How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager!

How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager -
How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager – “The Tall Young Gentleman”

Teenagers! You’ve got to love ’em!

And when you’re travelling or going abroad, you’ve got to think of things differently, as teenagers are not children per se, but neither are they adults.

They’re gangly young people, looking to explore the world, find their feet, and live life to the full.

And if you’re like me. You’ll let them do it, and give them the  gift of travel!

Teenagers. Give them the gift of travel!
Teenagers. Give them the gift of travel!

Children are versatile.

And they don’t really need much.

All they need is plenty of food, a safe and clean place to lay their head, wi-fi, a bit of space to lay out all their “stuff”and you!

Yes, you.

The parent!

We are Family. And then We Were Three. In Wales!
We are Family. And then We Were Three.
In Wales!

You don’t have to wait until “they’re old enough to know.”

Believe you me. They know!

You don’t have to wait until “they understand the benefits” of travel.

What are you talking about`?

Teenagers. Give them the gift of travel!
Teenagers. Give them the gift of travel!

Any place that is different from home and in which they can learn about other places, other cultures, and other people, is a marvellous thing.

The younger they are, the easier it is, and the better for all!

Our son as a baby - 20 months old!
Our son as a baby – 20 months old!

I started travelling with our son when he was just 5 months old. I put him in a baby carrier, dumped all his toys and baby stuff in the car, and breast-fed him all the way!

And by the time he was 5 years old, he had been to 32 countries, and at 12, he was already talking about spending his GAP year in Thailand, so there’s that!

There is plenty to do in Lucerne so
“The Tall Young Gentleman” in Switzerland. Give your teenagers the gift of travel!

I love travelling with our son, and even though he’s 14, it won’t be long until he’ll want to be travelling with his friends.

In Northern European countries that age tends to be between 16 and 17 years old as young people are more independent, and their parents liberal, tolerant, and open-minded.

In that wise, I decided to go to Amsterdam for the weekend, with our teenager in tow!

How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager -
How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager – “The Tall Young Gentleman”

Interestingly enough, our German friends didn’t blink an eye when I told them. Not so my Anglo-American friends who were visibly shocked and worried.

Not to worry.

This is what happened.

HOW TO VISIT AMSTERDAM IN TWO DAYS. WITH A TEENAGER!

How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager!
How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager!

I took my teenager to Amsterdam!

I know!

I started my international travel adventure for 2017 a fortnight (two weeks) ago, by taking a weekend trip to Holland.

To Amsterdam.

When people think of Amsterdam, their ears immediately prick up, and their eyes bulge intensely at the exotic-ness of that city of sin….

Nightlife in Amsterdam...
Nightlife in Amsterdam…

However, people live in Amsterdam. I mean, people people.

Real people. Ordinary people. People who have to get up in the morning and work in an office, take the train, or in this case, ride their bicycles.

In 2015, I wrote about the other stuff.  The stuff that “decent” people whisper over. The naughty stuff….

And here’s the link!

This time around, I’m writing about the family-friendly Amsterdam.

Here goes!

SOME INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT AMSTERDAM

Dutch children in traditional costume.
Dutch children in traditional costume.

Amsterdam is a small capital city in Europe. It’s one of those places steeped in history and glory.

Indeed, as a 12th century fishing hamlet, it’s done rather well as a naval trading giant in the 17th century hunting for spoils and riches, before Britain came and took away such treasures as New Amsterdam (from Amsterdam in Holland), that later relegated to New York (from York in England). We also know of the conflicts and tribulations that Amsterdam had to go through in order to keep the water at bay, and the canals safe.

Did you know that:

How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager!
How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager! And 165 canals!
  • Only 834,713 people actually live in Amsterdam and more than 3.6 million tourists visit every year!
  • There are 881,000 bicycles
  • 213 trams
  • 165 canals
  • 1,281 bridges
  • 2,500 barges or houseboats
  • 8,863 historical 16th, 17th, and 18th century buildings
  • 23 paintings by Rembrandt
  • 207 paintings by Van Gogh
  • And 8 windmills!

DAY ONE (1) – WHAT TO DO WITH A TEENAGER

How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager - "The Tall Young Gentleman"
How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager – “The Tall Young Gentleman”
  • Put luggage away as quickly as possible:
How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager - Get rid of luggage!
How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager – Get rid of luggage!

Checking in for most hotels is usually between 13:00 – 14:00 so if you’re not driving, put your luggage in the train station locker for efficiency and speed! For 24 hours, it costs between €7.00 – €10. We had just arrived by overnight train from Berlin, so it was well worth not lugging things around..!

Book your hotel here!

  • Feed your teenager:
How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager - A good meal is essential!
How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager – A good meal is essential!

Before we were going to do anything at all, I took my son to a restaurant that I knew, that served an English breakfast for under €5.00! He opted for an Italian breakfast instead, and ending up licking his chops at mine!

  • It’s always a good thing to get a local viewpoint of a place or city, and the best way to do so is on a walking tour:
How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager! Go on a walking tour!
How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager!
Go on a walking tour!

Now, I’ve been to been to Amsterdam loads of time, but The Tall Young Gentleman has never been to Holland.

In fact, 2 years ago, I did my own personal walking tour in Amsterdam, as my tour guide decided not to turn up!

I’m a great advocate for walking tours and go on many, such as food tours, alternative walking tours, free walking tours, and walking tours in exotic places!

There are many tour groups to choose from, but the one I chose was the Sandemans new Amstedam free walking tour.

  • Learn about Dutch culture:
How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager!
How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager!

Our walking tour was great for learning all about how Dutch people live and the alternative lifestyle in Amsterdam, which even included walking through the red-light district at 12:00 in the afternoon!

Funnily enough it wasn’t this that got my teenager blushing and flustered.

After all, a lot of the red light places in Amsterdam are blended into the community, with one red-light street situation right next to a kindergarten, and opposite a church! And as for Germany, prostitution is legal and well, you know, nude or Freikörperkultur beaches abound throughout Germany. All quite normal and family-friendly!

It was this.

How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager!
How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager!

Our walking tour group gathered around to take photographs of various types, sizes and flavours, whilst my teenager and I wandered further away and talked about the weather.

Neither of us quite knew where to look!

  • Bump into cheese. And eat it:
How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager! And eat lots of cheese!
How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager!
And eat lots of cheese!

You surely can’t be in Holland if you don’t try some of their best famous cheese!

If you love cheese, you can pretty much go into any of the cheese shops and get to know all about the flavours, aroma, and quality of an enormous range of cheese.

We went to a place called the Cheese Inn Museum. 

It’s been around since 1967 and specialises in more than 100 different kinds of organic cheese from cheese markets in Northern Holland, as well as other equipment!

How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager! And eat lots of cheese!
How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager!
And eat lots of cheese!

That’s right. Amsterdam has a museum. For Cheese!

It’s free to go in, and they give you a little tour and some info so that you can experience the unique flavor of the best cheeses in Holland, and nibble away at many varieties of free cubes of cheese and sauces to taste!

How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager! And eat lots of cheese!
How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager!
And eat lots of cheese!

The last time I was there, I was so impressed that I bought some Dutch waffles and biscuits, some very, very, very Old Amsterdam Cheese, for – The Music Producer – who is a connoisseur.

Dutch Farmhouse Cheese with Italian Black Truffle. Mmm.

How can anyone, lest of all teenagers, resist?!

  • Take a leisurely stroll, and walk in and out of little back streets, and on the river-side:
How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager - You might be surprised at what you might see!
How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager – You might be surprised at what you might see!

Start from Amsterdam Central Station to Dam Square, and then explore. Just remind your teenagers to watch their bags as the area is packed with tourists, as well as pick-pockets. Think Leicester Square (London), Times Square (New York), or Alexanderplatz (Berlin).

Damrak is crowded and there’s loads of weird people and strange shops. You might not like it, but your teenager will! And for obvious reasons, you wouldn’t want them to be there alone. So take a deep breath and go with them…!

How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager - You might be surprised at what you might see!
How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager – You might be surprised at what you might see!

The picture above shows the Waag or traditional weighing house and is a 15th-century building on the Nieuwmarkt Square in Amsterdam.

It was originally a city gate and part of the walls of Amsterdam, and also served as a guildhall, a museum, a fire station and anatomical theatre, and now a restaurant!

The Waag is the oldest remaining non-religious building in Amsterdam and can even be seen in Rembrandt’s 1632 painting The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp!

  • Go ice-skating:
How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager - Ice-skating galore! @I amsterdam - Hans Guldemond
How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager – Ice-skating galore!
@I amsterdam – Hans Guldemond

Somehow, I always seem to be in Holland in the winter!

One year, we actually walked across part of the Northern Sea, and people’s yachts and boats were frozen!

Thankfully, Amsterdam isn’t that extreme so merely ice-skating will have to do! The ICE*Amsterdam presents a unique ice skating experience on Amsterdam’s Museumplein, with the Rijksmuseum as a phenomenal backdrop, where your teenager can not only do some nifty ice-skating, but curling and ice hockey too!

How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager - ice-skating!
How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager – ice-skating!

You can’t do this every year though as the ice rink is only open from 18.11.16 – 05.02.17, and temperatures have to drop to -4°C or below, for four (4) consecutive nights, to produce ice thick enough to skate on. And it did!

In fact, while we were there, Amsterdam was freezing cold!

DAY TWO (2) – WHAT TO DO WITH A TEENAGER

How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager -
How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager – “The Tall Young Gentleman”
  • Take a cruise:
How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager - Take a boat tour on the river!
How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager – Take a boat tour on the river!

I just so love rivers.

The waterside tells you such a lot about a place and it’s people. The buildings, the bridges, and the houseboats. The dykes and the street corners where condemned criminals were once hanged for all to see.

The rivers are so exquisite that the canals in Amsterdam have been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Fancy that!

How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager - Take a boat tour on the river!
How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager – Take a boat tour on the river!

Or if you’re short on cash, hop on the free public ferry service behind the Centraal train Station and set sail for NDSM-wharf, a derelict shipyard turned avant-garde arts community.

Check out the recycled-junk sculptures, graffiti artists roaming the streets and giant wooden tiki head watching over it all.

It goes to Amsterdam-Noord. There are various routes, but the most common ones are the short ferry to Buiksloterweg (roughly every 10 minutes) and the long ferry (every half hour) to the NDSM Wharf. You can get more information about the destinations, the routes and an interactive map here!

  • Cycle through the city:
How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager - Cycle through the city!
How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager – Cycle through the city!

I’m not the best cyclist in the world, but I like places that worship the bike.

In Europe, we love our bikes and use them, and you can’t go far wrong if you want to ride your bicycle in Amsterdam! Even Dutch Royalty are known to go about on their very own bicycles as Amsterdam is enormously flat and quite honestly, was designed very much with 17th century horses and carts in mind!

  • Visit a museum:
How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager - Visit a museum! @I amsterdam - Philipp Benedikt
How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager – Visit a museum!
@I amsterdam – Philipp Benedikt

Amsterdam has a variety of really great museums. All which would give your teenager something to do. And if it’s cold, wet and rainy.

All the better.

The best museums / attractions to visit with a teenager are the following:

How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager - Visit the Amsterdam Dungeon!
How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager – Visit the Amsterdam Dungeon!
  1. The Amsterdam Museum
  2. The Rijksmuseum
  3. The Van Gogh Museum
  4. The Ann Frank House Museum
  5. Micropia
  6. The Rembrandt House Museum
  7. The Joods Historisch Museum or the Jewish Historical Museum
  8. The Tassenmuseum Hendrikje or The Museum of Bags and Purses
  9. The Museum Willet-Holthuysen
  10. Het Grachtenhuis or The Museum of the Canals
  11. The Woonbootmuseum or the Houseboat Museum
  12. The Heineken Experience
  13. The Amsterdam Dungeon
  14. Body Worlds Amsterdam
  15. And the Amsterdam Light Festival

We didn’t have as much time as we would have liked, and only managed to get to the two (2) museums below:

  • The Amsterdam Museum:
How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager - Visit a museum!
How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager – Visit a museum!

I was very eager to visit the Amsterdam Museum as it focuses on the story and history of Amsterdam through a large number of masterpieces, such as an aerial map from the Middle Ages, Breitner’s The Dam, and lots of interactive material and images that you could touch, see, listen to, use, read, and experience.

I love museums where you don’t have to treat things like delicate treasures, and can really get to grips with “using” the items!

How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager!
How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager!

An audio guide is provided so that you can do your own self-guided tour, in a variety of popular languages. And it’s free of charge, which I greatly appreciated!

Verdict: Both my teenager and I loved it.

And if you’re short of time, or don’t feel like doing anything too “heavy” the interactive Amsterdam DNA exhibition, can be “done” in just one (1) hour!

Cost: Adults: €12.50. Students: €10.00. Children 5-18: €6.50. Under 4: Free of charge.

  • The Rijksmuseum:
How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager - Visit a museum!
How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager – Visit a museum!

The Rijksmuseum is the iconic museum of the Netherlands.

The Rijksmuseum’s world-famous collection was presented via going on a journey through the ages, and a sense of beauty and of time.

In 80 galleries, 8,000 objects tell the story of 800 years of Dutch art and history, from the Middle Ages to Mondrian. And even though The Tall Young Gentleman is just 14 years old, he really enjoyed the Rembrandt art and imaginary mythical creatures, and was upset when after just 2 hours, it was time to leave!

How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager - Visit a museum!
How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager – Visit a museum!

Verdict: Both my teenager and I loved it and Night Watch alone was amazing!

Cost: Adults: €17.50. European Youth Card Holders (EYCA) / Students: €8.75. Under 18: Free of charge!

We ran out of time this time around, but if you have longer, check out the others!

p.s. Don’t forget to book or reserve museum tickets online, in order to escape the queues at peak periods!

How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager - Visit a museum! The Heineken Experience!
How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager – Visit a museum!
The Heineken Experience!

Sadly, by 17:00, it was time to take our train back to Berlin.

It was clear that we had a most interesting time.

How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager!
How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager!

My blog is not about what’s right and what’s wrong. If you look deep enough you’ll see that it’s all about what’s different, the other, the edge. It’s also all rather tongue-in-cheek!

And Amsterdam is a perfect example. It’s a lovely quaint city with an exposed diverse edge. It’s cosmopolitan, and at the same time Dutch in style. It’s romantic and beautiful, but tolerant and diverse. It’s rich and lively, but quiet and authentic. It’s charming and also like any other capital city, beautifully flawed.

Go see for yourself.

Thanks so much Amsterdam Museum and the Rijksmuseum!

Book your hotel here!

HOW TO VISIT AMSTERDAM IN TWO DAYS. WITH A TEENAGER!

How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager!
How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager!

This article is not sponsored and even though I received complimentary museum tickets, all opinions and the delightful Dutch cheese that I happily consumed, are my very own!

It’s January!

I’ll be making an announcement this month that will either having me jumping up and down like a Jack-in-the-Box, or crying over my hot cocoa! Find out throughout January!

The British Council Literature Seminar – #BritLitBerlin – will take place from 26.01.17 – 28.01.17

If you’re a blogger and you’re in town, then come and meet us at the Berlin Travel Massive February MeetUp on February 9th.

The 67th Berlin International Film Festival, otherwise known as the Berlinale, will take place from 09.02.17 – 19.02.17

Strictly Stand Up – The English Comedy Night will take place at the Quatsch comedy Club on 15.02.17. Save the Date!

If you’re not in Berlin in January, what are you waiting for!

January is going to be striking!

Watch this space!

How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager!

Note! I never travel without insurance as you never know what might happen.

I learnt my lesson in Spain. And obviously, in countries like Qatar, where technically the risk is higher, I can’t imagine going that far beyond, WITHOUT INSURANCE. No siree! You can get yours here, at World Nomads!

Please note that there are now affiliate links (for the very first time) connected to this post. Please consider using the links, because every time some sort of accommodation or travel insurance is booked via my links I get a little percentage, but at no extra cost to yourself!

A win-win for all!

Thanks a million!

How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager!
How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager!

Have you ever been to Amsterdam? Would you take a teenager? Have your say!

See you in Berlin.

If you have any questions send me a tweet, talk to me on Facebook, find me on Linkedin, make a comment below, look for me on Google+ or send me an Email: victoria@thebritishberliner.com

If you like this post, please Share it! Tweet it! Or like it!

Advertisements

Is Manila a crime-ridden place or is it something completely different?

Is Manila a crime-ridden place or is it something completely different?
Is Manila a crime-ridden place or is it something completely different?

So last week, I told you all about my FAM / Press Trip to the Philippines. And really, I had the most marvellous time but truth be told, the Philippines isn’t really on the agenda on most Europeans.

India? Yes!

Thailand? Oh yes!

Bali? Absolutely!

But the Philippines? Er what!

You know! The Phiiiilipppppines!

Emm. Nope!

Is Manila a crime-ridden place or is it something completely different?
Is Manila a crime-ridden place or is it something completely different?

OK then. How about Manila?

Oh, Manila!

‘So you’ve heard all about it then?

Yep! I heard it was full of crime, and you would be shot in the streets, mugged, kidnapped, or all the above!

?&$%!!!???%&$§!!!

I’m guessing it’s time that I write about my own impressions of Manila. After all, I was there.

And I lived to tell the tale!

Being under the loving protection of the Tourism Promotions Board Philippines & TBEX, means I'm relatively safe from external danger!
Being under the loving protection of the Tourism Promotions Board Philippines & TBEX, means I’m relatively safe from external danger!

But let’s be realistic, one of the reasons that the Philippines turned out to be such a roaring success was because we weren’t on our own, and had the loving protection of the Tourism Promotions Board Philippines, who did a fantastic job of providing transport, an information table at designated approved hotels, a welcome team at the airport, and a whole bevy of young Filippino students who helped us get from one place to the other, quickly and safely. In fact, at one point, one group even had a police escort as it was quite late in the day…!

THE DIPLOMATIC FACTS

Is Manila a crime-ridden place or is it something completely different?
Is Manila a crime-ridden place or is it something completely different?

According to the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), the embassy advice is NOT to travel to certain parts of the Philippines because of on-going terrorist activity and clashes between the military and insurgent groups.

There is also the issue of typhoons. There may be flooding, landslides, storms, and even death and destruction which could result in local evacuation! Indeed, typhoons in the Philippines are no joke as just last year, the country had 27 tropical storms, 18 typhoons, and nine super typhoons, resulting into people being forced to flee their homes, torrential rains, submerged villages, devastating floods, and death.

In fact, we had a few typhoons while we were there.

Boy in debris after typhoon Saola in the Philippines. ©Ted Aljibe/AFP/Getty Images
Boy in debris after typhoon Saola in the Philippines.
©Ted Aljibe/AFP/Getty Images

However, since we were in Manila, we were not outrightly affected, but all the FAMtrips in the affected area, were cancelled.

The simple fact is that the Philippines does have a high incidence of street crime, scams, robbery, terrorism, and kidnapping. Including gun crime.

The bare reality is that Manila isn’t the safest of places, and foreign nationals are increasingly becoming targets. Most of these crimes are committed by local youths who are involved in incidents of violent robbery, gun crime, assaults, random acts of violence, kidnapping of foreigners, streets fights, looting and violent crimes triggered by excessive alcohol consumption.

If you're a US or foreign traveller stay alert. Violent robbery, gun crime, assaults, random acts of violence, kidnapping of foreigners, streets fights, and looting, is not unknown.
If you’re a US or foreign traveller stay alert. Violent robbery, gun crime, assaults, random acts of violence, kidnapping of foreigners, streets fights, and looting, is not unknown.

Sadly, on November 3rd, the US Government had to issue a travel warning to alert U.S. citizens that terrorist groups are planning to conduct kidnappings, in areas frequented by foreigners on the southern portion of Cebu Island, specifically the areas around Dalaguete and Santander (to include Sumilon Island). As I write this, the warning is still valid!

Check for incidents before you leave.
Check for incidents before you leave.

Is it any wonder that my friends and family were nervous at the thought that I was travelling solo to the Philippines? Their only consolation being that I wouldn’t be totally alone, and that I’m a smart experienced traveller!

Having said that, most tourists and travellers will have a wonderful time, just as I did, but the warnings are not without merit, as the Philippines does have a reputation.

MANILA

Is Manila a crime-ridden place or is it something completely different?
Is Manila a crime-ridden place or is it something completely different?

Manila, otherwise known as the City of Manila, is the capital and the second most populous city of the Philippines.

Founded in 1571, by a Spanish conquistador – Miguel López de Legazpi – Manila is one of the oldest cities in the Philippines and was the seat of power for most of the country’s colonial rulers. It is situated on the eastern shore of Manila Bay and is home to many landmarks, some of which date back to the 16th century!

With a population of 1.8 million in 2015, Manila is the second largest city in the Philippines, after Quezon City. It is also the most densely populated city in the world, with 41,515 people per square kilometer!

HOW TO BE SAFE IN MANILA

Be vigilant. Don’t show all your valuables or wander into dodgy corners!
Be vigilant. Don’t show all your valuables or wander into dodgy corners!
  1. Be vigilant
  2. Keep away from large crowds, protests and rallies
  3. Don’t wander too far “off the beaten path”
  4. Watch where you’re going at night, or stay sober
  5. Take licensed taxis such as Grab
  6. If you take public transport, make sure it’s not too crowded as traffic jams are common, and the heat can be stifling!
  7. Keep your valuables out of sight
  8. Be respectful and polite to the locals
  9. Try as much as possible not to take photographs without permission. The homes of local people isn’t a zoo!
  10. Go on a walking tour

I love walking tours.

Not only is it a way to get your bearing, it’s also a means to meet some of the locals, and find out local secrets.

As I told you last week, TBEX doesn’t only organise post-TBEX tours but pre-TBEX tours too! I knew that I would be on a very long flight, so opted for a morning tour that wouldn’t take more than four (4) hours or so!

A WALKING TOUR OF MANILA  – INTRODUCING OLD MANILA WALKS

TBEX calls it "The Old China Food Tour" but Old Manila Walks markets it as "The Big Binondo Food Wok"  walking tour!
TBEX calls it “The Old China Food Tour” but Old Manila Walks markets it as “The Big Binondo Food Wok” walking tour!

The company – Old Manila Walks – is a local organisation whose motto is “experience the best of historic Manila – one step at a time!”

They have five (5) tours that people can join:

Honestly, I wish I could have taken all of them but I was only able to go on one. TBEX called it The Old China Food Tour but Old Manila Walks calls it The Big Binondo Food Wok nibbling our way through Chinatown tour!

Locals in the capital city of Manila.
Locals in the capital city of Manila.

I had arrived late the night before and was looking for a place to eat at my conference hotel – The Golden Phoenix. The hotel restaurant had closed and so the staff had directed me to a local haunt across the road.

I was extremely pleased as the restaurants was packed with local punters, with the only foreign faces being that of two random British guys and myself.

We soon got chatting!

Even though it was my first night, I felt perfectly safe ‘cos:

I was a little concerned as I ordered chicken & got pork. I ordered green beans & got okras & pumpkin! Hmm!
I was a little concerned as I ordered chicken & got pork. I ordered green beans & got okras & pumpkin! Hmm!
  1. The two British guys were quite beefy, and were more than able to hold their own
  2. My hotel – The Golden Phoenix – was right in front of the restaurant. As were the security guards
  3. We were in a classy area with 4 or 5 star hotels scattered all over the vicinity!

Anyhoo, our meeting point for the food tour the next morning was in the lobby of a hotel before we moved down to the Binndo Church!

Book your hotel here!

One of our Chinatown walking tour guides & the lady who was standing right next to me - Patricia Schultz - author of the #1 New York Times bestseller 1,000 Places to See Before You Die!
One of our tour guides & the lady who was standing right next to me – Patricia Schultz – author of the #1 New York Times bestseller 1,000 Places to See Before You Die!

If you’re a foodie, then the best place to go to in Chinatown is Binondo, and to munch your way through a wide selection of dining establishments, ranging from Cantonese themed restaurants to local regional fare!

Let’s go!

Ivan Man Dy - the man and brains behind Old Manila Walks.
Ivan Man Dy – the man and brains behind Old Manila Walks.

Ivan Man Dy is the brains and owner of Old Manila Walks, and also the man who led our tour packed with journalists and foodie bloggers!

In 2005, he established Old Manila Walks and has since then literally walked a thousand miles! In between walks, he has found time to finish a master’s degree in Cultural Heritage Studies, do professional work in the field of heritage tourism, appear in countless local and international TV documentary shows, as well as local modelling!

Ivan wanted to show us the Chinese heritage of Manila, and so we started with a backyard sit-down stool place called New Po-Heng Lumpia House.

Lumpiang Sariwa or Fresh Spring Roll is a type of spring roll of Chinese origin commonly found in the Philippines!
Lumpiang Sariwa or Fresh Spring Roll is a type of spring roll of Chinese origin commonly found in the Philippines!

We had some lumpia.

Lumpiang Sariwa or Fresh Spring Roll is a type of spring roll of Chinese origin commonly found in the Philippines.

It is a savoury snack made of thin crepe pastry skin called “lumpia wrapper” enveloping a mixture of savoury fillings, consisting of chopped vegetables (carrots, cabbages, green beans, bamboo shoots and leeks) or sometimes minced meat (chicken, shrimp, pork or beef). It is often served as an appetizer or snack, and might be served deep-fried or fresh.

Lumpia is usually garnished with sweet sauce, coconut flakes and crushed peanuts. A nut-free roll was made specifically for me so don’t worry if you have allergies, they will cater for you if you let them know!

TBEX bloggers at the famous Chinese restaurant called Quik Snack / Quick Snack - Amah's kitchen!
TBEX bloggers at the famous Chinese restaurant called Quik Snack / Quick Snack – Amah’s kitchen!

After this snack, we went through the market place to a historically famous Chinese restaurant called Quik Snack / Quick Snack, otherwise known as Amah’s kitchen! It was much nicer and larger, catering to friends and family.

Empanada de kaliskis - a traditional flaky, pastry filled chicken pie - sweet to taste, filled with tasty ingredients, and a hefty crunch!
Empanada de kaliskis – a traditional flaky, pastry filled chicken pie – sweet to taste, filled with tasty ingredients, and a hefty crunch!

At Amah’s Kitchen we had a pie called Empanada de kaliskis. It’s a traditional flaky, pastry filled chicken pie. It really was quite delicious as I like pastry pie that is sweet to taste, filled with tasty ingredients, and has a hefty crunch!

A type of tofu dish with cheese, oyster sauce and sprinkly bits!
A type of tofu dish with cheese, oyster sauce and sprinkly bits!

After that, we had a type of tofu dish with cheese, oyster sauce and sprinkly bits!

A staple in Chinese cuisine, tofu, or fermented soy bean curd, is rich in protein. In the Philippines, it is known as tokwa. Firm varieties are good for stir-fries, while the softer varieties like silken tofu is good for soups and puddings. By itself, tofu is almost tasteless. Its versatility lies in its capacity for absorbing the flavor of any ingredient mixed with it.

I’m not usually a fan of tofu, but this meal made everything better again!

After this, we ducked into a restaurant in which we had to go upstairs. The stairway was so low and narrow that even a petite girl like myself, also had to take care when going up or down the stairs!

Dumplings in Manila!
Dumplings in Manila!

As we entered, we saw some young girls kneading dough. I was excited.

It could only mean one thing.

Dumplings!

A simple spiced vinegar dip, that wasn't quite so simple!
A simple spiced vinegar dip, that wasn’t quite so simple!

Dumplings in Manila are usually eaten with a simple spiced vinegar dip that I didn’t find quite so simple, as the spiciness made me splutter! Nevertheless, I tried a little and covered the rest of the dumplings in soy sauce!

A thick layer of Filippino pork schnitzel!
A thick layer of Filippino pork schnitzel!

We were then served a thick layer of Filippino pork schnitzel!

A sort of custard-like dessert made from condensed milk and duck egg yolk buried in the mud for one (1) month - a common Filipino dessert called Yema!
A sort of custard-like dessert made from condensed milk and duck egg yolk buried in the mud for one (1) month – a common Filipino dessert called Yema!

The next dish we had was some sort of custard-like dessert made from condensed milk and duck egg yolk buried in the mud for one (1) month! This is a common Filipino dessert called Yema!

I didn’t personally like Yema as it was served cold, and felt like having an English school dinner dessert that had been left out too long! But if you’re not British, you’ll like it!

An ingredient that looked liked armchair stuffing and tasted like hot-chilli peppers!
An ingredient that looked liked armchair stuffing and tasted like hot-chilli peppers!

Not to worry though as it was soon time to sample some sort of street food once again.

Ivan took us to a herb and spice shop where we had to smell the ingredients and guess what they were. The highlight was when I tried something that looked like armchair stuffing, and tasted like hot chilli peppers!

Ewgh!

Lastly, the group tried some purple yam balls!

Purple yam - Very avant garde!
Purple yam – Very avant-garde!

Purple yam is used in a variety of desserts and is also known as ube. I wasn’t able to try it as it had killer stuff like pistachio, coconut and almonds!

Having said that, I do like the velveteen purple tones. Very avant-garde!

Shocking news! I'm actually in the Philippines and guess what? The secret Chinese-speaking location I told you about is....Taiwan!
Shocking news! I’m actually in the Philippines and guess what? The secret Chinese-speaking location I told you about is….Taiwan!

I really enjoyed this walking tour and got to see the Chinese food heritage of Manila.

At the end of my stay in Asia, I flew back to Manila for 24 hours and this time, I chose the more humble 3-star Vieve Hotel rather than the nicer 5 star Belmont Hotel, which we all later moved to! I liked the Belmont so much that I paid to stay over the weekend. A good thing too, as I was really ill…!

The staff at the Vieve Hotel were nice enough, but I wouldn’t recommend it if you were travelling solo. I wanted to see the more “authentic” Manila, and I certainly did!

Book your hotel here!

Male and Female prostitution in the Philippines. ©philippineslifestyle.com
Male and Female prostitution in the Philippines.
©philippineslifestyle.com

As my taxi drove me through the dark narrow streets of Ermita, I had to confess that I was a little anxious and was already getting my phone out to book another hotel! The area is dodgy and appalling. Shop after shop was either a massage parlour, a go-go bar or a karaoke “show,” with ladies of the night plying their trade, and homeless people lying on many a pavement.

As you know, I have no issue with legal prostitution, but I would never wander into the red-light area alone, and here I was right slap and centre, in the middle of it!

Suffice to say, I didn’t go out that night. I stayed in my room, double-locked the door, and put a chair behind it!

The next day was sunny so I plucked up the courage to walk around the area on my own.

It was fine.

The locals were friendly and allowed me to take photographs of their carts and vehicles. I even did my nails at a neighbourhood salon where staff were 50% transgender.

They were hilarious so I left them a hefty tip!

Well that’s it for now.

Book your hotel here!

IS MANILA A CRIME-RIDDEN PLACE OR IS IT SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT?

Is Manila a crime-ridden place or is it something completely different?
Is Manila a crime-ridden place or is it something completely different?

This article is not sponsored and even though I was invited on this trip as a guest of Old Manila Walks, and as a member of TBEX, all opinions and the spicy sauces that I dabbled in, are my very own!

I’ve started a new job!

November is going to be amazing!

Watch this space!

Is Manila a crime-ridden place or is it something completely different?

Note! I never travel without insurance as you never know what might happen.

I learnt my lesson in Spain. And obviously, in countries like Qatar, where technically the risk is higher, I can’t imagine going that far beyond, WITHOUT INSURANCE. No siree! You can get yours here, at World Nomads!

Please note that there are now affiliate links (for the very first time) connected to this post. Please consider using the links, because every time some sort of accommodation or travel insurance is booked via my links I get a little percentage, but at no extra cost to yourself!

A win-win for all!

Thanks a million!

Is Manila a crime-ridden place or is it something completely different?
Is Manila a crime-ridden place or is it something completely different?

D you think Manila is a crime-ridden place, or do you think it’s something completely different? Have your say!

See you in Berlin.

If you have any questions send me a tweet, talk to me on Facebook, find me on Linkedin, make a comment below, look for me on Google+ or send me an Email: victoria@thebritishberliner.com

If you like this post, please Share it! Tweet it! Or like it!

How to spend 48 hours in Berlin – DAY TWO and WIN 2 Berlin WelcomeCard packages! – #bestofBerlin

 

On the border between East & West Berlin in Germany.
On the border between East & West Berlin in Germany.

I’m back again!

Last week, I wrote about my experience of how to spend 48 hours in Berlin – #bestofBerlin, as of part of the tourism initiative to discover new and old parts of Berlin.

If you’re just joining, here’s the lowdown:

The Berlin campaign was based on 48 hours i.e two (2) days, so let’s so let’s not waste anymore time and go into the second day:

HOW TO SPEND 48 HOURS IN BERLIN – DAY TWO: #bestofBerlin

A Christmas Market killer!
A Christmas Market killer!

First of all, read the first part of DAY ONE here.

Leave your hotel, hostel or apartment and take a bus, tram or train. Use the Berlin WelcomeCard transport ticket.

Start at Brandenburger Tor or Brandenburg Gate which is Berlin’s most iconic monument. Take a couple of pictures at Pariser Platz so-named ‘cos of the anti-Napoleon occupation of Paris in 1814! There’s bound to be carriages, horses, cycle rickshaws, beerbikes and sometimes even a Berlin Bear hanging around. However, it’s Germany so don’t except jugglers, bubbles or Luke Skywalker to be walking down the street!

Berlin's most iconic Brandenburg Gate - Let the good times roll!
Berlin’s most iconic Brandenburg Gate – Let the good times roll!

Turn right and cross the street, you will find yourself staring at the Reichstag or Berlin’s most beautiful Bundestag or Parliament Building. You can visit the roof terrace and glass dome built by the most talented British architect Norman Foster now known as Baron Foster of Thames Bank of Reddish! It’s free of charge but if you haven’t booked in advance, you can register at the Visitors’ Service office nearby but be prepared to queue! Oh, and bring your passport or international I.D!

After that, walk straight down and stroll along the Straße des 17. Juni surrounded by Tiergarten – Berlin’s largest park and urban garden built in 1527! It used to be the hunting grounds of the nobility and the location of the world’s most popular electronic dance music festival. Yes, the Love Parade.

Gosh! Those were the days!

Through the canal at the Tiergarten in Berlin.
Through the canal at the Tiergarten in Berlin.

Tiergarten is now a most lovely park which you can cycle through, hire a boat on the lake (Berlin has many wonderful rivers and lakes), see the birds and animals (as the zoo and city aquarium are next door), jog through, or have tea at the English Garden!

If you stay on the left hand side, you will go into the park and garden and see many historical statues and 19th century gas lanterns. If you stay on the right hand side, you will see many Soviet war memorials, and straight in front of you is the Siegessäule or the Victory Column. For a small fee you can climb all 270 steps. Take a few photographs.

Walk back to Brandenburger Tor or use the Berlin WelcomeCard and take the train or bus.

From Brandenburger Tor, cross the road and turn left. You will see the Holocaust Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. It is a memorial field of 2,711 concrete pillars of various heights. There is also an information centre of historical films, photographic documents and video interviews with survivors of the Holocaust.

Potsdamer Platz around 1900 in Berlin.
Potsdamer Platz around 1900 in Berlin. And there’s the clock!

Further on you will find yourself walking into a most important part of Berlin – Potsdamer Platz built in 1838. It’s interesting to note that whenever you see black & white 20th century photographs of Berlin, you can always see that clock.

It’s still there!

Stroll around. Go shopping at the Mall of Berlin or LP12 – the largest shopping mall in Germany and for kids, the Cinestar IMAX and Cinestar Original (English), Legoland, the Museum of Film and Television, and the best of all, the new German Spy Museum Berlin!

Take a break at any of the many restaurants, cafe, and bars then take a bus or train back to Brandenburger Tor.

The library © Hotel Adlon Kempinski.
The library © Hotel Adlon Kempinski.

In front of Brandenburger Tor on your right, is one of Europe’s most famous hotels. Think Michael Jackson almost dropping his child – Blanket – over the hotel balcony in 2002, think Queen Elizabeth, think actors, celebrities and multi-millionaires. In fact, I once literally bumped into Hugh Grant right outside the hotel front door myself. I tried to follow him and get an on-the-stop interview but I was wearing a football shirt at the time and security saw the glint in my eye! Yes, the 5-star Hotel Adlon Kempinski. Under normal circumstances, they’re brilliant.

I once strolled in with no shoes on (it’s a long story) and they didn’t even bat an eye lol!

With Brandenburger Tor behind you, walk down a very long boulevard road called Unter den Linden. I absolutely love walking down this very old iconic historical road as it takes you from West Germany – Tiergarten, into East Germany – Alexanderplatz. I wrote about that area last week. Continue walking passing Madame Tussaud’s on the left hand side and the embassy’s of four (4) world powers (certainly as far as Berlin is concerned), America, France, Russia and Great Britain, on the right hand side. Continue your stroll and take your time. It’s a bit of a long walk but it’ll be worth it as you’ll pass the Komische Oper, art galleries and smart shops. You will then see a very long street that cuts across. This is Friedrichstrasse. I wrote about this last week. Turn left and you will get to the High Street which will lead you to Checkpoint Charlie. Turn right, and it will lead you to Friedrichstrasse Main Train Station. Walk straight down on Unter den Linden and this will lead you to the area known as the Upper Eastside. It used to look really awful and drab in the 90’s but how, times have changed!

The Museumsinsel or Museum Island © visitBerlin - Wolfgang Scholvien
The Museumsinsel or Museum Island in Berlin, Germany. © visitBerlin – Wolfgang Scholvien

Walk further on and you will pass some of the most beautiful regent buildings in Berlin such as the Kronprinzenpalais or Crown Prince’s Palace, the Prinzessinnenpalais or Princesses’ Palace also known as the Opernpalais or the Opera Palace which hosts free open-air opera in the summer. (It’s brilliant!) and the Prince Heinrich Palace, which is now known as the elite Humboldt University! You’ll see the Armoury (the oldest surviving) and most important baroque 1706 building and now known as (one of my faves) the Deutsches Historisches Museum or the national German Historical Museum.

You’ll pass a bridge with lots of statues called the Schloßbrücke or Palace Bridge. It was built around 1800 and is certainly attractive but in my mind, not as outstanding as Charles Bridge in Prague, but acceptable, nevertheless! From the bridge you can see the magnificent Museumsinsel or Museum Island with it’s five (5) wonderful collections of UNESCO heritage museums.

To go to these museums, turn left.

Tango Dancing at the StrandBar in Mitte Monbijou Park. © visitBerlin - Günter Steffen
Tango Dancing at the StrandBar in Mitte Monbijou Park.
© visitBerlin – Günter Steffen

Turn left again and follow the river around, you will find another bridge called the Monbijoubrücke or Monbijou Bridge. This is a pedestrian bridge that crosses over the River Spree and connects Monbijoupark with the Museum Island. It’s right next to the Bode Museum and if you cross it you’ll come to a place called the StrandBar or Beach Bar. It’s open throughout the year but better in the summer of course. It’s more a river-side “beach” but there are deck chairs (free of charge) facing the river, an open air theatre (in German), but it’s all pretty bohemian and out there, and with a few glasses of wine or bottles of beer down you, you’ll get what they’re talking about and if not, well, the novelty is all the fun! This beach bar also has free open air tango dancing, swing and salsa. And anyone can participate. I can actually do a few steps of the tango but I wouldn’t dare. Those people are good!

For night-time activity, from the StrandBar, turn right. The road in front of you will lead you to Oranienburgerstrasse. Turn right again, for small cocktail bars, nicely-priced restaurants, discrete speakeasy bars and ladies of the night. Turn left towards Berlin’s New Synagogue,  various small Jewish outlets and Hackescher Markt. This will lead you to Hackesche Höfe and the backyards of tiny little bars selling beer for €2.00 or less. You’re going to have to look closer though as this Quarter is now gentrified!

SHOW ME: Bursting through water at the Friedrichstadt-Palast. © Robert Grischek
SHOW ME: Bursting through water at the Friedrichstadt-Palast.
© Robert Grischek

Having said that smoky little back bars are everywhere as well as vintage boutiques, bohemian shops, independent cinemas and burlesque cabarets. Berlin of the 1920’s and 30’s is right in front of your eyes! Use the Berlin WelcomeCard.

If you’re go back to outside the Deutsches Historisches Museum or the national German Historical Museum, on the right-hand side of Unter den Linden, you will see the re-building of the Palace of the Republic. On the left-hand side, you should walk straight down and hop onto the Lustgarten park and sprawl onto the grass which is right in front of the Berliner Dom or the Berlin Cathedral. And as I told you last week, if you can see the Cathedral in front of you, you’re right next to the DDR Museum and you’ve come full circle!

After a bit of a rest there are a few museums and galleries that I would like to recommend. There are so many great places that I would do them injustice if I didn’t write about them properly so I’m going to write an extra post about them next week but if you can’t wait, here’s a spoiler….

Outside the Märkisches Museum - Lord Roland of Brandenburg or perhaps just a sword-holding knight depicting the privelage of Berlin in the Middle Ages!
Outside the Märkisches Museum – Lord Roland of Brandenburg or perhaps just a sword-holding knight depicting the privilege of Berlin in the Middle Ages!

Take the train and go to an underground station called Märkisches Museum. Follow the signs outside for a little while and they will lead you to an actual museum called the Märkisches Museum. I know! I used to think that the museum was named after the station. But it isn’t, it’s the other way around and in fact, it used to be the museum of Berlin. It’s a little bit hidden but well worth it.

I’m a freak. I spent a couple of hours there and I still left it unfinished!

Oh, and up until a few weeks ago, there was a bear living there. A real live bear!

Until it passed away!

Berlin WelcomeCard IV (2)

If it’s your first visit to Berlin? You’re spoilt for choice. You know how much I love this town and that is why I’m giving away 2 Berlin WelcomeCard packages to be validated by December 31st, 2015, at the latest.

Suuuuurprise!

The Berlin Welcome Card package will include transport tickets for 48 hours including the city of Potsdam, 200 discounts, inside tips, information on top attractions, a city map, a mini guide-book written in English, German, Italian and Spanish, a €5.00 discount for the TV Tower restaurant or bar and a free voucher for a glass of glühwein (mulled wine) at the Christmas Market on Alexanderplatz valid until January 3rd, 2016!

Perfect for the New Year celebration in Berlin!

To take part, you need to subscribe to The British Berliner and either tell me why you would like to win the tickets on my blog here, on my Twitter feed attached to this post, or on my FaceBook page, also attached to this post. The person that I think gives me the wittiest or funniest reason, wins!

Only comments attached to this post will be considered.

You have until 12:00 or 12p.m. on December 27th and the announcement will be made on the blog on December 28th. The winners will meet me personally and receive the tickets on the evening of December 27th, anywhere in Berlin!

Good Luck!

You can see all the places that I went to previously by following me via #bestofBerlin on Twitter & Facebook.

See ya next week!

Oh, and have a wonderful festive season with you and yours.

Merry Xmas One and All!

We love my blog!

This post is not sponsored so I can’t wait to hear from you!

If you have any questions about Berlin, don’t be shy, I’m an expert! Go ahead and ask me!

How to spend 48 hours in Berlin - DAY TWO and WIN 2 Berlin WelcomeCard packages! - #bestofBerlin

Would you like to win two (2) Berlin WelcomeCard #bestofBerlin tickets? What would you do and where would you go?

See you in Berlin.

If you like this post or if you have any questions send me a tweet, talk to me on Facebook, find me on Linkedin, make a comment below, look for me on Google+ or send me an Email: victoria@thebritishberliner.com

Please Share it! Tweet it! Or like it!