A Taste of Amsterdam

By - January 16, 2006 (Updated: November 30, 2014)

The Netherlands is a magical place for me

I’ve been trying to get back to Amsterdam for months now. Every weekend something else seemed to come up. My favorite city in the world is so close, yet just far enough to make getting there often inconvenient. I thought this weekend
our trip to Amsterdam would get passed over again.

Andrew had had a busy week with lots of travel. When he got back late on Thursday night, he wasn’t feeling well at all. After a sleepless night he decided there was no way he was making the early morning drive to his meeting in Amsterdam. I was relieved that I wouldn’t have to worry about him all day.

I dragged him to the Dr. and we got him sorted out. After a restful day he was insisting that we still make our trip north. I was hesitant, as I wanted him to rest. But then I realized, if I got him out of the house, he would be away from the computer and therefore work.

I worked my magic on the on-line hotel booking and found us a great deal on the Hotel Lloyd. The Lloyd is a unique spot in our old stomping grounds of Zeeburg. It’s a building I walked by weekly and drove by almost daily.

Outside, it is rather imposing and institutional looking. It is in an Art Nouveau style (I think, although I always seem to confuse Nouveau and Deco). Inside, the effect is an odd combination of ‘funky retro’ and ‘old high school.’ It wasn’t posh, but it was cheap and unique. I quite liked it.

The brilliant green of the fields in the Netherlands always amazes me.

The drive to the Netherlands always surprises me. Without trying to sound affected, it is like going home.

I can’t explain the power that the Netherlands, and particularly Amsterdam, holds over me. At first, I thought that it was just the magic of being in Europe. Amsterdam was the first place that I lived here for any period of time. It became familiar.

But, after living in Belgium for almost eight months now, I know there is more to it than that. I have grown to appreciate Belgium more than I ever expected. The people I have met here are warm and friendly. I love the gently rolling countryside and the coziness of my village. I love the Belgians’ sense of defiance and originality in their buildings and in the way they dress. I am very happy here.

But I know in my heart, that given the opportunity, I would go back to Amsterdam in a second. It is inexplicable. I tried to examine it rationally on the drive Friday, but I still can’t explain it.

The second we get to the border, (actually, as soon as I can see the giant windmills in the distance that sit along the border) I start to feel it… the excitement in the pit of my stomach.

In my head, everything starts to look a little bit greener, a little be flatter, a little bit calmer as soon as I see Nederland in the circle of stars on the EU blue sign. Maybe it’s ‘the grass is always greener’ syndrome and if I moved there for good, it wouldn’t have the same effect on me. Maybe … but I don’t really think so.

Once we crossed the border we headed to Breda for supper at the Saté Hut. The first time we stumbled upon it was a fluke. Now, it’s our usual stopping spot. The Saté Ayam was as good as I remembered.

Driving into Amsterdam, it seemed that everything was just where I left it. The construction was all further along of course, but being back in Zeeburg was like going home. We got to the hotel after a quick drive around Java Island and crashed, knowing that we would have an early morning.

The alarm went off way too early for a normal day, but knowing that Amsterdam was waiting; I didn’t linger under the duvet for too long. We grabbed a bite of breakfast at the hotel and drove out to Maxis before it opened.

Maxis, and its ilk, is everything I hate about the North American business model encroaching on Europe. It’s big, it’s soulless and frankly it could be in any North American city, anywhere. However, it was where we bought our vacuum and we needed a new attachment.

When we got the Sebo, we only had wood and tile floors. Now we have a couple of rugs and the hard floor attachment is just not working. I actually couldn’t believe the part we needed existed. I was waiting for the up-sell to a new vacuum. But it does indeed exist and has been ordered for us. First errand completed.

Now we could get down to the fun stuff. We drove back in to the city and headed to Bijenkorf, the Netherlands national department store. When I first moved to Amsterdam, I thought ‘the beehive,’ as it’s affectionately known because of its logo, was for little old ladies with lots of money. While this is true, and the prices of many items run to the high side, it always surprises me that I manage to find good deals there.

After the B, we walked down Kalverstraat. This street is not my favorite place to be. It is a pedestrian shopping street but is usually very crowded and dirty and most of the stores are of the brand-name variety that you find anywhere else in the world. But, my favorite shoe store was found there so we made the trek. I say was on purpose because it seems to be closed for good. No more shoe elevator for me.

We lunched at the V & D restaurant and then finished off shopping there. We took a quick stroll past the flower market, to covet the dirt cheap tulips – still 50 for 10€ even at this time of year. Then we went to Lush for some yummy new bath stuff. Finally we had supper at, where else but, Los Pilones. The day’s agenda is basically the same as all of my first shopping days in Amsterdam, and will probably remain the same for time eternal. It makes me happy.

A typical sight in the Jordaan

After supper we dropped off our spoils at the hotel and went to meet Robert for drinks. We headed to where we always go for drinks with Robert and Marie-anne, the Jordaan area.

The Jordaan is a neighbourhood within a ten minute walk of Centraal station, but is often not frequented by tourists. It is beautiful and peaceful and filled with the typical Amsterdam vistas of canals, bridges, bikes, houseboats and canal houses. And it is full of smoky little Amsterdam pubs with cheap drinks and lots of Dutch people.

When we arrived at the pub of choice for the evening it was nearly empty. By the time we left, it was so crowded you could barely move. The drinks and company were good as usual, and we spent a long time catching up.

Sunday morning we slept late. When we finally rolled out of bed, we were ready for breakfast and the overpriced hotel buffet wasn’t going to cut it again. We checked out and jumped in the car and headed for the Pancake Bakery. We go to the Pancake Bakery just about every time we are in Amsterdam, but that doesn’t make it any easier for us to find it. It has become Andrew’s nemesis. Thank God I can calm him with good food when we finally do re-discover it.

With full bellies and a carload of January sales, we headed for home. I only hope that our next visit to Amsterdam will be sooner, rather than later.

Now What Amsterdam-Buy the ebook now

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Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She has visited 45 countries and is currently slow travelling through North America in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
It's after Halloween so I can officially share Christmas Markets now right...? 🎄🎅 - 1 week ago


  1. Comment by Andrew

    Andrew January 16, 2006 at 15:58

    The Lloyd Hotel was quite funky… kind of an upscale backpackers hostel kind of thing… It seems like it’s a place for those people that want to stay in touch with the hostel vibe, but who are beyond sharing rooms with other people. You can even get adjoining rooms if you really want to share the experience… although the doors between rooms are paper thin.
    Advice to Blackberry owners: learn how to turn off your bloody alarm before going to take a shower!

  2. Comment by Di

    Di January 16, 2006 at 15:14

    I found myself wanting to get out a pen and note everything down, and will do it. Thanks for the journey … Amsterdam is on my list of ‘to do’ things once I am legal and earning again. 🙂

  3. Comment by Tzar

    Tzar January 17, 2006 at 11:43

    Very nice written, for me as a Dutchman even, how you describe the feeling you have for Amsterdam is really familiar…
    There’s some magical affinity and warmth that is hard to describe…

  4. Comment by Andreea

    Andreea January 17, 2006 at 21:19

    Happy New Year Alison. Amst’d is on my to do list this year (again) – and once it’s time for another NY dinner I’ll let you know 🙂
    Enjoy the sales in the meantime.

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