Amsterdam. Canals & Cannabis

I hate smoking weed. I’ve tried, really I have, many many times. I’ve put in a damn good effort, always resulting in a nausea inducing “whitey” and a chesty cough. Its just not my thing. I think my years living with a skunk dependant, now ex-partner, probably helped cement my loathing for the stuff. I’ve always reckoned that I’m too self conscious for drugs anyway. I just don’t want to look stoned or stupid. Its simple vanity. Plus skunk stinks.

Its not just the weed, in fact I have full respect for those that choose to smoke the naturally grown, unadulterated plant without making a song & dance about it and obviously for the medical benefits it can bring. Each to their own. It’s the chemical soaked, air thickening, putrid skunk, coupled with the really irritating, infantile paraphernalia and youth culture that goes with it, that brings out a very intense annoyance in me. Can you tell?

It’s difficult not to mention cannabis in a post about Amsterdam, despite playing absolutely no part in our recent visit. Although drugs were the motivation for us both to revisit the city and “put it right”.

Both Px & I had previously taken our then respective partners to The Dam, and both had experienced a less than great time. I have no idea what I was thinking taking a skunk addict to Amsterdam, I only have myself to blame, for what turned out to be two days of smoke fuelled, bug eyed resentment.

Px’s memories are more vague, but involved “seeing” Baboons dancing in Vondelpark, bought on by a session on the Shrooms.

Walking about town this time around, we experienced triggers from the past that still filled us with the “fear”. Px was reluctant to revisit Vondelpark, incase those Baboons were still mid Waltz, and every time I inhaled a waft of the weed billowing from a coffeeshop, I was bought back to 10 years ago with a shiver!

But “put it right” we did. This time round we had our usual list of must sees and recommendations from friends. We had less than 48 hrs, but managed to tick a good few boxes, especially in the food & drink department.

Amsterdam is pretty, we all know this already, with its wonky toy town high storey houses, wedged together like drunk soldiers, wide canals and its cobbled streets decorated with single gear bicycles stacked and leaning on every corner.

We envied the lifestyle that we immediately romanticised beyond reality. The idea of living in such an aesthetic environment, in flats with such large floor to ceiling windows, looking out over boat dappled water and ancient little hostelries on every street serving up craft beers and apple pies. How could you not be happy living here?

The heart of Amsterdam is easy to navigate and small enough to either walk everywhere or jump on the ever present tram system. It takes a little while to work out the rules of bikes v trams v pedestrian. There are rules but I don’t think we ever got to the bottom of them.

We were staying in the Vondel area, very close to those dancing Baboons. But we spent most of our time in Jordaan, away from the more touristy areas and as far as possible from the glazed eyed youth on their first trip without their parents. Sorry, I had to give them another dig, can’t help myself.


Boxes Ticked:

Foodhallen

Foodhallen is the first indoor market of its kind in the Netherlands and houses bars, food outlets & communal seating, with weekly entertainment, DJ’s & Live Music.

We started our food odyssey with a classic Dutch snack of Bitterballen from De Bollen Bar, the first of countless portions of these fried nuggets of gold! Plus several local craft beers, namely Brothers In Law Brewery and Two Chefs Brewing

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Cafe De Prins  Like stepping back in time. I think some of the dust was from the 18th century. We ate more Bitterballen and drank Jenever, which takes some effort to appreciate.

Moeders  Dutch for Mothers, (the walls are lined with the photos of customer’s mothers), is a traditional Dutch restaurant serving up hearty dishes such as stews, stampot, boiled potatoes & red cabbage. It all sounds pretty basic, but theres a lot to be said for straightforward grub and it tasted damn fine! We sat outside as inside was rammed, and the service was nothing less than forthright. But we did witness possibly our favourite piece of customer service ever, when we asked which of the stews was the best, to which our uber cool waitress replied:

“I would say the Beef stew is a little less disappointing then the mustard one”

We went with the beef.

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Moeders

Waterkant  Canal side hang out in the base of a spiral car park.

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WaterKant

Winkel 43   Queue here for the epic Apple Pie.

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Cafe Winkel 43

Beurspassage  A newly renovated arcade, cleverly mosaicked and with opulent chandeliers. Unfortunate that the Primark Signage kind of gets in the way!

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Beurspassage

Hot food vending machines  You have to try them…great for munchies. Just coin the slots and grab a croquette or a perfectly trashy burger!

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Wynand Fockink  This 17th century tasting salon & distillery is well worth a visit. Especially if the charismatic manager Hanke is there to let you try a range of liquers and tell you the history of Jenever and the WF brand that dominates the industry.

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Wynand Fockink

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Van Dobben As recommended by the aforementioned Hanke, who raved about their croquettes and their deli style sandwiches. Van Dobben is like a mini Katz from NY. Simple ingredients, an old fashioned family business serving up no nonsense food. We had the best salt beef & cheese sandwich ever!

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 Cafe Gollem Raamsteeg. If is craft beer you’re after then this is the place with a huge range of bottled beers in a cosy ancient bar!

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Cafe Gollem

Envy – European restaurant. If you want  a break from Bitterbollen and cabbage then class it up a bit in the chic, small plate sharing menu. The food was beautiful, delicate and delicious, but it barely touched the sides of our carb stretched stomachs and we ended up inhaling a couple if Big Macs a few hours later… I know. Apologies to Envy, you can’t always pick your customers!

Cafe Chris Proper local pub on the corner. We met the Dutch version of “The Dude” and played chess. Like you do when you only have two nights in the city. Always time for a game of chess no?

The Red Light District It kind of has to be seen when in Amsterdam, its actually quite hard to avoid if your in the centre of town after dark. You can get all moralistic about it, but frankly whats the point, it is what it is, sanitised, corporate and a little bit weird. There are even district tours for tourists. But damn, ‘scuse the pun, the girls are beautiful. Both mine and Px’s eyes were on stalks. We needed a cocktail to take our minds off it all…

Door 74 – Classic little speakeasy with no outside sign. Call up, turn up, knock on the unmarked door and drink from their house designed menu. You can buy the menu as a nice little souvenir.

De Vier Pilaren  – Traditional pancakes on the river.

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Boxes left unticked this time.

There were a few places we had planned to visit but time was too short including:

Vondelbunker A refashioned air-raid bunker now used as a creative space, music venue and location.

Anne Frank House.

Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder  Catholic church in an attic – Our Lord in the Attic

 

 

 

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