Monday, March 16, 2009

Feature: 24hrs in Amsterdam Part 1, 9am- 3.30pm

Out on the shelves in all decent Australian newsagensies is the current issue of Get Lost travel mag. I wrote their "24hrs in..." feature, all about Amsterdam.
From: Get Lost
With stars in his eyes and rock in his head Colin Delaney goes on tour to live the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle for 24-hours in Amsterdam. It’s gigs, musical memorials, tattoo parlours, burlesque shows, sex museums, cannabis and beer, all to the tune of his very own mixtape.
9am: Bicycle Race - Queen
Nothing clears the hangover of a Heineken session like a fresh breeze against your face, crisp air hitting your lungs, and the exercise of a morning bike ride. The Dutch must arrive to work with a relatively cheerier disposition than the rest of the commuting world, cramped on trains and grubby buses. Still somewhat rocking from last night but most definitely rolling, I head out into streets tighter than my jeans to enjoy the city, and like Pearl Jam’s tour, I’m carbon neutral. There are a number of bike rentals in town, but try Mac Bikes beside famous music venue Paradiso for its proximity to Vondelpark, Amsterdam’s small version of Central Park.

9.15am: Park Life - Blur
Vondelpark offers a leisurely ride that doesn’t require novices to negotiate the manic traffic collected by the city’s narrow streets. Tourists on rentals cruise at their own pace, out-manoeuvred by local commuters as mums push prams and dogs take their owners for walks. The paved paths take me past lush grassy lawns, spinneys of trees, duck-filled ponds, a café and amphitheatre – I ride through the park daily and there’s always something new to catch my eye. An early football game is under way on a green patch by a cross-roads where buskers belt out gypsy jigs that sound like the bar scene from Star Wars. I stop to soak up some sounds and soccer, giving the sun a chance to re-energise me for my big day out.

10am: Baker Street – Gerry Rafferty
I ride to Hotel Prins Hendrik near Centraal Station, the site that saw Jazz trumpeting great, Chet Baker, fall from his room’s window at about 3am on May 13, 1988. No points for guessing what the coroner found traces of in the heroin and cocaine addict’s body. He may be jazz, but that’s a rock ‘n’ roll way to die. Jazz junkies can book his room. I instead pay my respects at the nearby memorial.
Even more rock history comes from the Amsterdam Hilton Hotel, room 702, made famous by John and Yoko’s bed-in from March 25-31 1969. The suite is now named after them, with peaceful white sheets and walls (BYO bed hair), but unless you really want to slip between the sheets for a hefty price, it’s not worth the visit.

10.30am: Dirty Jeans – Magic Dirt
I wind my way through the red light district of De Wallen as hookers take in their beauty sleep. Some of them really need it. Just beyond De Wallen is the Waterlooplein markets, always worth a wander for great vintage clothes as well as junk dressed up as bric-a-brac. An early arrival can generally guarantee good finds; worn in leather jackets, books, cd’s, gas masks, you name it. I purchase a pair of vintage Levi 501s for €10.

11.30am: One More Cup of Coffee (Valley Below) – Bob Dylan
Breakfast isn’t a greasy affair in The Netherlands, generally a simple coffee and toast. Bagels & Beans within the markets is an ideal stop. It’s a Dutch chain that is a bit Starbucksy in its décor but its saving grace is it’s not Starbucks. A large black coffee and sun-dried tomato cream cheese on a sesame seed bagel hit the spot. I pick up a copy of Amsterdam Weekly, the free expat newspaper that lists all the gigs each week to see what’s on tonight. Last night saw Aussie artists Gotye and Clare Bowditch play at the famous music venue Paradiso. Tonight it’s the four-to-the-floor rock of Canadian acts The Constantines and Ladyhawk. Perfect. Also worth checking is the Uitboro, available in bar precinct the Leidseplein, for information on upcoming live entertainment and cheap tickets.

12.00pm: Paper Planes – MIA
Tattoos and rock ‘n’ roll go hand in hand like Slash and Jack Daniels, and Hanky Panky Tattooing is a world-renowned parlour, having left their mark on members of The Prodigy, Korn, Spice Girls, Maroon 5 and Kate Moss. When in the red light district it’s worth checking out their gallery. However, I’m after something more abstract. Igor at Classic Ink & Mods wears his designs on his sleeve, his calves and a moustache on the inset of his finger. He’s the right man for the job.
The sewing machine sound is disturbing but the pain is like an ant bite that moves on as soon as needle does. Igor shares a far more painful travel story about his car crash in New Zealand that nearly left him paralysed, so I man-up. The finished product turns out better than imagined. What says “rock ‘n’ roll on tour” like a paper plane tattoo?

2.15pm: Pass the Dutch – Missy Elliott
Even the most hardened pot smoker will find it surreal to buy pot over the counter and to a novice it can be daunting, but like any good waiter, a coffee shop clerk can tell you what to expect from each type; mild, medium or say good night.
Most Dutch buy their weed from their neighbourhood shop just as we do with our local bottle shop. For travellers, when selecting a coffee shop in the city avoid the heavily souvenired chains like the Bulldogs or Grasshoppers.
While famously de Dampkring featured in Oceans 12, rumour has it Quentin Tarantino wrote the majority of Pulp Fiction spliff-in-mouth at the Betty Boop Coffeeshop on Nieuwezijds Kolk. Betty’s paved plaza is also home to a few decent bars and restaurants. On the Leidseplein, follow the lane between Burger King and Bulldog Palace to Rookies, for its large smoking room, decent tunes and mellow vibe. Likewise, towards Spui on the little laneway Jonge Roelensteeg is Abraxas with a friendly atmosphere, but if you like pot without the hippy connotations try the slick Kadinsky on Rosemarijnsteeg.
Since July 2008’s tobacco ban it’s illegal to smoke tobacco-spun joints indoors unless in specified smoking rooms. So either roll a pure one or smoke with tobacco al fresco.
Also worth noting, as of December 2008 magic mushrooms, once legal, have been outlawed by Dutch government.
If you do enjoy a spliff it’s definitely worth the experience to spark up legally, but if you don’t smoke at home don’t feel pressured just because you’re in Amsterdam – on a whole, pot is stronger here and you can enjoy the city just fine without being stoned.

3.30pm: Mayonnaise – Smashing Pumpkins
A strange yet popular Dutch take away chain, FEBO is famous for its little self-serve windows. Pop your change in, open the window and pull out your bland, cardboardy burger or croquette, the Dutch version of a chiko roll. The milkshakes are a must though and the hot chips with mayonnaise instead of ketchup which, following my visit to Tarantino’s favourite coffee shop, allows me to replay Travolta’s famous line about ‘frites met mayo’: “I seen ‘em do it. They fuckin’ drown em in that shit”. Also at the top of the Kalverstraat try Amsterdam’s famous Vlaamse Friteshuis, a chip institution.

1 comment:

  1. good stuff mate! had no idea tarantino wrote pulp at betty boop's! always saw it as an overly touristic place, but might be worth giving it a try... looking forward to pt 2..