There are few moments when I’m consumed with envy, but watching the good folks of Amsterdam during a recent visit sailing along the canals in their assorted boats drinking in hot sunshine and cold beer, I committed one of the deadly sins.
As a student in Hull, Amsterdam was an overnight boat ride away and many of my peers took full advantage of its liberal attitude towards rolling fat ones and having a gawp at the ladies in the shop windows. However, my first visit to the city revolved around the canals, and more specifically, canal life.
I had no interest in the coffee shops when there were tourist boats to cruise along in, from where one could observe the private parties floating by with ridiculously good-looking and jovial guests enjoying picnics. Such a different picture to the one that many Brits have of Amsterdam, thanks to the red light district.
Unfortunately, the hookers and hashish has been its undoing in terms of reputation as a city break destination. Even a well-travelled friend gave this reaction when we told him we were heading there for a long weekend, “Why? It’s really seedy and full of drunken stag dos”.
That’s like saying London is all about Soho, when clearly that’s not the case. When one steps away from this patch of prostitution, a gorgeous city full of lovely places to hang out is revealed.
I’m particularly in love with the Jordaan neighbourhood, where Rembrandt spent the last years of his life. We met our friends for brunch at G&T’s on Goudsbloemstraat 91, which makes a tasty non-alcoholic Shirley Temple cocktail.
The shabby chic interior of miss-matched furniture and crockery is a magnet for hipsters but unlike such places in Shoreditch, the food is tasty and reasonably priced while the staff are friendly and funny. Like having your mates serve up the Eggs Benedict
Like a lot of central Amsterdam, Jordaan has streets of high density apartments, which somehow never manage to feel claustrophobic, but then after a couple of rows there’s a break in the pattern formed by large open squares lined with a mix of eateries, bars, shops and cute houses.
There were few seats available for alfresco dining, but we found a corner of a tapas restaurant that had two spaces with a view of the evening sunset and squeezed in for supper. During our trip we also visited the salvage furniture store and coffee shop Harvest & Co, which serves up very delicious carrot cake!
Pancakes are a Dutch tradition we were more than happy to indulge in, washed down with home-made lemonade. A lot of sugar consumed in one sitting, but then we comforted ourselves with the fact that we had walked a great deal that day and after all, we were on holiday.
For those who still think of Amsterdam as a destination solely for groups of men in matching t-shirts and an ability to drink themselves into award-winning stupors, then I would urge you to give the city an opportunity to show you how it really gives visitors a good time.