Taking a single snap takes but a moment. Taking 30 single snaps takes a little longer. But taking snaps, no matter the quantity, is disruptive. When you’re caught up in the wonder of wandering along the Amsterdam canals, it shatters the illusion to have to stop, pull your camera out, attach the right lens, make sure the lighting is right and get a couple of different angles, you know, ~ just in case ~. It’s also undoubtedly annoying for the person that you’re with. Can you imagine being halfway through a conversation, soaking up the fervour of a city break, only to turn around and see your companion is crouching down on the floor, trying to get an arty shot of some tulips? The truth is whoever I’m going away with – whether it’s Keiran, Jade or Joe – they know the score. They get why I’m always taking pictures of everything and despite the mild annoyance, I’m sure they’re fine with it.
It does, however, fill me with some kind of anxiety. I feel like a bother when I’m taking photos but I also know that I need to get it done, and the pressure combating the reluctance puts me on edge. I’m also constantly at odds with myself because, for once, it would be nice to just enjoy a city through my own eyes, rather than through the lens of a camera. So this time, I did just that. After photographing our room at Hotel The Exchange, I took my camera with me for outfit photos but didn’t take a single shot of a canal once. Instead, I entrusted the travel photography to my iPhone, and more specifically, to Instagram. Rather than curating and editing ‘till my fingers bleed, I framed, filtered and freed the photos to the world. And it was bloody liberating. I didn’t feel tied to my camera, I didn’t feel obligated to capture everything just in case I regretted missing it. I was able to properly, properly enjoy myself.
Please be warned: I found an amazing red jumper whilst shopping in Stradivarius (I’m actually wearing it right now as I type) and it is featured a lot in these shots. Apologies in advance!
Where to stay
Jade are I stayed in Hotel The Exchange, and I specifically requested Room 406, the Epaullettes room. As you all know I’m extremely fussy when it comes to selecting a place to stay, but Hotel The Exchange is fashion focused and features themed rooms all the way from a Budget 1* room all the way up to a 5* double deluxe (don’t freak out at the 1* at all – if you’re looking to travel on a budget but still in style, these rooms are just on the slightly smaller size but are still beautifully decorated and extra clean). The fact that the rooms are themed is killer – no two are the same, and each comes with a designer and back story. Even now as I’m looking through the website, I’m thinking “oh wow, I’m adding that to the list for next time”. Put simply, it’s an Instagrammer’s dream, and on the practical side of things, it’s just down the road from the station and super, super central to one of the main squares and exploring different parts of the city. Much much good, 13/10 would visit again.
Where to eat and drink
I would say my number one concern before embarking on any city break is finding the best places to eat. And by best, I don’t mean the fanciest or the most expensive, I mean the gems that don’t necessarily pop up on TripAdvisor but which diners have raved about nonetheless. Luckily our hotel had a hipster-esque cafe attached called Café STOCK, serving everything from giant lattes to pancakes, paninis and more. Our room wasn’t ready when we first turned up, so we set up shop in Café STOCK and we both refuelled after our 3:30am wake up call. There are tonnes of lovely cafés throughout Amsterdam, but I’d definitely recommend this spot if your around the Damrak or Red Light District and looking for a low-key, relaxed place to snack and chat. It’s also v. cute inside, so again, great for the ‘gram.
Dinner-wise, I’d seen a lot of hype surrounded Dum Dum and we attempted to get in there on our first night, but they didn’t have space for bookings over the phone and when we turned up, even the bar was full to the brim. It’s safe to say that this place is popular. Instead we headed a little further down the road to Hofje van Wijs, where we enjoyed plentiful amounts of camembert and then the largest veggie burgers on God’s green earth. There was also a v. cute courtyard area with overhead fairy lights, that I imagine would be perfect for whiling away the warmer evenings. The following night I was determined to get us in at Dum Dum, and thank the lord, we managed to squeeze two bar seats and enjoy some of the tastiest dim sum I’ve ever had. I would definitely recommend it, but be prepared to be in for a squeeze. Space is a currency in this place.
In terms of brunch, we chose to head out to Bakers & Roasters which is a New Zealand style café, with, in their own words, “a heavy dose of Brazil”. Basically Jade and I were on the hunt for some good poached eggs, and this place delivered. I had the Veggie Brekkie which featured creamy mushrooms, chilli jam and grilled halloumi alongside, of course, the staples of eggs, avocado and toast. Jade opted of the B&R special, which included eggs on toasts alongside a stack of mini pancakes and bacon. A brunch-lovers dream. Again, this place came with a pretty hefty waiting list so we popped our names on and then walked a few paces down to one of the local cafés, grabbed ourselves a latte and whiled away half an hour talking and people watching.
Brunch – Bakers & Roasters
Café – Café STOCK
Dinner – Dum Dum Palace and Hofje van Wijs
What to do
This section will be fairly brief because I’ve covered a lot of what to do way back in my first ever Amsterdam City Guide. Jade had never visited before and it was only my second time, so we did the typically touristy things of visiting the Sex Museum and the Amsterdam sign, steering a pedallo around the canals and eating waffles at any given chance. There’s not a shortage of things to do and see – the Vondelpark would be great on a summer’s day and the Van Gogh Museum is a cultural hotspot – but my favourite thing about Amsterdam is that it’s great for a wander. We spent a lot of time walking from place to place, but it meant we got to soak up the atmosphere instead of busying around on a tram or in an Uber. Above all else, I would recommend just going for a walk. Oh, and grab some tulips if you can.
What to wear
The forecast for our mini-break was dull, to say the least. We were to expect rain, some clouds, and, oh, wait, some more rain. Luckily we managed to dodge most of the downpours but it was still on the windy side, so a coat or jumper was always essential. The first day I kept it fairly simple and very typical CP, donning my baker boy hat, distressed blue jeans and a teddy coat. The second day I tried to spice it up with some new red pants (I bloody love saying pants), but hot damn were these bad boys tight to best believe I changed straight back into my jeans after brunch. Maybe a pair of trews’ for when I shift a few pounds. Nonetheless the vibe in Amsterdam is very chill so if you’re looking to travel light, you can re-wear pieces from day to night with ease and a pair of black boots will do you wonders.