Amsterdam, Netherlands

Adventures in Amsterdam

IMG_5254_2I’ve heard nothing but great things about Amsterdam. The canals are gorgeous, the museums are awesome, and the biking culture is nothing like you’ve ever seen (yes, even for you Davis alums).  Seriously, Amsterdam does not disappoint, and I’d say there is a little something for everyone in this charming city. Enjoy this two-part post!

I checked out my first travel guidebook from our local library, and created a google spreadsheet filled with suggestions and recommendations from friends. We arrived Friday night, geared up for the Van Gogh Museum (open until 10pm on Fri) and for a rice table dinner. Indonesian food is a must when you’re here, and Kartika has an unbelievable spread.

The Van Gogh exhibit, comparing the works of Edward Munch to Vincent Van Gogh, was a strong start to our trip. I know it sounds ignorant, but it was only after seeing their artwork in person that I could really understand them as masters. It was tough for me to see Van Gogh in books and really understand the depth of his work. These two artists were truly dedicated to creating art modeled after real life, not memories, fantasies or fairy tales, and the curator displayed their pieces side by side when they chose similar subjects to paint, or when one could tell that they were inspired by the same techniques, specifically those of French artists. Yet, these artists NEVER MET though they painted in the same time period, and had very parallel experiences.

Then, the infamous rice table. Our AirBnB host suggested Kartika Indonesian for dinner, and we are gladly passing this recommendation on to you.  A rice table has about 28 different dishes that you eat….well, over rice. Ok, not 28, but there is a spread like no other. We had the basic Ramayana menu and were incredibly satisfied! Go there, now!

We set an early alarm to be at the Anne Frank House by 8:15am on Saturday. One should get online tickets, but there were not any available until December! The secret annex is simply laid out, yet incredibly powerful. You can see scaled models of the annex during the war, but today, it is purposely kept vacant to symbolize the vacancy in one’s heart after losing so many souls.

To be honest, within less than 24 hours in Amsterdam, we’d already seen the top items on my list.  This meant that the remainder of the weekend could be dedicated to exploring on the go.

We ventured into Dam Square, through the Bloemenmarkt (the floating flower market that really just feels like a souvenir tourist trap), and back through the Negen Streets with fun shopping.  Corey found a cozy cafe for sandwiches and tea, Gartine, where we had our own lofted dining area.  I led us on an excursion through crowded streets to the Puccini Bomboni chocolate shop for decadent sweets.

The weather was just perfect and of course, I felt like I was chasing light as each canal shot seemed more picturesque than the last. You’ll note I have way too many ‘bike and canal’ shots in this post, but I couldn’t resist!

We walked to the I Amsterdam structure, and then lazed around on the green with our chocolate treasures. The neighborhoods near Looiersgracht were really sweet (on the Keizersgracht ring), and we ended up at a local pub called The Cuban to watch the Rugby World Cup Championship game between New Zealand and Austalia (the All Blacks won!) We finished our evening at Blauw -a fine dining French restaurant, though we were searching for Blauw, the widely recommended Indonesian restaurant. Not mad that we’ll have to go back.

We got a tip to head out of the canal ring to see the windmill park at Zaanse Schans, which made Sunday another early morning. The fog was so heavy at 8:30am, but the Bay Area native in me told me that it would burn off as the day continued. The windmill park felt like being in the shire. The small cottages, the willow trees, the tiny hot chocolate stands, and the winding windmill path along the Chocolate River. Yes, there is a chocolate factory in the area- see my pic below of the Cacoa Gerken tanks. I believe the oil mill had the best hot cocoa and the woman offered us biscuits as well.

Be warned though! Corey and I arrived around 9am to stroll along the serene river path, but at about 10am, the tour bus masses descend upon the sleepy river, and the quaint cottages open their doors to reveal somewhat kitschy souvenirs. There is an easy to spot tourist area where you can see the local art of clog making, cheese making, and gingerbread baking. I thought the only bonus here was getting a hot stroop waffle which we didn’t have in Amsterdam.

We had such a great morning out of the city, but knew it was time to say good bye to our AirBnB on Kinkerstraat and head for Schipol airport feeling full and content. Thanks, Amsterdam, for being such a wonderful host. It was a weekend that felt full but not rushed. A real balance of sights, and getting lost wandering through the streets without ever being mad about not knowing where we were. Here are some more pics before you get to the shoutouts!

Shoutout to Evin and Vinny, Allison and Goldberg, and Colleen for sharing tips and suggestions for this great trip, and for our now common bond over stroopwafels and pannenkoeken (pancakes).

Shoutout to Mom Marilyn for filling our houses with Van Gogh’s art– all that prior knowledge came back to me as I wandered into each hall at his museum. I didn’t realize how many pieces I would recognize!

Shoutout to Nate Ryan for turning 5 years old, and for being kind to your new teammate at school. Transferring to a new school is tough but I hear you are making this change easier for him.

Shoutout to Daisuke for taking your first steps! Ask me for that video, and you shall receive.


  • Van Gogh Museum
  • Anne Frank House
  • Dam Square
  • I Amsterdam structure and neighboring park
  • Vondel Park
  • Spend time on Keizersgracht, and Prinsengracht (the 2nd and 3rd canal rings)
  • Streets we enjoyed: Utrechtsestraat, Looierstraat, and Kinkerstraat market
  • Ride bikes if you feel comfortable
  • Take the train to Koog Zaandijk to see Zaanse Schans windmill park, about 20 min outside of Amsterdam from Amsterdam Central
  • Eat at Kartika
  • The flower market wasn’t worth it, and I’ve been told the same about the Heineken Experience (tour)
Amsterdam, Netherlands

Planes, Trains and Automobiles


This is the second chapter of our Adventures in Amsterdam. It feels necessary to point out that Corey might not call this part of our trip an ‘adventure’ as he actually has a job that he had to return to, but I, on the other hand, was quite content with spending a couple of extra days with him in The Netherlands (insert big cheesy grin).

While we lounged at Schipol airport, we were feeling pretty smart about our early morning trip out to the windmill park.  Then, an hour before the flight, we learned that there was simply too much fog to land in London on Sunday night! This launched an hour long trek through the airport, visiting numerous gates and informational booths in an effort to find out how we’d get out of Amsterdam in time for Corey to get to work on Monday.

No such luck. British Airways provided a voucher for one night at the Crowne Plaza Hotel complete with free meals. Over a pasta dinner, we did make friends with a couple from Boston who had just relocated to London in February so comparing notes with them was a really fun way to spend the evening at an airport hotel.

So what do we do with another half day in Amsterdam? We eat the complimentary breakfast at the hotel, train back to Amsterdam Central station, and rent bikes for three hours to ride around the canals! All weekend, Corey wanted to get on a bike to really take in the culture of Amsterdam. I wasn’t ready to be a part said culture, as I knew I’d create some sort of accident with my lack of experience on two wheels in another country.  So having Monday to bike around, with much less bike and foot traffic, was just perfect! We biked along the water, then back and forth on the main canals, and finally to Vondel Park, their version of Central Park.

After such a great day “stuck” in Amsterdam, we learn our flight was cancelled again! This time, we knew exactly where to find the British Airways customer service counter.  Corey’s persuasive talking points got us on the only flight that was actually departing for London (score!) – and we were definitely those people running to catch the plane. High fives for a smooth take off, and we even got to sit next to one another because someone switched seats. Perfect.

Except, wait for it……..when we got closer to City Airport, the pilot informed us that he would attempt to land, but if unable, we would be on our way back to Amsterdam!?! Corey swears that as he watched the plane descend he could see Hyde Park through the fog which is why the plane was immediately thrust back into the sky to return to Schipol. Hyde Park is no where near where we wanted to land.

Here’s were it gets real.

  • One, now we can’t land in Amsterdam. They’ve got too much traffic with other flights also returning from their scheduled destinations.
  • Two, we’re re-routed to the Rotterdam Hague Airport. There are no British Airways employees at the Rotterdam airport to give us any information about the next steps.
  • Three, we are put on a bus back to Schipol airport to wait in line again at the BA customer service counter (about 40 minutes away).
  • Four, Corey and I tag team and run to the two different BA counters in the airport. Insert next scene….

Tamiko (sprints to a closing BA ticket counter): “I know you’re about to leave for the evening, and that there are no flights out tonight, so can you just let me know what hotel you are sending people to at this time?”

BA Attendant: “I’m actually not sure why they sent you back here. There are no flights out, there are no local airport hotels here either, and so we’re sending people to The Hague Hotel.”

Tamiko: “The Hague Hotel as in the ROTTERDAM Hague hotel?!”

BA Attendant: “Yes, that’s where we’re supposed to send folks who need a hotel. You have to catch a train there on your own. It’s only about 15 minutes away.”

Tamiko: “The train? We just came from there on a bus! Can’t we just bus back?”

BA Attendant: “Unfortunately, we don’t charter buses from this airport.”

Tamiko: “Wow. Thanks. And, just a heads up: I think you should leave out the back door, or a window, or a trap door, and completely avoid the area over there (pointing to the other BA counter) because if that entire line of people hears what you just told me, there is going to be complete insanity in this airport.”

Yes, you read that correctly. The people who just bused to Amsterdam were being told to find their own way back to Rotterdam!?!? At this point, Corey is done. He has to get back for work. He can’t wait in any more lines. He can’t play 20 questions or our rhyming game any more. Something needs to be done.

Here’s what happens next:

He ain’t playin! And we got Eurostar tickets for the very next day.

Again, I’m still in ‘adventure mode’ so being on the Eurostar makes me giddy. Of course, first we have to get to Belgium to even catch the Eurostar, but traveling through the Belgian and French countryside, collecting more friends while commiserating about canceled flights, and enjoying a few rounds of beer in the buffet car…..fog feels like my friend at this point.  🙂

Whew….Planes, trains, and automobiles, for sure. Corey continues to shake his head in disbelief as I read this post aloud to him.