Ticket Follies and Grandeur: Our Hilarious Arrival at Amsterdam Centraal

To The Railway
The NS train station is located directly below the terminal building
Waiting for the First Sight of an Amsterdam Train

Amsterdam, the land of tulips, windmills, and canals that could make even a Venetian blush with envy! Our grand European escapade had kicked off with all the flair of a firework show, and my enthusiasm was probably visible from space. As for Mr. P and me, we decided to embrace the local culture so wholeheartedly that I almost expected to be mistaken for a tulip merchant.

Our plan? A deep dive into the heart of the city by making a houseboat in the heart of the Jordaan area our temporary home. Eager doesn’t even begin to describe our anticipation as we embarked on the great quest to find our floating abode for the next three days, each step feeling like we were about to step into an alternate universe of quirky Dutch charm.

Our journey from the airport to our new three-day abode turned out to be a comedy of errors, disguised as a cultural immersion exercise. Eager to blend in with the locals, we decided to ditch the overpriced Uber ride from the airport and go the “authentic” way, riding the Dutch train system.

As we approached the ticket machine, we were met with an array of buttons, instructions, and options in Dutch. It was like trying to decipher the hieroglyphics on an ancient tomb. Mr. P, in his infinite wisdom, insisted that “a little Dutch courage” was all we needed to understand the contraption. To onlookers, we probably looked like two perplexed performers in a high-stakes game of charades, attempting to mimic the actions of more seasoned commuters.

A few frustrated commuters muttered disapprovingly under their breath as we fumbled with the machine. It’s as if they hadn’t seen a pair of bumbling tourists before! But the laughter in our hearts was enough to sustain us.

Miraculously, after a series of seemingly random button presses and a dash of luck, we managed to secure two train tickets. Elated, we trotted downstairs to catch our ride to the grandiose Amsterdam Centraal station.

Now, I must say, Amsterdam Centraal is not your run-of-the-mill train station. It’s like a palace disguised as a transportation hub, flaunting a facade that could rival Cinderella’s castle. With Gothic and Renaissance Revival vibes, it’s got turrets, ornate details, and enough stone reliefs to make a history buff weep with joy. The station was a masterpiece courtesy of Pierre Cuypers, the same architect behind the exquisite Rijksmuseum. And there we were, arriving at this grandeur with our train tickets earned through sheer persistence and guesswork.

As we stepped onto the platform, I couldn’t help but chuckle at the fact that we’d just given Amsterdam Centraal a taste of Mr. P and me. We had a knack for turning even the simplest of journeys into an uproarious adventure. Little did we know that Amsterdam had plenty more surprises in store, waiting to be discovered through our own special lens of humor and eccentricity.


Tales from the Crooked Canal: Our Whimsical Amsterdam Houseboat Adventure

When we embarked on our European adventure, Mr. P and I were determined to immerse ourselves in the local culture, to see and experience Amsterdam through the eyes of a true Amsterdamer. So, with a twinkle in our eyes and a penchant for unique accommodations, we decided to call a houseboat on the picturesque Brouwersgracht canal in the Jordaan neighborhood our home.

Perched on the tranquil waters of Brouwersgracht, our houseboat introduced us to a quieter, more serene side of Amsterdam, in stark contrast to the bustling city center. Greeting us with warmth and grace was Rinze, our impeccable host.

As we stepped onto our floating haven, our eyes were irresistibly drawn to the picturesque scene that unfolded before us. Along the canal’s edge, a row of resplendent houses stood, adorned with their signature gabled facades, painting a vivid and captivating tableau that seemed plucked right out of a postcard.

But there was something that made Brouwersgracht even more captivating and, you might say, a little off-kilter. The houses that flanked the canal were, quite literally, leaning into the water. As we settled in, we were quick to notice that these homes were not architectural mishaps but, in fact, a purposeful design feature.

Legend has it that these charmingly crooked homes were built this way to aid the merchants of the past. The tilting design was a clever solution to a practical problem: transporting goods. Using hooks and pulleys, merchants could easily hoist their wares from the boats in the canal to their crooked homes. It was a fascinating example of Dutch ingenuity at its best, and we couldn’t help but appreciate the quirky history that surrounded us.

Our houseboat adventure was a unique and unforgettable experience. From savoring Dutch pancakes to navigating the intricate canal system on a rented paddleboat, each day was filled with new discoveries and delightful surprises.

As we soaked in the crooked charm of Brouwersgracht and the leaning houses, it felt like we were not just visitors but temporary residents of this enchanting canal neighborhood. Our houseboat on the crooked canal provided a glimpse into Amsterdam’s past while allowing us to revel in the present. It was a whimsical adventure that set the tone for the rest of our European escapade, promising more quirky tales, laughter, and cherished memories in the days to come.

Tickets and All
On Our Way
Waterways of Amsterdam
One of Amsterdam's most famous areas, the The Jordaan neighborhood is tucked inside of central Amsterdam and quite conveniently located.
Although it's one of the most expensive places to live in Amsterdam, Jordaan was originally a working-class neighbourhood. The name of the area, Jordaan, is believed to have derived from the French word jardin, which means "garden".

After a grueling 24-hour plane ride that felt like a never-ending in-flight marathon, followed by a blistering-fast 30-minute train ride to Amsterdam Centraal, we could practically smell the sweet aroma of freedom. Then, there was just a mere 13-minute walk to our cozy new abode for the next three days. Well, 13 minutes if you possess the extraordinary superpower of not stopping every second to snap another picturesque masterpiece.

Even though we were as fatigued as a sloth on a Monday morning, Mr. P was once again the pinnacle of patience, occasionally declaring a state of “short rest,” while I was busy being bewitched by every new scene that unfolded before us. We rejoiced in our decision to travel light with just one backpack and one carry-on. As for how I managed to pull off such a miraculous feat, I’m on a quest to unlock that secret – normally, my baggage includes enough to rival a small cargo ship.

Navigating the sea of Amsterdam cyclists as a pedestrian was like being a lone grape in a fruit salad – ripe for adventure, but in constant danger of being squished. In a city where bikes reign supreme, I quickly realized that dodging these two-wheeled commuters was like playing a real-life game of Frogger. Just when I thought I’d successfully hop my way across, another cyclist would pedal into view, forcing me to do a quick, panic-induced dance, evading their two-wheeled wrath.

Biking is the lifeblood of Amsterdam, and as an outsider, I couldn’t help but be both thrilled and petrified. Imagine driving in a major city, except replace the protective metal cocoon of your car with your own wobbly legs. Yes, the roads are uneven, and yes, there are more bikes than there are pigeons in this place. It’s like a bicycle battleground out there, with pedal-powered warriors ruling the streets.

The locals have this whole biking thing down to an art form. They’ve got their own secret society with exclusive parking lots, lanes that weave through the city like a maze, and stoplights (most of the time). Heck, they probably have bike insurance too, because in Amsterdam, that’s practically a rite of passage. I half expected them to have their own bicycle club complete with secret handshakes and a bike bell choir.

As an American in this cycling utopia, I quickly deciphered a crucial code: “Stay off the bicycle paths if you value your limbs.” The message was loud and clear, as the locals whispered to me, “The locals hate tourists on bicycles.” So, I made a pact with myself to strictly walk on those good old, reliable pedestrian paths.

But the real golden rule was this: “Whatever you do, don’t ever become a human roadblock on the bike path and upset an Amsterdam cyclist. They’re not out for a leisurely spin; they’re on a mission to get to work or back home to their cheese and stroopwafel stashes. These folks mean business, and heaven help you if you slow down their wheels of destiny.”

So there I was, a cautious wanderer in the land of relentless cyclists, realizing that being a pedestrian in Amsterdam was like participating in a daily marathon of bike-dodging, where the finish line was your destination, and the obstacles were the peloton of pedal-pushers. But hey, it’s all part of the adventure, and it sure makes for some unforgettable travel anecdotes!

Navigating to Our Waterfront Wonderland

Keep Going - Almost There !!!!
Keep Going - Almost There !!!!

Armed with our trusty address in one hand and a sprinkle of eager excitement in the other, we boldly ventured onto Brouwersgracht, a street that sounds like a character from a fantasy novel but is actually named after the canal that we were walking beside.  And why was Mr. P so enthusiastic about this particular spot, you ask? Well, it turns out that the canal earned its moniker back in 1594 because it was once the lifeblood of beer brewing. Yes, you heard me right, beer! The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries saw more breweries in this neighborhood than a college dorm during finals week. So Mr. P was gearing up for some well-deserved recovery with a local brew, ready to honor centuries of beer-soaked tradition. Prost!



“A bicycle does get you there and more. And there is always the thin edge of danger to keep you alert and comfortably apprehensive. Dogs become dogs again and snap at your raincoat; potholes become personal. And getting there is all the fun.” ~ Bill Emerson

Upon our grand entrance, after I’d wrestled my shoes off and dramatically dropped our bags in the most nonchalant way possible, we found ourselves in what could only be described as our cozy new abode for the next three days. Picture this: sixteen square meters of prime real estate, but alas, it felt like we were trying to navigate a tiny boat in a vast sea, and the king-sized bed was our majestic, space-consuming pirate ship.

Mr. P, being a towering 6-foot specimen of humanity, had it relatively easy in the bed department. He could stretch out like a majestic giant in a castle. Meanwhile, at my modest height of 5’3″, every bedtime adventure was like ascending and descending the peaks of the Himalayas. I practically needed mountaineering gear just to climb into bed. It was a constant struggle, but I like to think of it as a built-in workout, right in the comfort of our pocket-sized palace. Who needs the gym when you have a royal-sized bed and an aspiring mountaineer to navigate it?

As intrepid voyeurs of the canal, we flung open the “gargantuan sliding window” with grand plans of enjoying the lively spectacle outside while we enjoyed a well-deserved horizontal break. Little did we know, our bed suddenly turned into the front row of a comedy show. Passersby waved, chuckled, and pointed at the peculiar sight of us lounging in bed, and naturally, we waved and laughed back – it was an unintentional bed-based sitcom.

But as the waves of onlookers kept rolling in, we decided that perhaps this was a tad too much exposure for our liking. So, with the precision of seasoned secret agents, we executed Operation: “Shut the Blinds.” We went from starring in a sitcom to playing the role of secretive spies, peering out at the passing boats and their merrymaking passengers, all holding their drinks aloft, blissfully unaware that they were under our watchful, albeit concealed, gaze. Ah, the joys of people-watching in the comfort of your own, erm, floating hideaway!

After enjoying the canal-side spectacle for a while, our stomachs chimed in like a pair of disgruntled spectators, reminding us that we’d unintentionally skipped a few meals. It was time to turn our attention from the floating entertainment to a more pressing matter – refueling our own ship with some delicious sustenance.

With an inquisitive spark in our eyes and growling stomachs, we decided to consult our ever-knowledgeable host for some gastronomic guidance. Lo and behold, one of the top culinary gems on our list was conveniently just a stone’s throw away, up the charming Brouwersgracht, past a bridge, and voila, we were there in roughly a minute. This historical eatery, dating back to 1642, had us at “atmospheric café,” and it went by the charming name of “Café ‘t Papeneiland.”




Brown Cafe Expedition: Dutch Pub Paradise

“You don’t need to climb a mountain to know that it’s high.” – Paulo Coelho
The View From Our Window
Watching The World Go By In Secret 😲

And thus, our epic quest for nourishment began, as we ventured down the street and across a canal bridge, within spitting distance of our swaying boat-home. Lo and behold, we stumbled upon our very first specimen of a “brown” cafe.

Now, you might be scratching your head and pondering the universe’s deepest questions like, “What in the heck is a ‘brown’ cafe?” Trust me, you’re not alone. It’s a question that has bewildered scholars, philosophers, and even a few confused pigeons. But fear not, for I’m about to decode the mystique of the ‘brown’ cafe for you.

When you ponder the hue “brown,” well, in the whimsical realm of ‘brown’ cafes, it’s not just a mere color; it’s an entire lifestyle. You see, the very essence of these delightful establishments revolves around the color brown. The interior is swathed in a sumptuous, velvety dark brown, and the bar is crafted from the finest, deepest brown wood, lending a rich, earthy aura to the place.

And here’s the kicker: it’s not just a daytime affair. These Amsterdam ‘brown’ cafes are the nocturnal rebels of the culinary world. They defy the conventional, staying open into the wee hours of the morning, typically until 1 or 2 AM. So, it’s not just about brown; it’s about savoring the dark and mysterious side of the night in style!

The "Brown" Cafe - An Example of Dutch cosiness and "gezelligheid"
Where Legends Meet: The Dark Wood Decor and the Infamous Brown-Tinted Walls, Shrouded in Cigarette Smoke Mysteries

Pub Grub in the Heart of Amsterdam

A Neighborhood Haven: Where Vintage Charm and Quirky Delights Await

Sneaking past the sun-soaked terrace dwellers, we dared to peer into the enigmatic depths of the pub’s interior. Inside, it was like entering a museum of beautifully adorned ceramic Delft Blue pottery that covered every inch of the walls. There was no distracting music to drown out the lively conversations of patrons who gathered here to chat with friends, passionately argue politics, engage in heated debates about the merits of various sports teams, discover newfound love, and, of course, tip back a few well-earned drinks.

The ambiance was so cozy it felt like we’d stumbled into someone’s charmingly cluttered living room, complete with the delightful cacophony of voices and laughter.

As for the prospect of ascending the narrow and treacherously steep stairway to reach the quieter upper floor, we quickly decided against it – after all, it wouldn’t be a true Dutch experience without a touch of peril. Who needs staircases when you can enjoy the action from the heart of the action?

On that sunny day, our eyes lit up like kids in a candy store, and we swiftly seized two stools. You see, when the Amsterdam sun is out to play, your mission is to scout for those precious seats outside, right by the front door. These golden spots are like the Holy Grail of people-watching, and believe me, there’s no better vantage point in the whole of Amsterdam. It’s where you can savor your drink while you feast your eyes on the city’s delightful parade of characters.

As we stepped into the cozy cafe, we were in for a delightful surprise – a personal greeting from one of the cafe’s owners. It turns out this charming establishment has been under the loving care of the Netel family for over half a century. https://www.theyums.com/cafe-papeneiland-amsterdam  Each generation, led by a member sporting the distinguished name of Thiel, has upheld the traditions of this delightful haven.

Our friendly host handed us the menus, and soon enough, the air was filled with the sweet symphony of chatter. Mr. P was in his element, discussing the nuances of the local beers with our gracious host. He’s a true craft beer connoisseur and wasted no time in selecting a brew that boasted the pride of being locally made. Watching him make that choice was like observing an artist carefully selecting the perfect color for his masterpiece. Craft beer tasting is Mr. P’s version of strolling through an art gallery, and he was ready for a sip of liquid artistry.

First Sip Adventure: Quenching Thirst with Local Brew pulled from gorgeous antique ceramic taps.
Dutch Delights: Savoring the Flavors of the Netherlands
Lost in Translation? Not Anymore! A Menu for Our English-Speaking Guests


With our thirst adequately quenched, our next quest was to decipher the culinary treasures of the local pub. Mr. P confidently opted for a Tosti Mozzarella with Pesto and Tomato, a choice that felt surprisingly close to the toasties we savor back in South Africa. Now, as the self-proclaimed picky eater of the duo, I found myself in a culinary conundrum. Staring at the menu like it was a cryptic puzzle, I turned to our ever-helpful host for guidance.

I decided to put my fate in his capable hands and asked for his recommendation. That’s when the million-dollar question came: “Where are you from?” I proudly declared my American roots, and our host couldn’t help but chuckle. Evidently, Americans aren’t known for their penchant for raw meats, a taste that’s more of a Dutch specialty. With a knowing glint in his eye, our host suggested I try a shrimp croquette (Holtkamp). He was determined to introduce me to a Dutch delight that fell safely within my comfort zone.


We were like dessert detectives patiently waiting for the sweet case to be cracked
appeltaart met slagroom

With the desire to conclude our meal on a sweet note, I transformed into a full-fledged dessert detective. My sweet-tooth radar was in full swing as I spotted a fellow patron showcasing a dessert that looked absolutely irresistible. It was a moment of sugar-inspired intrigue and a quest for the ultimate indulgence.It was like this sweet sirens of yore was whispering, “Come hither!” and I, being the sweet-toothed moth that I am, couldn’t resist its call.

Now, let me spill the pastry beans on a juicy Amsterdam secret – there’s a fierce rivalry among the cafes in town, all vying for the coveted title of “Best Appeltaart in the City.” It’s like a dessert showdown of epic proportions, and I simply couldn’t resist being a part of this sugary spectacle. I was about to become the ultimate judge in a contest where the contestants were slices of heavenly appeltaart, and boy, was I up for the task!

And speaking of appeltaart, let me tell you, it’s not your ordinary American apple pie. No, siree! It’s a towering marvel, at least two inches high, and sometimes it reaches for the sky like a skyscraper made of apples. Think of it as the Leaning Tower of Apple.

This colossal confection is a symphony of two types of thinly-sliced local apples, living in harmony with raisins and a dash of cinnamon, all wrapped in a cozy blanket of just a hint of sugar and a splash of zesty lemon juice. It’s the kind of dessert that defies pie convention – its crust is more like cake, and it’s as if the apples decided to throw a wild party in there.

And the magic doesn’t stop there! A fluffy cloud of freshly whipped cream descends upon this heavenly creation, turning it into a dessert masterpiece. Plus, remember, we’re in the land of Dutch cows, the dairy divas of the animal kingdom, and their milk is nothing short of legendary. So, that dollop of cream isn’t just heavenly; it’s like a dairy dream come true. One taste, and you might find yourself contemplating a move to the Netherlands and starting your own creamery. This appeltaart is like a slice of paradise with a dollop of Dutch delight, and it’s simply appeltaart-stic!   https://www.theyums.com/cafe-papeneiland-amsterdam/





With our bellies delightfully full, we bid adieu to our quaint moss-topped, grey square home that had a penchant for rocking and swaying. It was time to hunker down and rest up, gearing ourselves for the exciting adventure that awaited us on the morrow – a day filled with cheese and Dutch shoe-related escapades.





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