Amsterdam Day/Night 5 – Downshifting

One of things I learned a long time ago while traveling solo for an extended trip (but also have to constantly remind myself) is that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Fortunately, as I’ve gotten older, my body also knows this edict and tends to let me know. After averaging about 5-6 miles of walking a day, I was starting to get a tad bit stiff. So, in order, to give myself a bit of a break along with truly lousy weather, I decided to take it relatively easy. But first, as always, I needed food.

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Since the weather had turned pretty nasty, I chose a place basically right around the corner from my hotel where I had walked by an enticing sign of an aged beef burger and Heineken multiple times. Plus, the name was pretty cool – The Uptown Meat Company. The burger was very tasty, with the aged beef matching well with the crunchy bib lettuce and a nice chipotle mayo. I was curious if like Guinness in Ireland, Heineken would taste better in Holland but nope, pretty much bland as always Heineken. Oh well.

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My main destination was the Van Gogh Museum, which was very close by much to the delight of my aching body. Although Van Gogh is obviously the main attraction, I was mostly excited about the Millet temporary exhibit. Millet was a huge influence on Van Gogh and Impressionist movement in general by focusing on every day farmers and workers toiling away in stunning paintings. I have a policy of never taking pictures of the works of art so you’ll just have to take my word for it that it was a very impressive exhibition.

The rest of the museum was divided into floors focusing on various chapters of Van Gogh’s life. Unfortunately, the collection itself was mostly minor works since his masterpieces are scattered in the world’s most famous museums. One exception was the famous self-portrait he did shortly after cutting off his ear. That was a treat to see in person along with his most well-known stiff life – Sunflowers. With that they also had a very cool 3D printout of the work that you could touch to feel the raised paint on the canvass.

After a couple of hours of getting my culture on, my back was once again begging for some rest so I headed back to the hotel in the cold rainy weather.

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After a brief respite, I took off for the Jordaan area to meet up with my old friend, Uwe. We had originally planned to meet at a place known for its apple pie but had to reschedule for drinks later instead. I decided though I needed to go have a slice of that anyway so took the tram and then made the trek in the sudden downpour to Winkel 43, snagging the last table in the bustling cafe.

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The pie lived up to the hype. Huge chunks of apples with an almost cake-like crust that was a struggle to break through with the ludicrously small fork that came with it. The cream was a perfect complement. Absolutely delicious.

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I met with Uwe at the nearby Cafe Tjyssen, which was a classic European bar, including the truly terrible mixed drinks. As Uwe pointed out and I later realized, Euros in bars like that really have no idea what they are doing when it comes to cocktails. Stick to beer, so I picked a local Extra Stout, which was a lot better. After catching up with Uwe for a couple of hours, we said our goodbyes, and I set off to my next item on the Dutch food checkist, a doner kebab.

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Some locals had suggested checking out a place in De Pijp called Kebab House and since that was relatively close to my hotel, that seemed like a good option. The doner kebab is the Turkish version of the classic Middle Eastern dish, which is very popular in Amsterdam. Usually served with fries, the doner kebab is a great late night option, or in my case, simple comfort food on a cold, rainy night.

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While I’ve had better versions, this was a very solid doner kebab and the fries were nice and crunchy. I had made tentative plan to meet up for a drink with this very nice Aussie CEO I had met the other night so I finished up and took a final tram back to the hotel, where I witnessed this showdown at the OK Corral.

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As it turned out, my new Aussie mate was similarly exhausted so I just went back to my room to get some rest. Tomorrow would be Phase II of this adventure with my long awaited return to San Sebastian so it was for the best my night came to a relatively early ending.

Amsterdam Day/Night 4 – Road Trip… for More Beer!

I woke up to seeing this strange bright orb in the sky which I was later told was in fact the sun. Since the weather was a bit nicer, I decided to take up the suggestion of my buddy Erik to go check out Haarlem, which was less than an hour away via bus.

The tram to bus transfer was pretty painless and soon arrived at the pretty town of Haarlem. My first destination was a craft brewery that had helped establish the Haarlem beer scene, Jopen which had taken over a former church.

I read it gets busy quickly so had times to get there right when it opened and I was one of the first patrons there. A flight of course was in order but also needed some food so I decided to get the fried eggs with ham and cheese on toast – basically a large open faced Egg McMuffin – proper beer food.

The standard tasting flight consisted of a light wheat beer, their IPA and a Belgian style quad. All were very drinkable if not memorable. However, I got to try some other specialized beers that were more in my wheelhouse including a smoked white ale, barrel aged stout and an IPA infused with gin.

I had tried another Haarlem craft beer called Ultije, which happened to have a tasting room just a couple of blocks away so that was my next stop.

I sidled up to the bar and asked if I could do a flight. The bartender said I could pick any 4 beers from the 30 on tap. I saw several barrel aged stouts so made a flight of darkness.

Left to right

Utije Baltic Porter

De Moersleutel Imperial Russian Stout

De Moersleutel Wanna Taste My Candy Cane? Imperial Stout with Orange, Cinnamon, Clove, Star Anise

De Moersleutel Imperial Stout aged in Japanese whiskey barrels (!)

I chatted awhile with the bartender Nicholas about the local beer scene and particularly about the brewery that was 3 of my 4 beers. He said they were former homebrewers who like the dark and heavy stuff. Their site said once you have their beers all others will be ruined for life. They may have had a point.

After an unwise mad dash for the bus with a belly full of heavy beer that ended in failure, I had 20 or so minutes to walk around the town a bit before getting on the next bus back to Amsterdam.

Still enjoying a nice beer buzz, I thought now would be the perfect time to visit the glorious Amsterdam staple FEBO.

FEBO is both an automated food dispensary as well as some limited items that are requested at the counter. I had been told that one of the things from that option was the roasted chicken thighs. So I first used the machine to get some fries and a veal croquette along with the chicken.

All 3 were hot salty goodness but the chicken thigh was by far the highlight. My feet and back were starting to ache and since this is a marathon, not a spirit I took the usual tram and walked back to my hotel.

Amsterdam Day/Night 3 – Recovery Mode

Given my late night, I knew that today wouldn’t exactly be jam packed. Still, I was getting hungry and was craving brunch. I decided to go towards the trendy Jordaan area to a spot that had been recommended to me. The streets were lined with high-end stores, which were starting to get into the holiday spirit.

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The Velarius Cafe was nestled on a side street and since it was almost 2PM (don’t judge) I was pretty much the only patron there. Starving, I immediately seized on the very appealing sounding house cured smoked salmon on poached farm eggs with Hollandaise (natch) and rocket on a choice of bread, including corn bread. I asked the server about the corn bread and after being assured it wasn’t too sweet, went with that option. It was basically heaven on a plate.

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The smoked salmon basically melted in my mouth. The eggs had that glorious dark orange color that only comes from farms and the rocket added a nice bit of texture along with the crunch corn bread. Delicious and exactly what I needed.

On my walk to the cafe, I had spotted what appeared to be some sort of farmer’s market so after my meal, I made the short loop to go check it out.

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Although I was of course incredibly satisfied with my brunch, once I started looking around this glorious little market, I kind of wished I hadn’t eaten yet.

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I also encountered a fantastic foraged mushroom stand which made me also regret I didn’t have an Airbnb where I could go back and cook up some of the mushroom goodness.

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One thing though I couldn’t pass up was another cup of Mexican hot chocolate, which was becoming my go-to in this weather. The cumulative effect of my burning the candles at both ends was catching up with me so I walked back to the hotel to get some rest before dinner. A couple of hours later, I headed back towards the Center City to an Indonesian place that I spotted during a previous walk and had great reviews, taking of course a few pics along the way with everything now bathed in lights.

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The restaurant, Kantjil & de Tijger, was part of the strong tradition of Indonesian food in Amsterdam dating back centuries. I was very excited to try a Rijsttafel (rice table) in its birthplace. However, usually that’s not possible for a solo diner as its designed to be shared amongst a large group. Thankfully, the restaurant had a modified version which could be ordered per person that featured 10 different items of delicious Indonesian staples, from pork satay to beef rendang to the ubiquitous shrimp chips. Behold its glory!

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Each component both worked separately and even better combined, especially the powered toasted coconut with the spicy nasi goreng. However, the real standout was the tender beef rendang which was packed with flavor. Not bad for $20 too. I made as much as a dent as I could on the massive plate before throwing in the proverbial white towel.

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A couple of blocks down the street from the restaurant, I saw what must obviously be the beginning of the infamous Red Light District. However, it was wall to wall people and while I was curious, I decided it was best left to explore another time. Tune in dear readers to see if that time happens!

Amsterdam Day/Night 2 – From Dusk Til Dawn

Thanks to the combination of the sun not rising until 8:30AM and some heavy curtains, I got a much-needed 10 hours of sleep before heading out into the cold once again. Since I knew I was in for a very long night (more on that later), I decided to take it easy with a walk to the center of the city and some famous Dutch pancakes.

Proudly declaring itself the smallest restaurant in Europe, Upstairs Pancakehouse had a whopping total of 6 tables, which meant a solo traveler like myself had to share a table. In a city that mostly embraces tall people with open arms, this restaurant was a bit of a struggle, starting with one of the steepest staircases I had ever encountered. The building itself was from the 1600s but had been a restaurant since the 1950s.

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I really didn’t know that much about Dutch pancakes so the vast selection was a bit daunting. However, after seeing my fellow patrons’ dishes, I realized basically they were essentially the Dutch version of a crepe, which explained why there were both sweet and savory options. I was feeling something in the more traditional mode so I opted for a sweet version – poached pear with egg nog and cream. It was also supposed to have chocolate sauce but I asked to have that on the side in case it was a bit too sweet. That turned out to be the right call because it was plenty sweet (and delicious) without it.

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After a brief detour to track down an ATM (and get screwed with the rate) due to the restaurant’s cash only policy, I continued my walk into the Center of town.

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As I made my way essentially around the horn of the Center, it became a lot more touristy and I quickened my pace to basically get out there. However, I had to admit I was curious about one of the most touristy options possible – the Sex Museum. When in Amsterdam…

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That’s about all that would be fit to print (post?) from there. Google if you want to see more, pervs.

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After several miles of walking, I was beat and headed back to the hotel to rest up for the big night ahead. The plan was to meet my old friend Chris, who has lived in Amsterdam for 10 years now, at his place in the hip area De Pijp and then head to the club after that. Fortunately, De Pijp was very close to my hotel, just past the main museum area, including the Van Gogh and Modern Art MOCO museums I planned to visit later in the week.

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As I was searching for a potential spot for dinner in De Pijp, I came across a roasted chicken and beer pub that sounded great on a cold damp night. It turned out I wasn’t the only one thinking of such things as the place with rammed and had a 90 minute wait for a table. Fortunately, I could eat at the bar and lucked out snagging the last seat. I didn’t really want a beer so my server suggested this cider made with lime and kiwi. I recalled fondly my roasted chicken and cider meals at Casa Mingo in Madrid so that sounded great. The chicken didn’t quite meet the Casa Mingo’s standards (but then again what does?) but it was still very tasty.

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I made the short walk to Chris’ place and after an hour or so catching up with him and his wife, we hailed an Uber and headed out to the club, which was in the far north part of the city, by the docks in essentially the middle of nowhere. The event featured one of my all time favorite DJs, Sasha, so I was really looking forward to a great night. It also allowed me to play around the new night mode in my Phone 11 Pro camera.

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The show was great and just after 5AM, Sasha brought it home with the Hacienda era inspired Franky Wah – Get Me High.

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We made our way through the gurning masses and took another Uber back to De Pijp. It was now about 6AM and my feet were killing me so the short walk home took a bit longer. It was slightly surreal that not only was it still dark but the moon held high in the sky. Although it was absurdly late, I was able to keep my streak of no clubbing after sunrise intact and crashed into bed still in the cover of darkness.

 

Amsterdam Day/Night One – Beer in the Land of the Giants

I arrived in Amsterdam just after noon, which meant I needed to force myself to stay up for at least a few hours. After a very pleasant Tesla taxi ride with a gregarious driver, I got to my hotel which was just on the edge of the Vondelpark and central to just about everywhere.

Amazingly my hotel room was actually ready but I knew not to fall into the trap of resting. Nope, it was time to explore my temporary new ‘hood. The weather was less than ideal but the brisk breeze actually helping keeping me awake so I didn’t mind. Plus, I mean look at this beautiful city.

My friend Erik, a fellow beer nerd, insisted I check out a great Dutch beer bar but first I needed food. Luckily, there was a place next door to it that looked inviting.

Turned out this was actually a chain that is based out of Venice, CA but at least this one had a decidedly Dutch centric menu. I chose the Hot Oct which was basically a grilled octopus version of a lobster roll. Delicious as was the badly needed hot chocolate, but with real cacao and Mexican spices.

I was starting to fade but figured perhaps Dutch beer could help conquer the jetlag. The beer bar featured an impressive lineup of Dutch beers, most of which were unknown to me so I let the bartender pick a flight for me. He turned out to have nailed my tastes although I ended up subbing the selected lambeek for a pumpkin ale. I made the right choice.

Clearly a global beer nerd station of the cross, the crowd was a lively mix of locals and fellow travelers. I chatted up with a twenty something from Santa Barbara and a Muscovite escaping the thrall of Putin to have some good beer.

The bartender recommended checking out their sister spot Beer Loves Food for dinner but first I needed to head back to the hotel for a bit respite.

An hour later I was back on the road and made my way over the restaurant while dodging the packs of bicyclists that were seemingly everywhere. I could tell I was definitely walking into a pretty touristy area of the city based on the familiar brands that now dotted my field of view. Thankfully, the brewpub was on the outer edge and seemed to be once again a mix of locals and traveling beer nerds.

Unlike the last place, Beer Loves Food featured both local as well as international options. I wanted to stay local so I selected a couple of local brews tasters. I had been told the thing to get here was the Dutch croquettes so I choose the shrimp, wild geese and beer braised beef assortment. Deep fried goodness, especially the wild geese ones.

My belly now full of various Dutch delicacies, I finally succumbed to the wailing sirens of sleep and crashed as soon as head hit the pillow on my pleasantly long bed.