Recently, we traveled to Amsterdam and I must admit that like Rome, it really wasn't at the top of my list. But after the most AMAZING visit, not only will we be back, but I spent the entire trip trying to convince Carlos to either stay longer or throw all caution to the wind, call up his job- quit and let them know we are MOVING.
Yes, that's how magical Amsterdam was for me- so much so that it shall now be called the town formerly known as Amsterdam and newly called Oz. Hell let's just name is "Oz"sterdam because that's how fantastically fairytale this place was.
Where to begin? So in true DeVeReaux form- I plan to break down the trip in the areas of travel/lodging, experiences/excursions, and of course fashion and food. You know all the good stuff.
First, let me say that Carlos knows me too well. Not only did he book a hotel slightly on the outskirts so that we weren't overwhelmed by tourists ( I know- I know, as if we aren't tourists ourselves) but additionally the ENTIRE hotel was fashion themed. I mean from the lobby to the hotel restaurant to the hallways to the foyers to the rooms. Westcord Fashion Hotel was the name for reference.
I mean I knew it was immediately meant for me with the message in the foyer.
There were mannequins and fashion themed art work and even houndstooth carpeting everywhere. You could even purchase clothing from brands that were on display in the lobby from the concierge and the plus was that they were brands authentic to Amsterdam.
Also, in the hotel restaurant you could find creations on display from local designers who won competitions and part of their prize was to have their presented in the hotel.
Not to mention we had breakfast onsite every day and every day it was on point. With fried eggs and REAL bacon, buttery croissants, waffles and french toast and other pastries, the best basil pesto and fresh sliced bell pepper I have ever had in my life (just ask Carlos) and fresh squeezed orange and apple juice. They even had a Dutch delicacy of raw and smoked herring.
The breakfast buffet area was perfectly placed near the outdoor terrace of light fuchsia floral trees where just the right amount of sunlight shined through as if straight from heaven.
The atmosphere of every open space was just welcoming and whimiscal- full of fresh flower arrangements and seating areas.
As for our room- let me note that Amsterdam and the Netherlands are known for their natives being large people, so needless to say Carlos and I literally fit right in. To have a bathtub and bed that we could both comfortably stretch out in without fear of our feet hanging off and to be in a city full of giants just like us was just heard of and definitely unseen by these eyes before.
When it came to travel- the tram was definitely the way to go and we purchased the IAmsterdam pass, which came with several pricing options from 24-120 hours and allowed you to travel through all means of public transportation as well as allowed you complimentary access into so many museums, a free canal cruise and discounts at other tourist's attractions. It was similar to the Roma Pass I previously mentioned and well worth the money, complete with a map and directions on how to use the pass.
Now on to excursions and experiences- with this pass, we spent one day exploring some of Amsterdam's amazing museums such as the famed Van Gogh Museum where we learned so much about the legendary man who was more than just the maniac that many portrayed him to be, but about learned about his early life, his love for his brother and how inspired he was by the countryside and everyday people.
He had an unquenchable thirst and desire to create until his dying day. Never had I seen an artist so committed to their craft that they were willing to literally die for it.
At the museum there were several collections of this "Starry Night" famed artists works from across his entire life as well as a limited time exhibition dedicated to his famous Sunflowers piece and even an interactive installation that was called the "The Field of Dreams" that was incredibly cool and eclectic.
You could also catch glimpses of local artists drawing in the galleries and taking in their own inspiration.
After our time in the Van Gogh- we stopped for lunch at the local food truck park nearby and had the most heart stopping hot dog ever- topped with nothing but amazingness and watched as families played.
It was in this moment that I realized why I loved Amsterdam so much- it was because it made me feel like this is what Austin- my hometown could be. A city full of fun and life, outdoor living and museums filled with fantastic works of wonder that made people want to follow their own dreams. A place where people minded their business and tended to their lives, loves and passions without imposing on other's beliefs or even bodies because they were all too busy living their best lives.
That's why I called this place OZ!
After our short lunch break, we decided to check out the museum next door- MOCO which stands for the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art and housed the works of many talented artists.
The cool thing about Moco is that it was built out of an old house and so you started from the top in the attic and then worked your way down to the basement taking in all the beauty from awesome artists. To the works of famous artists like Yayoi Kusama, Jean Michel Basquiat , Salvador Dali and Andy Warhol.
And one of my faves- American artist Jeff Koons of Philly who I have followed for years to exhibits by Banksy who is known to create outlandish and over the top caricatures with political statements like the black family depicted below.
It even had a outdoor courtyard collection with lounging areas for guests.
We also visited the Eye Film Museum which requires a 3 minute ferry ride to other side of Amsterdam and the ride was an adventure in itself.
People on motorcycles and bikes hustle and bustle board right along pedestrians to take in the sights by water transport that departs every 5 minutes.
Which I almost forgot to mention- Amsterdam is definitely a bike and boat culture. Those who don't bike own smaller vehicles like Mini Coopers or travel via public transportation and there are definitely more bikes then big cars for commuting.
Then there's boating- Amsterdam has canals all over and around the city and they stretch far and wide creating such a cool way to take in sites.
You can find a local canal cruise just about anywhere or even enjoy your lunch at one of the docks and just watch the boats barrel by.
Now back to the Eye Museum- as this one had an amazing white architectural structure and was the museum built around the history of film and cinematography- so it was only natural that it had a cinema on site- showing foreign language films.
But before we visited the Eye we, well I, took a chance and experienced the Lookout Amsterdam aka A'DAM Lookout. It's basically a giant swing that suspends you over the entire city with amazing panoramic views and lasts about 5 minutes.
The first 2 minutes you are full of nerves and then you begin to take in all the beauty of the land that the Lord created. If you are a thrill seeker, then this is for you.
After the Lookout- we enjoyed a 5D yes 5D experience called THIS IS HOLLAND- a unique flight experience. You learn the history of Holland, how it came to grow and all things it is known for all while on an elevated open air type ride. You feel rain and wind and cool air, you smell the scent of flowers and feel the brisk snow and take flight in a virtual hot air balloon. Definitely a cool experience, very inexpensive and also highly recommended.
Additionally in our walk back to the ferry I noticed local knitted art along the bridge that was incredibly novel.
The next few days, we spent doing things that hubby wanted to do which was only fair as he endured THIS IS HOLLAND with his fear of heights and an afternoon of museums on my behalf.
First stop was the Heineken Experience, where you received a tour of how Heineken Beer came to be and how it has grown over the years. Not only did you get to see how it was made, but experience how the flavors of hops and pineapple that go into the famous beer create such a distinct scent and taste and it came with two complimentary beers at the end of the tour, which he indulged in both mines and his.
I am not big on beer, but I will say that you could definitely tell the difference in taste from the selection created onsite and ones purchased from the store or on draft at an eatery. The line for the tour as a walk-in was almost around the building so I recommend buying tickets elsewhere and having a reservation like we did.
It was a much more clear and pure taste there at the factory and actually very refreshing.
Not to mention- they make custom beer bottles for you to home on-site and the current CEO is a woman- the grand-daugther of the creator (talk about GIRL POWER).
It was definitely an Instagrammable moment along with the Amsterdam XtraCold Ice Bar.
This bar was built with a pirate theme in mind and leads you into a -10 degree ice chamber to indulge in signature Amsterdam themed iced cocktails, again with some Instagrammable features and a pretty cool feel (pun intended). They provide you with parkas and gloves and the ice was actually quite tolerable. Again with two complimentary cocktails from a pre-selected list (I recommend the Amsterdamned).
Now for some food and fashion. First let's start with food. Amsterdam had some of the yummiest treats and we made it our mission to try them all. From dutch apple tarts to Dutch pancakes to bitterballen and Holland frites or fries- Amsterdam is a foodie's dream.
We enjoyed several dutch apple tarts over our time but the best came from our hotel room service. Typically, when we travel we try to avoid room service food, but since we couldn't bring ourselves to venture out for food one night- we ordered in and the portion was huge, buttery, flaky and very filling.
The Dutch pancake we tried was in the heart of Dam Square- an area popular for tourists and right by Centraal Train Station at a place called De Vergulde Lantaarn. I opted for the bacon ham and Dutch apple pancake and it was perfect topped with powdered sugar, creamy butter and a savory/sweet taste with crisp browned edges. Similar to a french crepe, but dare I say much better.
I also ordered the beef bitterballen- which is a fried beef ball that I liken to a fried dumpling or meatball. Crunchy on the outside and flavorful and gooey on the inside.
On our last day in Amsterdam- we happen to grab some Holland fries near the Red Light District that did not disappoint. What makes them so much different from regular fries is that because places specialize in them- they are often cooked up fresh, larger in size than regular frieds and come served with a variety of sauces, as well as topped with onions. We saw so many people walking around with these and we understood why- because they are outstanding. I opted for hot sauce, garlic mayo and spicy ketchup.
Right before those- we stopped by a local food stall area and they had everything from fresh juice to raw herring and fried fish and potato balls which we tried and were perfectly browned and filling.
As far as fashion- Amsterdam is not for the pretentious by far. This culture is one of casual and cool comfort and I am completely here for it. I spent majority of time in t-shirt and cute shorts like these Free People polka dot shorts that I grabbed from Brands for Less in Abu Dhabi for only $16 and retailed for $125 I believe.
Additionally- as aforementioned, its the land of giants so Carlos spent one afternoon shoe shopping, because its often incredibly hard for him to find shoes especially cool sneakers outside of the U.S. and landed on a shoe store called Snipes with a pretty stellar sneaker collection. He grabbed a pretty cool pair.
What I loved about Amsterdam is that of course you find luxury brands like you can in any major city- but the culture is not led by it and think that's bomb. They have a true clothing culture that they call their own and in Amsterdam- vintage and thrift are KING and QUEEN.
There is even an area called Waterlooplein with wall to wall vintage and thrift shops filled with amazing finds like the skirt I found below. It's tea length with a waist ruffle and made of a fuchsia faux python. Follow me on my IG- @houseofdevereaux to see how I style it in the future.
Additionally, they host a market every week for a few hours filled with local goods and gadgets as well as open air kilo sales, meaning you grab a bag and whatever you can fill it with- you can have from 5 to 10 Euros.
Not only does it promote recycling, but it helps decrease waste that so many cities experience. You have everything on display from shoes to bags to hats to clothes and its a free for all to fill your bag to the brim.
Next to the kilo sales are stalls and stalls of goods from bags to home goods and even handmade local instruments.
This place was like a modern day hippy culture and the epitome of "don't worry- be happy" as people paraded the streets on their own personal vibe.
If you have never ever visited Amsterdam or if it is on your current list- get there and get there fast. You will not regret it.
Stay tuned for my recap of our fantastic voyage to France coming up soon and in the meantime follow me @houseofdevereaux to check out my short IGTV recap of the trip as well.