Dutch Donuts and Van Gogh
Visiting Van Gogh | Amsterdam Day 2
The Van Gogh Museum was one of my main goals for visiting Amsterdam. Since I purchased the I Amsterdam card, I had free access to over 50+ museums, monuments, and attractions. This included the Van Gogh museum.
I researched beforehand the best museums to visit. TripAdvisor reviews and other forums suggested visiting the Rijksmuseum instead of the Van Gogh Museum, since it had more artwork — including Van Gogh’s paintings.
I decided to follow the internet’s advice, waking up early on Thursday morning to take a 20-minute tram ride to Spiegelgracht.
I was dropped at a stop on the other side of the bridge near the Rijksmuseum.
I walked under the archways into an open walkway. Beautiful classic music echoed throughout the space. It was coming from a 4-person street band. Each musician played large instruments without sheet music.
Their instrument case was open for donations and a large crowd circled them in a U-shape, taking videos.
I continued past them, down the length of the walkway to the decorative front of the Rijksmuseum.
The museum was huge — longer than I expected. It reminded me of Hogwarts with its castle-y architecture.
I walked towards the open field framed with trees. The I Amsterdam sign would be in between the Rijksmuseum and the grassy field.
I passed a construction area with a fence and black tarp. The area opened up with little stalls and benches. Where’s the sign?
I turned back towards the museum. Oh no! There it was, under the construction tarps and fences, “Coming Soon, the I Am Dream Sign.”
Well that was a bust.
I headed back to the museum archways, bypassing a group of school-children and entering through the doors.
The room was tall and bright, with an intricate display hanging from the ceiling. The natural light streaming down from the glass ceiling reflected off of the white stone floors, brightening the cafe and its seating. A staircase with wide steps led down to the coat-check.
I exchanged my coat for a ticket card, taking my camera and purse to the ticket line. I scanned my I Amsterdam card to enter.
Passing under a wide stone archway, I took a pamphlet from the information desk. Each pamphlet section was a map of a museum floor, showcasing the works from that era. I went up to the second floor to find the Van Gogh paintings.
Dutch Painters, Sculptures, and More
I spent two hours exploring the upper floors of the museum. There was a beautiful antique library which I could’ve lived in. Many of the exhibits had ivory sculptures, oil paintings of Dutch farmland, and, of course, Van Gogh’s self-portrait.
My favorite part of the Rijksmuseum was a connecting hallway between galleries. It was like a cathedral with its triangular, painted ceiling and beams, stained glass windows, and marble floors.
No seating was available in the hallways, otherwise I would’ve sat and did some writing — inspired by the detail and rich colors in the windows.
There were five stained glass windows in total. I had to limbo backwards to try and get the entire window in the frame for a photograph.
Target Raincoats | A Great Investment
When I exited the museum a light drizzle sent most of the tourists into buildings.
I walked in the direction of the tram stop, pulling my insulated hood up. Its high collar kept the wind out, though my glasses were speckled with raindrops.
I crossed the road towards the bridge. There was a small, red-roofed building to my right. Behind it, stairs led down to a dock and the canal with its boats.
My I Amsterdam card gives me a canal ride, I remembered. Is this a stop? I stepped in front of the shop to get out of the rain.
I opened the I Amsterdam map I received and noted the blue “40” which marked where I could get a canal ride. “40” happened to be right across from the Rijksmuseum, where I was standing.
I packed up the map and approached the cashier. This little store was half souvenir shop, half coffee-stand, with canal ride tickets for sale.
“Hello, I have an I Amsterdam card. Is this one of the locations to take a canal ride?”
“Yes.” The girl started to type on her computer. She passed me a pamphlet.
“Also — does this canal ride drop back off here?”
“You can get off wherever you want.” She answered.
That’s not what I asked. I thought. Would I have to get off somewhere up the canal and take the tram back to the apartment?
“I mean, if I get on here, will the boat come back to this stop?”
“And I can ride it all the way back here?” Without purchasing another ticket?
“Yes, it’s a round-trip ticket.”
“Okay, thanks.” I don’t know how Dutch people manage to deal with all the tourists, all the time. I hated my 20-questions and this was this girl’s 24/7 job.
She handed me a ticket that looked like a boarding pass. “Give this to the Captain when you get on.” She pointed to the back of the pamphlet. “Look for this boat.” It was green and white and low to the water. “It should arrive in 20 minutes.”
“Okay.” I exited the store and turned left, climbing down a slick wooden staircase to the dock. Two picnic tables with umbrellas sat on a metal platform on top of faux plastic grass. Two older women drank cappuccinos across from each other.
The sight of the cups reminded me that I hadn’t eaten anything and now it was early afternoon. I chewed gum: I can find something to eat once we come back. I wondered if the canal ride was 2-3 hours, as some tours were advertised.
My Favorite Part of the Trip
Eventually, a red and white boat with glass walls and ceiling pulled up. I climbed down four metal stairs, ducking my head to avoid the beams. I handed my ticket to the captain and headed down the aisle.
To the left and right were four-person booths with dark cushions. I grabbed one of the remaining booths on the right. There was a small plug in the left-hand wall where you could plug-in your headphones and set your narration language.
The boat was filled with groups and families so I shared my booth with two Portuguese women.
Then we were off. The boat chugged through the canals, giving you glimpses into the busier parts of the city. As we went along, I saw several small restaurants I would’ve loved to try.
The narration (mine was British) — gave historical background to the monuments, bridges, government buildings, and neighborhoods.
I snapped photos of Booking.com’s headquarters, bikes tied along the canal, houseboats, and the architecture. It was gorgeous.
The captain announced that the Opera House was the first stop to get off at. I looked down at the map. We could get off at eight locations around the city.
So that’s what the girl behind the counter meant…I looked closer and realized the second to last stop was the Anne Frank House. Well, I could get off there since I already know that area and how to get home.
The stop in the middle of the map was Central Station — the farthest point in the city, which I hadn’t made it to the night before.
Maybe I should get off at Central Station and walk back to the Anne Frank House…I thought. That way I can explore the remaining parts of the city and still take Tram 13 home. So that’s what I did.
When it was my turn to get off, I ducked my head to climb out onto the dock. It was still drizzling outside, with a bit of wind, but I still used my camera to stop and take photos like all the other tourists.
This was one of my favorite photos on my way to Dam Square.
I followed the street signs and navigated through construction work. When the construction work tapered off, the sidewalk widened into the size of a street. On my left, was this image — the canal with its tour boats and neutral-colored houses. Standing in the rain with the muted sky — this is how I imaged Amsterdam.
The Quest for Food
It was mid-afternoon and I hadn’t eaten yet. I stayed on the large sidewalk, finally passing through the food district. Most of these restaurants were touristy spots — pubs with wings, several Starbucks, a bold sign for KFC. I wanted to eat at an authentic local restaurant so I continued past them, avoiding the groups of people.
By one way or another, I ended up in a food district named “Chinatown,” according to Apple Maps. The narrow streets were only for pedestrians. I didn’t have to worry about getting hit by bikers.
The storefronts were smaller and closer together. I couldn’t read any of the Chinese menus taped inside the windows, but I did look at some of the pictures. They showed noodles dishes, stir-fry, etc. I know some Asian dishes are very spicy (which is not my cup of tea), so I thought it best to continue on.
At the top of the block, the restaurants turned into Indonesian and Indian food. Their menu didn’t have pictures. Having a low tolerance for spice, and not knowing what any of the dishes were, I continued back down the streets closer to Dam Square.
The space between the buildings widened. Between each of the blocks, the buildings would stop and yield to the canal — where I would cross over the bridge before coming back to the shops.
The closer to Dam Square, the greater the mix of businesses. Now I passed vintage clothing boutiques, print and record stores, steak houses, bakeries, delis, and more. It was within this block, that I finally saw a small bakery that I stopped for.
If you know me, you know my love for croissants. So when I saw the sign for Rene’s Croissants richly glowing from the side of the building I thought: finally, my place.
Open arches welcomed you from the street. A built-in, standing counter was open on the side-street entrance. Large pastry cases ran the length of the room. Two girls behind the counter took orders at opposite ends of the room.
The colorful pastries were overwhelming. The case was orderly and neat (which is always impressive to me). I had no idea what to order — but coffee is always the best place to start.
I was on the farthest counter inside the bakery. A girl behind the counter, about my age, with a blond ponytail first said a phrase in Dutch before switching to English, “Hello.”
“Hi, can I have a cappuccino, and…” I looked down at the case. I wanted to try the traditional Dutch foods.
A basket filled with plastic sleeves of stroopwafels sat at eye-level. Maybe this is the only way I can get these… I thought. I grabbed a sleeve, “I’ll also have this and —” A round donut-looking pastry caught my eye, “One of those.”
“Is that it?”
I held up my card. “Do you have a chip-reader?”
“Yes, but we charge an additional 45 cents to use a card.” She made a grimacing face like sorry.
I was saving cash to use on the second half of my trip, so I agreed to the 45 cent charge. Afterwards I realized that really made my coffee and donut $15. Which is slightly sickening, but also, it’s vacation, it comes with the territory.
To Quote Lorelai, “I need coffee in an IV.”
I can tell you now that this was a great cappuccino, probably because it had been three days since I had any coffee and I was getting a caffeine headache.
My cappuccino size was a standard little cup. It had a nice layer of froth and the espresso was hot and fairly strong. I didn’t add any sugar.
The cup was a bit too small for me, because in three sips I had finished the whole thing.
There is a particular name for this type of donut. It’s not Oliebollen because those seem like zeppoles and this was more of an old-fashioned donut texture.
This “donut” (as I’m calling it) was larger than my palm and warm. The sugared outside provided some texture to the fluffy, vanilla inside.
I would order the Dutch donut again. One was enough for me this afternoon, as it was surprisingly filling.
I didn’t try any of the stroopwafels. There was one girl who spoke English, who also seemed like a tourist. She said the best way to eat the stroopwafels was to microwave them to soften the cookie and caramel.
I had a microwave and mini-fridge in my room, so I figured I could heat the stroopwafels once I was back in my room.
I ate at the standing counter, looking out at the neighboring Mexican restaurant. There were bikes parked along the wall of the side street. Groups of people still continued down the street despite the rain.
Warmed by my cup of coffee and donut — I was energized to get back out and explore the rest of the streets and shops within the food district.
Further Foodie Adventures
Are you ready to hear how I spent the second half of Amsterdam | Day 2? I’ll dive into my first sit-down dinner before I packed up to head to my second destination in Europe — Italy! You can read my dinner review here.