A few more notes on recent travel. We took the high speed train from Paris to Antwerp, Belgium. We stayed there for a few nights and then up to Amsterdam for a few nights. I don't have as comprehensive of lists for these locations as we cooled it a little after the passionate approach we took to eating and drinking in Paris.
// BELGIUM //
The train station in Antwerp is worth a stop in itself. It has won awards for train station design (What? Yes. That exists.) and is just beautifully done. We stayed at Atelier 20 B&B which was on the quaint grounds of St. Paul's Cathedral. The couple that runs the place was super helpful and friendly and I don't think I've ever had a lovelier view from my bedroom window (the first image in this post). A few blocks up was Normo, a great coffee shop where Hugh could get his coffee nerdery fix. We also visited Caffenation. I found a tiny little raw place where I could get some fresh juices, a welcomed beverage when my greens quota was far below average, Eten Vol Leven. Belgium is into beer and frites so to do as the Belgians do, we spent a few evenings at The Paters Vaetje. This was a "brown bar" local dive sort of place with over a hundred Belgian beers. It was not "sprouted kitchen-esque" per se, but we had a great time watching people. Maybe the most eclectic lunch experience was at Lombardia for veggie burgers. The menu in itself was confusing but the food proved simple and good. We enjoyed a few Thai dinners, pizzas take-away from a nearby Italian spot and grocery store provision picnics. We wandered the Grote Market (lovely at dusk - my favorite time to stroll). While we didn't make it to the MAS, you can get your art fix there.
We spent one day in Brugge (which in my opinion, is all the time you need there). It is known for the retention of its original European charm. We had a light lunch at Le Pain Quotidien which started in Belgium despite having dozens of locations now. We collected chocolates and speculoos treats while weaving through the small streets. I don't think I've ever seen such a density of chocolate shops.
// AMSTERDAM //
We rented an apartment in the Jordaan area, a great neighborhood, and I really loved having the extra space and kitchen. It was less expensive than a hotel too. We gathered produce and goodies for the apartment at the Noordermarkt. Bought the best brownies either of us have had in awhile at one of the bakery stands. They were some cross between a pudding cake and brownie and muffin which sounds heavey, but in truth they were just right. We may have walked away with a bag full.
There was apple cake down the street at the highly suggested Winkel. The cake was great, but I wouldn't recommend getting food there. It seems they ride off the reputation of that cake. I really enjoyed the deli salad plate atBuffet van Odette while watching the world go by on the corner patio. Brunch at Lovefood HQ - which has a sort of British spin to the menu. A little ways out of town is Restaurant De Kas (as seen in a few of these photos). It is a restaurant within a reconstructed green house and the space is just phenomenal. They source most of their food from a nearby farm and the menu changes daily. We found Stach while packing up travel snacks for the trip home. Lots of great salads, sandwiches, yummy homemade muesli and last minute gifts.
Travel and night strolls go hand in hand for us. Europe is charming by day, but my heart puddles a bit when I see it lit up in the evening. The canal streets in Amsterdam are perfect for this. A good night walk is best accompanied by a good hot chocolate (just a note for the first-time Amsterdam traveler: a "coffee shop" is not always a coffee shop. If you go looking for hot cocoa, you're just as likely find, um, something more potent than caffeine).
Ever fascinated by the holocaust, I LOVED going through the Anne Frank Museum. A must. We also saw the FOAM photography museum, something you could probably do in under an hour. There are only four exhibitions, so I would suggest checking what they are online to see if they are of interest. You can take the free ferry across over to The Eye where you can see a movie and/or have a drink in their restaurant with a phenomenal view of the city. You really must rent bikes, at least for a day or two. We rode around through Vondelpark, a great spot for walking or picnicing as well.
One of my favorite parts of this leg of the trip was meeting Sarah Britton of My New Roots while she was in town teaching a few classes. I believe I have a sixth sense of reading people, and I know a good egg when I see it. Sarah is as light and wonderful as you'd assume from reading her site. I left our chat feeling inspired and grateful for what a tangled and fantastic world the blogsphere is.
We planned to have a nice dinner out our last evening, but ran into all my final choices being closed on Mondays (I had lots of recs for Balthazars, but we were there all nights it was closed. Add it to your notes to check out). We grabbed pizzas from La Perla and an inexpensive twist top cabernet from the market, talked highs and lows of the trip and made a list of all the places in the world we hope to see. It was my favorite meal of the entire trip, just sitting on a park bench, laughing in retrospect at my mid-trip hormonal meltdown. Food is as good as the company you keep while dining. You are my favorite person, Hugh Forte.
“We ate well and cheaply and drank well and cheaply and slept well and warm together and loved each other.”
― Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast