While the simplest of the day’s standard trio of meals, it is often my favorite time to eat when I’m traveling internationally. Reasons why include its generally easy, I can enjoy it on my own (if I am with others who are not as inclined for morning walkabouts, and the reasonable charges for morning meals makes wonderful meals all the more appreciated (or in the case they bomb, not too hard on the pocketbook, so regrets are tempered).
I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that more often than not, something interesting to eat always lurks around the corner not long after the sun has come up and when I’m abroad in unfamiliar surroundings. I look at these impromptu discoveries as my personal reward. For taking the time and effort to traverse a new locale on foot. Meandering down random streets and alleys taking in the native sights, sounds and often smells, in my never-ending quest to learn more about where I am and this beautiful world in which we live.
My usual wandering (aimlessly and map-less) when I explore a new village, town, or city for the first time can lead me to interact with unknown strangers on the street – language and sometimes cultural barriers included. At times they are helpful. Especially with suggestions about what I might enjoy trying to eat. Local, with some variety, and a “what would you have?” are my usual parameters that I try to get across to my sometimes puzzled conversation mates, achieved in part with some physical gestures and drastically simplified English.
This method can be hit-and-miss. As with back home, depending on who you ask for food suggestions, you can get a wide range of good (and bad) opinions. Or statements that seem logical but turn out to be poor decisions. Or low expectations that become outstanding finds. Kind of shotgun in its approach but when you’re on your own in a new country, its a risk I am forced to take at times.
So once armed with a few recommendations in mind and general directions for my walk to them, my strategy is to do a “drive-by” of them all. Checking each one out from the outside. Getting a sense for the customers, and their food if possible. Then looping back to my narrowed down single choice (or more if the mood moves me) and going with my gut.
On a recent visit to The Netherlands, I was out pretty early trying to adjust my body and mind to the local clock. Interrupting a few obvious morning work commuters as they stepped out of their attractive brick lined homes, I got my trifecta of choices lined up.
The first was a place that was described to me as a typical breakfast place, oddly with the word “beans” in the title. Alas, it was not yet open as I came up to it. Next, a bakery that was already open (no surprise) and had the delicious scent of freshly made baked goods wafting from its front doors. The proprietor was standing inside, but looked busy in his prep, so I hesitated to bother him as it didn’t feel like he was yet receptive to paying customers. Further down a few more streets, I arrived at my third spot.
Bakkerij Vera Mensink
Zeilstraat 55, 1075 SE
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Another bakery yes, but this time it had a welcoming open concept and an array of baked loafs, what seemed like sweet and savory pastries (from which I chose from the latter – a nice cheese and onion topped concoction), and what drew me the most, the rugged sounds of a juicer being put to the test by one of the friendly women behind the counter. They even had an coffee machine that would get me my kick start caffeine fix. Lovely.
As I sat at the counter bar facing the window and the busy street outside – yes the armies of trendy locals with their funky bicycles on their way to their 9-to-5 (I assume) gigs were omnipresent – I couldn’t help but crack a grin and remark quietly to myself, that this is what life is all about. Yummy eats, the chance to see more of this planet and a full free day ahead with not a rigid schedule in sight. Good times.
And nearby, they even had separate places for er, um…. dessert.