Travel Spotlight: Amsterdam
As some of you know, I spent the year abroad in 2011, working as an au pair for a Dutch/Caribbean family. It was one of the best experiences of my life to date, and I can’t help but feel nostalgic about my experience once in a while. Amsterdam is a truly unique city, and Dutch culture is something to be marveled at.
The Dutch are humble people who take joy in simple pleasures. A “biertje” canal-side on a sunny day, a bike ride through the countryside, and a colorful bouquet of tulips are prime ingredients for the perfect day. There is definitely a sense of freedom in Amsterdam – freedom to be who you want to be, and live life as you believe it should be lived.
Amsterdam has a lot to offer any kind of traveler, as the city has a rich historical culture, and yet a very modern take on cuisine, design, and transportation. Recently, Amsterdam has reopened two museums (The Rijksmusem and The Stedlijk Museum) and there are several new hotels on the scene, including the luxe Conversatorium hotel, and the creative Andaz hotel.
Read on, as I share some of my favorite Dutch things with you!
Fashion on the Negen Straatjes
Dutch designers tend to favor simplicity, and clean lines, with a hint of drama and rawness. Stylish, edgy Amsterdammers can be found wandering the small, intimate streets of the Nege Straatjes, where independent boutiques and stylish shop owners reign supreme. The Negen Straatjes (the nine little streets) reside in the neighborhood of the Jordaan, also home to the Noordermarkt, which is arguably the best vintage clothing market in the city.
A cousin of apple pie that is a little thicker around the middle. In my opinion, this is one of the best desserts in northern Europe: fresh apple slices, yummy brown sugar, and a thick doughy crust that leaves you smacking your lips. The best part about Dutch appeltaart is actually the heavy whipped cream (slagroom) that accompanies it. This is a heavy, luxurious, hand-whipped cream that tastes nothing like Reddi-whip. I want to book a flight to Amsterdam just thinking about it.
Vonelpark and the great outdoors
Vondelpark is a vast and beautiful place to feed the ducks, drink a bottle of wine, and take in the carefree Dutch atmosphere. If you get a chance, take a trip out of the city to visit Keukenhof, land of the tulips!
Visiting Kuekenhof is like going to the garden of Eden. The entire place is just so happy; tulips in every color possible lay in beautiful patterns on the grounds, there are fragrant trees at the peak of their bloom, and birds sing as if on cue.
Vermeer was not only a painter of Dutch still life and portraiture; he could express intense human emotion through his paintbrush. He captured expressions, interactions, and relationships magically. If you look hard at his work, you can see secrets and solitude, disappointment and joy, and that slightly seductive, somewhat innocent look of The Girl with a Pearl Earring. I think she is quite similar to the Mona Lisa in this way: she’ll be forever intriguing, but we’ll never know her secret. The painting is coming to New York City’s “Frick Collection” on October 22nd, so this is on part of Dutch culture you can see stateside.
If you need any more tips on traveling to this beautiful city, leave your comments below!