The Two Crabs love city life in London, but we also love and miss the great outdoors. One of our favorite ways of exploring Europe is on short camping trips to the continent. Camping in Europe is cheap and plentiful. You can find campgrounds in just about every major city, or close by. Many are accessible by public transportation. We rarely spend more than 20 euros a night for two adults, a tent space and a car parking spot. Most campgrounds have a bar and restaurant, hot showers, laundry facilities and a store. Some campgrounds are resorts into themselves. Some of our best meals in Europe have been at European campground restaurants! A big step up from the cheezy KOA or Yogi Bear campgrounds in the States.
This past weekend we spent three days camping in rainy, chilly Amsterdam. From London, we took the Stena Lines overnight ferry from Harwich, England to Hook of Holland, Netherlands. The Stena Lines "rail-sail" package is one of the best travel deals in Europe; For £49, you get train fare from London to Harwich, a lovely two-person cabin aboard the overnight ferry boat, and train fare from Hook of Holland to Amsterdam. The whole door-to-door trip takes about 12 hours, but you're asleep for most of that time.
In Asmterdam, we shacked up at Camping Zeeburg. Camping Zeeburg is a bit different from the usual European campground in that near the heart of downtown, about 10 minutes by Tram from Centraal Station, the city's main train station. The clientele includes everybody from families and senior citizens to hippies and potheads. It's also one of the few campgrounds open year-round. During the summer, it is annoyingly packed wall-to-wall with tents. But in the autumn and winter, it's a blissful place, despite the crappy weather.
This was our first trip with our new camping gear. During our recent trip back to the states, we went a bit hog-wild at REI and bought a new tent (REI Quarter Dome), two sleeping bags (REI 40F for him; Big Agnes 15F for her) and other assorted gear. For those unfamiliar, REI (Recreational Equipment Inc) is one of America's largest outdoor equipment stores. It's also a co-op, which means the customers, not shareholders, own the company. Some of their stores are incredibly huge, with indoor fishing ponds, climbing walls, fake mountain trails, and much more. There is simply nothing in Europe that compares. REI makes the UK's Black's chain look like a knock-off market stall. And no, REI did not pay me to say this. We are just HUGE REI fans!
Anyway, our equipment all stood up to the elements, despite torrential vertical downpours, high winds and nighttime temperatures that plummeted to 39F (4 Celsius). This is about as extreme and roughing-it as we'll get! We've probably been to Amsterdam a dozen times over the years. Since we've seen all the major sites, this trip was about food! Here's our Foodie guide to Amsterdam:
Cafe Dulac: This fan-fracking-tastic cafe is located just 10 minutes walk east from Centraal Station. We had the pasta in pesto cream sauce and the focaccia toastie with turkish sausage and young Gouda cheese. YUM. The art deco restaurant is whimsly decorated inside and out, plus there's a beautiful garden out back for good weather. The staff was also fantastic (actually, all customer service in the Netherlands is leaps beyond anything you'll find here in London!).
De Beiaard: A great place for a cheap lunch, this popular place is located in Koningsplein. They have more than a dozen regional beers on tap. Lunch for two, including three beers was just 17 euros.
Sukabumi: Amsterdam is awash with Indonesian restaurants, due to its large Indonesian immigrant community. Two Crabs had never tried Indonesian food until this trip. We kind of just stumbled on this restaurant in the posh west Jordaan district. It was fantastic! At most restaurants, you can get a la carte or set meals. We went for a la carte and had a great prawn curry dish, and spicy beef. Both were to-die-for.