The Dutch are bad. Real badass.
Hailing from the U.K, I thought I understood the character of a rainy place.
But Amsterdam lies to the east of miles upon miles of unbroken North Sea and enjoys a westerly prevailing wind.
This makes the weather highly variable; one would be wise to take an unbrella out for the day even with the bluest of skies above. Within half an hour the weather can, and often does, switch from nice to downpour and back again.
The Dutch have a great word for this: wolkbreuk; literrally ‘cloud burst’.
It doesn’t get much more ‘Brown café’ than Café ‘t Monumentje.
This chthonic little brown café in the labyrinthic Jordaan is a mess of stained-old crap that becomes charming when brought together in this way.
Covering nicotine-stained walls with miscellany is certainly not unique to “‘t Monumentje”, but here the practice feels somehow more genuinely careless and of wanton cobbling together, rather than designed for an effect of age and style.
There is also a small, very dusty cage fixed to the wall and imprisoning four old Heineken tins. Naturally.
Craft brewing has snowballed in the Netherlands recently, with powerhouses such as Brouwerij de Molen emerging on the international scene.
Amsterdam is home to a few stalwarts of the scene, such as the unpronounceable Brouwerij ‘t IJ. Although, deserving the most attention, in my humble opinion, is De Prael.
For some time they existed only as a beer shop (proeflokaal), and in the last year they have enjoyed thriving business in a tucked-away venue in the red light district. The decor is excellent: a tasteful blend of individual adornments; framed beer bottle label art; old Dutch country house tiles; beer tap bathroom taps, blended with classy contemporary; spotlights; a shiny racing bike.
The beers are named after old Dutch music ‘icons’, of which they have some vinyl sleeves on the walls. It’s hard to go wrong in the beer choice, and choosing a favorite is like deciding which of your kid’s should be handed over to the Nazis. Willecke, a lovely La Chouffe-type triple blond and Mary, a strong copper triple, are highlights. In the winter, Willy, at 11.4%, will warm you up.
Despite being located between the red light district and the very popular, very touristy, very garish Warmoesstraat, De Prael enjoys a predominantly local crowd. Presumably partly because it is tucked away up an alley, and partly because the alley looks like this:
Quite possibly the best bar in town. Younger than it looks, De Prael is cleverly designed to accommodate groups, couples, loners and a band. The decor is completely original. There is a section that recreates a lounge from a typical Dutch house, adorned with Delft tiles and comfy armchairs.
Obviously limited by selling only their own beer, this small brewery is world class and it would take years to get bored of their regulars. There are always seasonal brews too.
Last weekend saw what must surely be the last of the good summer weather. Sensibly, we decided to make the most of the sunshine and explore on Winthrope and Matilda. Callum took the nice, proper pictures with the posh camera (post to follow) but here are some shots I decided to take on my phone mid-cycle…
In the background of the next shot, you can just see the tops of some city buildings in Amsterdam.
I would like to introduce you to Matilda…
She’s my mighty steed around town and although not as big as some bikes required to carry lanky Dutchies from A to B, she’s fairly fast for an oma fiets (that’s grandma bike for those who don’t speak Dutch).
Nice and bright compared to a lot of the other city bikes, she’s easy to spot in a bike crowd….
Callum on his bike, Winthorpe. No longer a spring chicken, Winthorpe can wheeze a little but once he gets going, he’s quite the speed demon.