Last year we had an 8-hour layover in Amsterdam. Sure, Schiphol Airport is interesting, but not for that long. So we thought, why not escape the airport and spend the time in the city? We already knew we liked the city because we had managed to see a boatload of things in only one day.
Amsterdam has a personality all its own. It's got a special place in our hearts because it's the home town of a very dear friend who's become like a sister to us, and her parents have practically adopted us into their family. “There's no being on your own in our city,” they insisted. “If you're coming to Amsterdam, we're going to show you around.”
“You'd better do it,” Farieda warned us, “or you'll hurt their feelings.”
We hadn't even considered not going. We love them dearly and always enjoy their company.
Sonny was waiting for us, hugs and kisses all around, and off we went to pick up Hermien. She was taking the day off work in our honor.
Lunch in Ouderkerk
We drove out to Ouderkerk Aan de Amstel, a quaint village on the Amstel River not far from Amsterdam. The village was quiet while we were there, and we were charmed by its cobbled streets, bicyclists and an occasional car. One look at the Dutch architecture lining its streets and there's no mistaking where you are.
We ate at Jagershuis, a pretty Dutch inn, and though there was a pleasant panoramic dining room we were shown to their lovely terrace outside. This majestic garden terrace offered a spectacular view over the river and the old village center of Ouderkerk and it was definitely one of the most beautiful tableside views we'd ever encountered.
Our ‘new parents,' Sonny and Hermien, treated us like royalty. They made a special request of the staff and ordered a bitterballen appetizer, a breaded, cheesy, meaty, fried ball of deliciousness with flavor that explodes in your mouth. Crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside. OK, it really is nothing more than a traditional finger food, meant to be dipped in spicy brown mustard and popped into the mouth. But even so, to the Dutch it's a signature dish.
When the food arrived, the plates had a very appealing presentation. We had a starter of smoked duck with foie gras and diced potato. For the main courses we chose red perch and a beef tenderloin. The fish was prepared with a white wine cream sauce and served with Yukon gold finger potatoes and fresh peas, while the beef, in a slightly sweet red wine reduction, came with green beans, fresh peas, caramelized onions and gherkin pickles.
Seriously? Hot gherkin pickles? This was new. As odd as it sounded I took a bite. Sure, it was a little odd, but not bad … not bad at all.
After we'd finished our coffee and Dan has finished taking his photos, we took a scenic route through the countryside, which included a drive by the national football stadium. All too soon, it was time to head back to the airport to catch our early evening flight to Lisbon.
As we pulled into the airport parking lot Sonny had one last great idea: sharing a goodbye beer in the terminal. We had such a wonderful time with them both, and are so grateful for their warm hospitality and the memorable canal-side meal and tour. Thank you, Sonny and Hermien, for adopting us into your family and for our new sister, Farieda. Here's to you!
It's back to the Netherlands next month for a conference, and yes, we'll visit our Dutch family again.