February 23, 2008

A Weekend in Amsterdam

Clinging bicycle bells welcomed us as we stepped out of Amsterdam’s Centraal Station into the cool late night air. The streets were buzzing with mingling tourists, smart cars and blue and white trams that roll down the centre of the main streets. An intimate network of small streets can be walked from one side to the other in 30 minutes. Carefully, of course, as there are 600,000 bicycles to contend with along the way. Webbed with weathered bridges and houseboat-lined canals, Amsterdam is a quaintly exotic oasis of culture. It is not only a city, but a way of life.

After a quick stop in St. Christopher’s Inn The Winston on Warmoestraat, our hostel and home for the weekend, we set out to explore our surroundings in the Red Light District. I felt a bit sad for the women dancing under the glow of seductive lights in large windows, on main streets and in alleyways, but maybe that’s just the feminist in me because they seemed to be enjoying themselves.

Fat City, now a pool hall and pub, was our first stop. My parents met there long ago before it changed from a club and youth hostel where my dad was a DJ and my mom was a backpacker. Being in Amsterdam where coffeeshops dot every street, we stepped into a smoky den and then made our way past whispering drug dealers back to The Winston, where we spent the rest of the night dancing in the club run by the same management as the hostel.

The next morning, our first full day, we started with a hostel breakfast followed by tea at a café called Bagels and Beans (coffee beans, that is) then the obligatory canal tour that starts outside the Heineken Experience.

From there, we walked along the canal, up through the grassy space near the Van Gogh museum and got distracted with hot waffles, cherries, ice cream and Chocomels to wash it all down.
Eventually, we made it to Vondelpark, a welcoming green space with joggers, Frisbee players and more bikes. Back on the other side of town, we dined at a pancake house and walked through the Bloemenmarkt flower market before heading out for an unforgettable night at The Paradiso, a huge club converted from an old church.

In one room, we caught a show called The New Young Ones, which featured six hot new Dutch rock bands. In another room, the sold out Willy DeVille, bluesy rock that was around back when my mom saw him in Buffalo in the 70s under the band name Mink DeVille. A new crowd filed in for a techno dance hall and DJs till 5am, complete with an acrobat woman who dangled freely from a set of curtains over the crowd performing tricks. After a stop at the glorious Chipsy King at some hour of the morning, it was bed and then breakfast before our last full day on Saturday.

What better to do Saturday morning than visit the infamous Amsterdam sex museum? From the intimate to the absurd, we laughed and gasped through the halls of exhibitions which were far from your typical ‘boring’ museum. I even got a picture sitting on a giant penis. Classy, I know.
That afternoon, we went to more coffeeshops: The Bulldog, Het Derwoud and Hill Street Blues before heading off for the best night. We didn’t think it was possible to top Friday night, but we did, thanks to some stage diving and crowd surfing to a German punk band called Beatsteaks and some newfound Dutch friends who spent the night dancing with us in the Indie room. Then it was one last stop off at Chipsy King before a few hours of sleep.

It was almost like falling in love with London the first time. Maybe it was the canals, the coffeeshops and relaxed atmosphere, the charm of bicycle bells, the seduction of the sex shops and red light district, the music, the clubs, the people... I’m not sure exactly. But, something made me want to stay there, to live there for a while. It was the first time I wasn’t the most excited person in the world when arriving at Heathrow again.

1 comment:

flats said...

I´ve been there 2 years ago, it was like 5 days around the red light district bloody stoned with our girlfriends... That´s a place not allowed 4 girlfriends! cheers