Friday, January 13, 2017

Amsterdam: Days 6 + 7

Monday, December 12 was our final full day in Amsterdam, and the last day of our European vacation. Andi and I slept in until 9:30am again which is completely unheard of at home in real life. What a treat! That said, we missed the opportunity for a carby vacation breakfast which was a bit of a shame. We decided to check out Foodhallen for brunch, The Netherland's first indoor food market.

It took us about 45 minutes to walk to Foodhallen from our rented airbnb apartment, which was completely fine with us. Walking is such a great way to see the city first-hand, and allowed us to work up quite an appetite. Andi and I arrived to Foodhallen in the Oud-West neighborhood around 11:00am and at first, weren't sure it was open. The building itself was open, but individual restaurants within were still setting up for business. Andi and I milled around for a bit, deciding what food we wanted to eat and eventually settled on potstickers and sticky buns (Andi) and a crispy tostada (Heather).

All of our food was very good and the quick-service nature of the modern food court was nice. Next, Andi bought a flight of bitterballen (deep-fried balls with different meat mixtures inside) for us to share. His sister recommended we try bitterballen while we were in Amsterdam as they're a popular Dutch food, but Andi and I weren't sold on them. They tasted like fried casserole to me.

After lunch, Andi and I left the Oud-West neighborhood and headed back to the central part of Amsterdam. We had reservations for the Anne Frank Museum mid-afternoon, so we took our time getting there. On the way, Andi and I stopped into a chocolate shop for traditional pannekoeken smothered with nutella. The Dutch pancake was bigger than our heads, and perfectly sharable. We each ordered hot teas as well to warm up from our cold walk over.

Next stop was the Anne Frank House, a must-see in Amsterdam. Fortunately, we'd made reservations weeks in advance because the wait for those without tickets was over two hours long. Since we had ticketed reservations, our entry into the museum was a breeze.

Our visit to the Anne Frank House was a somber one as far as vacation activities go, but I thought it was well worth it. Millions have read Anne's diary written during World War 2, and I found it very moving to stand in the very spot she lived during hiding. The museum did a great job of retelling the story through pictures and video as visitors toured the public offices of the spice manufacturer and the secret annex where Anne and her family lived for several years. The tour concluded in a final room with Anne's original diary on display. It's hard to believe this event took place less than 75 years ago.

Andi and I finished our tour of the Anne Frank House, and then walked to Koan Float for spa appointments. Andi read previously about the experience of "floating" - a relaxation technique where you float weightlessly on the surface of very salty water - and we decided to give it a try. We each booked a one-hour massage and a one-hour float session. I opted for my massage first, while Andi floated and then we switched.

The "float" experience was like nothing I'd done before. It's designed to remove all external stimulus such as noise, temperature, light and gravity. Each person has the privacy of their own room with a lockable door. It felt so ... weird to climb into the tank of water, but I followed the employee's instructions. I wore ear plugs and avoided contact with my eyes and the very salty water as I acclimated to my surroundings. Natural instinct is to fight against the water, but I soon relaxed as my body floated to the top of the water. I let the calming spa music quietly play in the background and closed my eyes, surprisingly falling asleep in the tub of water for 45 minutes! Floating was truly a unique experience; I left feeling rested and relaxed.

Andi and I were both in sleepy daze when we left Koan Float around 6:00pm, so we decided to grab dinner and call it an evening. We'd previously made reservations at a fondue restaurant one of Andi's employees recommended in Amsterdam, so we walked over to the Nieuwmarkt area. We had about 30 minutes to burn before our dinner reservation, so we stopped for a drink at a nearby pub. Soon after, we made our way to Cafe Bern for fondue.

Cafe Bern looked unassuming from the outside, but opened up to a warm and cozy pub-style restaurant. Andi and I ordered cheese fondue with steak cooked at our table, and the meal was also served with an appetizer salad course. The food was fantastic (or maybe it was the wine talking?); we very much enjoyed ourselves there. With full bellies and happy hearts, we made our way back to our rented airbnb apartment in Dam Square.


The next morning (Andi's birthday!) we woke up early for breakfast at Cocotte, a charming French restaurant, before heading to the airport. I ordered a traditional French breakfast consisting of a baguette with seasonal jams which were all freshly made and reminded me of the local jam shop we'd visited days earlier in Paris. Andi ordered a savory galette. We enjoyed our last few moments of vacation, sipping coffee and enjoying the company of one another - the way it should always be.

After breakfast, we hopped in an Uber and drove to the airport. Our nine-hour flight home was uneventful, and we returned home to happy kiddos and life as usual in Minneapolis.

I'm thankful for our spur-of-the-moment trip to Europe, and all we experienced there. There's nothing quite as wonderful as traveling the world with your love. Until next time ...

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