The Food of Amsterdam

From the moment we arrived in Amsterdam during our trip there, it became obvious that we were going to be eating a lot of seafood. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand the reason for this, sitting on the coast with canals running throughout the city, Amsterdam is a seafood paradise, especially when it comes to shellfish. That doesn’t mean that seafood is the only thing that you can find, cheese is also very prominent and a source of pride for the country. Don’t worry, though, you can find plenty of beer and fried food as well.

Seafood Tower
Local Beer
Sushi Appetizer

One of the first things that we saw as we walked from our hotel into the heart of Amsterdam was a fish monger selling a wide variety of fresh fish. We love the idea of being able to walk to your local fish market and being able to purchase fish that was caught that morning and then serving it for dinner that evening. There were so many choices to choose from, including a national favorite, herrings. Unfortunately, since we didn’t have a kitchen, we weren’t able to buy any fish for ourselves, but that didn’t mean that we didn’t get our fill of fresh fish.

People Buying Fresh Fish
Decadent Desert
Utensils for Eating Seafood

We decided to go out for a nice dinner during our long weekend in Amsterdam and decided to get the “seafood tower”. It was a massive collection of a wide variety of shellfish including oysters, lobster, langoustines, crab, and other items that we’ve never seen before. The restaurant also featured a large, saltwater aquarium with a variety of colorful fish. Although the fish were beautiful, it did feel a little weird to eat a large meal of seafood while fish swam next to our table. On another day, we ate some clams and linguini in a white wine sauce that recently inspired us to create our own white wine sauce and fish dinner.

Part of the Seafood Tower
Oysters on the Half-Shell
Aquarium Fish

Another interesting meal that we had during our visit was a platter of meats, cheese, and fried croquets. Perhaps not the healthiest of choices, but it was tasty and very filling. The type of meal that sticks to your ribs. We also ate some sushi and a meal of lamb medallions with cheesy potatoes one evening as well as indulging in a rich desert. Of course we had some beer (bier) including Jopen, which is brewed in Haarlem, Netherlands. For an appetizer, we ate a crab dip that was flakey and delicious.

Meat, Cheese, and Fried Food
Another Local Beer
Clams and Linguini

We only had a few days in Amsterdam, but we really enjoyed the meals that we did have while we were there. Seafood, cheese, beer, fried foods, and meat, nothing to complain about there. Hopefully on our next trip to the Netherlands, we’ll have time to get out of the city and try some food in some of the smaller towns and villages.

We Wish We Could Have Bought Something
Medallions of Lamb with Cheesy Potatoes
Flakey Crab


Would You Live on a Houseboat?

When we were in Amsterdam, one of the common sights on the various canals were the different houseboats that were tied up all along the canal walls. We understand that the cost of buildings is extremely high in Amsterdam and living in a houseboat is an option to live there without having to purchase one of the townhomes that line either side of the canal. We see all of the new television shows about tiny living and having a tiny house on the water would probably suit a lot of people’s desires. We are definitely downsizing since all of our children are grown and live in various parts of the United States, but downsizing doesn’t mean having your bed in your kitchen, at least not to us. There are definitely some larger houseboats, but we’re not sure that we want to deal with all of the headaches that come along with boat ownership. Living on a houseboat might seem like a romantic way to live, but we’d rather live on firm ground. What are your thoughts?

Houseboats on a Canal
A Boxy Houseboat
Boats Tied to a Houseboat

For this week’s Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge, Motors for House or Garage, we selected a few photos of the houseboats of Amsterdam. They may or may not have working engines, but it isn’t likely that they ever go anyplace.

Big Windows and a Deck
Pretty Big Houseboat
Houseboat Neighbors
Houseboats are Part of the River Tours

Walking Tour of Amsterdam

Taking walking tours of a city can be a great way to learn interesting facts about a city as well as see important landmarks. The walking tour that we took in Amsterdam was interesting as it was a free tour where participants are asked to pay the tour guide what they felt was a fair price for the tour that they received. In some ways it forces the tour guide to be more creative, informative, and lively. We are sure that most people pay the same prices as the other paid tours, but you aren’t obligated.

Our Tour Guide
Crossing a Canal
Us on the Tour

The tour that we took combined information about the “coffee houses”, the red light district, the history of Amsterdam in World War II, as well as just the general history of the city. We heard many interesting facts and folklore about this city that was built on swampland so many years ago. According to folklore, the first settlers in the area that is now the city of Amsterdam did so as the result of a bet. The first couple of attempts to populate the area failed as the buildings sank into the marsh land. In order to finally build the city, they pounded poles made from trees that are up to 100 feet tall into the moist ground to stabilize the buildings. Eventually they used wind mills to pump the water out and create the canals that crisscross the city.

The Palace Sits on Thousands of Wooden Poles
Our Meeting Place
Learning about the Family Plaques

As for the coffee houses and the history of pot or Marijuana in Amsterdam. We were actually surprised to hear that marijuana is not actually legal in Amsterdam, but they issue permits for the coffee houses to sell marijuana, kind of an odd arrangement. Because it not actually legal, you won’t see any signs specifically saying that they sell marijuana and hence the reason that they are considered and marketed as coffee houses. The story we were told of the first coffee house in the seventies was that the police knew that the owner was selling marijuana, but that heroin use and addicts were a much bigger problem, so they turned a blind-eye to the coffee house and it spread from there. We were also told that  Amsterdam took a unique approach to combating heroin as they house the addicts and provide them food, clean lodging, and heroin, which keeps them off of the streets. In fact we did not see anyone begging for food or money on the streets of Amsterdam during our time there. Unfortunately, because it is not legal, but tolerated, the coffee houses have to purchase their marijuana from typical drug cartels, which is not helpful for society in general.

Canal with Boat Tours
First Autopsies Conducted Here, Which is Now a Restaurant
The Start of Our Tour

As for the red light district, we just did a quick pass through the streets and wandered passed a couple of the famous windows. It is another unique approach to a controversial topic, but the people of Amsterdam have a live and let live attitude in general, so they are far more tolerant than people in other parts of Europe or the world. The local prostitution union even offers classes for aspiring prostitutes, but the number of windows available for them to use is shrinking as gentrification has started to modify the area. Another interesting fact was that the church in the red light district used to have the sailors pay for their sins before they spent a night of debauchery. Since they wouldn’t have time to go to church prior to having to return to their ships, they would confess what they intended to do with their free time in the red light district, pay for their sins, and then were absolved allowing them to have comfort if they should die during their next voyage.

Church in the Red Light District
Family Plaques
Leaning Buildings

Other interesting places that we saw were the smallest house in Amsterdam, the Anne Frank House, and learned about the leaning houses that line the canal. Each of the buildings that line the canals have hooks near the roof and the buildings lean slightly forward so that they could use pulleys to raise heavy objects to the upper floors since the stairs are so narrow. If buildings are leaning left or right, that is due to them sinking slightly and it is not intentional. About the only thing that we don’t like about the walking tours is that they almost always bring to a store or two to try some local favorites, like cheese, with the hope that you will buy items from that particular store, most likely producing a kickback to the tour company.

The Red House is the Smallest House in Amsterdam
Anne Frank House in the Distance
Notice the Hooks

If you get a chance to go to Amsterdam, we would highly recommend taking a walking tour, you will enjoy it. In fact, we would recommend taking walking tours in many cities, even cities in your own local area or the city that you live in. You might be surprised by the things that you learn about a place you thought you already knew.

Canal that Anne Frank Saw Daily