We had originally planned to do day trips out of Amsterdam, same as we had in Brussels, but Keith and I soon came to realize that we didn’t want to wake up early to catch any more trains. Instead, we leisurely made our way around the city each day.
Had breakfast at the Hotel Metropole in Brussels. Three trains later — whoever said there were nonstops running from Bruxelles Nord is a liar — checked into Amsterdam’s Mövenpick Hotel overlooking the IJ, Centraal Station and the city. After lying facedown on the bed for a while, roused ourselves to find dinner because apparently the Dutch don’t eat late. Wandered down through the Old Centre, which was overflowing with drunken American, English, German and Irish tourists reeking of pot, and ended up at Brasserie De Roode Leeuw on the New Side, where I ate the most amazing piece of fish and Keith devoured veal meatballs, potatoes and these gorgeous little peas into which he mixed curries and compotes. Finished the night with beers at Gollem, a tiny bar only slightly larger than my apartment’s bathroom.
Slept in a bit then found some lunch at Festina Lente in the Jordaan: taleggio, tomatoes and salami on a toasted wheat* ciabatta. (If I lived here, I would come to Festina Lente once a week just to eat through their sandwich menu.) Admired the café’s cat. Commented how much the Dutch seem to love sandwiches… like me. Drifted around the Jordaan. Watched candy get made at Papabubble, then bought several Euro’s worth. Checked out the clothes sold at Sprmrkt, all of which made me feel very fat and very uncool. Smelled soaps at La Savonnerie and realized Amsterdam is quite beautiful once you get away from the sleazy bits. Beer break at Café Brakke, where non-patrons have to pay €0.50 to use the toilet but petting the cat is free. Hopped a tram to the Pijp for dinner at District V. Happened to be “National Restaurant Week,” so ate the set menu of salmon wrapped in pasta with a tomato cream sauce; “friander kalfsoester” with potatoes, ratatouille and a delicious marsala potato gratin studded with rosemary; and a citron ice cream with lemon sauce and a brownie full of ground almonds. (If you come here, check out the not-as-cheesy-as-it-sounds chandelier made of cutlery, sieves and serving spoons.) Trammed back to the hotel.
Had prebooked tickets to the Anne Frank House; showed up fifteen minutes early so we could grab ham-and-cheese croissants and coffee next door**. Wrestled between depression, interest and anger while going through the house. Ignored Keith completely afterwards at Broodje Bert, where I ate a toasted salami, onion and cheese sandwich (for barely over €5.oo) while I scribbled in my journal. Shopped the Nine Streets. Bought a rad bag at Margareth Mackenzie on Oude Spiegelstraat. Helped Keith pick out a wallet at Hester Van Eeghen on Hartenstraat. Scribbled more at Café de Pels while Keith drank beer. Chilled out at the hotel for an hour or two before a dinner of snacks at Van Dobben, where the friendliest people work and recommend crazy-amazing things to eat like kroket sandwiches and a stack of salted beef and liver piled in between bread. Ogled two customers’ two massive dogs, then walked back to the hotel.
Caught the water taxi to city hall, then walked to De Tokoman for some sensational Surinamese sandwiches and mango juice. Still couldn’t believe how much the Dutch love sandwiches, and how much I love the Dutch for loving them. Walked over to the Dutch Resistance Museum, also known as the coolest museum in the city and where we spent three hours. Poked through Rembrandt’s house, which is set up to appear as though the artist just popped out for a sandwich (he was Dutch, you know). Quick detour in the Bloemenmarkt, the flower market. Beers at Café van Leeuwen. Heard the weather was going to turn for the cold and windy, so conned Keith into shopping for a jacket. More beers at Gollem, where I met the bar’s cat, then a traditional Dutch dinner at Moeders before catching our last tram of the night. Beer at the hotel bar, then bed.
More awesome sandwiches and frites, this time at Morning Star, which just might be the cutest place ever. Windy windy windy cold weather, so I wore my new jacket. Visited the Amsterdams Historisch Museum, where Keith had to tear me away from the computer-generated map of the city’s growth over the past eight hundred years. After cookies (koekjes) and appelflaps (kind of like an apple turnover) at Lanskroon, trammed to the Pijp for beers at the other branch of Gollem with another cat before walking to the Van Gogh Museum, which is open late on Friday nights for film screenings, concerts and lectures. Dinner at Burgermeester. In spite of torrential rain, all the local bars were packed so we headed to the hotel bar for one last beer.
Glumly trekked through the sunny morning and the Red Light District to get to the Museum Amstelkring and its spectacular church hidden in the attic, then to the Oude Kerk, the only cathedral I’ve ever seen with a wooden ceiling. Trammed to the Albert Cuypmarkt in the Pijp. Spent hours exploring the miscellaneous stalls and eating more Surinamese food, frites, cookies and an astounding raw herring sandwich. Beers at Kingfisher before walking to the in-the-process-of-renovation Rijksmuseum, home to works by Vermeer, Rembrandt and Bruegel. Indonesian dinner at Bojo, before beers at ‘t Arendsnest. Trammed in the pouring rain back to the hotel to pack and sleep.
* The Dutch call wheat bread brown bread. I don’t think I can pull it off.
**Getting advance tickets online is a must. If you aren’t able to, plan on buying a snack next door at Bagels and Coffee; customers can use their computer and printer gratis, and therefore avoid the hours-long line at the Anne Frank House.