Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Field Mill or Amsterdam? No contest...

Although Mansfield isn't the most glamorous place to visit, it was always a great excuse to pop into the VAT and Fiddle near Nottingham station.

But not this season as Liz and I decided to miss our respective games and make a long weekend of it in Amsterdam.  Well, actually I did as I wanted to see one of the bands I like, A Pale Horse Named Death -  You've probably seen the t-shirts - but Liz was more than happy with the idea.

View from the apartment
We'd got in touch with our chums Ken and Vlad and rented one of their apartments on the edge of the Joordaan district.

The place came with all mod cons and a lovely view over the back gardens.  Plenty of birdwatching potential here too - jays, parakeets and woodpeckers in addition to the normal garden bird life.

The weather though was rather on the chilly side and within a few hours it had started to snow heavily - as predicted by hysterical newsreaders back home. No such fuss here thankfully.

We've not seen full-blown snow there before but it really made the place look good.  It had obviously been cold for a while as the canals were frozen hard and the canal boats sounded like ice-breakers as they made their first trips of the day.

Before going to the gig we called in at De Zotte - one of our regular haunts though not for the beer (although they sport a large selection of Belgian beers) but the food - I love their Belgian blue-steak whereas Liz can't get enough of their Belgian Trappist savoury cheesecake.

APHND were playing at the nearby Melgweg - Milky Way - a long established cultural venue where we'd seen a few gigs.  I'd arranged to meet Big John Duncan, former guitarist in the Blood Uncles and Goodbye Mr Mackenzie (and once a guitar tech for Nirvana) in the restaurant there. 

BJD works at the Melkweg these days but unfortunately he'd pulled something in his back and he'd called ahead with his apologies. I think Liz was secretly pleased as she knew we'd just end up talking about Be Bop Deluxe. Still the restaurant was very pleasant and sociable and they had Ij Natte in bottles too.

The gig itself was excellent - a decent crowd of just over 200 - not bad for what is a new band albeit one with strong ties to Type O Negative.  I'd seen them the previous week in London but the sound here was much better.

Frozen canals
Given the cold weather we restricted our leisure activities to the odd wander round the shops until it was time to visit the bars.

This mainly meant the Arendnests as it is our favourite - and is why our apartment was round the corner - but we also found time to visit their sister bar, the Beer Temple.

Food wise we were also spoilt for choice - we were on the Herenstraat with a host of great restaurants that we'd tried in the past. 

This time we went to Seasons where we love their Dutch pea soup and as for the fillet steak with a rosti cooked in bacon fat - beautiful.  With three courses for €28, it is great value.

Our one extravagance was a visit to Cafe Graves - a classic restaurant in the French style we've visited before - they offer a set menu where you don't get to choose your dishes but you let them know the kind of thing you don't like and they'll then select some of their dishes for you.  It works too.

You can also go for what they call the arrangment where you can have a different wine with each course - complete a full explanation of the wine itself - something I've scoffed at in the past as it does seem a bit poncey but again it works and really enhances the experience.

With four courses and the arrangement, the cost is about €65 each - worth every euro.

As ever we had a great time even if it was just for a few days.  If you've never been to Amsterdam before then what on earth are you waiting for?

This post has not been sponsored by the Dutch Tourist Board...

No comments: