streets, yet close enough to enjoy on foot, or why not just pedal here by bike like the locals…
At the beginning of Westerstraat a large church will take your attention before you continue down the wide street to find Indian Sky restaurant.
Indian Sky is owned by a Nepalise couple who have mastered the art of Indian cuisine.
The wife runs the front of house with a cousin while the husband cooks in the kitchen.
On the Friday night that we dined, their was not an empty seat with groups of locals arriving to their pre-reserved tables.
Suggestions: Fish kashmiri, butter chicken, lamb korma, naan, rice, mango lassi
Country 3 #China
Ever dined with a star?
‘Sichuan Food The Original Chinese Restaurant’ was awarded a michelin star in 1993.
This family owned business has operated for 29 years and the Sichuan cuisine ‘know how’ has now been passed on to the 2nd generation. It’s found on ‘Reguliersdwarsstraat 35′ in an area just to the side of the famous ‘9 streets’ shopping district.
The menu describes the complex “real characteristics of Sichuan cuisine”, saying there is a “stress on colours, sweet smells, tastes and shapes, fresh seasoning, originality in the composition of ingredients, differing durations and degrees of heating and skills of cutting.”
Sounds exhaustingly devine doesn’t it?
It can also be said that ‘each dish has its own distinctive style’, and that ‘one hundred dishes has one hundred tastes.’
An interesting direction for Sichuan Food was to have a pork free menu. Chinese is normally a cuisine rich with this ingredient, but they have tailored to the new Amsterdam trends. A ‘healthy mind, healthy body’ approach doesn’t suit with fatty pork.
Suggestions: Chong-Hing Chow Mie (Fried Chinese thin noodles), Gong-Bau Chicken (Chicken with a spicy sour sauce a ‘recipe desired by Governor Teng 200 years ago’), Sichuan vegetables, Beef blackbean sauce (Beef Blackbean is not on the menu but a favourite of mine and they kindly offered)
Country 4 #Argentina
I wanted an Argentinian restaurant, to which Amsterdam city centre has many, but a local took me to Loetje, a steak restaurant next to the Museum Quarter in an outer suburb.
As only the best steak restaurants would do, all the steak is cooked medium rare.
It is a reputable restaurant, which showed with the high energy in the room with locals pressed tightly together at the entrance while they waited for available seats and for their own taste of the delicately cooked meat.
It is so popular that it was difficult to press through the league of eager local trade as we headed for the exit after enjoying our meal.
Suggestions: They are famous for a 300-gram steak with spicy sambal sauce or a regular style sauce, fries, mixed salad. The menu also offers an Argentinian steak.
Country 5 #Netherlands
Purchase some local Dutch cheese to take home with you in your checked-in luggage from the famous 100-year-old Albert Cuyp Markets. Around the corner from the street market is the Bakken Met Passie bakery serving the best in local baked products.
The world awaits IN #AMSTERDAM.
The opportunities to taste Italy, Japan, Tibet, Indonesia, Spain and Mexico are available but it looks like I’ll have to make a return trip. This is a problem disguised as a blessing… Amsterdam is the city with the world at the tip of its tongue.
Written by Sheldon Heyes
The Dutch colonised Indonesia, therefore there is a great influence of Indonesian cuisine in Amsterdam. Try the ‘rijstaffel’, a table filled with plates sampled from the menu.
Thai, Indian and Chinese food is best when shared in the middle of a table. Every person should choose one dish to offer.
For a touch of extra class, stay at the elegant Hotel Estherea.
Always look left and right for bikes.
Walk on paths not bike lanes or roads.
Get lost and explore.
Get out of the direct city centre.
Buy Anne Frank museum tickets online. Don’t wait an hour in the queue, especially if it is winter.
You may also enjoy reading ‘Garden of Eden on South Coast‘. If a plane ride to Europe is not your thing, plunge into Turkey’s seductive and secret beauty – Kaş.