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A visit to Amsterdam is typically about the museums, the cafes, the canals, and for those who are interested – the Red Light District and the coffee shops. But for a couple days this past week, my personalized Amsterdam tour for a friend was all about outdoor Amsterdam…The green spaces of Amsterdam.

Despite the rainy conditions, including thunder and lightning! – we two gals bravely headed out on our bicycles to explore.

Vondelpark in the rain – just as beautiful as when there is sunshine and decidedly less crowded! The lack of crowds, the soft shimmer of rain, the incredible green surrounding us, was actually calming and lovely. A different way of experiencing the park. A lucky break in the rain meant apple pancakes and coffee in the Groot Melkhuis cafe in the park.

Vondelpark view from Groot Melkhuis

In the evening the sun broke out and we thought we had a chance to actually sit somewhere in a cafe on a terrace and people watch. While biking home, we passed an adorable restaurant in the Oud Zuid neighborhood – we thought it looked like the perfect place to perch… Italian menu and cute waiters :)

Terrace of Restaurante Sardegna

If you get a chance, Restaurante Sardegna on Cornelis Schuytstraat is a good eat in a neighborhood that makes me think of Old Town Pasadena! We had a bottle of smooth Barberra d’Alba, a caprese salad with ripely red tomatoes and fresh buffalo mozzerella. Main course was a delicately perfect risotto with truffle sauce. Yum! One of the best meals I’ve had in an Amsterdam restaurant! And fantastic as well for the fact that we were sitting under huge green trees on an adorable corner getting to watch people, chat, and laugh.

Dessert was another story. Our rain luck broke.. or the rain broke… however you want to phrase it! We went from sitting in the late afternoon sun, to covering under the restaurant’s umbrella

Sunshine at the Restaurant Sardegna

as we scooted our chairs as close as possible together to stay dry. But if our Dutch table neighbors weren’t moving, we sure as heck weren’t either!!! By then the wind kicked up, the rain was falling in heavy sheets, and our dessert arrived, carried by a soaked Khalim (our brave waiter) holding a tray over his head for protection.

Naturally, we had to protect the dessert :) That’s, after all, what umbrella’s are for! We stayed relatively


dry, were able to laugh and enjoy the rain, and still eat our dessert! Besides, for ONCE the ran was a lovely warm summer rain. How much better could it get?

The next day we tried our luck once more. This time on a ride along the Amstel River from Amsterdam to Oudekerk aan de Amstel. An adorable little village, Ouderkerk a/d Amstel is about 45 minute ride on your bike along the bicycle path beside the river. A beautiful ride that’s totally worth it – within minutes you are outside the city and in countryside complete with cows and sheep and horses and picnic benches on the river.

When the rain came, we stopped to fortify ourselves in a cafe overlooking the river in Ouderkerk a/d Amstel. A couple of pilsjes (small Amstel beers – fitting!), some bitterballen (a Dutch nibbly specialty) and fries, and we were ready to head back out despite the rain.

Along the Amstel

From the Amstel we headed West into Amstelveen and towards the Amsterdamse Bos. A manmade ‘wood,’ it’s one of the huge green spaces of Amsterdam. Planted during the Great Depression as a public works project, it’s filled with soccer fields, bike paths, bridges, canals, walking routes, trees, and no noise… it’s a wonderful spot to explore. Probably even better when it’s not raining :)

But the mist and the soft crackling of leves and branches in the rain lent it a mystical touch that we didn’t mind. Especially when there was a cafe at the end of the path home to warm us up with coffies and a cat sprawled on the bench next to us.

If looking for a low-budget way of seeing Dutch countryside, as well as getting a break

Amsterdamse Bos

from constant museums and interiors while traveling – the Amsterdamse Bos and the great paths along the Amstel made specially for bicyclists are winners.