I had the good fortune to find a relatively cheap(ish) business class fare from Melbourne to Amsterdam. After vacillating a lot, I decided to splurge and paid the price. I have never slept on a plane before but this time I slept beautifully, arriving refreshed and ready to go. Oh how the other half live!
The food in business class was also a cut above usual airline food, but that isn’t a high bar. I was travelling on China Southern so I ordered a VOML which is the code for a vegan oriental meal. Sometimes Asian interpretations of western food are bad and I figured this was safer.
I was served a couple of noodle dishes, Asian flavoured salads, pickles, lots of nuts and fruit platters, great veggie dim sum for breakfast and a beautiful coconut rice pudding with mango and pistachios.
I am staying in an Airbnb near the lovely Vondelpark in a street lined with restaurants. On on my first day here I walked the 30 minutes into the centre of Amsterdam with its lovely canals and bridges and spent 4 hours at the Van Gogh museum on the way. The people here are super friendly and helpful and almost everyone speaks English, which is fortunate as my Dutch is non existent.
Brunch was a salad roll. Dutch bakeries are excellent with really good bread, and I ate a late lunch at the Food Crib stand in Museumsplein that serves a vegan burger – The famous Amsterdam Hemp Burger – made of hemp seeds as well as other seeds and beans. It was tasty enough but not thrilling.
That night I ate a pizza at a local wood fired place and it was stellar. I’ve yet to find much vegan food here, there are a few places either health food focussed or ‘lentil as anything’ style with a grittier edge. The latter are booked over the phone on the day and places are limited, selling out quickly. They are in some cases run in conjunction with squats.
So it looks like salad rolls for me for now. Lucky they are delicious.
Amsterdam is a wonderful city for walking for the same reason as it is great for cycling. It’s dead flat. If you get tired the trams run every few minutes, about the time it takes to walk another stop. As for cycling, it is astonishing here. I’ve NEVER seen so many bikes. They’re chained up everywhere by the thousands possibly millions, there are special bike lanes separate from the traffic, and people riding, young and old with not a speck of Lycra to be seen. They all ride comfortable upright posture Dutch city bikes in work clothes. In vain some fences have no bike parking signs on them, but it often gets ignored. The only drawback with all the bikes is I am still getting used to looking the other way before crossing and I’ve nearly stepped in front of a bike a few times because they’re silent! Crossing a cycle path can be harder than crossing the road! The roads have traffic signals but the bike path bit needs to negotiated first. Waiting for a break in the bicycle traffic can be lengthy, a bit like crossing the road in Vietnam if you’ve ever done that. I’ve come to the firm conclusion that there are more bikes than people in Amsterdam.
The streetscapes here are lovely, they remind me of New York, not the buildings which have a style of their own, but of the village feel in a city. Long terraces of skinny houses, all with trademark hook for hoisting things to the upper floors (although I did see a more modern way of moving), they most often are duplexes with pairs of entry doors, some beautifully decorative, some surrounded by tile work. The quieter streets are full of planter boxes with flowers and seats for resting.
Today I started with a breakfast of toast and sides at Anne & Max, a good local coffee place and then spent 6 hours in the Rijksmuseum and, you guessed it, ate another salad roll for lunch.
This evening I decided to make a bit of an effort and I ate dinner at a modern Indonesian restaurant called Blauw, just a few doors down from where I am staying. I had checked out the menu in the window on the way home and they serve a vegetarian rijstafel, rice with masses of side dishes, which while not all vegan, all but two dishes were. Not having the two dishes with egg in them was not a problem, there was so much food I didn’t feel deprived. It was delicious, but pricy. At least more expensive than a salad roll! The dishes were a range of curries, satay, fiery chilli sambals, fried banana, roasted coconut, steamed and fried vegetables, all great.
I waddled home to be greeted by the two resident cats in the Airbnb where I am staying. I’d only met Kiwi before, but another cat appeared tonight draped on the stairs and showed no signs of moving, so I had to step over him on my way to lie down after all that food.
Anne & Max
1075 XS Amsterdam
1075 XN Amsterdam