Amsterdam, Two Ways
Wednesday, September 13, 2017
Unbeknownst to me, I managed to time my voyage aboard Avalon Waterways’ 166-guest Avalon Expression with a major weather system that yesterday brought damaging winds and heavy rains to parts of the UK. Today, Storm Aileen moved into the Amsterdam area. The Dutch Meteorological Office issued Code Orange high wind warnings, cautioning that gusts of up to 120 kilometres per hour were possible. As of this morning, Dutch carrier KLM had already cancelled 60 flights.
I opened the curtains of my Wall-to-Wall Panoramic Balcony windows to find rain pouring down outside and heavy winds buffeting the ship. My plan, originally, had been to walk Amsterdam’s Old Town to do a little shopping. My new plan involved a good book, a cup of coffee, and Avalon Expression’s cozy lounge.
Fortunately, yesterday I was able to take part in a Culinary Walk through Amsterdam in much better weather. This afternoon, it was off to a nearby studio for a painting class, weather-be-damned. Both excursions are going to be offered next year as part of Avalon’s new Active Discovery on the Rhine river cruises, and together with a small group of journalists, I’m going to be road-testing these new offerings on this voyage in advance of their roll-out.
To be sure, I missed my walk, but the best part of river cruising is the flexibility it offers. Unlike a hotel, you’re not really trapped here if the weather turns nasty. Instead, it’s just a great chance to take a breath and enjoy all that your ship has to offer.
A Culinary Walk Through Amsterdam
If you want to truly know a place, the best thing to do is eat and drink like a local. This is exactly what Avalon was thinking, too: the line has put together a fantastic tour that will be offered in Amsterdam on its Active Discovery on the Rhine river cruises.
During our three-hour long walking tour, we stopped at nearly a dozen different locations in Amsterdam’s Jordaan district, from funky restaurants like Stuyvesant, with its vibrantly-coloured décor and bizarre paintings, to local cheese shops and fish mongers. The tour ends, appropriately, in a pub along one of the city’s famous canals. If it’s nice out, like it was for us yesterday, I highly recommend having your Dutch beer outdoors.
Despite having been to Amsterdam half a dozen times now, this tour introduced me to some brand-new culinary delights. I thought I’d hit the jackpot when I found the Dutch caramel-filled stroopwaffel years ago, but that was before I had fresh herring; poffertjes (a mini Dutch pancake blanketed in sugar powder); and kibbeling – a battered, salted fish snack that’s so good I was going back for thirds and fourths.
How do you wash all of this down? With a few local beers, a couple shots of vodka and the locally-made spirit, genever. Genever is a lot like Gin, but don’t be surprised if the Dutch get you to drink (or shoot) it straight-up!
Coupled with a wonderful stroll through the Jordaan district, this is one of the best tours I’ve ever taken in Amsterdam. You’ll want to be fully mobile to get the most out of this tour, though – unlike other walking tours, this one is conducted at a good pace that should please anyone looking for an active outing in Amsterdam.