Sunday, 3 September 2017

Exploring Jordaan, Amsterdam

I must confess, Amsterdam was never part of my bucketlist of places to visit, until now..

When my sister mentioned a trip a few years back, the immediate thought of "coffeeshops", stag do's and other unmentionable things sprang to mind. No thank you.

However, after reading a few too many blog posts with a not bad word said against it, and Alice, a work colleague of mine, suggesting her and I go, we booked a flight immediately (sorry Jess, next year!). It is a 45 minute flight after all!

Having abandoned our bags, we raced off to Peejay's, a doughnut shop a minute away from our hotel for a brunch-time snack.

Highly recommend the coffee flavour. In fact, all of the variations looked so marvellously delicious that I would recommend them all despite not even trying them.

We drifted off for an aimless wander around Jordaan.

Much like London's Shoreditch or Hackney Downs, Jordaan used to strictly be a working-class neighbourhood of Amsterdam Centrum but after gentrification of decades past, this area is now thriving with galleries, beatnik cafés, specialty shops and scenic streets.

It felt very much like Greenwich Village or Downtown New York. Alice and I couldn't stop comparing it, even though neither of us have visited New York but you get the idea!

Sure it's cleaner, less polluted thanks to everyone riding bikes, built around canals and much less glamorous and noisy, but there's something about the lifestyle and the brown facades of the tall townhouses that resembles it.

New York did used to be called New Amsterdam, after all!

We fell in love with it immediately.

There's a Cold Pressed Juicery on pretty much every corner in Jordaan and so we popped in for a health-fix to see what the hype was about. Needless to say I chose "The Glow" in hope of dewy Gigi Hadid skin. Sadly, no botox-minus-the-surgery miracle appeared but it was a tasty drink.

We criss-crossed through the canals, strolled down alleyways and back streets, taking in all of the quiet charm of the place.

Followed by a lazy lunch outside Café Proust.

We rested our cobblestone-worn feet and quickly escaped the sudden downpour. Don't expect a Dutch summer to be dry, sunny and warm. In fact, it's quite the opposite. But you will find the odd settled spell of sunshine and it never seems to rain for an entire day. I guess you could compare the weather rather easily to London!

Café Proust is nothing fancy, just a sweet spot for a bite to eat overlooking the canals.

The menu is simple, but well done.

When the rain stopped and it was time to drag oursleves away, we headed to Anne Frank's House, also in the Jordaan area.

Unfortunately, we didn't quite realise how early you had to book online in advance for the Anne Frank House. We had looked a month prior to the trip, unaware that the tickets released the month before, and were horrified to see them sold out.

Thankfully, for us unorganised types, the museum is open for non-ticket holders from 3:30pm-10:30pm. Just expect a long queue...Alice and I stood in line for two and a half hours.

Oh but it was all kinds of worth it.

It was so emotional, awe-inspiring and heart-breaking to be in the former home and 'secret annexe' of the Franks.

The museum was masterfully curated, too. The audio tour was beautifully scripted and performed, the information dotted around the rooms were insightful and chilling, and the preserved belongings (there are not many as the Nazi's that invaded their home took most of them away) were kept safe in glass boxes.

I was so surprised and horrified to hear their day-to-day lives under Nazi occupation in Holland. I remember the audio voice informing us that in the secret annexe, the family could not use the toilet, move, cook or practically do anything from the hours between 8:00am to 9:00pm, in fear of visitors of the shop below hearing them upstairs.

An absolute must-visit. Book in advance here.

PS. No photos are allowed inside, but I did manage these sneaky two! Shhh...

Back outside in the drizzle, we roamed the streets once more.

Occasionally (and by that I mean all the time), we'd grab each other and say "look at that one! about an apartment with the largest windows known to man or the narrowest too. The architecture here is a dream.

Exploring in a little denim skirt, stripey tee and metallic slip-ons. I sheltered myself from the rain with a Zara cropped trench coat and stuffed all my daily essentials into a canvas bag I picked up in Barcelona.

All typically no longer available thanks to fast fashion (and the surprising fact I buy new clothes relatively infrequently). Alternatives below.

After a jam-packed afternoon we re-fulled in Pazzi Pizza.

A quintessential Italian menu is on offer, with a mix of classics and one-of-a-kind specials.

In the mood for something simple but marvellously well done, we both ordered the Margherita. I know, what daredevils we are, but it was oh so delicious.

I've tried many a pizza in my lifetime (certainly not every day, wink wink), and enjoyed many whilst in Italy. And while this was a fantastic pizza in an atmospheric surrounding, it was kind of just like every other 'bit-more-than-average pizza'. You know, nothing worth shouting from the rooftops about but still worth a recommendation or two.

Just south of Jordaan and right around the corner from Pazzi, we found ourselves in the much-hyped Kanarie Club.

Built in 1902, this warehouse of sorts has been transformed into the most perfect place for bubbly or cocktails.

Raspberry mojitos for both of us.

We stumbled back to our hotel, with weary legs but content, humble and ridiculously wide smiles glued to our faces.

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