Minus 4 deg over night, frost on the rooftops and we headed out about 9.00am figuring we’d find the IAmsterdam sign and have a bit of a wander before meeting my TA friends for lunch. First stop after the sign was the Van Gogh museum – this is a spectacular building which sees 10,000 visitors a day in high season. You’re allowed to take photos as long as you don’t use a flash. What can I say about Vincent that has not already been said – so I’ll just let you enjoy a few of his paintings. Standing almost in touching distance of these first two was magic.
We’d arranged to meet my TA friends at the Notting Hill Hotel and were going from there to the Albert Cuyp market and lunch at an amazing Middle Eastern restaurant called Bazaar housed in what was once a synagogue. Amazing building, wonderful food and excellent company.
After lunch it was off on our walking tour. First stop was a place called Edy Bar – hard to describe but essentially a local bar, decorated with memorabilia of a now dead Dutch crooner, populated by billiard players (I’d never seen billiards played before) and locals having a quiet drink on a Saturday arvo.
Having had a ‘drink with Edy’ we hopped a tram back to Centraal, which is actually built on a man-made island which apparently caused great controversy at the time because it moved the harbour foreshore a couple of hundred metres into the harbour from its original place. Down to the harbour for a view of the north side of Amsterdam, then it was off on a personalised walking tour round the city. Past Saint Nicholasskerk, along the street that is built on top of what was the first dyke in Amsterdam to Dam Square and its fat pigeons, and stopped on the way to sample the wares at a place called Wynand Fockink that had been distilling Genever (Dutch gin) since the 1680’s. They do hundreds of flavours - I highly recommend the coffee version!
Through the red light district (and the snickering groups of boys on stag weekends) over canals, past the skinny houses (built narrow because in the old days people were taxed according to the width of the house -obviously the wealthy showed off by building wider houses) and the infamous ‘coffee houses’ which do not sell coffee at all but rather cater to Amsterdam’s liberal soft drug policy (and no, we didn’t stop to sample the wares), and into the nine streets of the Jordan.
We covered a lot of ground; our tour, punctuated with stories and anecdotes, was a fascinating insight into this wonderful city – much like our walking tour with Dagmar & Matthias in Mainz in 2012. My TA fiends partner had left us to do some shopping (and she’d done this ‘tour' a number of times before) and we had arranged to meet her back at a little bar whose name translates to Monkey Bar - built in the 1500’s it got its name because apparently sailors would come in from adventures in wild and distant parts with monkeys to sell to finance their needs for booze and women while on shore leave. This quirky little bar measures about 4m x 4m and late this arvo it was packed.
Last stop was the Skylounge atop the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel with its fantastic 180degree views over Amsterdam for a drink before heading back to the station for our TA friends to jump on their train and for us to hop on our tram back to the flat with the treacherous stairs.
Tomorrow we have a booking to visit Anne Frank House and spend some more time exploring the Jordaan – and who knows what else we’ll find on the way. We’re both really liking Amsterdam.