The DOs and DONT’s of Amsterdam

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When you are a tourist visiting a place like Amsterdam for the first time, there are always things about the city that you may not have thought. Hopefully this article will help pull back the veil on some of those things and give you some insights into what are “must see’s”, while you are there.

DON’T go to coffee shops for coffee, they actually rarely sell coffee them. What you will find there is marijuana (although I am sure you knew that already). These shops were introduced in the 1970s in order to keep the soft and hard drugs separated. The most popular one, The Bulldog is a chain placed around the streets of Amsterdam, as much as a McDonalds is in New York. So if you are looking for a cup of coffee, you might just want to go to a Starbucks!

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DO go on a bike riding tour to see more of the countryside. I wanted to spend some time away from the hustle of the city and check out some of its natural beauty. This is a great option, because you have someone leading you around the outskirts of the city who can teach you something about the place as you ride around. An even bigger plus is that you wont have to worry about getting lost! If you are not into tours and are good with maps (unlike myself) you can rent a bike and venture out on your own. On my tour, I saw residential towns, canals and of course windmills! The scenery is at times spectacular and it certainly made my trip feel more authentic.

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DON’T take pictures in the Red Light District. The area is exactly what you picture from movies and stories. Narrow streets lined with glass doors allowing you to see half naked women standing around waiting for someone to come into their room. It is obviously not something you see often, so many tourist try to take photos but I am warning you.. don’t!! Not only are there signs everywhere, you are being watched. The men that work with these women (also known as pimps) stand on the rooftops and walk through the streets making sure you don’t take any photos. If they spot you, they will approach you. You might not see them but they are around and I promise, you wouldn’t want that happening to you. I saw some of these men and they are pretty intimidating looking!

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DO take a cruise on the canal. This is a great, relaxing way to see different parts of the city. We also had a guide that told us a lot of interesting facts and pointed out specific landmarks such as the Anne Frank House. When I started my tour it was still light and as we went on I got to see the awe inspiring sight of the sun setting over the city and turn to night. In addition to this I also received two drinks, so I observed everything while relaxing with a lovely glass of wine. Bliss!

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Dutch culture at the cheese farm & clog factory

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30 minutes outside of Amsterdam is a Dutch village known for its cheese called Edam. Since it is known for its cheese, I just had to go to De Simonehoeve which is a traditional cheese farm and clog factory! It was extremely interesting and true representation of traditional dutch culture which makes it a must-do. 

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First off, you sit in front of a glass room where you watch one of the workers there glaze the cheese. While you are watching, one of the workers explains about how the cheese is made and preserved. The fact that it was in a glass room was oddly comforting, as I for one am not keen on hair in my cheese! 

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You then get to see a shoemaker make a clog out of a block of wood. I couldn’t believe how fast he could carve a a piece of wood into a shoe! Today, people still use clogs for a variety of jobs such as farm work. There are tons of clogs that you can purchase with all different designs, styles and sizes to fit everyone’s needs and tastes (if you like wooden shoes that is!). 

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At the end of the tour there is a chance to taste any of the different cheeses they make, ranging from plain to pesto and gouda. I happily stuffed myself with unlimited free samples! I had a hard time choosing, but ended up finally deciding on the smoked cheese. I really wanted to buy the smoke ham cheese as well, but as it is made of meat, I would not have been able to take it on the plane. If cheese and clogs aren’t your choice of purchase, there are of course other souvenirs that you can choose from in the gift shop that are travel friendly.

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My ideal #TasteofTravel menu

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Picture your favorite starter, main dish and dessert from anywhere in the world, but all in one menu. That is what I have put together for my #TasteofTravel menu for the Celebrity Cruises blogger competition! They have just won the 2014 Ocean Cruise Line of the Year in the Food and Travel Awards and they have now teamed up with Great British Chefs to help make their food offerings even better! Now they want to hear from travel bloggers to find out what their dream menu would be, from food that they have sampled on their travels. It was quite a hard task to pick only one of each, as I have been lucky enough to try countless amazing dishes from all over the world. After much soul searching I have managed to narrow it down to my most memorable dish for each course.

Starter

I have always wanted to go to Greece, but unfortunately I haven’t made it there yet. After hearing numerous reviews I decided to try a small Greek restaurant in New York called Taverna Kyclades. The ambiance and friendliness of the staff was exactly how I imagined it would be on a Greek Island! The three courses I had were all tasty, but in particular the Kyclades Veggie Chips were just too good not to make the list. It is crispy eggplant and zucchini slices fried tempura style with a creamy tzatziki dip. Not only was it incredibly delicious, but it was unique from anything I have ever had before. The batter was so light and crispy and cooked to absolute perfection, so that it did not taste too greasy. Then to add to the dish, you are given a zesty tzatziki dip. It was so good without the dip, that I didn’t think I needed it, but once I tried it.. woah! It definitely added to the taste making it one of the most memorable dishes I have ever had. Their original location is in Astoria – Queens, which is known as an being an absolute hotbed of Greek culture, so it is not surprising that there is such a gem of a Greek restaurant there.

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Crispy eggplant and zucchini with tzatziki dip

Main

I’ve tried Pad Thai a few times in different places and finally gave up on it as I realized I really did not enjoy it that much. That was until I visited Thailand. I decided to give it another try since I was in the country it originated from and I was given a recommendation from a local, to try a specific street cart that was recognized as making the best Pad Thai in the area. I am so happy I gave it another chance! What I do not like about this dish normally, is the overwhelming taste of peanut but this version did not have it. It actually had a complex taste that differed from any other time I had tried it before. It had a perfect balance of spices, that I could not possibly name, but it certainly did the trick! It easily makes my list and I can honestly say that I haven’t been able to find another Pad Thai that even comes close to it since my adventures in Thailand. It is however a great excuse to go back for another visit!

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Pad Thai

Dessert

When I am travelling, I am always on the hunt for treats, so when I was strolling through the streets of Amsterdam and got caught in the intoxicating aroma of a local waffle shop, I just had to go in. Once inside the waffle shop it was hard to choose from what seemed like an endless amount of options, but after much drooling I finally settled upon a warm waffle with Nutella and cherries. It definitely wasn’t one of the neatest dishes I had ever had to eat, but I hardly cared that I had enough chocolate on my face to make me look like one of the naughty children from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory! This was really an easy choice for my dessert selection, as I still vividly remember scrumptious tasting delight that crossed my lips. Yum!

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Nutella and cherries on a warm belgian waffle

I hope you enjoyed my #TasteofTravel menu! Now I nominate We3Travel, Vagrants of the WorldDifferent Doors and JS Living the Dream to make their own three course menu. Entries will be accepted until January 12th and those entries will be judged by two top Great British Chefs and Deputy Editor of Food and Travel Magazine, Mark Sansom. If you win you’ll be awarded a seven-night European cruise and one £150 voucher to use at one of the Great British Chef’s restaurants. Runners up will receive £75 meal vouchers. May you have as much fun as I did, reliving your delicious meals, as I did mine.