It was Katie’s final day before starting work and we wanted to make the most of it. Our friend Jordan Manning had suggested we visit a coffee shop called De Ceuvel, which is in the North (“Noord”). We had heard that the North side of Amsterdam was up and coming and artsy, similar to Oakland or Alameda in San Francisco. So we set out on the Ferry to see it for ourselves.
The ferry was delightfully easy and efficient. Our new landlord had talked our ear off about how “The Netherlands infrastructure is better than anywhere in the world, maybe ahh not Singapore, but anywhere else”. … but I digress, the ferry. Completely free with trips every 10 minutes, we simply hopped on and hopped off.
Upon arriving in the Noord, we were greeted by a couple of small local coffee shops with outdoor seating. If we hadn’t had a destination in mind, there would have been plenty of spots for us to spend a few hours.
After about a mile walk which included a stroll through a huge outdoor market, we arrived at De Ceuvel, which was much more than a coffee shop. Located on the bay that leads to the sea, it is an area made up of decommissioned house boats that are dry-docked and connected by a winding wooden walkway. Each houseboat is an office space, studio, workshop, restaurant, or art-project galore; it’s a DIYer’s heaven. The place has the feel of the junkyard that children took over and made into their fortress.
We walked around and looked at the art installations, climbed on one of the boats that was in the sea and made our way to the glass-fronted vegetarian restaurant that served delicious food and beer. It quickly became one of my favorite places in Amsterdam. We sat for an hour or so and had lunch, and then made our way back to the ferry for our next adventure.
Our next stop was the Ij Brewery, a beautiful Windmill that has been transformed in a tasteful brewpub. It was crowded when we arrived, so Katie went to find a table while I went to get drinks. After 2 full weeks of fantastic service in Amsterdam, I finally had my first Dutch bad service experience. I was denied a tasting flight because they were “out of glasses.” But all hope wasn’t lost, the bartender told me that if I really wanted the flight, I could go out to the patio and collect empty glasses from customers myself. So I went out and bussed a few tables…it was so bazaar.
After finally receiving our tasting flight, I found Katie sitting at a table chatting with a couple who was visiting Amsterdam on vacation from Chicago. Jen and Rich were super friendly and fun, and had many stories to share about their travels so far. Jen was quite possibly the most meticulous planner I have ever met (this coming from someone whose girlfriend and sister are obsessed with planning and spreadsheets). Jen had created beautifully designed daily itineraries, with everything planned down to the minute, literally. Rich was just along for the ride, and happy to sit and have a few drinks. The four of us really hit it off, and stayed for an extra round or two to continue chatting.
After an hour or so, we opened our friendly conversation to some of the drinkers at an adjacent picnic table. These Dutchmen were in their 50s or 60s and having a great time. We exchanged pleasentries and at one point they busted into a song in Dutch (something we hear is quite common here). We didn’t understand the words, but it was to the tune of the Flintstones’ theme song, so we sang along in English!
We were having such a nice time with Rich and Jen that they invited us to join them for dinner at a Rijsttafel Indonesian restaurant. Indonesian food is incredibly popular here, but we hadn’t tried it yet. The meal was super fun – it is a family style experience where they bring out a bit of everything so you don’t even have to think about what to order.
We met up with Jen and Rich one more time for dinner/drinks before they left to finish out their European adventure in Brussels and Paris. It was bitter sweet that our first friends in Amsterdam don’t actually live here, but I think Katie and I were both relieved to talk to someone besides each other for a few hours!