Pioneers have changed a lot since Horace Greeley declared “Go West, Young Man, Go West” in an effort to promote westward expansion of the USA. Gender equality continues to expand and almost everywhere the intrepid and the hipsters are heading east after the westward expansion was so successful they can no longer afford to hang out in these glitzy neighbourhoods.
One of the many places with an exciting east is Amsterdam. I’ve done a little bit of exploring in the OOST on previous visits but hadn’t covered much territory so when I discovered the new Volkshotel, I decided to stay there during SAIL. You can stay closer to SAIL or to central Amsterdam but, if you want a more quirky locale, the Volkshotel is very convenient since there is a metro station only steps away that whisks you to Centraal Station in a matter of minutes.
Of course, you can just hang out at the hotel and the hipster neighborhood surrounding it. There is a café and a cool restaurant club on the rooftop. The hotel is very quirky Dutch. It celebrates the innovative design and architecture that is a hallmark of the city. I splurged on the “You are Here” room as it promised to celebrate Amsterdam and be interactive. It also had a giant tub with a beautiful view of terracotta tiled Amsterdam history. It is a lot of fun to play in although there is so much light you have to close the blinds and turn off the real view so that you can properly cover your walls in Amsterdam scenes along with
site appropriate sound effects.
The hotel is a lot of fun and I especially enjoyed Canvas. The best part was that I saw the SAIL fireworks from the hotel rooftop without having to get stuck on Noord overnight. I wanted to explore the Oost though and not just spend all my time in my hotel. Volkshotel provides guest with an insider map to the Oost so I used that as inspiration for my grand tour. Started by having an excellent Eggs Benedict at Grand Cafe Lokaal. The service was terrible. That became a theme over the course of the day. I am of course madly in love with the Dutch but customer service is just not their strong suit. You might get it but that is more a lucky accident.
I felt like I should have ordered meat at Lokaal but it was too hot. It is part of the growing trend in Europe toward American cuisine. The American marketing machine is a wily beast 😉 Why would the French want to eat hamburgers and hotdogs? Have they all gone insane? Of course, the good news is that European American food is generally at the high end of the spectrum – more Wagyu beef with citrus aioli than frozen beef patty with Heinz ketchup. At some point I will need to try some of this food but I don’t travel to Europe so that I can eat hamburgers washed down with a Sam Adams…
The other big change, especially in the Oost, is the replacement of Heineken with trendy craft beers. If this is your thing, you will love Brouwerij Het IJ. I stumbled upon it on my ramble and had its beers recommended by bartenders. DO NOT go on the weekend
though! That happened to be the day I took off SAIL but the place was a zoo. You can certainly join in but, if you want a better chance to sample different beers, go on a weekday.
Another great discovery was Beukenplein. There are various options for eating and drinking in a few short blocks. There was even a gelato spot that looked delicious but I had no space. Had dinner at Maxwell Café. Started with an outstanding gin and tonic. There are several options. The Dutch did invent jenever before the British created gin so it is an excellent place to drink gin and tonics. I then went for the kaasfondue as it’s hard to find fondue for one on a menu. Why I had no space for gelato!
I would definitely recommend it despite having one of the worst service experiences of my life. What was funny is that trying to get attention from a server resulted in a fun conversation with another Dutch couple who were having the same problem. It may just be Amsterdam. At least I got confirmation that I wasn’t being a rude North American with ridiculous expectations. They said, “no one looks you in the eye so they can ignore you”. I think the concept of assigning roles and numbering tables is not common practice. No one seems to be entirely sure of his responsibilities. But my patience was rewarded when my fondue finally arrived. The Netherlands is an excellent place to eat cheese!
The Volkshotel is a bit out of the way and the neighborhood is definitely not overrun with tourists like much of Amsterdam is. You will feel intrepid and people will talk to you in Dutch. You may not even be able to get an English menu. It’s definitely worth seeing the many Disney-like tourist destinations in Amsterdam but there is a very satisfying feeling getting off the reservation and exploring the wilderness and discovering the real heart of a place. Of course, these days, the intrepid don’t need a rifle or a willingness to endure hardship to conquer the land. You can feel bold just ordering off a Dutch menu without asking for a translation and selecting a random craft beer you have never heard of before 😉