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Category: Travel Europe (page 1 of 18)

One Photo – Frosted Leaves

I took this photo about a month ago when Robin and I stepped out of the house one Sunday morning to go for a run. The temperature had dropped significantly over night and the trees and plants around the house had a beautiful rime of frost on them. We returned to the house to grab our cameras and this is one of the first ones I took.

A nice reminder of the time of the year.

Camera: Sony DSC-RX100
Lens: Zeiss 18-100mm f/1.8-4.9
Focal Length: 10.4 mm
Exposure: 1/30 sec at f/9.0
ISO Speed Rating: ISO 320

Food Guide: Amsterdam

One of the best parts of living in Amsterdam is the great restaurant and food scene here. Foodies of all sorts will find something in Amsterdam to their liking. Here are our favorites as of February 2017, now split into four lists: one for the central area of Amsterdam, one for the east side (Amsterdam Oost) where we now live, one for the Oud-Zuid where we lived from 2008 to 2013 and one last list of our favorite stores. I’ve moved the Amsterdam Michelin-starred restaurants to a separate post (available here) as this post was getting too big to manage.

Restaurants and Bars in Amsterdam Centrum

  • Seasons remains our favorite restaurant in Amsterdam. We happened upon it while we were living in the Convent Hotel for the months of August and September 2008. Over time, we’ve got to know the owners, Peter and Blaine, and continue to return on a regular basis. Seasons often serves up an amazing American Thanksgiving dinner. If you visit us here in Amsterdam, it’s almost assured that we’ll take you here.
  • Oriental City is our dim sum place in Amsterdam. Compared to the dim sum palaces in Houston and Calgary, it’s a relatively tiny place where you have to order off a menu since the building is way too crowded for carts. The dim sum is excellent with a wide selection of all our favorites, including five or six versions of rice pancake. We’ve also started going more regularly to the Sea Palace for dim sum; it’s a little more spacious, a little less busy than Oriental City and the dim sum steadily improving.
  • While Mexican is not a cuisine most people would associate with Amsterdam, Los Pilones serves up good Mexican food in three different locations (the newest on the Nieuwmarkt) and excellent margaritas.  Robin and I once did an memorable Amsterdam pub crawl, starting at Bubbles and Wine, going to Los Pilones next and ending up at the Irish pub, Aran, at Max Euwe Plein before staggering home.
  • A recent welcome addition to the centrum is Ramen-ya, a Japanese noodle bar, just across from Oriental City.  I stopped in here late on a Sunday afternoon and had a great bowl of ramen.
  • Another good Japanese restaurant we’ve found recently is Japanese Pancake World.  This small but authentic restaurant in the Jordaan specializes in okonomiyaki.  Very tasty.
  • We recently visited Lt. Cornelis, which is located near Het Spui. Robin and I were very impressed with the Dutch-inspired food served here.
  • Bubbles and Wines is a nice wine bar on the Nes. They do various flights of wine from around the world and their appetizers are very good as well.
  • The Amstelstraat version of Gollem is a great place for good beer.

Restaurants and Bars in Amsterdam Oost

  • Close to our new house, Elkaar has impressed us both times we’ve been there.  Very nicely prepared food with a terrific wine list.  Recommended.
  • Pompstation is a converted water pumping station north of the Muiderpoort NS station.  The building is very cool, and they often have live music.  The reason to come here is to have a good steak, probably the best I’ve have so far in Amsterdam.
  • A recent find, courtesy of our friends who own Seasons, is Rijsel. As they say on their website, “Rijsel is the result of a passion for the French kitchen and an attempt to catch the lightheartedness of Flanders.” The food there is very straightforward French brasserie style, but extremely well done. Tough to get into, but worth planning ahead for.
  • We finally made it to Restaurant De Kas in 2015. Featuring the harvest of their own greenhouse, supplemented with the best additional ingredients from local suppliers, De Kas puts vegetables first on the menu.  In many ways, dining at De Kas reminded me of eating at Noma in Copenhagen: both places let the local flavours drive the menu.

Restaurants in the Oud Zuid and de Pijp

  • Serre, the sister restaurant to the Michelin starred Ciel Bleu in the Hotel Okura is very, very good. It won Time Out’s Restaurant of the Year award in 2011.
  • There are a couple of good French-inspired restaurants that we used to frequent in the Oud Zuid around Roelof Hartplein: Magnolia (now closed) and the Brassiere van Baerle.
  • Sardegna is a nice Italian place with food positioned between your typical plain Italian places and an upscale restaurant like Roberto’s in the Hilton. The last couple of meals we’ve had here were very good.
  • Blauw is an Indonesian restaurant on Amstelveenseweg. Unlike many other Indonesian restaurants in Amsterdam, Blauw is very sleek and clean from a design point of view and the rijstafel is better than average. This is our go-to place for visitors looking for Indonesian.

Stores

  • Duikelman is our go-to store for cooking supplies in Amsterdam.
  • Frank’s Smokehouse is the place for smoked fish and poultry.  Their smoked turkey is amazing.
  • De Bierkoning is an amazing beer store near Dam Square.
  • Wynand Fockink is a spirits and liqueur distillery in the central of Amsterdam and has been around since 1679. Their fruit brandies and liquors are excellent.

One Photo – Artisplein

While my main focus for the little photography I did in December in Amsterdam was the Light Festival, I did take a few minutes to shoot one of my favorite places near our current house: the Artisplein. This little square is tucked in at the west end of the Artis Zoo and is especially picturesque at night when the lights strung from tree to tree are lit and the glass veranda of the the Café-Restaurant De Plantage is full of people and light.

I used a GorillaPod tripod  permitting a low ISO, using one of the tables for support.  The biggest challenge was trying to a spot where the various garbage cans did not overwhelm the scene. Processing the photo in Silver Efex Pro gave me the look I saw in my mind when I took the photo.

Oh, and De Plantage is a very nice place for dinner.

Camera: Sony DSC-RX100
Lens: Zeiss 18-100mm f/1.8-4.9
Focal Length: 10.4 mm
Exposure: 1.3 sec at f/5.0
ISO Speed Rating: ISO 125

Amsterdam Light Festival 2016

The 2016-2017 edition on the Amsterdam Light Festival represents the fifth consecutive year the festival has run over the Christmas and New Year period. Robin and I walked the Water Colors circuit on the first Friday of the festival.  This year’s edition once again impressed both of us with the ingenuity of the installations. After Robin left for Canada, I walked around the remaining sculptures that we missed on our Friday night walk, including the one pictured here: NEST by Studio ALBA.

The tight graphic construction of NEST combined with an interesting light pattern design (a full cycle is about 5 minutes in duration) made it stand out from the others for me this year.

Camera: Sony DSC-RX100
Lens: Zeiss 18-100mm f/1.8-4.9
Focal Length: 10.4 mm
Exposure: 1/160 sec at f/1.8
ISO Speed Rating: ISO 200

Here are our previous posts about the Amsterdam Light Festival: 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. We also have a Flickr album with pictures from all five years here.

2016: The Year in Cities

Here are the cities/towns/villages I’ve spent the night in during 2016 (places marked with * have seen multiple visits within the year):

It looks like our time in Europe will draw to close in 2017, so this list will likely change significantly next year.

With respect to countries, I added new six ones to my visited list in 2016: Portugal, Hungary, Estonia, Russia, Finland and Sweden. My visited-countries list stands as follows at the end of 2016:

  1. Antigua
  2. Austria
  3. Bahamas
  4. Belgium
  5. British Virgin Islands
  6. Canada
  7. Czech Republic
  8. Denmark
  9. Estonia
  10. Finland
  11. France
  12. Germany
  13. Hungary
  14. India
  15. Ireland
  16. Italy
  17. Japan
  18. Luxembourg
  19. Malaysia
  20. Netherlands
  21. Nigeria
  22. Norway
  23. Portugal
  24. Russia
  25. Singapore
  26. Spain
  27. Sweden
  28. Switzerland
  29. Thailand
  30. Trinidad and Tobago
  31. United Arab Emirates
  32. United Kingdom
  33. United States of America
  34. US Virgin Islands
  35. Vatican City

Again, with our likely move back to Canada, I do not expect this list to grow as much in 2017.

I Heart My City: Barry’s Amsterdam

Intelligent Travel at National Geographic has an interesting series of posts called “I Heart My City“.  Here’s mine for Amsterdam, a city for which Robin and I have both developed a deep fondness.

The first place I take a visitor from out of town is the Rijksmuseum; the recent restoration was worth having the main buildings shut for several years.

To escape tourists I head east to the Eastern Docklands (Oostelijk Havengebied in Dutch). The IJhaven and Zeeburg areas have lots of history, interesting architecture and good places to eat. Try Roest in the summer.

For some quiet time, slip into one of Amsterdam’s smaller old churches (the Zuiderkerk, for example). Often you’ll be one of only a handful of people in it.

If you come to my city, get your picture taken with the iAmsterdam letters. It’s kitschy but everyone does it. There is always a set at the Rijksmuseum on the Museumplein side. A second set sits at Schiphol airport and a third set moves about the city. You’ll often find them across the river from Centraal Station in front of the A’DAM Toren and the Eye film museum.

If you have to order one thing off the menu from Seasons (our favourite restaurant in Amsterdam), it has to be the fire shrimp.

The Society Shop is my one-stop shop for great clothes for someone of my age and profession.

Locals know to skip various chip/fries stands scattered around the city and check out the two best fries places (Vleminckx Sausmeesters and Manneken Pis) instead.

When I’m feeling cash-strapped I go to the Albert Cuypmarkt. Lots of things to see and little snacks along the way.

For a huge splurge I head to the Hotel Okura and eat either at Serre ($$) or Ciel Bleu ($$$$).

Photo ops in my city include the main canal district, the Amstel river and the Westerdok area.

If my city were a celebrity it’d be George Clooney — good-looking, cultured, worried about the planet and popular with all ages.

The most random thing about my city is the Red Light District. Sex shops, good restaurants, interesting shopping and the old university all within several easily walkable blocks.

In my city, an active day outdoors involves hiring a bicycle and exploring the areas outside the old central area. Taking the ferry north across the IJ and cycling north gets you into the Dutch countryside very quickly.

My city’s best museum is Foam, an outstanding space to see the wide and varied world of photography.

My favorite jogging/walking route is in the Amsterdamse Bos. It is a fair distance south of the old city but has 10K and half marathon routes marked out. While everyone goes running in Vondelpark, more people should try Beatrixpark.

You can tell a lot about my city from the season. It’s a party city in the summer; in the winter, everyone moves inside to warm and cozy places to escape the dark and wet weather.

You can tell if someone is from my city if they can talk on their cellphone, balance a baby and a bag of groceries while cycling full steam in the rain.

In the spring you should head to the surrounding countryside to see the tulip fields in bloom. Keukenhof is the traditional place to spend a day.

In the summer you should rent a boat and putter along the canals like half of the city does. Try boaty.nl in the Oud-Zuid area or Mokum Boot in the Oost.

In the fall you should drink a bock beer at the Brouwerij ‘t IJ, especially if it’s a nice day when you can drink it outside in the beer garden at the foot of the Molen De Gooyer.

In the winter you should take in the Amsterdam Light Festival. Started in 2012 and now running annually in December and early January, the Light Festival brings light-based art installations to Amsterdam during the darkest time of the year. Some of my photos of the installations are available here.

A hidden gem in my city is the City Archives (Stadsarchief Amsterdam). It’s in a beautiful old building and the exhibits are always interesting.

For a great breakfast joint, try dim sum at Oriental City or Sea Palace.

Don’t miss taking in a concert at the Concertgebouw. It’s one of the best places to hear music in the world and the Dutch take their classical music very seriously.

Just outside my city, you can visit Haarlem. It’s a short train journey away and has several excellent museums like the Teyler and the Frans Hals.

The best way to see my city is from a bicycle.

The best book about my city is In the City of Bikes: The Story of the Amsterdam Cyclist by Pete Jordan. An engaging book documenting the love affair between Amsterdam and the bicycle.

When I think about my city, the music that comes to mind is the awful Dutch dance music that accompanies every Koningsdag (was Koninginnedag  up to 2014) and summer festival. I definitely not a fan but you can’t help but associate it with summer in the city.

If you have kids, you won’t want to miss the Nemo Science Museum. And it has one of the few sun terraces in the city.

Het Grachtenfestival could only happen in my city. The combination of summer weather, the historic architecture of the Jordaan canal district and classical music all often enjoyed from the comfort of your own boat could only happen in Amsterdam.