A Travel & Lifestyle Blog

Canal-side living in Amsterdam

Saturday afternoon in the Nine Streets
Goodmorning! At last I can tell you all about our weekend in Amsterdam, it's been such a busy couple of weeks! 

My recommendations about Amsterdam usually start like this: "I count myself lucky that my first visit ever was with my dad; he took me along to one of the conferences he was attending, so I got to appreciate Amsterdam's culture and not the sub-culture" (wink, wink & elbow nudge). 

Why do I say that? Over the years I got to see all sides of the city, but when I think about Dam, I always think of a balanced all-around place:
the art lovers indulge in the newly refurbished Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh collection, the bohemians chill out in all kinds of cafés, the foodies are spoiled for choice, the shopaholics can raid vintage boutiques in Waterlooplein and Nine Streets all the way to designer shops in Hoofstraat and the jewellery lovers can adorn their ears and fingers with magnificent diamond pieces. 
Let me tell you what we got up to this time around...


I love canal tours - they are so cheesy giving details like "so many bikes/cars are fished out of
the canals every year" and... "this is the tiniest house in the world", not to mention
the unique angles to view the city from!
 
A touch of rural Netherlands, Horse & Carriage
in Dam Square, right in front of the palace
If you haven't booked anywhere head to the lower part of Spuistraat for dinner. 

Humphrey's hides behind a black exterior but opens up to a split level space, decorated with chandeliers, wooden floor and intricate railings that make you feel you are in an upmarket restaurant in colonial Vietnam.
The food is modern Dutch, but the best bit is the bread. It arrives stabbed with a knife, escorted by glorious butter and a tiny olive oil bottle. It's delicate and crispy on the outside but soooo soft on the inside.
One thing about Dutch cuisine that you have to prepare your tummy for, is butter. My starter, prawns with garlic, was lovely but the prawns seemed to be swimming in butter and guess what? it was my excuse to eat more bread; dipping galore!
The "subtle" entrance at Humphreys! 

probably one of the best loafs of bread I've ever had! 
For more traditional Dutch food, we went to Greetje, a corner restaurant lodged in a quite residential district. 
You know you are in good hands when you walk in and see whole groups of locals enjoying their Saturday night meal, but remember to book in advance. Its' deceptive appearance doesn't give away much, yet we were treated to our own little area, with a rustic oval grey table and a massive flower arrangement! My friends were well-impressed. Score! 

We had beetroot biscuits to start with and duck as a main. The biscuits were soft and not as strongly flavoured as I had thought; the duck was succulent and well prepared, perfect chunks next to a puffy mushroom pie! Being one of the traditional dishes of this part of the world, you must give it a try! 

Before dinner we popped into an art deco bar for a cocktail, right across the street from Greetje (in Peperstraat) but unfortunately I didn't look at the name.
It was dark and mysterious, the cocktails were flambeed right in front of your eyes and as we sat next to the big windows with a tiny candle lighting our corner, we both felt like going back in time; a "Midnight in Paris" kind of moment. 

Pie, simple, traditional, delish!
On the way to Spuistraat our friends pointed out a couple of more local, smaller cafés, that looked like safer options to stop at and have a hot chocolate even, while watching the tourists inhale in smoke for dear life! Funny, you must admit! 

The Tweede Kammer  plays Latin chilled out music in a wood-panelled setting and the Dutch Flowers has a great view of Herengracht. If you are thinking "dodgy" cafes, think more "the next Steve Jobs-types" sitting next to the windows, having a coffee, working on their laptops; times have changed!  
Compared to these little ones, the very touristy cafés like the Grasshopper and Bulldog, looked like Irish pubs on steroids and certainly not inviting, for me anyway. 

Did you know that Van Gogh did all of his famous  work within a ten year period?
I had never paid attention to dates before, but it makes you think...
if you feel you have a talent, you must unleash the beast!
 
This reminds me of a Christmas card and yet...
it's right in the middle of the Red Light District!
 
Leidesplein is buzzing all the way to 3am on a Saturday - or should I say Sunday - morning!
We opted for Little Buddha, funky mix of nineties RnB and hip-hop, not impressed with the music but the place was busy because of the MTV EMEA awards and Jay Sean was on the decks - if that means anything to you; 20 euros and we walked straight in, bizarre? 
  
The famous "skinny bridge" on river Amstel
Christmas on the way...
Sunday was my absolute favourite, it was all about lounging and strolling. 

Brunch in George café was just what we needed to start the day in a relaxed and chic environment. We opted for walking from our hotel in Damrak and were rewarded with some of the most scenic views around the Nine Streets and Leidesgracht area.
It was sunny and crisp and I would have gladly moved straight into one of the apartments overlooking the canals in Nine Streets district! It's buzzing but not manic and people seem to take a moment to sit and grab a coffee every now and again. 

Am I tired of London? No, but I must take a leaf out of their life book I think, taking it easy every now and again; oh! and come back more often! x
 
Brisk Sunday morning walk with the girls! 
Caffe George on Leidesgracht - picture perfect? 

Holy Moly Guacamole

Guacamole is more complex than you thought: is it a dip, a topping or a salad?


The Aztecs originally mashed avocado with sea salt and called it "a-waka-mol-i";
but off course we love complicating things so we had to add and add to it. 

Apparently if you dig into old  Spanish dictionaries it comes up as  a "salad of alligator pear"...hmmm funky!

Either way, it turned out to be rather popular though, don't you think?

I hadn't made it at home before, but it seemed like a good alternative to butter next to toast and scrambled eggs.

My version has a bit of a kick to it, which funny enough comes from the mustard and garlic - it's not for the fainthearted and needs no extra pepper.

All you really need is a tasty bread, maybe olive or even soda bread, sliced and toasted and you have a crunchy-yet-smooth canapé to accompany your drinks with.



Ingredients:  

- three ripe avocados
- juice of one lime
- one tablespoon of Dijon mustard (for extra punch use English mustard)
- two cloves of garlic, grated
- a quarter of a cup olive oil
- one teaspoons of salt
 
Half the avocados and empty the green fluffy flesh in a bowl disregarding the seed in the middle.
 Add all of the ingredients and using a fork, break the avocado down, while mixing to a thick paste.
I like having chunks in there blended in the paste, so don't overwork it.  
If the avocados are not quite ripe yet just pop everything in the food processor and blitz it twice. 
 
Preparación Rápida! x

Café George, Amsterdam

 

By now, you should know that going out for brunch is one of my favourite Sunday rituals. What a treat to catch a sunny Sunday morning, strolling alongside peaceful canals, autumn coloured trees, bikes, artistic building facades and rustic cafés!
Our destination: Café George. 
French inspired menu, New York inspired tiled walls, mosaic floors and bistro wooden chairs, all wrapped up in Amsterdam canal-side living! Tempted?


The eggs were smothered in hollandaise sauce and the coffee had a heart on top, that's enough to make this girl happy!


As the saying goes...you can take five girls out of London but you can't take London out of these five girls..."why isn't the waiter picking up the money for the bill, don't they want us out of here?" No! They actually want you to take it easy on a Sunday morning, imagine that!

Dalmunzie Castle, Scotland

Try saying out loud "Spital of Glenshee".
Now repeat with emphasising your "s-es" and your "e-es"... Ay! Now you are in the Highlands spirit!  

We have been looking forward to driving around the Highlands for years, but never made it until now; why, because it's so far away from London!

It's all good and dandy driving up to Glasgow: five and a half hours of singing and listening to each others' favourite tracks, eating the necessary road-trip chocolate and crisps junk, sleeping, peeking through the rain at the colossal wind turbines, stopping for the familiar Starbucks caramel macchiato; but then you have to drive another two and a half hours on top of it!
What you don't realise is that you go uphill all the way, but it's so subtle that when you arrive at Glenshee and see the ski lifts, you wonder what on earth is going on. 


a good fry-up including haggis and black pudding, not to forget the creamy porridge!

waking up early was worth it for once! rewarded with this amazing sunrise

lovely original four poster bed...
At times we felt lost, although the navigation said we should carry on;
After Perth, only a few houses spring up here and there on the roadside and stone cottages blend in with the autumn green and reddish-brown mountain landscape.  
Deep valleys and rivers cut through the mountains and as we drove over the Bridge of Cally it felt like we were entering a magic world. By the way, don't you find that this name has a Lord-of-the-Rings sound to it? Anyway, moving on.

Driving up the 1.5 mile hotel drive, alongside the stream that runs through the estate certainly felt special. You do leave the rest of the world behind.

Dalmunzie Castle is in a lonely valley;

the closest structure, Spital of Glenshee visitor's centre, is two miles away and everything else about twenty odd miles drive. It hasn't been spoiled by tourism in any way and I can imagine that being snowed in at one of the estate's  stone cottages with a log fire and plenty of pie-making supplies is not such a bad thing! There is a golf course within the estate and deer roam around free.
Make sure you stay still if you spot one, otherwise they hop away and disappear, leaving you behind questioning whether you ever actually saw one! 
 

The hotel is furnished in the traditional tartan notes and wooden original pieces.
Every room is named after an ancestor related to the estate and their family tartan is framed next to the room door.

Yes, the floor is squeaky and there is limited phone reception but there is also complementary scotch and sherry to keep you warm! The bathrooms need refurbishing, but we were told the estate changed hands recently so renovations are on the way! I'd give it six months and go back to enjoy our wonderful tower room again!

Having dinner at the hotel also makes sense, you don't want to be driving down mountain roads in pitch black after a couple of glasses of sherry, do you? And sitting by the big fireplace after dinner is what you are here for anyway - ah, that lord of the manor feeling! 



A couple of sips of sherry for me, a dash of scotch for my partner and off we went to climb the hills and splash through the stream. Wellies territory at its' best! 

As soon as we were outside, we were taken aback by the complete silence and tranquillity of the place. You just want to be quite and keep taking in big gasps of fresh air and impossibly beautiful images. In traditional countryside style every field has lovely wooden gates that you can open and make your way across the hills, no paths involved! Be thoughtful and close the gate behind you though!

And don't randomly ask about kilts, it's a Highlands tradition but "you don't wear kilts below Perth" we were told, so now you know too! x

 
GlenShee, Blairgowrie, Perthshire PH10 7QG
Phone: +44 1250 885224
 
 
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