Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Sixty Stairs...

Sixty stairs, I must be on holiday, let me explain. Last year, when we were in France, we booked 3 apartments through Home Away. All of the units were on upper floors in buildings without elevators.  I now consider climbing stairs as the yin to the vacation's yang - or is it the other way around? In France, we climbed as many as 85 stairs up to our apartment in Cannes. This year in Amsterdam, we were spared - just 60 stairs. The Dutch, however, love narrow, steep steps that border on spiral staircases - very tricky to climb with heavy cases.

Exercise aside, I loved Amsterdam. It's a beautiful city on water. Canals run right down the centre of most streets, so you are never very far from water. In fact, many people actually live on the water in houseboats. We were fortunate in that our apartment overlooked a canal, so we could marvel, not only, at the street traffic - a constant flow of bicycles, scooters, and cars, but also, the boat traffic - a steady stream, so to speak, of barges, pleasure boats, and kayaks.

A quiet canal
Our apartment, after the climb, was bright and airy with a bedroom at the back and a large sitting room, which served as living room, dining room and kitchen, at the front. We could enjoy this for the three days we were going to be here!! Now, to eat!!

Shopping for groceries is always an adventure and since we decided we weren't even going to attempt to speak Dutch, we didn't buy a phrase book. Usually you can make out bread, milk, eggs etc. visually. However, buying butter, real butter, not margarine, was a challenge. We got a few odd looks from store security for hanging around the coolers a bit too long and fingering anything that might have looked like a small amount of butter. In the end, we threw up our hands, bought some cheese and spread it on toast in the morning - it was delicious!!

To save some money and have some time during the day to "regroup", we ate breakfast and lunch in, except for the first day. Just around the corner from our apartment was a street of restaurants, small cafes, bars, and eateries of every combination. We do like to try as much local cuisine as we can, however, in a world that loves french fries and hamburgers, this is often difficult. Still, onto each plate a little culture will creep, if you look hard enough. Below is a picture of our first Dutch meal - yumm!!

We couldn't avoid the deep fried bits, delicious as they were, however the cheese, sausage and pate´ were fresh, local - Holland is a small country, so they couldn't have come from too far away - and interesting. Dinner was often a three course set meal. Sometimes you knew what you were getting and sometimes you didn't - tasty surprises!!

Our first evening out was at a restaurant curiously named the five flies or Vijff Vlieghen - it gains a lot in translation. Here, we knew what the courses would be, and that they included two glasses of wine, plus coffee for €37.00. Actually, we were only charged €27.00 on the final bill - I'm not sure why and I decided not to question the fly in the ointment :) Our three courses were - mushroom soup to start, beef filet - served rare - nobody asked how we would have liked it done and we didn't specify - with asparagus in season and real home made French Fries!!!  Dessert was a delicious syllabub of cream, whipped cream and strawberries. I am so glad that the Dutch have collectively a very sweet tooth!!

More tomorrow and more pictures, however, I couldn't resist this one!!

Have a great day!!

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