King’s Day

King’s Day

The biggest party of the year in Amsterdam doesn’t require an invite; it’s King’s Day!

On the 27th April, the whole city celebrates King Willem-Alexander’s birthday through a tradition that has been around since 1885. The celebration was originally called Queens Day (Koninginnedag) but now that the Netherlands has a King, the name has changed along with it.

Although Konningsdag is technically the 27th, which is the public holiday, the festivities begin the day before on King’s Night.

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Tourists come from all over the world to experience the weekend; the streets overflow with even more bikes than usual and orange (the colour of the Netherlands) is blazoned everywhere in the form of flags and bunting

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You head into the city centre and find open-air concerts, live DJ sets, huge drinking tents and generally the most electric atmosphere, kind of like Christmas Eve. The whole city is out celebrating and soaking up the buzz, and everyone is ready for a a long night of partying!

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Leidesplein

……..Skip 15 hours (or more!), and the city starts to wake up again!

There are so many events happening on King’s Day that people discuss plans for weeks in advance, comparing options and locations. In the end, many decide to walk round the city with friends and check out what’s going on everywhere, rather than sticking to one place.

Firstly, we headed to Westerpark.

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For Kings Day, there is a vrijmarkt (free market) which means that everyone in the city is allowed to sell their belongings- of pretty much any kind- on the streets, in the parks and just infront of their houses. Amsterdam is a city built on trade, and Amsterdammers today definitely still have an instinct for buying and selling and are generally trade-savvy!

Along the front of Westerpark there were hundreds of people selling their ‘wares’.

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Buggy anyone?

After checking out the park we headed over to the Jordaan in the direction of the canals, and crossing the bridges you could see the boats approaching the canals too..

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the calm before the storm!

Then we arrived on Haarlemerdijk, which was covered in more happy street sellers.

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As well as lots of people dancing to music from outdoor speakers.

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You pass all sorts of weird and wonderful things..

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Heineken fishing

And people lean out of windows and watch the madness go by.

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You come out of Haarlemerdijk onto Prinsengracht and are hit with waves of noise and cheering as the colourful boats emerge onto the canals.

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People watch the loud boats with envy, but also content that they are free to roam along the canals, taking in the views from all directions. Anyways, we’ve already seen The City By Boat!

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People climb all over the edges of the canals to get the best look at the sights on the water.

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And the bridges are packed full of people watching the boats pass beneath.

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Boats of all different types, including speed boats!

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As you walk up the sides of the canals you go through a string of parties outside houses playing club and rave music, and anyone can join in the party or just continue through on their way.

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Everyone of all ages is partying, dancing, drinking, smoking and chatting. It’s the kind of atmosphere where you can talk to anyone and make memories with total strangers or just with your favourite people!

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There are a multitude of street food stalls, set up by people who normally own restaurants, or just those who you feel like doing some large scale cooking for their fellow Amsterdammers!

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Indonesian

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By the evening, the sun was still shining, and although the numbers had dwindled slightly (the whole city had already been out until the morning), the music, dancing and carnival atmosphere continued.

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We got some orange tie bracelets to remember the day

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And eventually said goodbye to the King and his party!

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King’s Day (or King’s weekend) has got to be one of if not the highlight of the year for those living Amsterdam. The city is bursting with life more than ever and the whole place feels like an open-air festival. This day of orange-pride could even rival Gay pride, another big contender, and you can’t help but feel proud to be part of the most wonderful city.

King’s Night is also incredibly fun, although in this case you really do need to have firm plans of where you are going, as there are the hugest queues for every good bar and club, and sometimes very large prices if you try to buy on the door. In our case, we managed to get into the infamous Chicago Social Club without queueing for hours or paying 50 euros, but by being lifted through a shoe-box sized hole 6 feet up the wall in the nextdoor smoking area by our daredevilled Dutch companion, and literally entering the club like an aeroplane! That was deifnitely a surreal experience and I’m not sure every place has this kind of “loop hole” in their entrance policy!

I didn’t take that many photos as it was easy to get caught up in the the moment, so I haven’t managed to show half of how fun it was, but If you are planning a trip to Amsterdam in advance, the King’s weekend at the end of April stands out by a mile as an amazing encapsulation of the wildness and electric atmosphere that the city stands for.

That’s all for now!

Love O,

xxxxxx

De Pijp

De Pijp

De Pijp is probably my favourite neighbourhood in Amsterdam.

Literally meaning “The Pipe”, it probably takes it’s name from the long, narrow streets that run through the area like pipes, although nobody really knows, and it is the city’s old working-class district and Latin quarter.

In the mid-1800s, the population of Amsterdam exploded, and De Pijp quickly became the vibrant home to the artists, students, prostitutes and traders. The Dutch painter Mondriaan even lived there at one point!

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As you get closer to the centre of De Pijp, the streets start to feel more bohemian, with plants all over the streets, and eclectic objects scattered outside houses.

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The quieter streets are home to Aladdin’s caves, like this one I stumbled upon, filled with exotic Eastern lamps..

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De Pijp is a very multicultural area, home to over 150 nationalities, and this definitely doesn’t go unnoticed in the personal touches of the buildings as you explore.

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You pass some grafitti and street art (very widespread in Amsterdam, and loved, not disapproved of)

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And find yourself on the bustling van der Helststraat.

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The swarming throughfare of bikes and wanderers beneath the awnings is contrasted by the relaxed cafe dwellers, sitting outside and soaking up the atmosphere.

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De Pijp appeals to all ages, but it noticeably attracts hip 20-somethings, who lounge outside any of the cool cafes and eateries, like there aint nothin else to do!

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At night the atmosphere is incredible; it is near impossible to find a seat at the end of the week if you turn up after 11, and it feels like you could see anything, meet anyone, on these streets.

Things are equally appealing indoors!

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There is Yoghurt Barn, which is like a Froyo place, but with more substantial options.

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Or you can shelter from the sun in one of the stylish, chic boutiques

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Or just don’t shelter from it!

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At the end of Eerste van der Helststraat, you meet the Albert Cyup Market.

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This famous market sees over 20,000 visitors a day, and is open every day from 9:00-5:00. It has a wonderful buzz, and is always teeming with both locals and tourists.

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Come for your tulips (the Dutch flower), or your cheese (the Dutch diet staple!)

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And grab yourself some new pieces for a/w!

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Or watch some waffles being made from scratch. It doesn’t matter how messy it looks, stroopwaffel syrup smells delicious!

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Breakin’ my heart
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I think I owned this 10 years ago.

After all that market excitement, there are many ways to get some respite in De Pijp.

Head to Sarphatipark, the beautiful oasis in the middle of the neighbourhood.

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Tribute to Samuel Sarphati, Jewish doctor and philanthropist, from whom the park takes it’s name.

There is a children’s playground, so you see LOTS of these:

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This is how the Dutch kids get around, and I adore seeing them. My friend commented last week, as I rode home on the back of his bike clutching him tightly, that Dutch girls can sit on the back of bikes without holding on with total ease. They’ve literally been flying through the air since day one!

You see lots of artistic types reading, maybe penning some poetry, and couples lounging under the trees.

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Just outside the park, there is the award-winning Scandanavian Embassy coffee house.

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This place is a grail for coffee bucketlisters and generally people who are serious about the beans, as it claims to be the best in the Holland. It has a very cool vibe, with Swedish trance music playing lightly as the waitress bops her head by the machine.

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A truly Scandanavian menu too; Granola and goats yoghurt, Danish Rye with poached eggs and Swedish caviar etc. As a coffee drinker nomore, I ordered the Lemon ginger honey infusion but without honey, however the guy for some reason gave it to me anyway. I have felt weaker ever since, as I am still that sensitive to insulin. Very frustrating!

Slightly marred by that experience, I left the Scandanavian Embassy for my friend’s coffeeshop (not coffee house!) of choice: Katsu.

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I would say Katsu’s vibe is a mix of Bob Marley, flower power and the pyschadelic, and you see lots of interestin types in here!

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So that’s an afternoon in the fantastic De Pijp, but as I mentioned, it is an amazing place to be at night as well as having multiple brunchtime attractions! It feels very intimate, as there are barely any canals around to create a sense of space, and you can imagine what a melting pot of culture it must have been a 100 years ago. It is definitely worth checking out!

That’s all for now,

Love O

xxxxxx

Westergasfabriek

Westergasfabriek

If a night consisting of arcade games, Beer, Tacos, fun-fair rides and a very large scale Candy Crush sounds good in your books, then I have found you a place!

Westergasbriek is a cultural venue in Amsterdam West that hold exciting events all year round, from film festivals to music sessions, from gourmet food markets to art shows. Situated in Westerpark, it is made up of a crew of great bars and clubs, namely Pacific Parc and The North Sea Jazz Club, but there are also shops, restaurants and much else to attract the daytime visitor.

Let’s head over!

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We arrived outside Westerpark to a dazzling spectacle of lights on the water, which we discovered was down to the Kermis Fair; Amsterdam’s largest. It moves around the city, but entry is always free.

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Walking in, we were greeted with booming music and neon light everywhere we turned!

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A feast for the eyes! Having dragged ourselves away from the never-ending pink of the fair, we arrived at Westergasfabriek’s Zuiveringshal building further along the park.

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Between March 13th-16th, the building hosted the Ton Ton Club XL. The Ton Ton Club is normally an everyday gaming club in the Red Light District, but it was transported to Westerfabriek in “Xtra large” form for this weekend.

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We entered the old factory space to see dozens of picnic tables with groups of happy drinkers, and hear the DJ play upbeat songs from the large station

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All around the room were arcade games, racers, pinball machines, even group guitar-hero. It was literally a big kids playroom in new-school style!

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The non-gamers hung out and chatted, and the atmosphere was as electric as the games.

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Speaking of interesting places to hang out…..

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‘Starfishin

Only in Amsterdam would beer and a ballpit meet!

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Getting out not quite so easy!

To use the games, or buy your beer/meal of choice, you had to queue for these tokens:

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However once accomplished, there were so many great stalls to choose from- from hot dogs, to chinese buns, to mexican everythang! And a mile long bar of course.

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“Wendy’s Bao” chinese
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Carribean rolls

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These cupcakes and cookies on a stick definitely get points for innovation!

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Sweet potato and spinach quesadilla with lime, salsa and sour cream

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But Jerrie and Emer reccomended the infamous Taco’s above all else!

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The only problem with the evening was that if you went outside you had to queue to get back in, and it wasn’t a small queue!

We all agreed that it was an amazingly unique night, and not something we would have ever experienced in our respective home cities. The Ton Ton Club posted a video of the weekend’s events which captures it well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gezshiq2I0k

It is definitely worth keeping up with what is going on at Westergasfabriek for all kinds of fun (and games!) so check out their website too: http://www.westergasfabriek.nl/westergasfabriek

By the end we were all gamed out, so we jumped in the car and drove home!

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Coming through!

That’s all for now,

Love O xxx

The Pancake Bakery

The Pancake Bakery

Lets talk about Pancakes.

In Holland, there’s no need for one day to celebrate and indulge in this food. Everyday is pannekoek day, and they are a staple meal, not just a brunch treat!

They are eaten by families for lunch and supper with lots of sweet, savoury and stuffed variations, and Dutch students also make sweet pancakes for pudding in the evening.

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A Dutch dinner party with pancakes to finish

Now I’ve been to a few good creperies before in Paris and Brussells, but nothing comes close to the Pancake Bakery.

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On the Prinsengracht canal, you could miss this place if it weren’t for the loud red signs declaring it’s location to the wanderers and tourists.

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“The best Pancakes in town!”

However, the pancake bakers don’t really need to worry about not being noticed. They are a worldwide hotspot, and bring in hundreds of new visitors everyday.

I guess we should go in!

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The long cavenous room makes you feel like you’ve stepped off the street (or canal) and gone back in time, and with reason. It used to be a a warehouse for the Dutch East India Trading Company during the 17th century ‘Golden Age’ when Holland was one of the major empires of the world and had a huge influence. I found myself reminiscing the golden age too, since S Club 7’s “Don’t Stop Never Give Up” was playing when we walked in!

At the table, there are bottles of Dutch Schenkstroop (typical syrup), a very large thing of maple syrup, salt, pepper, and sugar powders. I thought that was the meal sorted, but then you see the menu.

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Some very interesting combinations

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Quite a menu, right! As if that wasn’t enough, they also offer a plethora of deserts, just in case you didn’t feel like there was enough ice cream in your main.

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The walls are adorned with old paintings in Amsterdam settings, and photographs of the canals from 50-100 years ago, which you can peruse if you aren’t too busy fantasising over what’s to come……..

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Amsterdam, you haven’t aged a day!

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As you’ll know from my About Me page, I’m not currently able to have any of the ingredients involved in these beauties except the eggs….which could be a little unfulfilling! So rather than stay at the table with an envious stomach, the waitress let me come over to the kitchen to see the orders being made.

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The chef fries the ingredients for the different pancakes with the batter and and flips then over a large flame…

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Money shot!

Then passes them over to be decked out in the toppings.

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Loads of syrups, licquers, sweet shavings, and lots of nutella!

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A daily serving of sugar for the Pancake Bakery!

So, first up was the Canadian:

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Crispy bacon with cheese, onions, ham and mushrooms. Don’t you just want to roll that up and eat it in one! Mmm.

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Next was the Indonesian:

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A folded pancake of chicken, leeks, onions, mushrooms with an Indonesian peanut satay sauce, served with bean sprout salad and crumbled prawn cracker.

Indonesia used to be the Dutch colony, so you find a multitude of Indonesian restaurants and eateries around Amsterdam. The Pancake Bakery believes it’s uniqueness comes from their providing so many cuisines from all over the world in one restaraunt, reflecting Holland’s history in the global network.

Then was the Pancake Bakery’s most popular order:

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Banana, whipped cream and chocolate sauce
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A pretty sweet pic, don’t you think?

Then there was one for the person who likes to kill a few birds at once.

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Morello Cherry liquer
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Poured over peaches, vanilla ice cream and whipped cream

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You’ve got your dinner, your pudding and your drink sorted all in one!

Then things got all Italian. I guess pancakes and pizzas are probably cousins, as this creation looks like it works pretty well!

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Ciao bella!

The Caprese: basil, tomatoes, onions, melted fresh mozzarella and pesto.

The special’s of the day board was intriguing to say the least!

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Have you every heard of a veal pancake with brussell sprouts and red cabbage? You have now!

The sweet pojjertjes are a dutch delicacy; super cute baby pancakes.

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Poffertjes with cinammon icecream, stroopwaffel chunks, Belgian chocolate flakes, whipped cream and vanilla sauce.

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Um, yum!

The Pancake Bakery is open everyday from 09:00-21:30 apart from Christmas Day and is really worth a visit. What I think is most special about it is the huge range of international pancakes, all made properly with the authentic ingredients. And of course the fact that everyone agrees they are the best pancakes in town! The atmosphere is relaxed but still feels like your doing something special whether you go in the middle of the day or later in the evening.

Now as you can imagine, I left with pancakes on my mind, and I thought I would make some too!

I know that the words that come into most peoples minds when they want pancakes are not “LOW CARB” “LOW SUGAR”, but if any of you have diabetic issues or like to eat high fat and protein, then these ones may be up your street aswell!

To make these pancakes you will need:

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2 eggs, 1 tablespoon of coconut flour, 2 tablespoons of ground almonds, 4 tablespoons of coconut milk (or any milk of choice), 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder, sugar/sugar substitute (I used stevia) and oil/butter for the pan. {Makes 2 pancakes}

Optional ingredients:

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Coconut flakes, blueberries, yoghurt (mine is pure coconut), cinnamon, nutmeg and nut butters (Hazelnut/almond/Peanut/cashew/Tahini), also bacon not pictured. But anything would work, really. Apparently people eat veal pancakes, for crying out loud!

Mix up all the ingredients in a measuring jug until smooth, but not too thin:

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Then pour on to a non-stick pan with oil/butter:

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If you want to add blueberries, add them now

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Give it a flip, and watch your pan make yo’ cake

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Stack the pancakes and add a dollop of yoghurt

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Extra blueberries, coconut flakes and lots of cinammon. It’s so delicious how the berries burst into the pancakes!

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Now that my diet is coming to an end, I am able to start adding things back in in very small quantities, so this was the first fruit I have had in 6 months! Blueberries are very low sugar so they were the best thing to start with.

If you like to be adventurous, this combination also really works:

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Kinda lost the shape of this one!

Drizzle the pancake with nut butter of your choice (mine is hazelnut):

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Then top with bacon.

This may seem a little weird, but I had always thought maple syrup and bacon sounded weird until I tried it!

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So there we go. I hope I have given you a taste of what Amsterdam has to offer in the way of pancakes, and maybe inspired you to make some quirky ones which will set you up for a flippin’ great day too!

That’s all for now,

Love O xxxx