Amsterdam: Life Along the Singel


Our first stop in Europe was Amsterdam!  For me, going to Amsterdam is like visiting an old friend.  I've been several times, so when I go back I always have that sense of familiarity that one lacks in new cities, which is welcoming.  Although I have to admit, as much as I thought I knew and loved Amsterdam before, now I know it and love it even more.  Now I know what you're likely thinking to yourself, "Oh yeah, I know why she must like to go there!"  I've gotten this type of response from several people and my reaction is always the same: "Not really, I can do that whenever I want right here!"  Granted, the open atmosphere, social acceptance, and coffeeshop culture make smoking in Amsterdam an unusually giddy place to smoke!  Known for being a hotspot of debauchery, Amsterdam has much more to offer than that.  The vast array of cultures that come together in this city is wonderful, people are friendly, the adorable Dutch Row Homes and overall city layout and architecture, the charming canals and bridges, the great museums, the vast parks full of aromatic flowers, singing birds and lots of picnickers, not to mention the public transportation system and prevalence for riding bicycle instead of driving cars.  Well, I could go on rambling, but I'll let some of my photos do most of the talking down below.  


I've also visited an old fishing town on Marken Island, a cheese and Dutch clog making factory, and some of the famous Windmills in neighboring Dutch towns on my last trip to Europe.  The Netherlands is a beautiful country, one which I will always be happy to revisit.  The weather tends to be a bit hit or miss, at least whenever I roll into town, ha!  The day we arrived was it was raining, dark and dreary, and cold!  I was worried about what the coming week would be like, but believe it or not the weather turned around the next day and there were sunny blue skies for the rest of our time there.  The daily temperatures were in the 70's, nice and breezy, and the temperatures at night went down into the 50's and 60's, which could get pretty chilly with the breeze, especially for a gal from Miami - yes I was layering sweaters!   


By the time we disembarked our plane at the Amsterdam Schipol Airport, lugged around our stuff to the bathroom, caught the metro to the Amsterdam Centraal Train Station and arrived in the heart of the city it was late, and it looked like this outside... 


Luckily, the very next day it looked like this….


And then the next day, like this… Yipee!


So we changed some dollars into euros (gasp, let's not go there, sore subject! waaaah!), asked around to find out the cable car metro stop nearest our hotel, and began the trek...

We stayed on the famous Singel, and it turns out we were a hop skip and a jump away from the grand Flower Market (which is also on the Singel), which I've posted about after my previous visits here and here.


This is the hotel we stayed in, the one with the fancy awnings...


The very charming...


It's a family run establishment and my brother and I really loved it.


As you can see, Hotel Estherea is right on the Singel, the famous canal which served as the initial moat around the medieval city of Amsterdam until 1585.  Today, Amsterdam has several canals which expanded out past the Singel, I see it on the map as the shape of expanding horseshoes one after another.  It's a really convenient part of the city to stay in, centrally located within walking or biking vicinity to all of the hotspots.

    

The exterior is pretty and well kept, lots of benches and thriving flowers in the window boxes!


The entrance is deceivingly quaint...


I was surprised when I first walked into the lobby...


An incredible salt water fish tank is built into the wall along the entrance!


Lots to looks at, both in the tank and out…  For example, giant raw cut Amethyst druzy rocks on display (below on table), and impressive corals that I forgot to photograph.


When you come around the corner in the lobby you see this:


It's really beautiful and impressive inside.  The decor is very eclectic, which I like, and yet very traditional, which I tend not to love.  But somehow it all just worked, of course there were things I would do differently, but overall it really made my eye for design twinkle.

    

A photo of the Dutch King and Queen and more pretty chandeliers...


I really liked the grouping of framed Butterflies in the bar area.  There was a really dreamy feeling in there with the elaborate chandeliers, pink lighting and walls, and giant Cherry Blossom tree dominating the bar.

Although we did not eat breakfast at this hotel, the breakfast room looked very formal and cute.  We really appreciated the complimentary fruit infused water, pastries (including croissants and Belgian Waffles!) and cookies, and giant automated coffee machine in the lobby!  What a treat, especially when you just want to grab a quick coffee and bite to eat before running out to brave the streets.  Did I mention, without spending an arm and a leg?  Geez, coffee is expensive in Europe, particularly in the popular cities.  Water?  Forget it!  Better buy it in giant six packs at the small markets and hoard it in your hotel room mini fridge unless you want to feel used and abused!  Mama mia.


So yeah, back to our landing pad hotel.  Great spot, just check out this room... Incredibly psychedelic, if you catch my drift!  Bahaha...


I instantly fell in love with that ceramic Delft lamp covered in Dutch Row Homes!  I won't lie, at some point I probably wondered how much the hoel would charge me if it disappeared.  Disappeared as in if I was crazy enough to smuggle it with me throughout the rest of the journey through Europe in my already burdened suitcase.  Alas, I'm not that crazy, so it remains at the Hotel Estherea.  There were two of them actually, double the torture.  Anyway, very pretty room, traditional yet well coordinated.  Just check out that pillow-lamp-wallpaper action!  And the sitting area and bathroom were no exception...

    

That's L'Occitaine bath soap, shampoo, and conditioner dispensers, minty and delicious, yes ma'am.  But let me say one thing about this bathroom and nearly all other bathrooms in the hotels we stayed in:  what is with the little ineffective swinging glass door!?  Lawd have mercy, it's a infuriating.  First of all, the water gets out around all of them, on all sides, and creates a lake on the bathroom floor.  It seems to be a European hotel epidemic.  Oh well.  Next issue with this hotel: bad beds.  Now hear me out, I know that's a deal breaker for a lot of people but it really all depends on what type of bed you like.  If you like a hard board, then you'll love these beds.  The pillows were great, but that didn't save my brother and I from tossing and turning most nights.  Unfortunate, I know.  Everything else was chummy, like the great little greenhouse courtyard right outside the doors in our room...


The living wall seemed pretty real, and the potted trees had watering tubes.  The staggered round glass and metal pendant lights create a funky chandelier effect...

    

One of the best features of this hotel is that it rents out bicycles!  They have their own fleet of bicycles chained up out front along the canal, for around 15 euro a day you can see more of Amsterdam than you ever will on foot, and get a workout.  At first my brother and I were worried about riding bike, you know what I mean if you've ever walked the streets of Amsterdam and gawked at the sheer lunacy of trams, cars, trucks, motorcycles, mopeds, cyclists and pedestrians merging and navigating along the streets.  Yikes!  There are biker lanes, but sometimes the pedestrians are in them (usually us wandering oblivious tourists), and then you need to use the streets, ebbing and flowing with cars, trams and people.  It's madness, but it's awesome madness.  After riding bike for about an hour you easily get the hang of things, the mutual respect and awareness that people sharing the road seem to have for each other.  Not always, but for the most part.  


So that's another part of this visit to Amsterdam that was new and something I would definitely do again:  riding bike.  In fact, my brother and I loved it so much that we decided it was a must do for every city on our trip.  We were disappointed to find out that renting bikes is not always common and/or convenient in every European city, but we tried whenever possible and succeeded many times.  

This is the Singel right in front of the hotel...


Right up on the next corner was a great little place that we discovered (or shall we say, decided to try) too late…  Broodje Bert!  A literal hole in the wall, most of its sitting area is what you see outside, arranged along the slopping bridge along the Singel.  


Fresh produce is the name of the Broodje Bert game, and it was incredibly yummy!  We never got to try their breakfast, but it sounded good.  As far as lunch is concerned, they have great burger and chicken sandwiches (or funky combos) on fresh baked baguettes with tons of veggies and special sauce.  What a great salad they give you, it's like you build your own sandwich and the rest is a bonus salad.  The owners look like brothers, though I'm not sure, they were very friendly and helpful.  I can't wait to go back!

    

This is the view from your table while you eat…  Clumsy me made sure to keep all my valuables secured, I also wondered aloud about how many cell phones, wallets, and cameras might be laying at the bottom of those canals.  



If you continue walking up the Singel towards the Flower Market, this is what you see on your way...




That church you see is called De Krijtberg Kerk, it's a Roman Catholic church that has been open since 1883.





Can you tell I loved this particular view?


Almost all the steps and doorways were lined and entangled in various plants, most in full bloom...


I don't know the name of this flowering vine, but it has lovely deep purple flowers and likes mingling with roses...


As always, interesting details meet the eye in all directions!



Each home and building you pass is unique...

    

Bicycles chained to every bridge, pipe and light pole...


All of these tiny and neat little Dutch Row Homes have a distinct and defining feature at the top, which is a big arm and hook that was (still is?) used to haul up large items that could not fit up the narrow staircases and tight lifts.  


Roses roses everywhere… 



Vibrant and abundant!


In addition to picturesque Mallards al throughout Europe, there were these unique little duck birds swimming around the Amsterdam canals...


It's known in Holland as a Meerkoet, but it's called a Eurasian Coot.  Also known as Coot, it hails from the rail and crake bird family, the Rallidae, and is found in Europe, Asia, Australia and parts of Africa.  I really liked this bird duck aminal, haha!  It has a very striking appearance with the black body and white mask.


More details on one of the buildings along the Singel, some type store that sells all traditional Dutch Delft painted pottery (Delftware), which comes from the town of Delft. Delft poetry is a defining feature of a visit to Holland, all the souvenir shops have lots of delft goodies!


Once again, spectacular details everywhere you turn, in this case on the bridge.


Here is a view of the famous Amsterdam Flower Market, little green house shops which float right on the Singel, latched onto the street with elaborate open plant and souvenir displays.  I have blogged many photos of the overwhelming wonderland of flowers in the past, check out this post and this post.  Unfortunately, late May is too late to catch fresh tulips in bloom, both at the market and throughout the city in public spaces.  You can check out the posts I linked above to see tulips in bloom from my other trip a few years back.

But hey, guess what??  Cacti are always plentiful at the Amsterdam Flower Market!


Shazaam!  Instaheaven...







The market also features a great selection of Venus Fly trap plants and kits, as well as this gorgeous Pitcher Plant!  This plant is called Nepenthes, popularly known as tropical pitcher plants or monkey cups, it's from a genus of carnivorous plants in the family Nepenthaceae. The genus comprises roughly 140 species, including both natural and cultivated hybrids.  I'd like to get my hands on one of these babies here in Miami at some point.  The edge of the jugs is super slippery and the ants apparently find the decaying odor emanating from the jug to be too much to resist, so they inevitably slip down into the jug once curiosity gets the best of them and they pass the point of no return.  Down into the puddled liquid they fall, where they're digested as vital plant food.  I've seen it happen, my friend has one of these beauties and proudly showed me.  Ah, the circle of life, fascinating eh?  Oh yes, I must have one of these carnivorous plant beasts:



There's a bounty of little shops throughout Amsterdam full of goodies, but it's the ones you least expect that get you! Like the hand carved Turkish pipes that I spotted on display in a tobacco shop while buying a lighter. Ahem. Anywho, they are beautiful aren't they? They always remind me of my dad, he had a beautiful carved man's face similar to the one in the middle below that he displayed on his work bench with his and my grandfather's artwork and engravings. I have that face now, and I have several intricately carved pipes that I purchased while in Istanbul a few years back. I really wanted to buy one of these to hoard add to my collection, but the ones I liked were a pretty penny.

    


Again, all the streets have something pretty to ogle, usually flowers and architectural details…  Or dogs, particularly when you've started to miss your own furr babies...



Oh, and I did mention the roses everywhere right?


I'll be back soon with another chapter from my adventures in Amsterdam, that's right, I'm covering all the aspects of this diverse city… Muhahahaha!

Catherine


(All images in this post are the original photographs of the author of this blog. Do not copy or reuse any images on this site without written consent from www.InspireBohemia.com)

2 comments:

  1. Your "flowering wine" is a Clematis and it's often combined with roses.
    Nice description of the city, like it.
    Thoma

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  2. Hi Thoma, I sure did get an answer to my vine question quickly, thanks so much! I am glad you like my writing, I hope you'll come back to read all of my adventures in Europe, I will be posting a detailed series on each city and the various things I saw and did over the coming months. Welcome :)

    ~Catherine

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