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A (not so) flying visit to Amsterdam

Amsterdam

At the beginning of March I was invited to visit Amsterdam courtesy of Eurostar, whose service now extends there via Brussels. They asked me to review and photograph some more unusual visitor destinations while I was there, to be used on their ads in London tube stations – quite exciting!

Amsterdam

With just one night in the city and about half a day each side, we had a tight itinerary of places to hit. After an early start in London and a long but relaxed train ride, we started off with lunch at Cafe Brecht which bills itself as a Berlin-style cafe-bar with the stylings of a grandmother’s living room.

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Amsterdam
Amsterdam
Amsterdam
Amsterdam

It was a cute, cosy place with a piano, board games and a tasty menu of cakes, flatbreads and fresh lemonade. Perfectly recharged, we set out to explore.

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Amsterdam
AmsterdamAmsterdam
Amsterdam
Amsterdam

Luckily the weather was pretty mild, so we spent the afternoon wandering around the 9 Straatjes – narrow streets full of great shops and cafes. Amsterdam is brilliant for little boutiques – bookstores, antiques, and vintage clothing aplenty.

Amsterdam
Amsterdam
Amsterdam
Amsterdam

Around 5, we decamped to Beer Temple. Despite the lame name it’s a treasure trove of rare American and world beers, and clearly an American ex-pat hangout judging by the clientele. Plus they serve freshly-popped popcorn go to with your delicious brew.

Amsterdam
AmsterdamAmsterdam

For dinner, we went to the restaurant recommended by Eurostar, Trouw in the south of the city. Housed in a huge old warehouse, it’s stylishly industrial with a wall of lush plants growing, and a lot of the produce for the restaurant is grown on site.

Amsterdam
Amsterdam
Amsterdam
Amsterdam

There were loads of veggie options on the small-plate sharing style menu. We over-ordered because everything sounded so good – baked goats’ cheese, ravioli, chard and fontina tart… mmmmmm. The food and wine was brilliant and the service friendly. Suitably stuffed, we rolled onto a train out to Zaandam where we were staying at the Inntel hotel.

Amsterdam
AmsterdamAmsterdam

Zaandam is a little suburban town about a 12-minute train ride north of Amsterdam. On first impressions from leaving the station, it looks like a fake toy-town with pristine colourful building stacked up like baby blocks and multiple levels of little waterways. The hotel’s interior was similarly-themed, with each room given a large wall mural of local products – we were in the Gourmet room. We arrived in Zaandam late Saturday night and everything was closed on Sunday morning (apart from the Delice de France where we had a horrible breakfast – sometimes hotel breakfast prices are worth it) so we didn’t see if the whole town was equally as nuts. But it was a fun place to stay, and good value since it’s a little out of town.

Happily we’d planned our trip to coincide with the monthly IJ-Hallen Flea Market, a huge once-a-month market held in the shipping docks just a short ferry ride from Centraal station.

Amsterdam
Amsterdam
Amsterdam
AmsterdamAmsterdam
Amsterdam
Amsterdam
Amsterdam
Amsterdam
AmsterdamAmsterdam

It was one of the best fleas I’ve been to: huge, with a great selection of treasures, especially ceramics, tins and retro homewares. Unfortunately we arrived a little late due to infrequent Sunday ferries and had our train home to catch so we couldn’t stay long enough to see it all – it really was huge. I made off with just a couple of cute tins and an old Voigtlander camera, all under 5 euros each. We lunched glamorously on Burger King in the station before boarding a train for the long slog home.

Amsterdam

There are both pros and cons to taking the Eurostar over flying. The most obvious con is that the journey itself takes quite a bit longer, but that is somewhat offset by going from St Pancras which is pretty near our home, and not having the usual 2-hour prior checkin of airports. It also feels a little more calming and civilised to take a train rolling through Europe than a cattle class budget flight. Finally the environmental impact is much reduced which is appealing. I wouldn’t rule out doing it again, but perhaps not for just an overnight trip.

Thanks to Eurostar for putting us up. Let me know if you spotted my photographs on the tube station ads – I think I totally missed them!

Golden half – two cities

Sorry for the all the slightly self-indulgent photography posts lately – I just spent a fortune getting tons of films developed and now they’ve all been sent back. Much as I love the precision and control you get from digital photography, there’s nothing like the excitement of getting a roll of developed film back – especially when you might have forgotten what’s on it and it brings back nice memories.

These were taken on my little Golden Half with Fuji slide film (straight processed). Some of our little August jaunt to Amsterdam and some just out and about round London.

golden half: London
Street art around where I work in Shoredtich

golden half: London
The art car boot fair on Brick Lane back in the summer

golden half: Amsterdam
Amsterdam. Happily in this film the two photos in the same frame often matched to to create a nice diptych – for example, both these shots have flowers in.

golden half: Amsterdam

golden half: Amsterdam

golden half: Amsterdam
Analog also teaches you that sometimes a ruined frame looks good too!

Weekend in Amsterdam

Amsterdam: canal bridge
We spent last weekend taking little trip over to Amsterdam. It’s the perfect place for a weekend break – a super-quick 40 minute flight from our nearby City Airport, a quick train into town the other side and a stroll to the hotel from there. It’s a great city for exploring by foot (or more traditional bike or boat, of course), and every corner you turn presents a picturesque view of bike-filled bridges over the canals. It’s also full of flowers, be it carefully grown around peoples’ front doors or windowsills, or wildflowers growing through the pavement cracks.

Amsterdam: windowsill flowers
It’s great for shopping too, if little boutiques are your thing. The Negen Straatjes ( ’9 Little Streets’) area to the west of the centre contains most of the coolest little shops and it’s great for a wander round.

Amsterdam: cute shop

Amsterdam: The Otherist
My favourite one we stumbled on is The Otherist. Styled up like a curiosity cabinet, it sells trinkets and goodies by indie designers, as well as yummy Manos yarns. You can buy online on their website too, hurrah. I also liked vintage store Episode which contains a nice selection of original accessories as well as restyled and reconstructed skirts and tops. The fabulously pink Kitsch Kitchen is a little trove of kitschy kitchen and homeware. I picked up some melamine spoons and some toys for the cat.

Amsterdam: Noordmarket

Amsterdam: beer delivery bike
There’s a fair bit of food and drink on offer too. We went to the Noordmarkt in the north of town which hosts an organic food market on Saturdays (and had the most packed cafe I’d ever seen next door, with everyone eating specialty Dutch apple cake with whipped cream). We were hoping to stock up on beers at the Cracked Kettle too, but realised we wouldn’t be able to take it back on the flight with us.

Amsterdam: brewery

Amsterdam: brewery
We did enjoy a few beers out at the Brouweri ‘t IJ though – a windmill-turned-working-brewery which serves yummy wheat and white beers all made on the premises. They do tours but only on Fridays so we missed out.

Amsterdam: Cat museum
My favourite thing though was definitely (and perhaps unsurprisingly) the Katten Kabinet, a whole house turned museum in honour of cats! Housed in a typical canal-side building, it’s been restored to 18th-19th century grandeur and contains all feline-related ephemera imaginable, from advertising posters to sculptures to a pinball table made of Chinese ‘lucky cats’. Best of all, there are 3 real-life furry exhibits who didn’t mind being cuddled and fussed over at the end. So sweeeet!

Amsterdam: Cat museum

Amsterdam: Cat museum

Amsterdam: Cat museum

Amsterdam is full of cats, actually. I saw 14 over the course of the weekend, lazing on windowsills, sitting by the canal and even one chilling with its owners outside a bar. I can definitely get on board with a city that loves its cats!

Amsterdam: cat-spotting

If you’re planning a trip there yourself, you can see all the places we visited on my Google map, and here’s some more photos I took on Flickr.