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[tour de france] cold & jetlagged in amsterdam

July 14, 2012

“Welcome to Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam…” came the voice over the loud speaker.

It was a little before 9am local time and we were ready to turn in for the night. To be fair, we’d been ready to turn in for the night since the night before (Sydney time) and after the 8 hour flight / 5 hour layover / 7 hour flight / 1 hour layover / 9 hour flight combination we’d just witnessed, it would be fair to say that our enthusiasm was somewhat damper than it had been 30 hours earlier.

“…The weather is clear with a current temperature of 4 degrees,” continued the voice.

We didn’t hear the rest of the sentence.

“I’m going to need another jacket.” 

Destination: Amsterdam 
This post is part of the onebitemore “Tour de France” series, published every Friday (except for this post) until I run out of stories to tell. To see an overview of the trip or to see other posts in this series, click on the map to be redirected to the index page.

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First things first, breakfast.

(Or was it dinner?)

After flinging our luggage up far too many sets of narrow stairs (hello Amsterdam architecture!) and bundling ourselves up in whatever warmth what could be found in our suitcases, we were off!

Map in hand, we trundled down towards Centraal Station in hopes of locating an eatery en route. The hit-list of Amsterdam eats? Poffertjes. Chips with mayonnaise. Something Indonesian. Stroopwafel. Oh, and pickled herring.

frens haringhandel

pickled herring from frens haringhandel

Perhaps not for the faint of heart, Frens Haringhandel serves up a selection of raw and pickled fish for the public to snack on as they amble past. Seating is limited to a nearby park bench and food is served on a small waxed paper plate with a flag-adorned toothpick for cutlery.

“Do you want some?” I asked Koji, possibly over-enthusiastically.

“I’m not sure this is the best breakfast for me” he replied, somewhat warily.

“More for me then!”

shez eating pickled herring

For the princely sum of €2.80 I received a plate of slimy, slightly tacky pickled herring, a smattering of chopped white onion and four pickled cucumber slices.

It was perfect.

Bonus points because I had the power to blow herring-breath into Koji’s face every time he dared disagree with me for the next 20 or so minutes. (He gives it minus points for that).


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Tastebuds momentarily satisfied, we walked.

And walked.

We walked down past the square at Centraal. We walked through Dam Square at Nieuwe Kirk and scuttled away from the street artists dressed as ghouls and goblins that would lean and cackle in your ear just as you thought you were past them.

We ambled into the pedestrian only (and by pedestrian only, I mean pedestrian and bicycle only) side streets of Dam Square and peered into windows and shivered in the single digit temperatures.

cafe oporto

cafe oporto: exterior and the bar
Cafe Oporto’s windows were framed in fairy lights and hanging pot plants.

A bundle of boys, all tall, hook-nosed and tousled of hair, tumbled out the door in a knot of hats, scarves and jackets as we approached.

“I think I need a beer to warm myself up” said Koji.

“I think we need to head inside” said I.

brian from cafe oporto

We find ourselves transported back in time as we step into one of Amsterdam’s many “brown cafes”. Dark wallpapered walls and wooden tabletops. A luminescent bar. Lagers on tap served up in a dutch pint.

And Brian, the Irish bartender who, upon being asked if I could take a photo of him, grins shyly, cackles, and then sternly reminds me to let him know ahead of the shot so he can make sure his best side is showing.

My teeth are chattering.

“Can we’ve a hot chocolate with Baileys in it and a pint of whichever lager you think I should try today?” asks Koji as I slowly peel the layers off.

“Let me guess. You’re from Australia. Am I right?” replies Brian as he pulls a bottle of hot chocolate out of the cupboard for steaming.

“Sydney” I reply.

“Of course. It’s only the bloody Aussies and the Kiwis that ever ask for hot chocolate with Baileys in it. I’d ban it from the pub if I could.”

cafe oporto: interior and drinks

He tips the hot chocolate into a mug and steams it til piping hot and frothy before pouring an ample swig of Baileys in from the bottle.

Koji is handed a pint of the lager of the day.

We melt into the benches and wait for our faces to thaw.

“They’re a good sort though,” Brian adds as an afterthought “from down under. Nice to have them around really.”

And with that he returns to his conversation about the soccer with a regular patron, over a pint apiece.


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burger bar

Drinks done, we are faced with the question of lunch.

But as willing as we were to find somewhere to eat, our stomachs sat dormantly as stomachs-who-think-it’s-bedtime are wont to sit.

“Fritz with mayo!” exclaimed Koji.

“I think I smell something delicious” said I.

fries with mayonnaise at burgerbar

They were, perhaps, the best chips I’d ever eaten. (Though this may have something to do with their heat and salt and oil whilst I stood in a state of frozen semi-hunger).

I continued to find smears of rich, creamy mayonnaise on my camera strap days later.

(We came back for dinner on our return to Amsterdam, but you’ll have to wait til then to see what we ate.)


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Hot chips in hand, we walked and soaked up the city.

amsterdam streetscapes: cheeses of amsterdam

We walked past cheeseburgers sold in coin operated lockers and cheese shops that leaned sideways, seemingly groaning under the weight of the wheels in the windows.

(At the latter we sampled a slice of peppered cheese smeared with a swipe of seeded mustard. It was so good we momentarily considered smuggling some home with us, but didn’t.)

We breathed in the herbally enhanced air and laughed at the windows filled with lights and displays of candy, chips and other munchable foods, prepared for that evening’s onslaught.

“Oh my gosh!” I would exclaim, from time to time, “how good do those donuts look!”

“And this is why you’re never going to smoke any pot on my watch” Koji would reply with a laugh “You’d eat half of Amsterdam in the aftermath.”

amsterdam streetscapes

We crossed bridges over canals and posed in faintly lit laneways as the bicycles weaved and dodged around us.

And then, without warning, 4pm hit and we were so tired that the thought of dragging our weary, numb feet one step further seemed an unknown torture.

So we hightailed it back to the hotel, picking up some sparkling water, a box of lemon & ginger tea and a packet of cookies on the way, and settled in for a “nap”.

hotel iron horse

The beds at this hotel seemed particularly comfortable, the bed covers particularly warm and fluffy and the shower hot and inviting.

So much so, that it wasn’t until morning that we noticed the startlingly large picture of a horse that adorned the wall behind our heads.

hotel iron horse

We did, however, notice its fairly convenient location (less than 5 minutes walk to the Vondelpark and the van Gogh museum) and the narrow, winding staircase that we were required to haul our luggage up in order to get to our rooms (par for the course in most Amsterdam residences).

Our receptionist told us that they’d been open less than a month and were ironing (excuse the pun) out the kinks. Not that we minded.

For we had two beds at our disposal, each one and a half-width singles. We had free wifi. We had a quiet room where the noise of the street was undetectable, turning our afternoon nap into a sleep-until-midnight-and-eliminate-any-chance-of-dinner kind of affair.

And all for the grand nightly price of €88 for the room.


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It would be an understatement to say we woke up hungry.

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This post is part of the onebitemore “Tour de France” series, published every Friday (except for this post) until I run out of stories to tell. To see an overview of the trip or to see other posts in this series, click here. 

Next time: Hungry & delirious in Amsterdam (plus some culture. But only a bit).


  • #1
    July 15th, 2012

    Completely off topic but your bow is so freaking adorable!! you look so happy!! very jealous of your travels!

  • #2
    July 16th, 2012

    Isn’t Amsterdam a wonderful city? I love the canals and the millions of bikes, everywhere! You look adorable in your photos. There’s so much food on offer that it’s such a struggle to decide where to eat! Can’t wait for the rest of the Euro Trip posts 😀

  • #3
    July 18th, 2012

    I agree… your head wrap / bow thingy is adorable! Very good cold weather accessory! I love Amsterdam. Those hot chips sound amazing!

  • #4
    July 18th, 2012

    Fantastic photos Shez. Poor Koji having to put up with your smelly herring breath :p hehehehe.

Shez