Ahh Europe, how easy it is to just hop on a plane and be in all these amazing cities, some in under an hour. How lucky we are, how devastating that would be to lose - Oh. Right.
For my birthday last year I decided I wanted to go to Amsterdam, but for one reason or another I didn't, so this year I was determined to be exactly where I wanted to be.
We hopped on a plane after work on Friday evening, arriving in the sunset to an Amsterdam full of spring blossom and flowers galore.
We were staying in the stunning Mr. Jordaan hotel in Jordaan, the old town district of the city centre. This was a great choice. Not only did the lovely staff at Mr. Jordaan spoil me with treats for my birthday, but the place is full of retro curiosities and cheery little facts about the area. The room was small but comfortable with a modern spin on everything (their reception service is via WhatsApp), and amazing for the canal facing balcony with a view of the Westerkerk church.
Saturday morning was the start of my birthday and I desperately wanted to visit the tulip gardens at Keukenhof. After eating breakfast at Vegabond we got tickets that included coach travel from the other side of the water (the 2 minute ferry across is just a free walk-on) and were there in about an hour and a half.
Visiting Keukenhof is a must. I've heard it's better to go in April but it was still incredible in May, even though the fields weren't in full bloom. There are many cafés and shops along the way, lots of different pockets of beautiful displays in all kinds of tulips, as well as other flowers. Inside some of the places are special exhibitions, my favourite was the lily exhibition they had on. I wish you could smell what it smelt like in there, it was unforgettable!
We spent about 3 hours at Keukenhof and then made our way back to the city. After a quick refresh in the room we set out to find a new vegan branch of pizza joint Mastino. We had the best vegan and gluten free pizza I've ever had! Sadly there is no photo, too busy eating!
From there we wandered down to the Red Light District to take in some of the night life. It was pretty heavy around there for non-drinkers so we walked down the main street and through a few of the lanes but didn't hang around long before meandering our way back towards the hotel via a coffee shop or two.
Sunday rolled around and we sadly had to check out of the Mr. Jordaan. We spent the day exploring on foot, setting out to follow the canal and walk around the ring of the city. We began at Westerpark with a picnic from health food and *very* vegan friendly supermarket called EkoPlaza. They had a huge range of vegan 'meats' and 'cheeses', tofu and seitan pastries and more vegan chocolate spread than I could fit in my hand luggage!
We ate our picnic amongst the wildlife and strolled down the canal before deciding on a more interesting mode of transport... We rented a pedalo! We took it all around the canal system spending about an hour and a half gently floating around the canals. We did get caught in the rain but managed to stay dry under bridge before it cleared again and we were back on our way.
We found ourselves in the shopping district where we were tempted a little by our favourite brands, but it was very busy and we're much more about relaxed vibes and nature than shopping so we moved on pretty quick. We found the Happy Pig Pancake shop that does vegan/GF pancakes and treats, we found the Amsterdam Museum and read all about it's former residents.
Our flight home was just after 9pm so after a relaxing day taking in the art and culture of Amsterdam we caught the bus to the airport ready to be back in work Monday morning. Whistlestop but satisfying. The arts and culture of the place are set off by the grungy nightlife and coffee shop/music scenes. I can't wait to go back!