Day 4 – “Ah, there’s the rain” The Hubster announced looking out the window, to a murky, damp Amsterdam skyline. It looked set to last a while, as we headed off for some breakfast out of the hotel.
The plan for the day was to visit The Heineken experience, take a boat ride, and go up to the A’Dam Lookout with the rest of the group.
It does seems that it’s possible to get around the city quickly and efficiently by public transport, today it was a tram that would take us to the Brewery.
The Heineken experience is on the site of the original Amsterdam Brewery, in what is now the centre of the city. Production has now moved elsewhere, and so the original brewing tanks and stables have been turned into an ‘experience’ for tourists. The moment you walk in young guides, all bubbly and full of enthusiasm, are dressed in the branded black clothes with green polka dot braces, or bow ties – they are excitable in a Disney kind of way, as if we are small children waiting to see Mickey Mouse for the first time. They tell us of the basics of the Heineken story, and how the beer is brewed. There’s not really much to tell. They try to wow us with visuals that we ‘must’ see…..There’s a bit about the Heineken family, details of the ingredients – malted barley, hops, water and yeast, and a few short sentences about the brewing process. Somehow they managed to find around 10 different ways to tell us these few bits of information, and make it last an hour. They really are clutching at straws, we could have wandered through in about 15 minutes and still taken in all there was to know.
Once the brew process is explained, we were taken through to the ride. I’m not really sure whether the word ride means something else in Dutch, but basically, we were all ushered into 3 consecutive rooms, with a variety of graphics that were supposed to represent the journey of beer from creations to enjoyment. There was no riding of any kind that I could determine. Maybe it was just a metaphorical ride. I can only describe the experience as a sensory overload of subliminal marketing messages. The next half an hour felt like Heineken attempting to brain wash their guests into submission and to thinking that Heineken lager was the Holy Grail of beers. I won’t insult it, after all, it was refreshing, but I’m more of an ale drinker.
The final destination was the bar where you receive your 2 free beers that are included in the ticket price. It was dark and dungeon like, fitting really for brainwashed punters before they were released into the bright Amsterdam afternoon.
Maybe I was doing the Experience a disservice, but having visited other breweries and distilleries in the past, this was such a let down. Very little was learned, and it seemed really just to be an expensive marketing gimmick.
Our group consisted of marathon and half marathon runners who were still very stiff from their run the day before, and this experience was on multiple levels. The traditional post marathon pain faces played out every time they had to descend stairs….. lots of cries of “ouch….oh….stiff….hurt… why so many steps?” were heard.
We had bought a day package that also included a canal trip and entry to the A’Dam LookOut. The day was looking up. We were whisked along the canals with small snippets of history along the way, and arrived at the LookOut shortly after. The attraction is the top floor of the tower, and boasts 360 degree views of the city. Although the day had become a little grey, we had clear views across the city, and could see our hotel in the distance.
With a bar and reasonably priced food available it was a pleasant way to spend the afternoon. Some of the hardier members of the group when out onto the Skydeck and braved the ‘Over the Edge’ swing – Europes highest swing, 100 meters above the ground. My legs turned to jelly just watching them, I never was good at heights.
After retiring to our various hotels, we agreed to meet up again later to enjoy our last evening in Amsterdam. I had decided whilst in Amsterdam I was going to indulge in some Dutch national food. Specifically Dutch Apple cake, Kibbling, Haring, Pancakes or Poffertjes. Somehow I had never been hungry when near a pancake house, and I hadn’t managed to find my fish either. The restaurant we chose, had Kibbling on the menu and so I was happy. No 2 ticked off – it only took 4 days to find it, half way there on my culinary tour. We made the most of the night, and after we stayed out past last orders, we attempted to find our way back to the hotel – unaware just how late it was.
There were less trams now, many of the buses stopped around midnight, so we jumped on the first tram that headed in the right general direction. So far so good, until we tried to make a connection. The last tram had been and gone. The power of Google maps suggested we were only about 20 mins walk away, and so off we went. It turned out to be a lovely wander. Along silent canals, through a park where the russet autumn leaves were scattered along the paths. Soft amber streetlights lit our way through the early hours of the morning. It was the perfect end to the evening.
Day 5 – My head hurt when I awoke – too much wine, too many cocktails, too little sleep. I was paying the price. However, at 9am we were out in search of pancakes for breakfast. Near the Heineken Experience is a pancake house called the Carousel. Aptly named as this circular wooden building is decked out inside with carousel horses in the middle and boasts over 50 different pancake variations. I needed dense sweet food to soak up the hangover, and so No 3 on my Dutch food list was conquered. Poffertjes with banana, Nutella and whipped cream were demolished.
After a bit more wandering around, we returned to the hotel to pack and make our way to the airport. On route I spotted a street fish van by the station. Would I be able to get my Haring here? I remember having really enjoyed it on my last visit, but did wonder whether I might be disappointed several months on. It was as good as I remember. Haring is a small fillet of fresh raw Herring, that has been soaked in a mild preserving liquid (such as cider, wine, sugar, herbs and spices). It is then served up in chunks with chopped onion and green pickles and skewered traditionally with a Dutch flag on a cocktail stick. It’s so much nicer that it sounds. No 4 on my Dutch food list complete I was ready to go to the airport.
I’ve had such a lovely time in Amsterdam, and enjoyed some great company with the runners. We’ve eaten lots of food, drunk probably too much, and laughed lots. We’ve walked our socks off, and enjoyed being in a city where the car is not king.
I can’t wait to come back again as soon as possible. Amsterdam I love you.