Thursday, May 12, 2016

AWESOME Amsterdam Part Two.

Friday afternoon, once we arrived back in Amsterdam after having been at Keukenhof (the astoundingly jaw-dropping tulip gardens), Travis and I parted ways for the afternoon.  He so kindly offered to park the car at the lot our hotel had recommended to us, and since I didnt have phone service while in the Netherlands (too expensive), we decided it would be easiest if we did our own thing for the afternoon.  Then we would meet up that evening at Jackson Dubois, the location I had suggested for meeting one of my friends, who happened to be in Amsterdam at the same time!  So cool!

The following photos are taken during my explorations of Amsterdam for those 4.5 ish hours that I tooled around on my own.  I LOVED this.  Amsterdam is a city begging to be explored, either on foot or by bike.  And if you are someone who likes to solo travel, its an awesome place for that.  I stopped to snap loads of photos, as you can see.  I sat at a cute little cafe for some gluten-free carrot cake (shockingly delicious), a tea and to read my book while watching people pass by.  I walked along the canals.  I ducked in and out of cozy little boutique shops.  I just meandered, totally at peace, happy, like a cat lounging in the warm sun.

This is the canal Travis and I sat alongside at dusk, just to hang, chat and watch the Scene.

Of course, totally in step with what would be the usual response from those who know me (which would be something like "oh jeez, typical Brooke"), I made my way to the restaurant we were planning to meet at for 7pm using the small map I had been given by our hotel.  I had asked the owner of a small shop I ducked into (during my solo travels of the city) where the restaurant for that evening was located, showing him the address I had scrawled down on a scrap of paper.  He waved me towards the very end of the street we were already on.  "Its a long one," he warned, "but the restaurant will be at the very end.  Number ten."

So onward I walked, following his direction.  Twenty minutes later, I reached the end of the street, the restaurant where I was meeting my friends nowhere to be seen.  Number ten was an abandoned forlorn looking shop of some sort, now closed.  Awesome.  I ducked into a swanky looking hotel and asked the ultra-cute "information" boy, a head of longish dark wavy hair and sparkling blue eyes, if he knew where I was supposed to go and might be able to help me?  He was happy to assist.  He handed me over a new and improved map of the city, circling where I needed to go and explaining how to get there in detail.  I left the hotel feeling confident once again (instead of frazzled and anxious about being lost) and strolled back down the exact same way I had already walked.

Yes, I ultimately walked the exact same street, the entire length of it once again but back to the other end.  I had essentially began where I needed to be in the first place.

Anyway, long story short, I made it to the restaurant in one piece and shockingly, still on time! 

Here are a few more photos I took from my afternoon of solo wandering....

The evening with my friend, Amira and her boyfriend Alex (and Travis too of course), was great.  I loved it.  Amira has been my friend for about 1.5 year now.  We met at my previous job, she worked in my classroom as an assistant.  We hit it off right away.  She and I have an easy connection, we can talk about all sorts of things as the hours fall away.  We are both avid readers, world adventurers, hopeless romantics, free spirits.  We are similar in a number of ways, which is a huge part of what I would chalk up to the reason for our instant connection.  I admire her intelligence, her poise, her fashion sense and her confidence.  I always love spending time with Amira.  It was also a huge pleasure to meet her boyfriend, Alex, whom I have heard loads about but had yet to finally meet.  He was warm, easy to talk to, soft spoken, friendly and intelligent.  I liked him very much.  It was obvious that he is smitten with Amira, which was very sweet to see.

Our conversation over the few hours the four of us spent together was great.  Engaging, lots of fun and much laughter.

The food was excellent.  The concept of the restaurant (Jackson Dubois) is street food from around the world, served in small dishes, to share among a group.  We ordered a smattering of small platters.  beetroot croquet, a white Pizza, hummus and falafel, and some kind of what I think was a middle eastern inspired wrap.  For dessert I selected the "American Trio" which was a donut, a small champagne flavored ice cream bar and a roasted marshmallow topped with cookie crumbles.  Surprisingly, I cannot typically stand marshmallows but that was my favorite item on the small eye-catching dessert platter, closely followed by the champagne ice cream bar, delicious, lightly sweet, I loved the thin chocolate outer coating.  Amira and Alex split a Tiramisu, which the restaurant highly recommended as their tastiest dessert (while mine had the visual "wow factor" they said). 

After our fabulous dinner, snapping a few photos with Amira :-D

Jackson Dubois, the restaurant we had our fabulous dinner at (though we sat outside since the weather was so great).

Travis and I discovered a charming little cafe that had PHENOMENAL gluten free, dairy free, refined sugar free brownies in our weekend travels.  I know, sounds disgusting on first mention, right?  It was literally one of the best brownies I have ever eaten in my life.  Fudgy, melt-in-your-mouth, rich, chocolaty, just incredibly delicious.  If I lived here, I would make a point to go to the cafe semi-regularly to get these.  They were THAT GOOD.  In fact, I am still dreaming about them.  

Amsterdam, such a photogenic city.  Some of the notes I etched down quickly in my notebook.  "Fairy tale and storied architecture, arching bridges, gingerbread cookie townhouses standing upright along serenely snaking canals their surface like silk ruffling in the breeze.  The rusty green water shimmered with sun-flecked light.  Red bricked, ornate buildings.  Cobbled walkways.  Cafes dotting the length of every street.  Couples meandered hand in hand, women pushing strollers along the hilly pathways, revelers lounging outside and taking in the breeze and sunshine.  The air punctuated with pockets of conversation or the tinkling of bicycle bells, alerting awe-inspired tourists to quickly move out of their path, lest they be mowed down.  A sweet floral scent tickling the air.  Boats of varying shape and size chug past.  Amsterdam is a city of liberals, romantics, free spirits.  Greenery and flowers abundant along the canals, adding to the already enchanting atmosphere."    

Delft Blue is the world famous earthenware, produced since the 17th century in the city of Delft. Between 1600 and 1800 this stoneware was popular among wealthy families who mutually were demonstrating their collections of delft ware. Although the Delftware potters who preferred to call their earthenware "porcelain", it was just a cheaper version of the genuine Chinese porcelain. Delft goods were not made of the typical clay for porcelain, but of clay, which was coated with a tin glaze after firing. Nevertheless gained Delft goods inimitable popularity; temporarily there were 33 factories in Delft. Of all these factories is the only one available today, "Royal Delft".

Also, this is kind of a fun article.  Its about the 9 traditional icons of Holland which include tulips, clog shoes, canals, Delftware, bicycling, cheese and more.

Cinnamon ice cream.  Super yummy.

Travis and I went to a restaurant called Bocas for dinner one evening.  I had read about them online.  Another supposedly excellent place to eat in Amsterdam.  The concept is similar to Jackson Dubois in regards to the sharing lots of small platters.  We split nachos, which we both agreed were excellent, lasagna rolls and I decided to be daring and try the watermelon salad, of which I was weary.  Watermelon with feta, walnuts and balsamic dressing.  I had heard about this being a trendy dish but imagined it being pretty gross in reality.  I just could not picture those flavors melding well.  I was shocked upon tasting it to find that it was DELICIOUS.  The strong cheese paired really well with the super-lightly sweet watermelon.  The walnuts added an awesome flavor and variance in texture with their crunch.  Man oh man, I would totally make this at home.  Highly recommend it.  

For our last day in Amsterdam, Travis and I split for part of the afternoon again to wander and do our own thing for a bit (for me, that was reading and writing in the most picture perfect setting right alongside a canal...wandering in and out of charming little boutique shops...lounging on a bench along the edge of a canal and reading my book in the sun...snapping photos...sampling some cinnamon ice cream). 

We met up that evening for dinner (at Bocas, as mentioned above) and then just walked around exploring on foot.  We stopped for tea/coffee and dessert at a cute little hippy-grunge vegan style cafe.  We sat outside chatting and watching people pass by on foot and by bike.  Then we just wandered the city as day seagued into night, the sky turning shades of dusty rose, gold and deep orange, until finally the sun set.  We sat along the side of a canal, our feet hanging over the edge, watching boats pass, staring upwards at the utterly lovely canal houses, talking and laughing.  I loved walking along the bridges as we made our way back through the city, their archways glowing with light by night.

LOVED these apartments with the gigantic red shutters.  The glimpses inside offered an apartment layout that looked super cool.  Exposed brick walls painted white, sprawling layouts, the windows huge and airy, like a way cool loft.

The building on the left, the huge, towering gray one...I dont know why but it totally made me think of Gringotts from Harry Potter.

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