Nice to meet you.

26th May 2006

Bryan and I used to be broke. Broke as in, “I should get a job at a restaurant so I can eat this month.” Traveling is important to both of us, and now that we have enough money for food, we’ve made it a priority. So, though we just returned from Argentina, Bryan is giong to Holland for work, and I’m going with him. On the way, we’re having a stopover in Iceland.

So, what I’m saying is, want to get a beer? We’ll be in Reykjavik next weekend (June 2-4), and Amsterdam until June 10. And then it’s possible we won’t ever be back again. What should we see, where should we go, who the hell are you?

13,215 thoughts on “Nice to meet you.

  1. John

    A friend of mine from college [christ…I graduated two weeks ago, and now I’m referring to my ‘college years’…] is going to Germany for a month to visit his sister, who recently got a job there. He’ll be going to Amsterdam and was looking for things to do, so I pointed him in the direction of the comments on Dooce when they went abroad. Now he has too much on his checklist.

  2. Stephanie Pina

    NOW you ask if I want to get a beer? AAARRGGH! I live in Waco. Why couldn’t you ask this BEFORE your visit to our Texas Ranger museum and your encounter with the blood spatter display? I’d like to think I could have created a much more fun and genuine impression of Wacoans the blood spatter displays…

  3. tim

    Coupla things for Reykjavík: Pick up the daily Rvk. Grapevine published by a few British guys. You can find it just about anywhere in the center of Rvk. It details the daily news in English and has features about what’s going on in town. [ http://www.grapevine.is/ ] Stop in at Cafe Brennslan on Pósthústræti in the heart of downtown next door to Hótel Borg– low key place to get a drink or a coffee. Call me and I’ll give you the names of a few friends and their numbers– they’d love to meet you and offer suggestions, too. Take your swimming costumes and go to one of the local swimming pools and hop into the hotpots and soak in some sun. And if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, see if you can get yourself out to the foot of Hvalfjörður and hike in to Geysir: the tallest waterfall in Europe.

  4. Amy

    I grew up in Holland and sent the following suggestions to Heather and Melissa before their trip earlier this year.

    A couple of misc. thoughts:
    1) Everyone speaks English. Do not be embarrassed about not speaking Dutch. It’s a hard language to learn and the guttural “g” makes even simple words difficult for most people to pronounce.
    2) The Dutch are known for their modern design and you’ll see it in evidence everywhere. Even old phone booths look cool….
    3) Amsterdam is a walking city so wear comfortable shoes (not gym shoes unless you want to announce that you’re an American tourist) and pack an umbrella. Taxis are expensive and the tram lines can be confusing if you don’t know what you’re doing, but that doesn’t really matter—just stomp around and dive into a café or bar when you need a break. Everyone else does.
    4) Don’t be embarrassed about looking in the windows of private residences. Almost every canal house has a large picture window in front and it is perfectly acceptable to take a look. When they want privacy—after dark—they’ll close the curtains. (The Red Light District operates on the same principle….)
    5) Just grab a map and walk around. I can’t even begin to describe all of the fun shops, interesting buildings, and inviting bars/cafes you’ll find. Have a blast.

    Places to See/Things to Do

    The Jordaan. This is a little neighborhood full of very cool shops and places to eat/drink. It’s a little like the Village in NYC. Back in the good old days, the rich people lived in the canal houses and the common folk lived in this neighborhood. The Jordaan (a corruption of the French “jardin” – most streets are named after flowers) consists of all of the little streets coming off Prinsengracht. Just wander around and try to check out the Noordermarkt if you’re in town on a Saturday or a Monday. The Noordermarkt is a great open-air food and antique market and it is always packed with regular Amsterdammers doing their shopping.

    The Anne Frank House is pretty amazing. It’s on Prinsengracht, right next to the Westerkerk. Get there early or towards the end of the day if you want to avoid the lines.

    Although it may seem a little cheesy, I think it’s a good idea to take a canal boat tour on your first day or two. I think you can buy tickets just outside of Central Station (CS) and on the Rokin (I always think of CS being at the top of Amsterdam—the head—and orient myself accordingly. The Damrak is the street that runs between CS and Dam Square, and then the Rokin picks up on the other side of Dam Square.). The boat tour will give you some historical background and the guide may point out some things you’ll want to check out later.

    The Red Light District is—sorry—pretty fascinating. It’s right in the center of town, in one of the oldest sections of the city, and there will be all kinds of people walking around so don’t be afraid to stroll around. This is also the area where you’ll find the “coffee shops” most often frequented by American college students who can’t get over the fact that you can buy marijuana over the counter.

    Begijnhof (off the Spui). This is a lovely little oasis right in the heart of the city—one of the many hidden courtyards scattered all over Amsterdam. The Begijnhof is one of the largest and well known and it’s just amazing how the hustle and bustle of the city slips away once you enter this space. There is a doorway in the row of houses on the Spui that leads you there and you can also access it through a doorway off the Kalverstraat. Sorry to not have better directions—it’s integrated into the Amsterdam Historical Museum, but you don’t have to pay a fee to take a look. It has a lovely Scottish church with pulpit panels designed by Mondriaan, and the oldest (wooden) house in the city from 1475.

    The floating Flower Market on the Singel is open every day except Sunday. Just stroll around and take in all the gorgeous, cheap flowers. You can buy tulip bulbs here which are safe for export back to the US.

    The Kalverstraat is a bustling pedestrian shopping street that runs from Dam Square to the Munt Toren (where you can pick up one end of the Flower Market).

    The flea market at Waterlooplein is open everyday and is full of junk, vintage clothing, antiques, etc. As a somewhat rebellious teenager in the 80s, I did a lot of my clothes shopping here, which resulted in me looking like a back-up singer for the Thompson Twins. (Cringe.)

    This may sound odd, but I’d check out Hema (“hay-mah”), a popular chain store that sells clothes, housewares, etc. If you lived in Holland, Hema would be your Target. My sister and I bought all of our school supplies at Hema and the when I was there a few years ago I bought a ton of everyday dishes because they were super cheap and just looked very cool. There are a couple of outlets I can think of—one on the Nieuwendijk and one between the Munt Toren and Rembrandtplein. Like Hema, you may get a kick out of walking through an Albert Heijn supermarket (it’s a national chain). Don’t look for a big building. These little markets are tucked here and there throughout the city. Space is extremely tight and many Dutch people shop several times a week and carry their groceries home—often on their bike.

    The Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum must be seen. Sections of the Rijksmusem are being renovated so they moved some of the collection to Schiphol Airport. I’m a huge fan of Vermeer and while the Rijksmuseum has a few of his paintings, my favorites—The Girl With the Pearl Earring and A View of Delft—are at the Mauritshuis in The Hague (or “Den Haag” as the Dutch call it). It will take you about an hour by train to get to The Hague. The Mauritshuis is a beautiful old mansion that has been turned into a small museum. It’s located right next to the Binnenhof, which is home to the government. It’s so beautiful, it will make one consider a career in Dutch politics.

    I highly recommend visiting the town of Delft—it’s the ultimate step back in time…. Again, about an hour—maybe less—by train from Amsterdam. Forget images of tacky blue and white pottery, it is an absolutely lovely place full of interesting old houses, churches, and little museums. Delft features prominently in Dutch history and the tombs of the Dutch Royal Family are located in the church in the center of town. Really, not to be missed in my books. (Delft and The Hague are close together so you could do both in one day—easily.)

    There is a group of working windmills along the river at Zaanse Schans, a kind of open-air museum near Koog-Zaandijk. You’ll need to take the train to K-Z and then ask for directions. It is very touristy, but if you want to see how cheese and wooden shoes are made and walk around a working windmill, this is the place. We dragged countless numbers of visiting relatives and friends around here and they all seemed to love it. Keep in mind, however, that most of those people were senior citizens from Minnesota and Iowa!

    Food & Drink
    I love traditional Dutch food, but if it’s not to your liking, you can find just about anything you crave in Amsterdam. Just ask around.

    One of my absolute favorite snacks are “bitterballen,” which are essentially small balls of pureed meat in a white sauce that have been dipped in bread crumbs and deep fried. They usually come in orders of 10 or so and are served with mustard on the side. You’ll find them in practically every café or bar you come across. They sound gross, but they are totally addictive and multiple orders can easily ruin the best-laid dinner plans.

    You’ve also got to try Dutch French fries. You’ll see people all over the place walking around eating “frites” (“freets”) or “patat” (“pah-tat”), as they’re often called, from a paper cone with a tiny little fork—usually topped with mayonnaise (“frite saus”) or a spicy peanut sauce (“pinda saus”). They are available from snack bars and at markets throughout the city. In general, don’t expect to order them at a restaurant or café—they really are considered to be food on the go. One of my favorite places for them is the Vlaamse Friteshuis (Voetboogstraat 31, a side street parallel to the Kalverstraat, the pedestrian shopping street in the center of town) which is open from late morning to late afternoon. If I remember correctly, they actually cut the potatoes to order and fry them while you’re waiting.

    “Poffertjes” are tiny little puffy pancakes that are slathered in butter and powdered sugar. They’re made on a gigantic cast iron slab and are absolutely delicious. There used to be a “poffertjes kraam” on Dam Square—not sure if it still exists. The traditional “stand,” for lack of a better term, is something that looks like it should be part of a merry-go-round—made of brightly colored painted wood. Sometimes, these stands will be set up just for the summer months in a public park and then—woosh—they’ll disappear overnight.

    “Appelgebak” is an apple pie of sorts, available in most cafes and restaurants. Yummy, especially with a cup of “koffie verkeerd,” (“wrong coffee”), which is like a latte where there is more milk/cream than coffee.

    Drop = Dutch licorice. It comes in a million shapes and combinations of “zacht” (soft), “hard” (duh…), “zoet” (sweet), and “zout” (salt). No need to try it if licorice is not your thing, but take a moment to appreciate the seriousness with which the Dutch approach their candy (“snoep”).

    You’ll see cafes and bars ALL OVER THE PLACE and most of them are quite charming. People think nothing of whiling away hours and hours and hours over coffee, tea, beer, wine, or all of the above. You will never feel pressured to give up your table or seat at the bar. One of the oldest and quintessentially Dutch places is called ‘t Smalle, located on the corner of Prinsengracht and Egelantiersgracht (in the Jordaan). It is very cozy or “gezellig,” as they say in Dutch. It is tiny and tends to draw a local crowd—especially after work. In the summer you’ll see people pull up in their boat and pop inside. I love this place. Please spend some time here for me! Another bar around the corner on the Prinsengracht is called De Prins. It’s a brighter place with high ceilings and I remember them having decent-sized tables so you could bring your laptop along without a problem. No idea about wireless access, though. A higher-end option is the Luxembourg on the Spui. It has more of a Parisian feel to it and is great for people-watching. There are two bookstores nearby (one English-language on the Kalverstraat) that sell English and American newspapers, if you’re interested.

    There’s an ancient “proeflokaal” or tasting venue called something like “De Drie Fleschjes” (“The Three Little Bottles”) tucked behind the Nieuwekerk off Dam Square. If you’re in the mood to try some Dutch gin (“jenever”), this would be a fun place to go.

    The Pancake Bakery, Prinsengracht 191 (just past the Anne Frank House). Dutch pancakes, called “pannekoeken,” are like large (12” in diameter?) crepes that are served with a with a wide variety of sweet or savory toppings and The Pancake Bakery (I’ve never understood why the name is in English) is one of the best spots in Amsterdam (often abbreviated to A’dam) to try them. Keep in mind that the Dutch tend to eat on the early side so don’t plan on stopping by most restaurants at 10pm and expect to be served.

    Indonesia was, until 1947 or so (I can’t remember my history), a Dutch colony and Indonesian food is still very popular in Holland. You might want to try a “rijstafel” (“rice table”) for dinner some night. You’ll be served plain white rice and a ton of side dishes with a variety of sweet/savory/spicy toppings. It’s a lot of food, so come hungry. Rijstafel tends to be pretty spicy which is as good excuse as any to drink lots of cold beer. Try Tempo Doeloe at Utrechtsestraat 75.

    The Café Americain in the American Hotel on the Leidseplein is worth a stop. The building (including interior) is an Art Nouveau marvel and is listed as a historical landmark. The Leidseplein is a popular gathering spot surrounded by bars and restaurants.

  5. Nichole

    OK, what’s up with all the cool people going to Holland before I get there? We’re moving there! In August! Come back, cool people!

  6. Amy

    We did that Iceland stop on the way home from London a few years ago and it was wonderful (even in February–I thought New England winters could be rough!). The best part for us was just renting a car and driving aimlessly for hours. We didn’t see a single living thing for many miles. Really. Not a single. Living. Thing. Just volcanic rock and ocean. It was breathtaking.

  7. Bani

    Nobody ever comes to Sweden. *goes into massive sulk*

    Have a nice trip anyway, I guess. You’re missing out on the giant penis statue that graces my home town’s train station…

  8. jozet

    I know nothing about Iceland except that some very cute singers who wear Swan dresses come from there.

    Have a great time and have a beer for me. You don’t know me, but have a beer for me anyway.

    I am heavily pregnant; all I can drink is ice water anyway. Which I hear you have to go to Greenland to get.

  9. David

    In Iceland..

    As someone above mentioned, check out the local hotsprings in the city. There are at least three if I remember correctly. They’re cheap and and a nice way to cap off (or start) a day.

    Related to that, go to the Blue Lagoon. It’s worth the trip out there. I had the good fortune to go early in the morning before my flight out and had a beer in the hotspring while watching the sun rise. That’s a better than average memory.

    You can also go on a hike through a lavatube which I found to be fairly interesting. You do have to be willing to scramble over rocks adn whatnot though. So it’s not for everyone.

    Superjeep tours are also available, but I’m not sure I’d recommend that. It wasn’t bad, but it was a little expensive for what it was. However, you should look into it yourself, it might be exactly what you’d like. They’ll drive you all around Iceland, take you to a local’s house for some locally produced food and take you up to a glacier to ride a snowmobile if you like.

    Hope some of that helps and hope you enjoy Iceland.

  10. Emma

    When I was in Amsterdam last year, I came home with two sets of treasures. First, about a hundred packets of Quick Soup which is far superior to American Cup-a-Soup. Second, a wrap/jacket/design item and a pair of fantastic pants from Cora Kempermann. Check out the link to Voorjaar at http://www.corakemperman.nl/ She’s Belgian, I believe and the clothes are beautiful, complex and not ridiculously expensive (from about $80 if memory serves).

    The other shopping location not to miss in Amsterdam is Droog Design. Their flagship, with all their cool, high-design home and personal goods is in Amsterdam at Staalstraat 7B (phone: +31 20 5235059, open 12-6 Tues-Sun).

  11. sarah

    Sadly, I will not be in Holland or Iceland. But I will be in Argentina this summer. Do you mind sharing the name of the hotel you stayed at when you were there? Also, I love the super sweet stuff you scored.

  12. pdxDiver

    Will be in Amsterdam May 28 to June 9. Send me an email if you want to have a beer or coffee.

  13. annie

    Rats, I just came back from a trip to Amsterdam… Would have loved to have a beer with you since I started my blog after reading yours.

  14. Beth

    I warmly and earnestly recommend having breakfast at Barney’s on Haarlemmerstraat, only a couple of blocks from the Singel Canal. So friendly, so mellow, so good with the eggs and the toast.

  15. Lauren

    I just went to Holland on work and took my partner as well. To get out of Amsterdam without traveling too far, go to Weesp – a small historical town about 10 minutes outside of the city by train. Canals, forts, windmills. Eat at Rubens and if you’re lucky it’ll be someone’s birthday and they’ll turn out the lights and everyone will sing some catchy birthday tune in Dutch.

  16. Meri

    Amy above has pretty much said everything I would say about Amsterdam, but I would emphasise:

    * Dutch pancakes are AMAZING — I particularly love bacon ones, where they fry the bacon in a pan, then pour the pancake mix directly in, so you get bacon IN your pancake. Eaten with syrup, it’s heaven.
    * Transport in Amsterdam rocks — invest in a travel card (limitless tram and bus travel for VERY little — you can get one at central station). That way you can just hop on a tram and come all the way back around if you need to. It’s a nice way to see some of the city as well.
    * Vlaams frites are wonderful. But be warned that once you have had them, all other fries will seem dishearteningly inferior for all time.
    * The boat tours are touristy, but hell, you’re going to be a tourist, right? I found it a nice way to see some of the city and a welcome rest to aching feet after a long day of walking around!

    Unfortunately I’m stuck here in Newcastle (UK), but hope you have a great time out there!

  17. Diego

    Hi Mighty girl! I’m currently in Holland. I’m working in Goes, which is south of Amsterdam. I should be in Amsterdam from June 5th until the 7th.
    If you liked the stuff you bought in Argentina, you’re going to love Holland. Funky shoes gallore! It’d be nice to meet up.
    When I’m in Amsterdam I plan on visiting some of the mueseums and other tourist sites. Hopefully, we our schedules allow a visit.
    Have fun!

  18. Alda

    I feel compelled to correct David’s comment upthread and mention that we do not have hot springs in Reykjavík. He means outdoor pools, surely? In which case there’s about a dozen in the Greater Reykjavík Area. [And be forewarned: you’ll have to get naked] Incidentally I would not recommend soaking in hot springs. Your skin would peel off instantly.

  19. denise

    i was thinking…why not take your mighty goods site to its next logical conclusion? you like to travel and you like to shop. everyone loves the items you pick out. why not stock up, set up an e-commerce engine, and sell items from your travels? it could offset some of the costs. it would be a limited inventory online boutique. you could even sell items on consignment for other trusted travelers.

    the shoes you bought for $17 – you could easily sell them for 4x that much!

  20. tracy

    I just returned from Amsterdam, It was a wonderful city, from it’s architecture, to it’s food, to the friendly people.
    I enjoyed visiting the Bloemenmarkt,The Van Gogh museum…(i think the Rembrandt and Carvaggio exhibit is still going on there) besides the gorgeous collection of Van Gogh’s.

    We stayed on a houseboat on the Prinsengracht canal, near the Amstelveld, it was beautiful, and roomy, and the boats the went back and forth at night were some of the best people watching you can do.

    Definitely try the Gouda…very yummy buttery flavorful cheese.

    a Rule of thumb for beer, if you see the neon Heineken sign on the window, that’s the only type of beer served, when Palm and De Koninck are much better.(imho)

    visit http://www.stayamsterdam.com/?ref=google_accommodationamsterdam
    this site offered, some unique places to stay( we found the houseboat there)

    besides packing light, watch for the bike paths, and streets, it’s easy to spend your time looking up at all the wonderful buildings( and stand in the middle of a bike path)so if you hear that ring-ring of a bike, step to the side.

    enjoy your visit.

  21. BigA

    Shame you won’t be there in Sept as Ansterdan will be the site of the annual European Photobloggers Meetup. You should swing by London on your way back – it’s only a 40 minute flight from Schipol.

  22. Green with Envy

    Oooh, go to Perlan in Reykjavik! Google it. Even if you don’t eat there (it’s fabulous but super pricey), just wander around, have a drink and gawk and wait for the internal geyser. It’s a really interesting building, very cool, posh.

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