Netherlands – Amsterdammertje

Red Light Diaries

No trip to the Netherlands would be truly complete without a stroll through Amsterdam’s infamous Red Light District. No matter how illicit you want to get, it is a cultural experience that must be enjoyed. Mrs. Sip and I imbibed a little too much while we were in the “Venice of the North” (seriously, every place is the Venice of something!), but I’m itching to go back and try my luck again!

Amsterdam actually has three Red Light Districts, but the most famous of them is the area also known as ‘De Wallen’ in Old Amsterdam. This Red Light Distrcit has existed for hundreds of years. Since the 14th century, brothels have called the region along the city’s numerous canals, home. Once banned, but tolerated if kept underground, houses of ill repute were first allowed in 1811 and were frequented by French soldiers.

Hot Chicks RLD

Prostitution is legal in the Netherlands and with any time spent in the Red Light District, you will be sure to see an array of women (and on some occasions, even men) advertising themselves through red-light lit windows for various services. If you agree upon a price with one of the workers, you will be ushered into their cabin. It is a big no-no to take any photos of the workers, some of whom are students making money for their studies.

De Wallen is also famous for their Coffee Shops, where locals and tourists alike can eat, smoke, or even drink any number of normally illegal substances. These shops are licensed by the Dutch government. It should be noted that these stores are prohibited from selling alcohol and cigarettes, so you’ll have to get your drink and normal smoking done elsewhere.

There are also live sex shows, sex museums, sex theatres, sex shops (sex, sex, sex, is that all you ever think about!), bars and clubs, museums, and even a department store. In fact, Amsterdam is home to 51 different museums, making it one of the most museum-populated cities in the world. You should enjoy the destination while it lasts, as there are fears it will eventually disappear, given most of the city is already below sea level.

What's a RLD

If you want to see the city, but aren’t so interested in the darker activities offered in the Red Light District, there are a number of other attractions definitely worth checking out. This includes: Canal Cruises, Walking Tours, the Heineken Experience, the Vodka Museum, the House of Bols, the Anne Frank House, the Van Gogh Museum, the Rembrandthouse, and the Rijksmuseum, which is described as the Louvre of the Netherlands.

Amsterdam is the bicycle capital of Europe, with one million bikes for a population of 700,000 people. Any travelers spending time around the city or going through the Red Light District, should always be vigilant and keep an eye out for bicyclists and whether or not they’ve accidentally entered onto a bike path. I suppose given all the libations available in the city, intoxicated biking is better than driving!

Some events to keep in mind if planning a trip to Amsterdam are King’s Day in April, providing the perfect excuse for crazy parties and the High Times Cannabis Cup, described as “five days of pure hedonism,” in late-November. Worldwide events, such as Pride and New Year’s Eve, when celebrated in Amsterdam sound quite interesting. For Pride, there’s a naughty boat parade through the canals, while at New Year’s, most bars don’t even open until midnight hits.

Netherlands: Amsterdammertje

Amsterdammertje Cocktail

  • 1.25 oz Jenever
  • 0.75 oz Peach Schnapps
  • Top with Cranberry Juice
  • Garnish with Cranberries

Talk about crazy folks: Adults in the Netherlands like to add sprinkles (like the ones used as an ice cream sundae topping) onto their toast. This is something the Sip Advisor will surely have to try in the future!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4.5 Sips out of 5):
Friends of Mrs. Sip and myself visited the House of Bols while they were in the Netherlands and were incredibly kind enough to pick us up a couple treats, while there. This included this wonderful bottle of Bols Jenever that I used for our Around the World stop here, as well as a cocktail recipe booklet, which is hilariously in Dutch (English version does not exist yet) and requires some Google translating! This is one of the drinks that looked fun to make and it certainly hit the spot on the taste scale.

Belgium – Belgian Mojito

Full Meal Deal

Belgium is a pretty creative place. After all, they are responsible for the saxophone, the Body Mass Index, Club Med, Jean-Claude Van Damme (the Muscles from Brussels) and these culinary treats!

Beer

Let’s start with the fact that there are over 800 brands of Belgian beer. When Mrs. Sip and I were in Belgium many moons ago, we decided to try a bunch of different types of brew (not a hard choice, really) and were handed a menu that read like a phonebook. Each beer comes with its own specialized glass, said to improve the overall experience. It’s estimated that Belgians drink 84 liters of beer per person, per year. Those are numbers to be quite proud of!

Belgian Beer

French Fries

According to lore, it wasn’t the French who invented one of the greatest side dishes ever known to man, but the Belgians. In fact, the Belgians have an entire culture devoted to the French fry, including most citizens owning a deep fryer so they can make their own at all hours of the day. As a sauce man, myself, I’m happy to note that the fine folks of Belgium will use an array of different toppings on their fries, including mayonnaise (the big one over there), tartar sauce, and many others.

Chocolate

The sweet stuff is a big deal in Belgium, with chocolatier and confectionary outlets on many street corners. Point being, they are not hard to find. Some of the most popular chocolate brands in Belgium, include Guylian (makers of the sea shell chocolates) and Neuhaus (inventor of pralines and even the method of gift wrapping chocolate purchases). The world’s greatest chocolate sales occur at the Brussels International Airport, as travelers stock up on the goodies before exiting the country.

Belgium Waffles

I’m not sure what exactly takes a waffle and makes it Belgian (apparently this is a North American term to describe larger, but lighter battered waffles), but if they want to lay claim to this breakfast fixture, I say let them have it. In Belgium, it’s more common to see the term Brussels waffle, but it seems to all mean the same thing. In Belgium, waffles are even sold on the street as a snack on the go and sometimes from ice cream trucks.

Belgian Waffles

Brussels Sprouts

One of the most child-despised food items to ever exist, parents of fussy eaters can thank the Belgians for this culinary gem. The sprout has been grown in Brussels for over 400 years and while it could have originated anywhere, Belgium has jumped aboard the edible bud train. Mrs. Sip has recently got into Brussels sprouts, providing they’re roasted and smothered in cheese. I’m still not onboard with the leafy green, but we have a ceasefire with one another.

Mussels

Or as they know it, moules-frites (mussels and fries), has often been given the title of Belgium’s national dish. I like mussels from time to time, particularly if done in a Cajun-esque style and in one of those big pots with other seafood, potatoes, and corn on the cob. Back to Belgium’s take on the dish, the shellfish is typically cooked or steamed with vegetables such as onions, celery, and leeks, although other, more savoury techniques can be utilized.

Jenever

This ancestor of gin has been the national spirit of Belgium for hundreds of years. In fact, Jenever is a protected product of origin and can only be manufactured in Belgium, the Netherlands (where we will sample it in a few weeks), and parts of France and Germany. The traditional serving method includes a shot glass fresh from the freezer and filled to the brim. The first sip should be taken without the use of hands, before you can return to normal sipping procedures!

Belgium: Belgian Mojito

Belgian Mojito Cocktail

As a beer and French fry connoisseur, I give great praise to the people of Belgium and that’s without even taking into consideration the Sip Advisor’s sweet tooth. I won’t even deduct points for their addition of Brussels sprouts to the international potluck!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4 Sips out of 5):
I’ve never put together what is basically a Beer Mojito, so I figured this was the perfect opportunity. My drink turned into its own ecosystem with all the greenery in there. It tasted pretty good, though, helping me further my claim to being the ‘King of Mojitos!’