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Amsterdam 2007

Amsterdam, Holland

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After an early morning flight, a quick train journey and a dump of the bags we headed out to the Jordaan for a small breakfast and found Café T'Smalle, a fabulous old brown bar, corner of Egelantiers Gracht and Eerste Egelantiers Dwarsstraat. Its a definitive Amsterdam bar, with two levels and a scary spiral staircase to get to the upper level, which the barman didn't object to, to serve us… top bloke he was. After a wake up coffee we headed out to visit the Heineken Experience (which drat was shut on a Monday) so had a look at the flower market, on Singel, instead. Bought nothing so moved onto Rokin and had a gander in PGC Hajenius, a tobacco shop which if you care to delve into its back room gives a brief history of their cigar. You also have chance to have a smell of some of the various pipe tobaccos too as they are displayed in sample tubs with removable lids. Thirsty work all this so took refreshment just off Damrak in Gastuys Café bar, again a brown bar, where the very nice barmaid set up a tab.

Time to move on so we headed back to our hotel, the Botel, via another bar with revolutionary tendencies! Café Cuba which as well as some good beers, had effective themed adverts and posters on the walls producing a Cuban experience. Unfortunately we never got to see how well this worked at night.. Later on that evening a visit to the Koh-I-noor for some really top Indian grub, then onwards to my pal Bruce's favourite bar Café Mooy (pronounced Moi but hey moo ey sounds better to us) before visiting a real locals place, and another two tier bar, the Hooiship Café which I'd imagine hasn't changed in years.

Next Morning we set out back to Prinsengracht as Lisa wanted to have Breakfast at Cafe Koffiehuis De Hoek, it had been shut the previous day, as she'd read about it on the web (aint the web great). Another place for locals it seemed and we got such a warm welcome from the proprietor we felt right at home! We had ham and fried eggs with cheese, made in the one pan, gorgeous. The Orange juice was freshly squeezed too. Delicious. Second time lucky at the Heineken Experience and for the sum of just €10 each we had a self guided tour of how Heineken came into being and were thoroughly entertained throughout. We also got a free memento of the visit and tokens for 3 beers of the freshest, purest larger I've ever tasted. Great value and well recommended. I wont say anymore you'll have to 'experience' it for yourself.

Lunch at Oporto Cafe and when in Rome… I tried a savoury dish called bitterballen very filling and I'm still not sure if I liked 'em or not. Later in the afternoon we met up with our very dear Dutch friends Nanda and Jack and set about discussing 'real money', tea drinking civil servants and the nationalisation (or not) of Railways in Gastuys Café bar. We had a meal in Argentinos just off Dam Square, the steak was really tasty, before heading off to the 'Mooey' again for some after dinner refreshment.

Next morning, after a quick bite in the Botel brekki bar we got ourselves an Amsterdam pass, which gives you free access to loadsa stuff, including a travel pass on the cities buses, trams, metro. Everytime I go to Amsterdam I always think its going to be the last time I'll get one but there's so much in it to see and do it still works out top value. First stop was the Van Gogh Museum. Not one of my Favs but Mrs B wanted to go again. (Amazing what can be done with a couple of crayons :>). The next one was the Huis Marseille (a Photo Museum) on Keizersgracht (Emperors Canal). I was there last year but the collection had changed (see I told you its worth getting a pass) and the current one was introducing a project of European domestic life by Bert Teuneissen , by the end I could tell which home was from which country.. well almost. Quite an interesting collection. Lunch led us to the Pancake Bakery on Prinsengracht, again a discount for pass holders is offered for certain pancakes, and I had a savoury, and Lisa went sweet.

In the afternoon we visited the Theatre Museum on Herengracht, not really that interesting but to be fair they were refitting some of it, nice staircase though! Oh and they had a working model of a 3D effect 'quick change theatre Then a beer in the Oporto Café bar again before having a look in the Nieuwe kerk (new church). They had an exhibition on about Istanbul, subtitled the city and the sultan, showing lots of Ottoman dynasty 'stuff' that had left its mark on it. Last visit of the day took us to the Oude kerk (old church) which has the oldest tallest timber roof in Europe, oh and Rembrandts first wife's , Saskia's, grave.

Later that evening, over a beer in Busters Bar we started looking forward to our candle-lit canal cruise complete with a bottle of wine and selection of cheeses (and a welcome discount of 25% from the Amsterdam card). However nightmare! Have we booked? we were asked.. arrgh I did have a niggling feeling in the morning about whether to book or not. I should have took more notice.. Still looking on the bright side there was always a bar or two to visit and so took in the delights of the wonderfully lit Villa Nieuwmarkt, the smoky atmosphere of the Green House Coffee shop and had a nighcap in the chilled Café't Smalle.

Our last morning and we had Breakfast at Kafe De Hoek again before setting off to see the Rembrandt House on Jodenbreestraat, where the master painter lived and worked ha and went bust! Then out in the fresh air on a canal ride around the city (hmm not the same as a candle lit one grumble grumble) which worked up an appetite for a gorgeous bowl of traditional Dutch pea and ham soup at the Pancake corner in Leidseplein.

Afternoon and a visit to Foam Gallery with a fascinating exhibition of photos where the subject's eyes are not visible (for all sorts of reasons) and another of Amsterdam Police's crime scene shots from the seventies. The most criminal part of which was the seventies décor of the scenes themselves. We then moved onto one of the most surprising museums I've been to, the Amstelkring museum, a hidden church in the attic of a seventh century town house. The reason for this secrecy was that at the time celebrating Catholic mass was officially forbidden. Well worth a look round. After that we had a final beer in the Verhoeff Bar before heading home.


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