Hitting The ‘Dam:
25th JULY: Feeling in desperate need of an adventure I’d booked a one-way flight to Amsterdam and made no further plans, until I was at Heathrow! After touching down and successfully navigating my way out of Amsterdam Schifoll airport and onto the right train I arrive in the city center, where it’s now time to find my hosts. While waiting to board my flight from London, I’d posted a last minute ad on backpacker website Couch Surfing to see if anyone could put me up for the night, and I was in luck, after wandering the streets for the best part of 2 hours I eventually found them.
Only able to stay with my hosts for one night, the next morning, bright and early, I checked into the Bulldog Hostel and coffee shop, a classic with backpackers from all over the world. Friendly staff and clean rooms – perfect for one night.
After dumping my stuff it was time to go exploring and do a bit of ‘work’. Chocolatl, on Hazenstraat 25-A is exquisitely, mesmerically divine, 3 hours later and I was still there, and had tried pretty much everything in the shop! The store is run by an American-Canadian couple, and I was served by one of them, Eric, the most warm and welcoming of Americans, who greeted me with open arms. Although these guys don’t make their own chocolates, they do host tastings and sell a vast stock of chocolates by award winning chocolatiers. In addition to this, they also have outstanding coffee, and the best chi tea I’ve ever tasted. I also get the impression they like to keep one step ahead of the trend – it was here I first tried coconut sugar, also known as coconut flower nectar.
After finally extracting myself from Chocolatl (when they closed), I made a beeline for Puccini – Amsterdam’s most famous chocolatiers to feast on some very boozy chocolate creations – in mini chocolate cups – cue amaretto, calvados, and…honey. This mother, daughter partnership began in 1988 as a dessert shop – with chocolate on the side – but after the roaring success of their chocolate trade, changed exclusively to chocolate production. They treat the entire process as an art form – from flavour combinations to presentation and creation of the final chocolate, each one a masterpiece!
I’d slept well the night before after my fair fill of chocolate, and this morning had some time to kill before my friends arrived, so, time to do the ‘touristy’ stuff – sex museums, ‘condomeries’, sitting in giant clogs and not managing to collar someone to take your photo, getting lost in the little wiggly streets, discovering incredibly wonky buildings, drinking more coffee, and eating more chocolate (there is also a Hotel Chocolat here!). That afternoon the boys arrive, and after dumping our stuff in the hotel it was time to hit the city, again, only this time by water!
Despite the rain the canal boat tour was still fun, and we learnt the fascinating history of ‘The Dam’ and its water-subway. As evening drew in we began our cafe crawl about town, starting off with pizza and waffles, before getting onto the ‘harder’ stuff, including one place I don’t remember at all.