Well, I’m just out of my Molten Brown bubble bath (mmm, that stuff is good, especially with a big handful of epsom salts thrown in for aches and pains) and here I am about to finish the last big drive at this economics essay.  Before I do, it’s been a while so it seems fitting to reminisce about the good times I just had when I was on holiday mode in Amsterdam.  Seems not long ago when I was sitting in a cafe eating waffles and drinking beer with my dearest!

This is me and Adam on a cheese-tasting course in the city.  A very nice selection of 6 Dutch cheeses with accompanying wines and port (who knew I liked port?) and a score card to rate each tasting experience, no less.  A very methodical way to explore cheeses! Anyway, given my impending deadlines, here’s a very quick whistle stop tour of the highlights, which mostly involve food, drink, and more food…

On day 1 – from the moment we arrived we didn’t waste time in getting to a cafe for lunch – a little place 2 doors down provided some traditional Amsterdam goodies.  Look at these calorific chocolate waffles – I must add they were split between 3!

And let’s face it, there’s no point eating chocolate covered waffles if you’re not going to have a glass of beer to accompany them.

Our tour involved sampling lots of beers and cool, quirky pubs in the alleys leading off of Dam Square.  I loved the deco in these places – the wall to wall beer bottles, huge flowers and dramatic light shades.

The boys seemed to be enjoying ordering every different kind of beer from the muddy brown guiness-coloured to the amber cereal tasting stuff to the blond beer which tasted to me a bit like parsnips?  Nice, but I think I’m more of a wine drinker myself – these things feel like a meal in a glass to me – look at the size of them.

Later in the trip, Adam and I veered off from the group in search of food.  The thrill of finding a perfect little diner somewhere off the beaten track with delicious local food is always something we prize on our holidays… I figure, you only get to eat a certain number of meals in other countries right?  Better make them good!  Well, the rest of the group were starving so our tolerance levels for a long walk to find the perfect place separated us at about 9 o’clock.  We ended up finding this lovely little ‘Bistro Neuf’ place on the side street of a canal.   Here’s me pretending to park my scooter outside…

The meal was totally unexpected and delicious – the menu was very simple, a set three courses with two options to choose from in each.  I had a crab bisque to start, Adam was brave and went for the more exotic veal tartar, and we had a delicious lamb stew for the main followed by a shared indulgent chocolate fondant for pudding.  Accompanied by a deliciously smooth bottle of merlot which mellowed us out nicely…

Breakfast at a French cafe the next morning was similarly simple, divine and delicious – and a definite source of some baking inspiration.  My treat was a ‘petit dejeuner’ which mum and my Auntie J recommended from their earlier wonderings, and consisted of 3 perfectly baked bread rolls, apricot and strawberry preserves, mini pan-au-chocolat, brioche, fruit salad, ham and cheese.  If ever I’m hosting an early afternoon get-together at a weekend, I think I would take this theme and put on a brunch spread for guests – whether shop-bought or home-made you could easily customise this as a glamourous champagne brunch with moderate to full-on levels of effort.  Even if you just baked a few rolls and made some fruit salad, this combination would be sure to impress!  (My camera doesn’t quite do the meal justice here so I’m borrowing an imported pic to illustrate, above mine!)

So there’s a few highlights, I can tell you it was a jolly good trip and lovely to spend time with my family doing novel things and experiencing what we wouldn’t otherwise have the time to do in daily drudgery and mechanics of life which so often revolves around work, shopping, study, the occasional dinner… Rather than the much grander dining abroad experiences, the pub stops, the continental breakfasts, river boat tours and meandering walks down city lanes.

We also managed a canal boat tour through the city, which I have to recommend as the best way to see Amsterdam and get your bearings whether by day or night it’s a very tranquil way to orientate yourself.  You’ll also be surprised to see how many houseboats there are, and how close the cars park next to the canals – apparently the city has to spend money retrieving the equivalent of 1 sunken car per week, that’s how often accidents happen!  I was very content to be experiencing the tour in the warm spring sunshine, having had a bit of heavy rain on our exploration of the city the day before.  All in all, a very lovely holiday.  Ah, now if I can just crack this coursework then the rest of my year will be plain sailing too… :-)


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