…Another title for this trip could be… “Amsterdam and Brussels: The trip that almost wasn’t!”.
This past March, we were both thrilled to plan a trip to Amsterdam! This time, we snagged train tickets for a quick day trip to Brussels- something that had been on Rabbit’s list for a while, and we were both very excited for.
Then… a nor’easter came. A real, two-feet-of-snow, state-of-emergency type nor’easter, coupled with power outages, zero visibility, hazardous roads, and – of course- cancelled flights. Determined to make it, we packed our bags and started our very snowy trek to Newark Airport, hoping to be able to take off. Upon arriving at the airport, we learned that pretty much every flight had been delayed or cancelled due to the weather conditions – except ours. Lesson learned: fly an Icelandic airline during the winter months- they can take off in anything. Somewhat shocked at our good fortune, we heard the pilots commenting before boarding that this storm was pretty run-of-the-mill for them (insert huge sigh of relief here). We did have some delay due to the de-icing process (which per the pilots was far less organized than it is for them at home), but took off and had one of the smoothest flights of all time.
After racing through the Keflavik airport to switch planes, we landed safely, happily, and a bit exhausted in Amsterdam!
Whereas we relied upon taxis and (mostly failed) Ubers in Athens, this time we decided to utilize the public transit system the city had to offer. Upon doing our initial research, we learned that the city is only a brief train ride away from the airport (which is also the train station), and that a bus line could bring us directly to our hotel, just outside the main city. Though very hesitant, I finally got Rabbit to agree to give it a go, and we purchase transit passes for the duration of our stay. The trip was surprisingly even easier than anticipated, and the passes were one of the best parts of our stay in Amsterdam!
After finding our way to the hotel, and taking a much-needed nap, we used the bus to get back into the city where we took to the streets in search of dinner, and an opportunity to explore.
While in the hotel, the tourism channel had been sharing information about various places – one in particular, Blauw – a highly rated and reviewed Indonesian restaurant – had caught my eye. Though we didn’t pay particular attention to where we were going within the city, we followed the traffic, and figured that we’d stumble upon something good. We ended up in the Red Light District (more on that later), and when we stumbled upon a sign saying “Blauw”, we hungrily jumped at the opportunity.
…Where we ended up was far different than the publicized Blauw, and even more incredible than we could have hoped for. We had stumbled into Blauw aan de wal, and simply and honestly, the best meal I have ever eaten.
Housed on a side street, the quiet and un-assuming building was a complete surprise. The intimate dining room itself, with exposed beams, brick walls, and candlelight had ambiance like no other. Greeted by our waiter at the door, we received a quick run-down of the menu/plan for our meal. Our choice was simply the number of courses, (which were explained to us after we asked). The menu was set, but we were able to easily request a simple modification to one dish that was happily received. Everything was incredible. Our 4-course menu for the evening included: razor clams with pearl couscous, sous-vide octopus (Rabbit’s favorite bite of the whole trip!); beef with bone marrow mashed potatoes; and a chocolate mousse for dessert.
Three months later, I am still in complete awe of the composition, presentation, and flavors of our meal- the entire experience was absolutely wonderful. Though we were lucky enough to snag the last walk-in table of the evening, I would highly recommend making reservations if you ever find yourself in Amsterdam. It is the most perfect spot for a date-night or special meal that I could imagine.
After our meal and experience was complete, we returned to the streets to see what we could. Outside of the Red Light District the city was pretty quiet, so we tucked in – and away from the drizzly rainy night – to prepare for a full day ahead of sightseeing.
Ahead in Day 1: walking the city, a canal boat tour, and yummy eats!