Amsterdam = Allure

It was the kind of flight home where you spend the whole time debating the merits of moving to the city you've just visited.  Thinking up career options, seeing yourself in a new apartment, persuading yourself that the finances could work.  I've done it a few times before, but returning from Amsterdam on that blue skied September afternoon, there was a particular urgency and excitement to my thoughts as they considered this notion.

And I can't blame them (my thoughts that is).  A month on from that long weekend staying on Herengracht, images of the city regularly populate my mind and I find myself eager to reminisce on that time whenever the opportunity presents itself.

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Perhaps it was the canals?  No, first and foremost, it definitely was the canals.  Threading their way through the heart and peripheries of the city, they provided a gentle hum of movement for a capital city, but without being overwhelming.  Instead of car horns and faces full of exhaust fumes, there was the faint sound of rolling water and an endless supply of bridges from which to watch.  They added another dimension to the city.  And it seems rude to group them as one because each, due to its own particular height, inhabitants and surroundings, had its own tangible character.  The canals gave Amsterdam its pulse, its soul; built in the 17th century, still they thrived and still they delighted.

If it wasn’t the canals, then it was definitely the bicycles.  But not even the bicycles themselves, but more what the bicycles had done to inform the design and feel of the city. One must keep in mind that the bicycle is king in Amsterdam – the car is not.

It wasn’t just the lessening sense of stress one has around bicycles compared to vehicles, but also the way in which they prompted human interaction and a feeling of comradery.  It’s much easier to hop off a bicycle to greet someone, chat to someone or help someone in need than it would be driving past said situation at 60 mph.  And this resulted in a place which felt open and friendly, where you felt at home.

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And if it wasn’t Amsterdam’s canals or the bicycles, then it was definitely its looks.  From the exquisitely dressed dinner table a couple had setup on the canal bank outside their home one evening to the cobweb of intertwining streets which so often threw up a visual treat at every corner.  The architecture and infrastructure arguably speak for themselves, but look inside any window in Amsterdam and still its style continues to sparkle and to intrigue on the inside also.

Recommendations:

Where to stay – The Hoxton.  Overlooking the canal on a quiet street in Herengracht, you’re a short walk to the centre of town and to the stylish Jordaan neighbourhood.  Add in retro furnishing, slick design and a ton of sense pleasing little touches and you’ve got the perfect base from which to explore.

The Bar at The Hoxton

The Bar at The Hoxton

Where to watch a movie  – Pathé TuschinskiEven if you’re not in the mood for a movie, be sure to check out the grandness of this 1921 movie theatre.  If nothing else, it’s worth a visit just for the art deco inspired wood panelled foyer - you'll feel like you've stepped back in time.

Where to get an ice cream Monte PelmoPeering in through the window, a couple of locals said that I had to go in and I had to get the pistachio.  So I did, and here it is on a list of recommendations. 

Where to take some time out VondelparkOn a sunny day, there’s nothing better than grabbing a picnic and heading down to this park complete with its green lawns, ponds and open-air theatre.

Where to breakfast Coffee and CoconutsI guarantee you’ll have never eaten in a place quite like it.  Set in a former 1920s cinema, this coffee shop come café is spectacularly unique with its split level layout.  The décor is chic, the vibe relaxed and the menu something else – a full breakfast included coconut pancakes with Dutch strawberries and a mango-basil coulis.  

Piers McEwanTravelComment