Amsterdam – Meeting friends and discovering new places

As you all know, I am an avid postcrosser and swapper on Postcrossing.com and swap-bot.com respectively. I posted on my Swap Bot profile that I had plans on going to the Netherlands and needed help/advice. Thankfully, my fellow swapper/postcrosser Jessica messaged me. Apparently, she had a swap for me and read my profile. She wanted to assist me, and perhaps meet up. I love meeting people all over the world! Funny enough, the other person who joined us in the meet up, Marleen, was MY partner for the same swap!

Jessica and Marleen took us to their candy store – which is this shop full of postcards! It was amazing. They had them categorized too and they had them in alphabetical order!!!


This is Mr.S going through the categories they had.


After our postcard shopping, they took us to a paper store where they had washi tape. But before that, we stopped by the flower market to take some stuff home. We bought a bag of tulip bulbs, and 2 bags of Birds of Paradise seeds. Just wanted to let you know that it takes 3-5 years upon germination for these flowers to bloom SO…. yeah.


Shelves upon shelves of paper. Plus there was more stationery upstairs but I didn’t go check it out.


And check out their washi tape + deco tape! I actually wanted to buy the one that’s like airmail (to replenish the one I have at home) but they were sold out.


I ended up buying 3 tapes (one for my bff, Yuki) + alpaca stationery. I would’ve bought two but it was like 8 Euros. Lol. I love alpacas btw…


And here’s a picture of us. Marleen and Jessica are going to party later on in the week so they bought these sunglasses for that occasion. I just borrowed mine from the store’s stand LOL.


Finally, we ended up at a Starbucks to chat for a bit. But this was a special kind of Starbucks. This is the first European Concept store. It’s really freakin amazing. I mean I don’t like Starbucks but if this one existed in Toronto, I’d probably go there and ‘hang out’. Read more here + this post has better pics.


Spelled my name wrong BUT the barista was très nice w/ impeccable English.


The reason why I like this Starbucks so much is because they have such kitschy things in the background. Marleen pointed out that the laundry bin was from IKEA. LOL!! Also, they have these little nooks and crannys where you can read. I know some places here have them too but not this comfy looking.

It was a great day for meeting friends and discovering new places!!
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Do you like Starbucks? Or is there another great place you like to hang out in?

Afternoon tea at the Amstel

I’m going to try something different. Instead of those sequential posts, I’m going to just pick interesting things to talk about my trip (so as to not bore you with many details). Plus, it’ll give me more things to blog about!

I am always excited to go to afternoon tea and this place did NOT disappoint!

Just wanted to kinda hammer a nail on the coffin about the fact that there’s so many bikes in Amsterdam. If you haven’t already, please read Mr.S’ post on bikes here. Please take a look at the picture below People are queuing in their bikes as they wait for the bridge. The bridge is raised because there was a passing ship that was too tall to go under. And please note that this is like JUST when they started raising the bridge. I did not take a picture of the aftermath. It was a LONG queue of bikes and pedestrians. (cars and the tram, too, I guess)


You can sorta see the Amstel hotel through the bridge. I would also like to point out that this is a pretty famous hotel here.


Here’s a picture of the canal, in case you are interested.


This is what you see first the moment you step into the Amstel. BEAUTIFUL.


This is the beautiful lounge where you have your afternoon tea.


Here is the view to my left. You can see the canal and cute Dutch buildings. I just wanted to point out that the weather said it was going to rain the whole week we were there so we were extremely lucky to have such hot weather. So hot in fact that I had to remove my tights after afternoon tea. This was the source of our breeze during the tea though…

So the thing that’s different here is that you don’t choose your tea. We were never given a menu. It turns out that they serve you four different teas. Then at the end of the four teas, you can choose which one you like best. I think this is a great idea because you are able to try out different teas.


They brought these over before the tier. These were delightful. One is a Dutch kringle and one is a Hazelino with a crème of mocha.


Now the tier. I’ll go by them in detail below but just look at their presentation! I’ve never had a bread cylinder like that holding my sandwiches!


On the top of the tier is a Grilled tuna with avocado, tomato and romaine salad and Tramezzinno with roast beef and mustard mayonnaise.


My first time having my sandwiches housed within bread.


Unlike other places, their sandwiches are shaped like crescents – of course, this is to accommodate the container. These are the different sandwiches: smoked salmon, cucumber-salad, smoked chicken and egg-salad with watercress. I enjoyed all of them which is a first!


I always go for my scones afterwards with the lemon curd. I also mixed it with clotted-cream for added sweetness. I did not try the home made preserves.

Now, it’s time for the sweet sections.


Here we have Cupcake with a vanilla mouse and fresh red fruit + Crème bavarois of strawberries with an infusion of roses. To be honest, I only ate the fruit atop the cupcake. I was getting full by this time. And I only ate the strawberries off the other. I just wanted to point out that Dutch strawberries are heavenly. The ones in Toronto are not even close to being that delicious. I will speak to the strawberries at a later post.


Since these are so tiny, I was able to eat most of them. We have Bonbon of Tia Maria and Nougatine, Brownie Lolly, and Orange crémeux on a sablé with almond. The bonbon and the brownie lolly were deelish! The orange crémeux, I didn’t get to try much of it but from my first impression, it’s similar to the lemon curd I had with my scone. Still good.


This was my favourite tea, the Oolong Fancy After the second tea, I needed something to cool me down so I had tea # 3 and # 4 turned into iced teas. It really was that hot that day!


Just wanted to show you some more cute Dutch buildings.


We couldn’t finish them all so we had to pack up the desserts. I didn’t expect them to give us a reusable bag. This will be great for shopping! Here’s Mr.S modeling the bag for you 😛


And Mr.S took a picture of this cow. The reason being is that in Toronto we had something similar to this except we used Moose.

In conclusion, Amstel is tied with the The Palm Court at Park Lane Sheration for my favourite afternoon location. I think Amstel would’ve put it over the top had they had live music. Yes, I want someone playing the harp for me as I sip tea, OK?

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You can find them at:

Hotel Intercontinental Amstel Amsterdam
http://amsterdam.intercontinental.com
Afternoon Tea April 2012 Menu
Professor Tulpplein 1
Amsterdam, 1018 GX
Netherlands

Amsterdam – Of bikes and trams… (transportation)

“Goedemorgen” Good morning as they would say in Dutch (Let’s assume I wrote this in the morning so I can sound smart with a word I actually know!)

So A will be writing about all the fun stuff later however I really wanted to talk about the transportation in Nederland because it is very practical.
I guess the best way to talk about it is to break it down by methods of transportation:

1) Cars – Who even drives there? Ok, so you will see cars there but really there is nothing special about them. in fact, all there cars look outdated and less luxurious. The streets are less crowded with cars than in Toronto which makes it faster to travel within the city.

2) Bikes – As we may have all heard, Nederlands are big on bikes. If you think Toronto now has a lot of bikes due to those BIXIE bikes being installed across the city, think again.
Some locals told us that every single person in Amsterdam has a bicycle! So if the population is 800,000, you can just imagine how many bikes are rolling around and that doesn’t even include tourists renting them.
They have their own dedicated bike lanes, I don’t mean like a small little space in the streets like in Toronto, but a full half sidewalk just for them. They even have their own traffic lights!
What really threw A and I back were how they had parking lots for their bikes, not 1 floor but 3 floors for only bikes and yes they were completely full.
So pay attention when you’re walking around because you don’t want to get hit by being in the wrong lane 🙂


This is the 3 floors of bikes!!


Lots of bikes!

3) Trams – similar to streetcars, they are quite efficient but a little more advanced than Toronto.
They have have stop announcements and a digital screen that shows the next stop. Not too impressive but still good.
They have a digital “tap” machine where you need to tap your card to get in and tap it agaain to get out. you don’t even need to get in through the front, there are back doors you can enter through.


This is me, waiting for a tram.

What I really likes was how organized their schedules were. Some stops had digital boards that tell you how long, thanks to GPS, the next tram will arrive. Also, you know when you read the bus stop maps and try to figure out if that bus is going to where you want? Well here, they don’t show you a map. They simply show you each stop it goes to and shows you exactly where you are so you will never get confused.


One of the types of digital boards. We didn’t get a shot with the time on it.

I recommend taking a Tram to get around or renting a bike if you feel brave enough to engulf yourself in the sea of bikes! Beware, you may be given an orange bike meaning you are a tourist so that locals know to avoid you 🙂


Me and A waiting for a tram.

4) Other – You can also take boats I’m sure visiting your neighbour as everyone has a boat in their backyard. No lie! And then you can even take the subway!


This makes Amsterdam looks really beautiful.


Here’s the entrance to the subway.

That’s it for now but I’ll be back as a guest blogger.

Greg's ice cream

Last Sunday, Mr.S and I decided to take a stroll to the Distillery District.

The Distillery District is a historic and entertainment precinct located east of Downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It contains numerous cafés, restaurants, and shops housed within heritage buildings of the former Gooderham and Worts Distillery. The 13-acre (52,000 sq. m) district comprises more than 40 heritage buildings and 10 streets, and is the largest collection of Victorian-era industrial architecture in North America. [wiki]

We stumbled upon a wonderful little ice cream store called Greg’s ice cream. We got in a man sitting with another lady greeted us. I figured he had some sort of tie to the store.

Anyway, I went my merry way to check out the prices and the different flavours.

You can get it in a cup or cones or you can get a tub to bring home. Plus you can add some toppings too. What makes this place different from Marble Slab or other ice cream places is that the ice cream is home made in the back!!

They have lots of interesting flavours and you can totally test them out, like in Baskin Robbins. I chose Sweet Cream.

This is delicious! Sweet cream is like vanilla but sweeter.

While I was taking pictures, the man who greeted us at the beginning approached us. Turns out he’s Greg, the owner!! He was very nice and friendly. He asked me about my blog and told us a little bit about his store. I didn’t get a chance to take a picture with him but maybe next time.

They also have another location on Bloor St.

If you ever get a chance to visit either location, you should definitely pop in and try a scoop! It’s very delicious and creamy, plus you know that it’s all-natural.

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Greg’s Ice cream
gregsicecream.com

Lastly I leave you with a picture of Mr.S and I.

What’s your favourite flavour of ice cream and brand?
(I may have asked the flavour question before but not the brand – do you prefer baskin robbins or ben and jerry’s ?)

Also, don’t forget that I’m having a giveaway over here.