Today I woke up with the sun in a city that is apparently vacant and nonfunctional until 8am. We made good use of our morning and meandered around the city, stopping twice for coffee (ya know, because of the whole "waking up with the sun" bit). The first was Coffee Co., where you could only pay via card, and the second was Back to Black. Disregarding one name, I got one medium latte at each joint. Back to Black had a cat on a couch for Laura, the smallest yet most endearing basement nook bathroom for the both of us and served me the best latte I've potentially ever had the pleasure of tasting.
After a slight detour to the wrong Blue Canal Cruise kiosk, we found our boat and hopped aboard. There was minimal seating left so we did the awkward "we don't speak the same language as you but we obviously need to sit down so if ya'll could consolidate and free up enough room on one bench that would be great" series of gestures. Eventually we found our spot between an Australian couple and about 15 boisterous adult hockey players we assume were from Scandinavia.
The tour was lovely (see above photos). We saw so much of the city that was out of realistic walking distance and got to feel the sun on our skin and the wind in our hair. Amsterdam has some really old, really lovely buildings, some of which are tilted, (they were built on wooden rods and those rods can rot or something like that). We were also reminded that every city in the world has a China Town.
We wandered not too far from the cruise drop off point for lunch at De Carrousel Pannenkoeken, which has the words carousel and pancakes in it so we were down. I ordered an egg, bacon and cheese pancake and Laura got herself a ham, mushroom and cheese one. About ten minutes later, the woman comes back with two plates the size of a medium pizza in The States. It. Was. Awesome.
The Heineken Experience was all we could have hoped for and so much more. We walked in, got our wristbands and drink tokens from the host who interpreted Laura's "Ah yeah, man! Wristbands! So cool!" as genuine excitement and snuck us each an extra drink token. Score. We learned all about the history and the family, did a few interactive, "this-is-how-you-brew-beer" things then the tour really picked up.
An attractive Dutch man named Thimo (who I grew fond of in our 3 minutes together) told us all about the importance of horses to the company. This somehow inspired a Florida retiree to challenge, "So they're kind of like the Budweiser Clydesdales." At this point Laura and I simultaneously face-palmed and were reminded that while the way is American, it isn't always the best way. "No," said Thimo gently. "They are stronger, faster and have been a part of the company longer." Again, did I mention I enjoyed Thimo?
From there, we went into a simulator and became a bottle of Heineken. You stand on an elevated platform and go through a sensory ride experience as the beer from malting, to bottling. It was hilarious. After that, the guides had us learn how to drink beer, because apparently there is some strategy to it. Big drinks make the beer less bitter because you have more golden beer and less bitter froth and so on. They gave us a glass and didn't take our tokens. At this point, they corral you into the drinking lounge. I kid you not-it was the green EDM festival/night club of your dreams. Booths lined the walls and where there weren't booths, there were massive screens with projections of people partying with Heineken. The whole scene had a green glow and the ceiling looked like a transparent green wave until you realized it was actually lined with green glass bottles. And that was just the beginning.
The rest of the experience included gaming interactives, foosball (I beat Laura), karaoke on bikes, photo booths and sports memorabilia. The place was lit. By green lights. Everywhere. Then finally you get to Lounge #2 which is slightly less bumpin' but it's where your drink tokens come into play. Between the two of us, we could have had 6 beers, but we were smart (mind you, we already had one in the tasting station) and only used one. We left the lounge, hit up the gift shop, didn't buy a thing but were handed Heineken bottle opener key chains. More free stuff. Score.
Insanely intricate and historical art is pretty cool, rijk? Next, we obviously had to hit up the Rijksmuseum. The building itself was breath-taking. We arrived two hours before it closed and the woman at the ticket counter cautioned us we may need more than two hours, and after taking one hour to go through 2/3 of one floor, I understand why. We saw beautiful, confusing, off-putting and sensational pieces of art that I wish I had the capacity to read everything about every piece and understand much more than I did. The frames were as beautiful as the art in some cases and the paintings inside them looked more like photographs than anything. I liked it. I wanted more, but the clock neared 5pm, the feet started to hurt and the belly was starting to grumble. It was time for dinner.
We got lost. We left the museum through a different door and after just mentioning how well we had been navigating this new city, we got completely and utterly lost. After a few conversations, stops and many Google Maps consultations, we figured we were mostly on the right path. That's when we found a cute little patio table and a nice restaurant. Little did we know it had the slowest most lackadaisical waiter in Europe. It took us reminding him and two other servers that we order a side of fries (we were going to order two but he told us he "preferred" if we only got one) to actually get the fries. They came after our actual meal with a side of mayo, of all dipping sauces. He's lucky my Dutch version of BBQ chicken on a skewer was so good-not that tipping is really a thing in The Netherlands.
Just a bro and his bean bag chair against the world (and the force of gravity because he is in a windowsill).