Special Report - A Guide to Amsterdam

This special report is one in a series of six pages to
wrap up the Liquid Log I've kept over the last decade
(1997 to 2006). In Log Entry #300 I've collected some
monthly reviews and my 'mileages' for 2006; the
reports below deal with these topics;

300A - Past, Present & Future (Observations & ideas)
300B - Hamstergeddon 2006 (The 'six malts mission')
300C - Festivities (Meetings, festivals & tastings)
300D - Vox Populi (good questions from readers)
300F - The Raveling (Tying up several 'loose ends')
This page contains the following entries;

Granted, a page about Amsterdam may seem a bit out of place...
After all, this website is supposed to be about single malt Scotch whisky - not about my home town.
That being said, quite a few malt maniacs and other whisky enthusiasts from abroad have visited Amsterdam over the years and the same questions keep popping up on a regular basis. What is the best time of year to visit Amsterdam? Where can I find a decent hotel? What are the best places to eat out? Where can I find the Red Light District? ;-) Well, fear not - when this beginner's guide to Amsterdam is done you'll know all about it...

April 9, 2006 - Preface (I haven't had time to start the proper 'Beginner's Guide to Amsterdam' yet.)
April 23, 2006 - A few Amsterdam Hot Spots (Just to pass along some useful pointers for now...)
July 15, 2006 - Couch Potato Special (Please allow me to wander just a little bit off-topic for the moment.)
August 15, 2006 - Dark City
(This 'Guide to Amsterdam' will be wrapped up before it has proberly began.)

April 9, 2006 - Preface

If they didn't get too carried away at the Limburg
Amsterdam, De Waagfestival some of the PLOWED people will arrive here
in Amsterdam tomorrow afternoon. This reminded me
of an item I've been planning to add to this website
for quite some time now: a short beginner's guide to
my home town of Amsterdam. We get our fair share
of foreign visitors here in Amsterdam and thanks to
Google I now receive a growing number of questions
from people that didn't look for information about
whisky, but that are looking for some local advice.

Well, I'm always most happy to help out.
Still, I figured it would be more efficient to put the
information on-line instead of distributing my wisdom
piecemeal via e-mail. I don't have the time to write
an extensive 'tourist' guide at the moment, but I'll
get to it as soon as I can. Meanwhile, to get you in
the mood I'll share some of the pictures I shot in
October last year. They are random snapshots of
some of the local phenomenon I encountered while
doing my grocery shopping on my way from the
'Nieuwmarkt' subway station to the central station.

The picture at the top shows 'De Waag' on the
Nieuwmarkt square. Built in 1488 as one of the city
gates, it was recently converted into a restaurant.
The fact that you can stroll from De Waag to the
oldest heart of town in fifteen minutes shows that
Amsterdam still was a small city five centuries ago.
The picture at the bottom shows one of the many
canals in town, with one of the nation's favourite
means of transportation: the bicycle.

It gets you through the city centre much quicker than a car, although cycling in town can be hazardous to your health if you're not used to the insane traffic here. Rumours that one of Holland's other favourite means of transportation is the clog (a.k.a. the wooden shoe) are grossly exaggerated. Our ancestors wore clogs because it was the only type of footwear that wouldn't rot away in the swamplands and if you happened to lose one of them it wouldn't sink to the bottom of the swamp. However, anybody that ever wore clogs knows that they are extremely uncomfortable. Well, that's hardly surprising because they are carved out of wood - not quite as flexible as leather. Needless to say, their popularity here has dwindled significantly over time.
 Click here to listen or download
That's enough folklore for now, but this is as good an excuse as any to change the 'ear candy' again.
Now available for a limited time only: A recording from one of the most annoying features of Amsterdam; the street organ. It's a form of audiovisual terrorism that both tourists and locals are subjected to during the summer months. Whenever I had a copper ahstray shoved in my face (which means, in the street organ people's version of sign language, 'give us some money for the music') I used to hold out my empty hand in a gesture that was supposed to mean 'give me some money instead for having to listen to that horrendous noise'. The street organ people never seemed to understand my dialect of sign language though, so I've recently switched to the more familiar sign involving the middle finger...

Sweet drams,


April 23, 2006 - A Few Amsterdam Hot Spots


Amsterdam city centre

I told you earlier about the visit of the PLOWED people to Amsterdam and my desire to add a 'Beginner's Guide to Amsterdam' to this site. Well, I've started working on the guide, but it seems setting up something proper will take some time, so I'll have to designate that as a 'long term project'. To help those planning a trip to Amsterdam shortly I've put up the Google Earth map of the city centre and marked a few 'Hot Spots' that might be interesting to visitors. [1] is the Central Station, located in the oldest part of town near the harbours. From there you can travel by train, subway, tram, bus, taxi, riksha, bicycle or foot to wherever you want. [2] is the Dam Square with the Royal Palace and 'Nieuwe Kerk' - a great point to send a potential wife and kids shopping (point them north or south) while you go and explore the more interesting parts of town (go east or west). For example, if you head east by southeast into the 'Damstraat', you'll find quite a few interesting stores - like 'The Old Man', to your right after +/- 100 meters - and if you turn left at or near the end of the street you'll find your self at the next hot spot on the map. [3] is the 'Nieuwmarkt ' square with 'De Waag' I mentioned two log entries ago. There are some nice bars and restaurants around the square and it's a good place to spend a summer evening.

[4] is one of the more infamous parts of town: the Red Light District.
Actually, there are several little 'red light districts' spread through town, but this is the traditional one (located near the old harbours to accomodate the horny sailors) and by far the largest. One of the PLOWED people described it as 'A Disneyland for adults' - which brought some strange pictures to my mind...  [5] is where many tourists go to get strange pictures in their minds; the 'Grasshopper' coffeeshop. Or actually, one of the many Grasshopper coffeeshops - they have several branches in Amsterdam.

For those not familiar with the Dutch situation: a 'coffeeshop' in Amsterdam sometimes sells much more than just coffee. Some focus on soft drugs like marijuana and hashish (which are legal here), but there are many 'normal' coffee houses as well where you'll get a strange look if you ask for a joint... Anyway, this coffeeshop is located very conveniently near the central station, so many tourists visit the place for some recreational activities that are illegal at home. Those with a slightly more adventurous nature should walk down the street between [5] and [9] for a selection of dozens of other coffee shops that are actually frequented by the locals.

You'll probably want to eat and sleep during your stay in Amsterdam as well, so I've included some hotels and restaurants on the map of the city centre. [6] is the 'Port van Cleve' hotel and restaurant near Dam Square. When I asked Davin about his experiences he wrote: 'Excellent location just off Dam Square. Nice European flavour, very friendly staff, excellent free breakfast included, 4 stars but not expensive. Close to Gall & Gall Exclusief. So - marijuana, hookers and booze within walking distance (not that I noticed).' [7] is the Ibis Hotel right next to the Central Sation where the PLOWED people stayed. It doesn't look too posh but the location is hard to beat. You can get to Schiphol or any part of Amsterdam in half an hour.   [8] is the Victoria Hotel opposite the Central Station - also located as centrally as possible and a little more upscale than the Ibis Hotel from the looks of it. Not marked on the map is Hotel Krasnapolsky right on Dam Square (#2). Mark Adams had this to say: 'Hotel Krasnapolsky is simply wonderful, if you have enough acorns stashed away. The Winter Garden buffet is outstanding. What I have wanted to try, but have not yet, is a sort of B&B on the water - canal boat-houses, which are easy to find online.'. Finally, [9] on the map is an hotel and a landmark in one. The Prins Hendrik Hotel is the place where Chet Baker fell from a window to his untimely demise. It was also the spot where the PLOWED people and myself shared a dram to commemorate a great musician before taking a tour through town, so that concludes this short sermon.

I picked up Rodger, Tim and Tom (Alan was already on his way home) at the Ibis Hotel and after a quick dram at the tiny plaque for Chet Baker at the Prins Hendrik Hotel we strolled down the Zeedijk (the winding street between [9] and [3] on the map) towards the Nieuwmarkt. Just before the Nieuwmarkt I took a right turn, then a left, a right and another right and soon I had the PLOWED people completely lost and desoriented in the Red Light District - a little game I like to play whenever I show foreign visitors around town. Seen from the top (like in the map above) the city centre may seem pretty structured, but especially the older parts of town are a maze of alleys and small canals that can split and intersect at crooked angles. After spiraling through the old town for a bit (Rodger described it as a 'Porno Disneyland', which evoked some disturbing mental pictures in my mind) I lead us back to the Nieuwmarkt to find a us a restaurant.

There are plenty of restaurants around the square, but most of them offer far eastern quisine (mostly Chinese, Indonesian and Thai) while the PLOWED people were in the mood for something more local on this particular evening. So, I took them South-west along the Kloveniersburgwal to see if the waterside terrace of 'De Jaren' was already open. It wasn't (probably for the better because it was still chilly for the time of year), so I dragged the Americans a little further into town to a fairly typically local restaurant: 'Sluizer' in the Utrechtsestraat. There we enjoyed a very pleasant but relatively uneventful dinner. I suppose I could go into the details of our menus, but I imagine that might become just a bit boring - so I won't...

However, I'd like to mention one funny little 'culture clash' between America and Amsterdam.
In fact, we had been discussing many of the interesting cultural differences between Europe and the US for the past few days and as luck would have it I could see a fine example of one of those differences playing out in front of me. I've never been to the USA, but from what I've been told and have seen in movies it's quite customary in America for customers in a restaurant to be very specific about the preparation and ingredients of the dishes they order. In fact, it's not unheard of to order dishes that are not even on the menu. Well, things work a little differently in your average Dutch restaurant where you're expected to order from the menu - and bloody well like it...

I got the impression that our sultry waitress for the evening wasn't to keen on Americans to begin with and her mood quickly seemed to worsen when Tim and Tom started to explain in graphic detail what sort of 'custom' salad they would like and what type of dressing they would like to have on it. Rodger, who has been living in Europe for quite some time now seemed to realise what direction this was going in and just leaned back with a knowing smile on his face. The waitress tried to explain that there was just one 'standard' salad on the menu with a 'standard' dressing, but at first that simply did not compute for Tim & Tom. Apparently oblivious to the growing confusion and irritation of the waitress they continued to suggest possible dressings for the salad, not discouraged by the repeated 'No, no, no...' of the waitress. I finally felt the need to jump in to bridge the cultural divide, otherwise the waitress might have expressed her discomfort in some unspeakable manner in the kitchen - on our plates... Don't expect great service in your average Dutch restaurant - the best you can usually hope for is food that arrives within the hour and hasn't been tampered with ;-)

Anyway, that's it for now. More on Amsterdam - and the experience your average tourist misses out on - in a special 'Beginner's Guide to Amsterdam' section on this page in the future.

Sweet drams,


PS: If you're looking for a hotel in Amsterdam, check out the link below;

July 15, 2006 - Couch Potato Special

I noticed that I haven't added any new stuff to this page in a while.
And to tell you the truth, it's far too hot to do any writing about the city
at the moment anyway, so I've decided to add some 'spice' to the page
instead. I recently discovered a website that hosts a bunch of clips from
some favourite television shows of mine. I enjoy absurdist and black
humour, so this may not be to everyone's taste. Still, I enjoyed these
clips so much that I wanted to share 'em with you. Due to the proximity
to a 'fatal crash' of this website I didn't dare to turn these into actual
'live' links (external links complicate and expand 'the master file in
NetObjects Fusion even more - don't ask) so you'll have to
do some actual copying and pasting, I'm afraid...

Anyway, check out these clips...

The Day Today (UK, 1994) - maybe a tad rough for civilised people!
Like it? You can even download an entire episode at:
What's more,  its's now available on DVD as well. Mine arrived just last week, together with:
Brass Eye (UK, 1997) - even darker than The Day Today
And once again you can download some full episodes as well:
Alan Partridge (UK, +/- 2003?)
And then finally, from the USA:
The Colbert Report (USA, 2005):
That should keep you suitably entertained for a while...

Sweet drams,


August 15, 2006 - Dark City

Amsterdam, AlleyThe plan was to write a short story about a concert I enjoyed with
a few collegues on a boat last month. However, something happened.
I still don't know what (my memory ends around 23:00 on the boat),
but it seems a few hours later I was delivered to the hospital with
amnesia, a heavy concussion and quite a few bumps and bruises.

Amsterdam does have its dark alleys, but I don't think that I was
'mugged' or anything like that - my glasses, keys and mobile phone
were gone but I still had my wallet. Given the nature of my wounds
the neurosurgeon suggested that I was most likely hit by a car.

Why am I boring you with that on this page?
Well, it has taken me quite some time to recover and I'm not quite
back to my usual productive self yet. That means I'll have to tune
down a few of my grand plans for the wrapping up of this archive.
I hope to have the time to put a proper 'Guide to Amsterdam' on
the new website somewhere (although it's still a bit off topic), but
for now I'll need to wrap up these 'old' pages as soon as possible.

If all goes according to plan all the old pages (1997-2006) will
become part of a massive archive, the ADHD section (that would
be an acronym for A Decade of Heavy Dramming). I'll start two
brand new websites from scratch; Malt Madness (aimed more at
the beginning malt enthusiast with general information and tips)
and Malt Maniacs (for the real 'whisky anoraks' in the world.

Serge's Whiskyfun site will be the third site in our group. And I guess that's it for now...
Another page of the old website wrapped up - only some 150 more left to go...

Sweet drams,


(Check out Log Entry #300 for an overview of 2006 log entries dealing with other topics.)

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