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••• The International Writers Magazine -

A few days in Amsterdam
• Sam North
A perfect city break when the sun shines


I am one of the hordes. Myself and my elderly sister. I discovered she'd never been there so plans were made. She can't fly anymore but luckily Eurostar goes to Holland direct from London and it is a very civilised way to go.

There has been a lot of talk lately about resistance to mass tourism. There have been riots in the Canaries and Venice as people protest at the vast numbers of tourists that swamp these places. Venice has just introduced a 5 Euro daily change, 50 might be more effective. Amsterdam is no different, they charge a hotel room tax. My heart sank when I got off the train and saw the hordes meandering ten deep along the canal sides.  I was very glad I had picked a hotel far away from Central Station. As to why the tourists seem to hang around in one place is a puzzle to me; there are so many other parts of the city to discover. 

Sir Albert Hotel We left London on the Eurostar at around 8.15 am and by 1 pm (local time) were on the tram to our destination Sir Albert Hotel on Albert Cuypstraat. Once it was a Diamond Cutting factory, now a mid-luxury hotel. Good rooms, an Asian Fusion restaurant downstairs and a short stroll to trams and the Metro. The area is great for little shops selling unique items – such a contrast to our devastated empty high streets with the same chains selling the same tat.

My sister was a bit surprised to discover semi-naked women standing in windows right next door to the hotel in such a nice neighborhood but hey, it's Holland, different rules apply.

© Sir Albert Hotel - Amsterdam

Albert street market is always busy and De Pijp is a stones throw from the Oud Zuid area with its fancy restaurants. The Van Gogh gallery and Vondel Park is a brief stroll away too.  We walked mostly everywhere and found different places to eat or have coffee on almost every corner. (Not all have toilets - be warned). Nothing is cheap. Whatever your budget is, double it.  The Dutch seem to exist on an odd diet of egg, cheese and bread. If you’re are lucky you might get some hummus but with the exception of our very last meal nary a vegetable is served with anything, not even available as extras. 
            We ate at Factory Girl for breakfasts on Saenredamstraat – but be warned they spread garlic oil on the toast! Luckily there is an inexpensive Pizza place across from the hotel (Monte Verde) and another fifty yards further down with delicious thin crusts. (Pazzi De Pijp).


My poor sister hadn't quite realised what she'd signed up for and was astonished she was walking at least 18,000 steps a day but loved the architecture and the Wisteria that climbed around many houses. They are digging up all the streets to remove parking, placing plants where cars used to be. It's not a city for old people, that's for sure. All the stairs in every narrow building, and you're expected to ride a bike. Good luck with that when you're 80+.

On the third day I wanted to go to Foam, the photographic gallery. 16 Euros to get in. Not much thought gone into display or the content. This was the only disappointment of the trip really.

The highlight of that day was running out of the rain to the Tuschinski Cinema by the Flower Market (first opened in 1921) to see Civil War directed by Alex Garland. Wow, it makes a huge emotional impact. Needed a stuff drink after that. The Tuschinki is all lush red velvet and even has the old opera boxes. I am so happy that at least one old cinema with style still exists. The ceiling is beautiful.
Photo: Tuschinski Cinema Tiffany lamp

Amsterdam is a great place to just walk, admire the buildings, watch all the people queuing to get into the art galleries. (You have to book online now).  You often wonder how some of the buildings are still standing upright they lean out so much. People are friendly and we met some interesting World Bank people and compared lifestyles. (Theirs' wins as long as you are prepared to cycle 20k a day and back to take the kids to school!)

My sister took one of the days to head off to see the Tulips. A train ride away.  Not quite my cup of tea. I took the opportunity to write in a nice old-fashioned coffee shop and eat the wonderful apple tarts on offer.

For convenience buy a tram ticket when you arrive to cover the days you are visiting. I bought a 72 hour ticket that begins the first time you use it. The ticket machine is simple to use and has English options.
1st Klasse We had time to kill on our last day and discovered to our delight the amazing 1st Klasse restaurant at Grand Central Station. The menu is brilliant, there’s a squawky parrot on the counter and they serve vegetables with the curry. It’s full of locals who aren’t catching trains but know a great restaurant when they see it. (It’s right at the far end up some steep stairs).  It has all the style of an ancient Ocean Liner, the staff have been there years. Eat there, first and last I advise but don’t tell anyone else it’s there.

Photo: 1st Klasse

Eurostar home, four hours and on time. None of the stress or restrictions of flying. A pleasure.

© Sam North 1st May 2024
author of Another Place to Die: The Endtime Chronicles & Diamonds - The Rush of 1872

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