Australia's favourite food blogger, Not Quite Nigella, aka Lorraine Elliott samples the tantalising treats on offer in Amsterdam, while deftly avoiding the hordes of cyclists that whizz past.
"It’s Amsterdam, I’m up for anything” P. Bella says to all of us. My first time in Amsterdam is a short and sweet one-four hours to be exact and I’m armed with a bunch of gals that are literally up for anything and a guide that is willing to show it to us.
"You want to visit the erotic museum?” our guide Anneke asks us after we request a visit to the red light district and the canals.
"Also poffertjes and food and space cakes!” I cry out. Don’t forget dear reader that Amsterdam has a famous red light district and the "tolerated” consumption of cannabis so just a little hint about what might be coming up.
Although I knew of Amsterdam’s reputation of legal substances, what I wasn’t prepared for was for exactly how pretty this small city is. Named after the Amstel River that they built a dam on, the city is a picturesque series of canals, cobblestones and bikes. Yes bikes, watch out for those and they most definitely have the right of way.
They whizz past every left or right and beware any open mouthed tourists that may be gawking at the canals or the red light district girls. Take some time to look at the houses which learn charmingly and Anneke shows us the gable tiles. In the 15th century, houses didn’t have numbers so to identify a house or a place, you would use a descriptive gable tile to show people what you did for a living.
The 100 kilometres of Amsterdam’s UNESCO World Heritage listed canals were hand dug from the 15th to the 17th century and are 9 feet deep. "They say that they’re 3 feet of sand, 3 feet of water and 3 feet of bikes” Anneke says. Indeed, dredging the canals yields thousands of discarded bikes – the locks are often more expensive than the bikes themselves.
The most prestigious canal is the Gentleman’s Canal, where the rents are sky high for the magnificent buildings. This building shows an entrance at the bottom which is where kitchen deliveries would take place whilst the upstairs entrance is the main one.
We walk through the cobblestoned streets and try poffertjes, which are small floury tiny bite sized pancakes blanketed thickly with icing sugar. These are served with a pat of butter that you can melt against the hot poffertjes. Our quest for the very popular herring fish proves fruitless as all stalls are closed for the Monday. Anneke shows us how to eat a herring-grab it by the tail and eat!
Kalve Street is the main shopping street in Amsterdam and has many of the usual high street stores. On Mondays they open later at 1pm as they are open on Sunday afternoon but they normally open at 9am.
Anneke shows us some of Amsterdam’s hidden secrets. One is the church hidden behind this door. The church is called "the parrot” and a parrot figurine sits suspended from the ceiling. This was formerly a home that became a secret or hidden church for a time when the Catholic religion wasn’t allowed to be practiced.
Behind this door lies a courtyard with buildings that were originally built for the Beguines religious women. Nowadays people live here in the buildings and within this enclosed court lies the oldest wooden house in Amsterdam.
The city is known for its flower markets, especially for its tulips and cannabis plants. Alongside the flower markets are some cheese shops, all invite tastings of their Gouda and Edam cheese, many with flavours added to them. The cheeses were nice enough but the mustards caught my eye, particularly the dill mustard and the pretty blue and white tins of stroopwaffels, which have a lovely sweet caramel layer between the thin cross hatched waffles...
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