When we head off for a mini-break at this time of year M and I always have the same discussion.
Should we go chasing the sun to celebrate my birthday and our wedding anniversary?
Or should we head for a destination where there will be plenty to do even if it pours?
This year I won and we headed off to Amsterdam. And it was a brilliant choice.
More by luck than judgement the hotel turned out to be in an area called De Negen Straatjes – the Nine Streets – full of designer boutiques and galleries. Shopping heaven.
It’s many years BC (before children) since I was last in Amsterdam – but some things haven’t changed.
The cyclists still don’t wear helmets, ride sit-up-and beg bikes carrying dogs, children and everything else you can possibly imagine, and don’t mow down pedestrians or jump the lights.
I can’t comment on the red light district – or pot – because we didn’t check out either. But the revamped Rijksmuseum is stunning.
So what else can I tell you? It‘s easy to get around on foot or by tram but Schipol airport feels enormous and if you’ve pre-ordered an I.amsterdam city card or equivalent you may find it easier to pick this up from the visitor information centre opposite the Central Station rather than schlep around the airport with your bags looking for the one there (which is what we did).
And remember that if you decide to take the hotel shuttle bus service into the centre your hotel might be the last on their drop-off schedule – which is fine if you have a map and want to orientate yourself but not so good if you just want to check in and unpack.
We did posh wining and dining at the wine bar Vyne and the restaurant Envy – both within walking distance of our hotel, both excellent. But we went twice to Bistro Bijons – even though I was convinced when I first saw it, that it would be simply a tourist trap.
It did feel a bit ‘Allo ‘Allo - but the stampot (a Dutch stew) was tasty and filling and the women running it were a cabaret act in themselves.
But the highlight of the trip for me was high tea at this museum. Handbags, champagne and cakes. What better birthday treat could there be?