Continued from Part 1

If you want to pop into a traditional bar and taste some nice beers, chat with some locals and feel the passion that the Dutch have for their football teams then you can’t go wrong with Café Internationaal. The decor tells the story of the origins of this place, as a convenient watering hole for sailors from 1928. Country flags, classic beer adverts, and sports shirts vie for attention with antique tiled fireplaces, historic photos, and nautical paraphernalia. It’s full of character and characters, with a lively, friendly, atmosphere. In such a touristy area it’s nice to interact with everyday authentic locals that don’t mind a foreign face or two.

Beer and wine products available at Brouwerji de Prael

Beer and barley wine


Front of the Brouwerji de Prael Shop

Front of the Brouwerji de Prael Shop

In stark contrast, a couple of streets away is the modern microbrewery mega bar Brouwerji de Prael. It’s very contemporary, with a great selection of beers brewed on site and definitely at the other end of style compared to the traditional brown pubs. It had a buzzy vibe and an eclectic selection of customers. You can prop up the bar or share a table with other patrons.

My friend chose to try ‘jonge jenever’, which is a spirit commonly drunk with a beer to warm the insides on those sharp cold days in the Netherlands. I tried a little sip of the full-bodied beast and knew it wasn’t for me, no matter how cold it got! Thankfully I chose a lovely milk stout and could have quite happily worked my way through the rest. Around the corner, there is a shop selling the bottles of the de Prael beer as well as barley wine, jenever and bars of Tony’s chocolate.

To round off the evening I popped into Getto bar, a lively burger, and cocktail joint that also features fabulous drag shows and celebrations of every sexual orientation. The bar staff and clientele were lovely and very sociable. Unfortunately, show time was substituted for another special event (Eurovision Song Contest) but this was still a lively and entertaining and most appropriate place to watch the outlandish performances. It was a brilliant way to round off a civilised evening in Amsterdam, catching the last tram and ready for more sophistication the next day.

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Getto bar, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Drinks, glitter balls and fun song contest 🙂

I chose to visit the Van Gogh Museum over the Rijksmuseum as much more than Rembrandt, Vermeer and others, I was interested in Vincent’s personal story. I arrived as soon as the museum opened and started at the top of the building for two reasons. One, so I could attempt to at least see some of the paintings with the minimum of other people and secondly, to begin with the sad ending to Vincent’s life and work backward, unravelling how he came to the conclusion of suicide.

There are a few of the more famous of Van Gogh’s works, such as The Potato Eaters, Irises, and Almond Blossom. However, it’s a little disappointing that some of the really famous pieces, such as Sunflowers, The Starry Night or Bedroom in Arles are not hanging in his posthumous monument. The less well-known ones that are there, are simply stunning. Sometimes, it’s not about seeing what everyone else thinks is the best, but making your own judgement. For me, I loved the bold celebration of colour, the fearless brushstrokes and the incredible interpretation of nature in his works from whirling wheat fields to waggling waves.

Of course, the paintings are magnificent. The lustrous sheen of the paint, the fantastic contrasting colours that compliment each other and the texture of the thick layers make the in real life experience so satisfying and exciting. The addition of audio transcripts of Vincent’s letters to his best friend and beloved brother Theo add an awesome insight into the artist’s thoughts. It’s an intense, emotional journey, as I learned his mental state was severely affected by his inability to make a living from his passion and his difficulties in his relationships with women and fellow artists.

Before I knew it, a good two hours had flown by. I hopped over the street to the nearby Royal Coster Diamond store for a free guided tour. This is the company that recut the famous Koh-i-Noor massive diamond for the British Royal Family, which currently sits in the Crown Jewels. The tour is a little introduction to the world of high end jewellery, where diamonds are mined, how they are graded in quality and how they are transformed from dirty rocks into pretty things.

Black diamonds from Coster Diamond store

Ooh present ideas!

We were given a demonstration of a new cut that that factory developed and patented, with 201 facets. The extra reflective faces within the stone definitely upped the twinkles, for no extra cost! I found out that diamonds which are more towards the yellow end of the colour scale look better set in gold and that the unusual black diamonds look great on the wrist. There was a large collection of sparkly things at the end of the short tour, with the most expensive piece being a $340,000 ring. It seems that Royal Coster’s best customers are not lottery winners, princesses or oil barons but Governmental employees from certain nations, which actually made total sense.

By now I was totally ravenous and decided to indulge in a Dutch culinary classic – pancakes! I wanted to try the infamous fare from The Pancake Bakery, serving up deliciousness since 1973. The menu was quite extensive, including a huge selection of sweet or savoury pancakes, giant omelettes and also poffertjes, which are small traditional buckwheat doughnut style pancakes. I was tempted to start with a savoury and then move onto a pudding, a decision I did not regret later. I gave in to my sweet tooth and chose a pancake packed with quintessential Dutch stuff, stroopwafel (wafer biscuits sandwiched with caramel), cinnamon ice cream and chocolate sprinkles.

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I was presented with a massive plate of yumminess and devoured the lot! The base was more of a crepe style than American thick pancakes and was generously topped with the aforementioned Dutch delicacies. A couple next to me ordered one sweet and one savoury to share between them, a great idea! If only there was a half and half option for customers dining alone, as mixing and matching would be a great way to sample more of the menu.

I’d also suggest that the ‘Maasai’ pancake needs some ingredient check… I’m pretty sure Maasai are mainly consuming blood, milk, and meat. I wouldn’t say broccoli, zucchini, mushrooms, leeks, sugar snaps or cheese are typical of their diet!

Talking about cheese… I always rate a good cheese shop if you can smell the produce ‘pong’ before you open the door. I wasn’t disappointed on arriving at Fromagerie Abraham Kef recommended to me by a local as the place to purchase some quality products. Selling mainly French and Dutch cheeses as well as artisan breads and butter, it’s an authentic little place that supplies top restaurants. The other ‘cheese places’ in the more touristy areas were focused on selling the more well known mass produced products that are found everywhere. I fancied a nice goats cheese and took away an aged hard variety, which was nicely mellow but still full of fabulous depth of flavour.

I had a wonderful time getting under the skin of Amsterdam. From colourful art and shiny jewels to local hangouts and historic homes via Surinamese food and microbrewed beers, I took a quick dip into the more cultural edge of this town.

Check out my reviews of other nice places to visit in the Netherlands, including quirky Den Bosch, cute Utrecht, blooming marvellous Keukenhof and serene Schiermonnikoog island.

Like this post? Subscribe to the Soulful Travel newsletter for Annie’s packing checklist plus travel related advice, news, competitions and more. Sign up here.

If you need travel advice, request a free 30 minute coaching session. In the chat Annie will help you choose a destination, create your itinerary and review safety precautions. Or she can discuss how you can incorporate more travel into your life by saving, making money, travelling for free or being paid to travel.

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