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Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Amsterdam recommendations

Someone asked me where to eat in Amsterdam. That's a tough question, really.

First of all, I wouldn't go to Amsterdam for the food. For other things, Amsterdam is great fun. I recommend you stay in the Jordaan, which is near enough to the center but hip and low-key neighbourhood with little cafes and well hidden art galleries. The last time I was around that neighbourhood I wandered into one of those galleries, the owner, a delightfully cranky old man told me a tale of how he discovered and put on the first show for Cy Twombly.

Many of my Amsterdam trips are for work, So I would stay at one of those charmless cookie cutter places like the Marriot or the Intercontinental. The only time I was there on my own dough in the last two years, I stayed at a delightful little hotel called the hotel Van Onna near the Ann Frank House in the Jordaan. My Dutch friend Anke recommended the place, which turned out to be a small, friendly, family run little canal-side hotel on the quiet Bloemgracth. I loved the place. It was spotless and comfortable, though a bit lacking in luxury (no phone, no TV). It was also fabulously cheap, around 90 euros in the height of the summer season! It was so cheap I wondered if the bathroom was en suite or down the hall. Happily the former was the case. I would recommend it to anyone. They also serve a nice breakfast which included a very Dutch treat of white bread and chocolate sprinkles. (Hotel Van Onna, Bloemgracht 102, +31 20 626 5801)

My favorite people watching place in Amsterdam has got to be Café de Jaren on Nieuwe Doelenstraat by the Amstel canal. They have a bright and cheery room overlooking the canal. In the summer I love sitting outside on the dock sipping a cup of tea and while away the afternoon. The outdoor seating is closed, understandably, most of the winter but the place is still worth the visit. They also serve food, which is entirely edible.

Sap en Soup on Haarlemstraat (also in the Jordaan) is lovely. Good quick place to grab a cup of soup for lunch or some fresh organic juices to go. The soups are good for Amsterdam standard, but then again you didn't go there for the food, did you?

Chez George on Herenstraat is probably one of the nicest restaurants in the whole town, which still is not saying much about the place. It's also a bit on the expensive side for what you get, and I can't always justify eating there when I've just come from either Paris on London where you could eat much better. If Amsterdam is your only destination this trip on the other hand, by all means go there.

There is a very nice tea shop on Keizersgracht near the Westerkerk church where you can buy lovely tea. In December they should have new arrivals of Second Flush Darjeelings, which despite the connotation of “second” is not necessarily inferior to the First Flushes. For example, the Castleton plantation is known to have far superior (hence expensive) Second Flush than their First Flush teas. Actually, I'm not sure if the shop is on Keizersgracht or the next block, Prinsengracht, but I'm certain it is at the corner of one of these two streets and Rozengracht, which is the main street going from the Jordaan into the city area. I'm sorry I can't be more specific, but it's not that hard to find really.

You should definitely go to the Rijksmuseum, yes the Van Gogh museum as well, but definitely the Rijksmuseum. I fail to understand why so many people prefer the Van Gogh while I would take any of Rembrandt's paintings over the whole lot of Van Gogh's. Every time I go there I spent hours going back and forth between the Jewish Bride and the Night Watch. Simply festinating and utterly perfect both of those paintings are.

Going from the Rijksmuseum toward Amstel canal in town, you should take the Nieuwe Spiegelstraat. There are a lot of contemporary galleries in that neighbourhood, including the famous De Appel center, the well known D'Eent gallery, and the fabulous gallery Lieve Hemel which carries some of the best contemporary realist paintings in Europe.

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