#NoFilter Amsterdam

 

Amsterdam_canal_fi

I’m happy to announce that I’ve been asked to take part in a #NoFilter photo competition organised by London City Airport. The project aims to highlights popular city break destinations, such as MilanDublin, and Madrid, through a series of unfiltered images by travel bloggers. Now in its 6th instalment, Amsterdam is the next #NoFilter city.

Amsterdam Travel Tip – Get Lost

What I love about Amsterdam is that is has historic palaces and grand museums to rival that of any other major city in Europe, but it’s also the kind of place that you can just walk around and get lost in. In Amsterdam, getting lost is a good thing.

Amsterdam_Cat

Strap on a comfortable pair of walking shoes or hop on a bike and get off the beaten path. Venture away from the busy tourist streets and get lost along little residential canals. It’s here where you’ll discover and endless supply of photo worthy street scenes, cute cafes, and the occasional cat in a window display.

#NoFilter Tip – Paint with Light

Amsterdam and London share a very similar climate. Cloudy days dominate the weather forecast, so when the sun does decide to come out, you might as well make the most of it. Bright, sunny outdoor shots are lovely, but I’m particularly partial to the way light streams into indoor spaces. Interiors can be tricky to photograph, especially if you’re a smartphone-only photographer like myself. My suggestion is to use natural light to your advantage. Experiment with different angles and don’t be afraid of shooting against the sun.

Amsterdam_GrandCafe

The photo above is from one of Amsterdam’s beautiful and historic grand cafes. I just happened to catch the sun pouring through the cafe’s old stained glass windows as I sipped on a latte one morning. Of course, by the time I finished my coffee, the sun had slipped back behind the clouds.

#NoFilter Tip – Snap Photos in the Evening

There’s something especially beautiful about Amsterdam in the evening, right before the sun goes down and just as the street lights come on. The streets are usually quieter around this time as well, and the lights give your photos that extra little sparkle.

 

Amsterdam_FlowerMarket

Amsterdam Travel Tip – Take Advantage of the Low Season

Some travellers are put off by the colder weather and the grey skies, but I think Amsterdam is a great city break destination at any time of the year. Head there in December to take part in festive Christmas celebrations and markets, or snag a great deal on a hotel in March or April – right before the warm weather kicks in.

Amsterdam_canal

The #NoFilter Amsterdam photo competition is organised by London City Airport and will be judged by fellow blogger Duncan Rhodes of The Urban Travel Blog

Cafe Cats, Belgian Beers and Dutch Masters – This is why I moved to Europe

 

Mention Amsterdam to those unfamiliar with the city and chances are you’ll hear them mention “pot” and “prostitution” in their opening breath. It’s sad really, when there’s so much more to Amsterdam and indeed the Netherlands than its unwholesome reputation suggests. I’ve just wrapped up my second trip to the Dutch capital and to date have not stepped foot into a “coffeehouse” or taken a gander at the Red Light District. The truth is that outside heavily trodden tourists zones “coffeehouses” are much more discreet and pretty unremarkable from the exterior, so unless you’re actually seeking these places out, chances are you won’t notice them.

Amsterdam

“Eccentricities” aside, Amsterdam is one of those cities that leaves you Googling your way through pages of apartment listings and real estate ads. It’s just so gosh darn livable and it has reminded of why I moved across the pond to begin with. Just as I did on my first trip, I chose to stay just outside Amsterdam’s center to enjoy the city for what it really is, not what it’s advertised to be. Our hotel was a few blocks west of Leidseplein and within walking distance to the Rijksmuseum. While I enjoyed seeing all the remarkable masterworks from the Dutch Golden Age of painting and reveled in the opportunity to visit the Royal Palace of Amsterdam, the real pleasure came from visiting local restaurants, cafes and simply walking around town.

Painting in the Rijksmuseum

Thanks to a little internet research, I stumbled across a few great bars and restaurants that really summed up Amsterdam for me. The first was called Gollem Proeflokaal, which was just a few minutes from our hotel. Offering 20+ beers on tap and dozens more in bottled form, this tiny bar with dimmed lighting and generous wooden benches made me feel right at home. Gollem’s patrons were all Dutch, though the bar staff seemed to speak with more English fluency than I can claim. As we sat at a table sipping our beers and discussing our weekend options, we were greeted by the only member of the staff who couldn’t speak English, or Dutch for that matter. One of Gollem’s cats (yes, CATS) parked its caboose right next to mine and kept me company while I dined on Flemish stew and french fries.

Belgian Beers

Our special dinner guest.

The next night we visited a small street corner cafe called Toussaint on a quiet block of residential homes just outside of the Jordaan district.  It consisted of an impossibly small kitchen, a small grouping of candlelit tables and a chalkboard menu filled with the day’s specials in Dutch.  Our patient waiter was kind enough to go through and translate each dish on the list for use.  For the same price as dinner and drinks at the awful Zizzis (UK-based Italian chain restaurant . . . think Olive Garden), we enjoyed duck, seafood ravioli, desserts, wine and a beer all under twinkling candlelight.

If I had to describe Amsterdam in one word I think it would be “calm”. The people seem calm and the cafes and bars are cozy. Walking down the city streets I encountered numerous mouthwatering independent shops selling everything from the little wooden toys I once had as a kid to quirky home furnishings and handmade odds and ends. Next to the sidewalks an endless stream of bicycles outfitted with wicker baskets whizz past and it all seemed so comfortable. I think I’d like to live here one day, but until then I am content with the fact that I’m just an hour’s flight away.