Celebrating in style in Amsterdam
One Sambuca, two Sambuca, three Sambuca go…
I don’t need a reason to travel, but on this occasion, I had a good one. My friend Scotty’s thirtieth birthday. Fourteen of us flew out including me, my wife Laura, Scotty and his wife Carla, plus their friends and family. We left our house at 9am Thursday morning, picked up the birthday boy along with Carla and another friend – Si.
We arrived at Liverpool airport around 10am giddy with anticipation. Once past the security rigours we felt it only right to get the party started and headed to Frankie and Benny’s for breakfast and a pint. The waiter asked where we were travelling and why. Before we knew it Scotty was faced with the biggest Sambuca shot I had ever seen. A triple Sambuca is not really anyone’s ideal aperitif before breakfast. But in the true spirit of the trip he begrudgingly knocked it back in one. It had him reeling a bit and he was feeling tipsy before we even got on the plane.
The journey was largely uneventful, but of particular note was how well Carla and Scotty’s mum managed to overcome their fear of flights and stay calm for the entire journey. On Carla’s side this was largely due to the friendly Welsh bloke sat next to her and his large package keeping her distracted.
We landed about 2.30pm and got the train to Amsterdam Central Station. Scotty had informed us we were a ten-minute stroll to the hotel. However, the ‘ten-minute’ stroll actually took forty minutes and I nearly got run over thanks to Scotty’s local knowledge of the traffic light system. Our hotel was NH Amsterdam Schiller on Rembrandt Square. We were a little worried about how much sleep we would get when we saw that they provided earplugs for all guests; but we needn’t have worried as we all slept perfectly for the whole holiday.
Thursday, our first evening in the Dam.
Our first trip out was to a bar around the corner – Regular and Jack. Cool bar with fantastic and attentive table service. Food was quite pricey though so we decided to move on for tea despite liking the relaxed atmosphere.
We headed to Dam Square to find a restaurant that would accommodate twelve of us without a booking. We eventually settled for an Argentinian Restaurant called Masy Mas having been ‘persuaded’ by an overly pushy bloke at the door. The company was great and the food was good, although most of us did just have pizza (which seemed to be a theme for the whole trip).
Next we sampled the local Coffeeshop culture at Smokey’s right next to our hotel. A fun place with a good vibe, cool music and friendly, helpful staff. A few beers later we got the munchies and walked around Rembrandt Square for food. We ended up at a pizza takeout and each got another slice of pizza. As we headed back to Smokey’s we felt like it was Groundhog Day and expected to be stuck in a perpetual loop of beer and pizza! Not a bad cycle to be stuck in I guess.
A couple more drinks and we were done. Once outside Scotty had us in stitches with his peculiar mumblings including “I just need to sit on a nice cold slab and have a piss!” or panicking after noticing his fag was wet – “It’s sucking all the moisture out of my mouth!”
Friday – Condoms, Sex and Smokey’s.
We started the day at Greenwoods, an English tea room we had been recommended. We sat outside enjoying views of the canal and mesmerised by the numerous sloping buildings.
That set us up nicely for fun packed day. First the Condomerie in the Red-Light quarter. A small and odd shop with a plethora of condoms. Not really anything special but worth popping in if you are in the area. Walking around this area also meant we saw our first helping of the Red-Light ladies. Whilst it was by no means glamorous it wasn’t nearly as seedy as I had expected.
We walked to the Sexmuseum which was €4 to get in and a bizarre experience. It displayed the history of porn, mechanical masturbating dolls, giant penis shaped chairs, a lot of explicit pictures, several big muffs, peeing women, scary looking chastity belts, a flashing man and a man with a 48cm cock! Carla started to get a little horny so we felt we best move on.
We supped a couple of beers sat on the terrace at Grasshopper across from the Sexmuseum before meandering along the higgledy-piggledy streets in the Old Red-Light District. We passed a few more ladies of the night before arriving at Suzie’s Saloon for happy hour drinking and pool. €3 a pint was about as cheap as we found in the city. The bar was a cool and busy place. Although an overly friendly bloke off his head on mushrooms latched onto us for a little too long.
We nipped to Café Pleinzicht whilst we waited for another of Scotty’s friend’s, Anna to arrive. It was a small bar with a nice atmosphere, good music and mix of locals and tourists. Once Anna arrived we move on for tea at Villa Nieuwmarkt. Sticking with the theme most of us had pizzas which were good and chips which were great, but Anna and Mitch shared a giant Fondue that looked amazing. My arteries clogged up just looking at it!
We finished the evening singing and dancing back at Smokey’s where a Mexican looking bloke sat at the other end of our table staring blankly at his phone and not noticing a single thing that was going on around him.
Saturday – Lovers Cruise and big night out.
We grabbed a quick breakfast around the Nieumarkt area before heading to 9 Streets shopping area where we found a little bar called Café De Gouden Florijn to watch football in. It was a strange atmosphere at first because the pub quiz team made us feel unwelcome. But the bar tender was pleasant and it ended up being a busy little place with a good selection of beers.
We nipped back to the hotel for a quick freshen up and beer before meeting up with the whole gang for Scotty’s big 30th celebration boat cruise. The cruise was called the “Lover’s Cruise.” There was fourteen of us, and the atmosphere was great with a buzz of excitement. We got pizzas, beers and potted history of the city as we trundled around the canal. The toilet on the barge was something to behold – possibly the tallest toilet on the planet.
From there the night got a little crazy. I have patchy memories of Scotty struggling to flip 28 beer mats, Carla pretending she was an artist and drawing a barman, me drunkingly asking anyone that would listen “why is my sleeve wet?”, Laura being groped, a girl trying to steal Scotty’s wallet, me orchestrating some Dutch football fans in a chant despite having no grasp of the Dutch language and then leading a “Fields of Athenry” chant.
We got up very late and got the ferry to NDSM. Martin, Carla, Mitch and Si went to Noorderlicht Café, a cool place in a bit of a hipster area. I was gutted to miss it as they were full of praise.
Mitch had fantastic breakfast at Pllek. Set in shipping containers – it didn’t look much from the outside but he said was great inside. We had dinner at SmaaQt, a decent little place in Noord then wandered back to ferry.
Back in the main part of the city we had a couple of beers at Suzie’s Salon. Si ‘the shark’ Renney hustled us at pool and pinball before we headed back to the hotel to change for the evening.
We all met at the hotel bar for Gin and Tonics before going out. The GnTs were accompanied by cheese and nuts and Scotty claimed “I don’t have enough teeth to eat nuts!” The hotel bar had the perfect atmosphere for sitting and drinking an evening away, but we needed to head out for dinner.
We ate at Al Bacaro – “the best Italian Restaurant in Amsterdam” we were assured by the random bloke stood at the door. We had a quality bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, a Carteggio DOC Red and fantastic, authentic Italian food. My rare cooked beef with parmesan and rocket salad was superb. The only downside was Carla’s god-awful chocolate pasta concoction. The restaurant was intimate, cosy and the staff enthusiastic and passionate about their fare.
After our more sophisticated evening we strolled to Three Sisters pub opposite our hotel to watch Superbowl 50. It was a fun filled evening in a bustling pub and we could have stayed there all night. But alas we had a plane to catch in the morning so had to call it a night at 3am with the Superbowl still in full swing.
Amsterdam in a nutshell…
Amsterdam is a city full of character and culture – although we didn’t see much of it on this trip! Our focus was on celebrating Scotty’s 30th birthday and it was the perfect city to do it in. Plenty of good restaurants, bars and clubs and friendly people. Scotty had a brilliant birthday weekend and we were lucky to be part of it.Tags: amsterdam, Bars, City Break, experience, netherlands, sexmuseum