I love Amsterdam. I even have a keychain that says so (lol), and I’ve been carrying it around for more than 10 years already, since my very last visit. The first time I visited Amsterdam, I was a student in Paris in 2002. I took the train, went there over a long weekend and enjoyed several classic attractions, including a mandatory visit of the Red Light District, as well as a ride at sunset on one of the many boats that go up and down the canals, a glass of wine in one hand and dices of Dutch cheese in the mouth.
Since that time, I have loved Amsterdam unconditionally and caught every possible occasion to go back. Luck has been on my side several times. When I lived in China between 2003 and 2010, there were several years during which the cheapest flights from Nice to Guangzhou were going through Amsterdam. Most times, I’d buy a flight ticket with a 4 to 8 hours layover in Amsterdam, which allowed me to spend some time in the city, have a Dutch beer by the canal, go to farmers market and buy Dutch cheese that I could discreetly smuggle in China, then rush back to the airport to embark on my connecting flight.
Buying cheese was essential back then, as later on it would calm down my cravings while living in a country where it was hard to come by. Although I now live again in Nice, things have not really changed, and I still buy cheese when in Amsterdam. It must be that I love cheese, “c’est mon pêché mignon” ;) It had been almost 10 years since my last visit, so I felt overjoyed when in February 2018 I got the opportunity to go back and spend an afternoon. For a very cheap fare!
Indeed, you may remember that I recently traveled to Poland, as I wanted to visit the beautiful town of Gdansk on the Baltic Sea. There was no direct flight from Nice, so I purchased a ticket with a connecting flight in Amsterdam, and made sure there would be a long enough layover so that I could go out of the airport for a few hours and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere of the Netherlands before heading back to France.
That’s how I visited Amsterdam almost for free. When landing in Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, there is a train station terminal inside the airport. Just follow the signs, it is very easy to find. I bought a same-day return ticket for 9.60 euros at one of the many vending machines, and almost immediately boarded on the Express City train called the Sprinter. There’s one every 10 to 20 minutes, and it only takes 16 minutes to go downtown, to Centraal Station. So easy again! My plane landed a bit earlier than planned, so I had something like almost 5 hours before my next flight. Which meant plenty of time!!
I had printed out portions of the city maps and marked the places I wanted to go to, so that I would not loose some of my precious time searching for directions. The idea was to reach the designated places while strolling about in as many interesting streets as possible, based on my personal interest for architecture, atmosphere, local life, etc. I walked along several canals, crossed numbers of typical bridges, and I first headed to the Amsterdam Cheese Museum, where I sampled many delicious cheese types!
From flavored to matured cheese, there was a lot to choose from. In the basement, cheese making story boards were displayed, and on the ground floor tourists from all over the world were discussing which cheese rolls they’d buy.
Then I enjoyed some relaxing time wandering in the streets of Old Amsterdam. Although the shopping streets are vibrant and busy, the backstreets are rather quiet, probably thanks to the high number of bicycles and very few noisy cars, which feels really great as the mind is not oppressed by ambiant sound pollution. I can still remember the smile on my face…
I got a bit tired at some point and decided to head back to Centraal Station in order to hop on a train back to the airport. Along the way, I stopped for some typical local Vlaamse Frites – delicious Belgian fries topped with the seasoning of your choice – and went in two other cheese stores where I sampled new cheese types (again!).
Near the Vlaamse Frites “snackland” shop, is located the Old Amsterdam Cheese Store, on Damrak street #62. I purchased a piece of matured Gouda after I tasted various versions of smoky cheese, flavored cheese and whatnots.
Then I ended up in one of the oldest cheese shops in town, the Henri Willig Cheese store, where I tried new cheeses prepared by a Dutch boy dressed in local clothes (I think), to add up to the atmosphere of tradition and artisan work. It is just a few blocks away from the Station – convenient if one is short on time. I had a blast as I spent this wonderful afternoon in Amsterdam, although I must be honest and admit that I felt a bit full in the end, eating that much cheese throughout the day, hahaha!
Next time I go to Holland, I absolutely want to go to this area where there are those famous tulip fields. I’ve seen many pictures of this, but I’m sure the atmosphere is peculiar in real, so that’s my plan for next time! This time, I had to content myself with the Amsterdam Tulip Museum, right next to the Cheese Museum ;)
Created and Written by Sophie Rebibo-Halimi. © 2018 All Rights Reserved.