Today I am 41. As an early birthday treat last week, British Airways allowed me onto one of their flights to Amsterdam for an extended weekend, but only after I had to perform a minor and, if I’m honest, rather lacklustre striptease for them involving my jacket and belt.
My amiable host for this trippette was Marc van Woudenberg, better known to sections of society as Amsterdamize. Marc lives in De Wallen, better known to sections of society as the Red Light District – a heady mix of erotica, elegance and edginess. Quite often it was pleasing and fascinating enough to watch life go by from the vantage point of one of the windows to Marc’s apartment. However, as a budding stand up comedy new act (being trained by this lady), and in the interests of research as I put it to my host, I decided to head to one of the pubs in De Wallen on an early weekend evening so I may listen in on the conversations of my fellow countrymen as they summoned up the bravado and bullshit for the night ahead. That was the most unrewarding part of the trip. They still spoke about putting up shelves & football. It felt like a nervously cheery and beery waiting room for the condemned.
Anyway, the trip wasn’t just for pleasure; I was asked if I would like to pop along to the University of Amsterdam to write about a new building project reaching completion by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris for my new masters at World Architecture News so I made my way over there and back without any trouble.
I went to a lovely Bar/Restaurant on Scheldeplein with Marc and some of his friends followed by Ten Pin Bowling (Knijn Bowling Restaurant, Scheldeplein 3) where I demonstrated that being ‘British’ didn’t necessarily mean ‘Inept’ in such matters.
By day and dusk, I found myself travelling through streets of unbridled beauty, where leaves were turning colour with the same speed and enthusiasm as a tourist leaving a ‘coffee shop’. From there they fell on to cobbled surfaces below or onto a canal – to me the most sumptuous and decadent central reservation for any street. Above all, the quiet was deafening. One had time to stop, to look and to think. It had a grandeur and silent civility that should befit any UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Beer has always assisted me in the thinking process. I discovered a bar specialising only in beers that assist Dutch thought, called Arendsnest or ‘The Eagles Nest’ (Herengracht 90). These are beers to be savoured, not raced, with a staff that are instantly able to judge how much a patron likes to think and advise in a courteous and professional manner the fluids that may best assist his/her thought process.
Marc took me to an excellent cafe where he likes to sit outside and think. The Cafe de Tuin (Tweede Tuindwarsstraat 13) is located in the Jordaan area of Amsterdam. We discussed the issues of the day aided by Marc’s favourite thought assistance, Trappistes Rochefort 8 (brewed by these Belgian biblical boys). At 9.2% it required slow, deep, remarkably tasty thought.
We travelled around narrow, historic streets and more recently built suburbs. We crossed noisy, every-[wo]man-for-himself squares and hear-a-pin-drop districts, too quiet for a city centre.
What was that?…….oh, how did I get about Amsterdam?…….well, they made it so convenient and pleasant I would have been an idiot not to really…..
There will follow very shortly some more in depth posts regarding my experiences on that thing tethered to the lampost above. This post was just a tease (not quite as alluring as my effort at Gatwick Airport, granted) and here are some more images to keep you going…….