The second half of our unofficial Friendsapalooza began when our good friends Richard and Dorianne arrived in Amsterdam the day before Wade’s departure. It was so wonderful to see their faces!
I spent the first day showing Richard, Dorianne, and Wade around the city while Matt was at work. They had been to Amsterdam before and Wade had already been here for over a week, so there wasn’t any stress about having a schedule or seeing anything specific.
That night, all five of us went to Kantjil de Tijger for an Indonesian feast. Matt and I had heard very good things about rijstaffel, but hadn’t tried it yet. I wish we had sooner! The food was so delicious and it was presented in such a beautiful, almost lavish, way. They kept bringing out more little dishes and plates and I couldn’t help but wonder how many dishwashers they must have in the kitchen. It was a very tasty meal and I’m already looking for an excuse to go back.
The next morning, Wade left for his flight and the four of us set out on a guided four-hour bike ride through the countryside. We biked out of the city along the Amstel all the way to Amstelveen, a suburb south of Amsterdam. It was really cool to see that part of the city on a bike. Compared to Amsterdam Centrum, everything is so quiet and serene out of the city. We stopped at a windmill for a quick history lesson and some pictures and then continued riding until we arrived at Rembrandt Hoeve, a cheese farm and clog factory.
After a cheese-making lesson and clog-making demonstration, we sampled a few cheeses and picked our favorites to buy. According to the farmer, this particular factory is one of the only remaining four that still make traditional wooden clogs. I contemplated buying some, but they just don’t seem practical. In fact, I was surprised to see so many people wearing them just like regular shoes. Our bike tour guide even wore his clogs for the entire four-hour ride!
We took the scenic route back to Amsterdam through the Amsterdamse Bos and Vondelpark. The clouds had been getting darker for a while and it finally started raining somewhere along the way. It was pretty light rain, so I didn’t bother putting on the poncho that the bike shop provided. Then the rain started coming down harder and we didn’t stop until we got back to the bike shop. I was pretty drenched by the time we got back, but as the Dutch like to say, “You are not made of sugar!”
From there, we walked to one of our favorite breweries, Brouwerij ‘t IJ. We had a few rounds, along with a couple of tasty bar snacks (meat and cheese, please!) before heading back to our apartment to relax before dinner. Our other good friends, Jackie and Pat, were arriving late that evening and we wanted to be back at the apartment in time to welcome them.
After Jackie and Pat arrived, all six of us went out to a few bars and stayed out way too late. Richard, Dorianne, Matt, and I dragged ourselves out of bed after only a few hours of sleep to catch a 7:00 a.m. train to Bruges, Belgium. Pat and Jackie have already been to Bruges and it was his first time to visit Amsterdam, so they decided to stick around and explore the city. I have to admit that in the midst of my drowsiness and probably still drunk state-of-mind, I contemplated just staying behind in Amsterdam too! We bought the cheapest train tickets so it took three trains and four hours to get to Bruges, but by the end of the day we all agreed it was well worth it.
We arrived at about 11 a.m. and were trying to figure out how to get to the city center from the train station when clouds started rolling in. Within two minutes, rain was coming down in sheets at such a sharp angle that our umbrellas weren’t even keeping us dry. We ran into a bookstore to wait it out and not five minutes later, it stopped. The sun came out shining as though there hadn’t just been raining cats and dogs. And fortunately, it didn’t rain the rest of the day!
We all needed food, so we started off with coffees and the biggest waffles I’ve ever seen at Lizzie’s Wafels. After breakfast, we wandered in and out of a few shops and took a few photos before heading to Market Square in the city center for a two-hour guided walking tour. It’s always nice to have a little context when you’re looking at really old buildings and monuments.
After the tour, we spent our last few hours in Bruges sampling the local cuisine. We had some delicious Belgian fries (with mayonnaise for dipping!), tried a traditional Flemish beef stew, drank a couple of beers at Le Trappiste and Da Halve Maan Brewery, and bought an amazing assortment of Belgian chocolates at Chocolaterie de Burg to take home with us. Although we only had eight hours to spend in Bruges before taking the train back to Amsterdam, the city is relatively small and easily walkable. It was an awesome day trip, but I’m definitely looking forward to going back and spending more time there.
The next day, all six of us started off with traditional Dutch pancakes and then headed to the museums for a few hours. After the busy day before, we were happy to take things a little slow. We spent the rest of the afternoon walking all around Amsterdam, stopping by a few bars along the way before getting Surinamese food for dinner and then finally ending the night with a walk through the Red Light District.
On Monday morning, Richard and Dorianne left for the airport and Matt went back to work. Jackie, Pat, and I decided to take a short trip out of the city to Zaanse Schans, a neighborhood that’s been preserved to show visitors how the Dutch lived in the area back in the 18th and 19th centuries. There are tons of adorable little shops, rows of beautiful windmills, and lots of farm animals. It was such a beautiful little village that you could easily spend an entire day exploring.
After a few hours, we headed back to Amsterdam to meet up with Matt for our final night of Friendsapalooza. Rather than trying to squeeze in more touristy things, we decided to just enjoy each other’s company over a few pitchers of beer (and many waters for Jackie!) at Hannekes Boom, a popular waterfront bar. Before the night was over, Jackie wanted to try these pizza dogs she’d seen the night before. It’s basically a huge hot dog that’s been completely covered in melted cheese and pepperoni just like a pizza.
Jackie wasn’t sure where she saw them exactly, so we started to retrace our steps. We wandered all over the place and probably made quite a few circles, but it was really fun walking around our new city with two of our favorite people in the world. Just as we were losing faith, we found them! And they were actually not too far from our apartment, which made us feel kind of silly about all the trouble we’d gone to find them.
Although I was really sad to say goodbye to Jackie and Pat the next morning, we already have plans to see them again at the beginning of next month. I was more sad about the fact that the last wonderful two and a half weeks were over and everyone had already come and gone. I feel very fortunate that we have so many friends and family members that are willing and able to visit us on relatively short notice.
P.S. If anyone else wants to come and see us, come on over! We’re really good hosts and will welcome you with open arms.