Markets and More Eating (Amsterdam, Day 2!)

If the Albert Cuyp Market was a field, i was a plow.

I’ve never been surrounded by so many sumptuous and tempting things to try – from the wafels to the hot chocolate to the small bucket of olives i purchased. Plus, as a mayo-loving french-fries eater whose allergic to ketchup, i just adored the frites stand that sold paper cones stuffed with fries slathered in mayo. And the cheese, sweet Holy Mary the cheese! The displays were utterly intoxicating.

(Note the bicycle!)

(Note the bicycle!)

We’d decided, for our second day, to set aside the whole morning to explore the oldest street market in the Netherlands: the Albert Cuyp Market. Lining the block were some of the most eclectic stalls i’d ever beheld (including my experiences in pre-burned-down Owino Market in Kampala). There was an entire pharmacy spread wide under a tent and in the cold, more lingerie shoppes than i could count, a plethora of places to purchase scarves and the like, and a few stalls reserved for Amsterdam-themed souvenirs. Interspersed between the flower stalls (oh, the tulips!) and garter belts were the main attraction: street food.

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(Van Gogh had followed us, even here!)

(Van Gogh had followed us, even here!)

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It was as good as it looked!

It was as good as it looked!

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Making the famous frites!

Making the famous frites!

frites!

Frites!

I love street markets – the chaos, the food, the cool vintage things you can find, the food, and the experience of feeling like a local. As much as i may love doing silly tourist-y thing (see me in a large wooden shoe, below) i always try to find at least on thing per travel destination that gives me some sense of what it would be like to live there. Naturally, we were not the only tourists strolling about the market. But tourists were in a serious minority here, amongst the clamor of Dutch-speaking voices selling flowers and toothpaste and lingerie. I’d easily say this was one of my most-favorite things we did in Amsterdam!

Having sufficiently eaten our way through the market, we made our way over the Dam Square for more sightseeing. At the sight of THE LARGEST SHOE i have ever seen, there was a lot of squealing and leaping in to take pictures. So much for trying to blend in!

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About a block or so up from Dam Square is the (in)famous Red Light District. We chortled our way through all the funny little shops and such surrounding the red-lamped alleyways, but they definitely are not the reason i’d wanted to go to the city. And the whole district is clearly geared for people visiting the city, not the residents themselves. The gift shops are certainly amusing to visit, but once i’d cracked up at enough genitalia plastered on velvet hats (et cetera) i’d had my fill. Definitely would not say this was the family-friendly place to go on a holiday to the city, but as two young women walking around in the middle of the afternoon we felt pretty safe and took the whole thing in with a sense of humor.

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This is not the Red Light District, but it IS a picture of a red lit sign at night, so it metaphorically serves a purpose!

This is not the Red Light District, but it IS a picture of a red lit sign at night, so it metaphorically serves a purpose!

By then it was high time we ate, again. Utilizing a combination of my Lonely Planet guidebook and the MOST EXCELLENT TripAdvisor City Guide App, we arrived at the quirky and chic van Kerkwijk. With whitewashed, wood paneled walls and candles adorning the tables, we knew this promised to be a unique place to dine.

Turned out there’s no written menu at van Kerkwijk, so our gracious waitress just plopped right down at our table and talked us through the extensive list of their eclectic combinations. When asked what was a truly Dutch thing to try, she explained that the port-city-nature of Amsterdam meant all Dutch food was really a mash-up of European and Indonesian cuisine. We asked for an appetizer that involved bread and cheese, so she brought out a bleu cheese paté-type-thing that was incredible. For our entrées, Abby had steak with strawberry cream and goat cheese, and i had Indonesian chicken. We split a salad and (of course!) frites with glorified mayo.

The incredible cheese-and-bread combination!

The incredible cheese-and-bread combination!

It was an exquisite capping off to two days and three nights of fabulous dining. But, alas, the next morning we were whisked off to the airport leaving behind Amsterdam’s canals and bike lanes for a flight home to Edinburgh.

Though we’d only had an all-too-short time in Amsterdam, i was utterly entranced. It is a beautiful place (even in the cold!) and i am ever grateful for the opportunities i had to visit.

current jam: ‘day that i die’ zac brown band.

best thing: productivity. back to dale martin, for now.

of interest: i’ve added a new page at the top of the screen! it’s still a work in a progress, but have a look if you like!

An Irish Afternoon in Downtown Durham: Bull McCabes

Though i may not be gallivanting about Eastern Africa this summer, abrim with daring tales of seeing the final installment of Harry Potter whilst combatting a bacterial infection, there are still a number of adventures to be had in my hometown. As i’m now living here as something of a qualifiable adult, i find myself branching out farther and wider than ever before in my choices of cuisine and daytime preoccupation. In a way, then, i’m starting to greet the surrounding metropolis of the Triangle* as a new friend, rather than confining myself to the old news of Chapel Hill/Carrboro (though it will forever be first in my Carolina heart).

For this reason, i thought it might be fun to do a series of blogs entitled The Hometown Tourist Series throughout the remainder of my summer on the fun, quirky, worth-seeing, and sometimes bizarre new restaurants and hometown-tourist joints i uncover. Some will be new loves and others will be old staples, but i think regardless of the longevity of our relationships it will be a good way for me to be a continuing nomad in the land of my never-stagnant youth.

Enough preamble. The title of this post encapsulates the very essence of my new most favorite place in all of the Triangle: Bull McCabes Irish Pub.

I first came to discover this delectable pub on a whim; my mother picked me up from work around 8 one night and we decided to drive until we found a new place to eat. Knowing the City Center District and Historic American Tobacco District of Durham were hotspots for good food and enticing atmospheres (and relatively un-traversed by we), the night was commenced with a scouring the streets for a place still open late-ish on a Thursday evening. We quite literally stumbled upon this low brick building on the corner of Main Street and Chapel Hill Street – a most serendipitous and delightful of circumstances.

Ever a fan of a solid English Pub and totally willing to try an Irish-style venue in the states, we entered into a dark, low-ceiling-ed, wide-walled room abundant in cheering football fans (European connotation implied, per the atmosphere). I knew the moment i saw the walls were lined with fraying book and capped off with those enormous cathedral lamps it was true love.

(i’m not sure any photo could convey how massive these are, but this is my best effort!)

And though the atmosphere to a true hole-in-the-wall is key, the food is what makes Bull McCabes unparalleled. Sure, there’s eat-able pub food, but the cuisine served at this place rivaled the stuff i consumed in the UK. Of the menu, i have sampled (or rather, unapologetically gorged myself on): bangers & mash (my favorite), fish & chips, a BLT with added avocado. All come with their great, thinly-cut and perfectly-seasoned fries. And, of course, the beer selection is vast and (i’m sure, though i have not sampled it) sumptuous.

(the fish & chips)

(my sweet tea)

(though this is a diet coke, the caption on the glas sreads: off-centered ales for off-centered people. (love!))

All in all, going to Bull McCabes is ever a treat. Having now ventured with my mom for some great whimsical maternal-themed wandering, a Sunday brunch, and a delightful evening out i’d easily say this restaurant passes for any occasion wherein you seek good food, authentic and awesome atmosphere, and a splendid time.

(evidence of food consumption being of extraordinarily high yumm levels)

Condensed McMizziview:

Price: 1.5 – 2.3 (0 being fast food, 5 being somewhere super-fancy and of multiple courses (this menu is also contingent on size of portion & time of day))             Atmosphere: 5 (0 being fast food boring, 5 being the full experience of delicious things for eyes and mouth and ears!)                                                                                        Delectability of Food: 4.3 (0 being fast food, 5 being mouth-explosion crazed-good)

Things of interest to future McCabes-ers: website; location; full menu

*for non-locals: “The Triangle” is what we Carolinians confined to the cities/greater areas of Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, & questionably Cary use to refer to these very places. This is because Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill form something of a geographical triangle on a map (so clever! Bah!).

current jam: ‘mud on the tires’ brad paisley.

best thing: baskets of chocolate shared and family-growing.