Saturday, January 19, 2008

Just got home from an amazing day in The Netherlands. A hectic, but wonderful way to end a stress-filled and busy week, which included a great dinner with Danielle and John, a night out with Sarah and Britt at La Pizzeria (on Rue du Page) and a rather boring Iron and Wine concert on Friday.

We started the day with tea in our bellies. I skipped breakfast and opted for the stowed away banana trick - which did me quite well at a pit stop outside the Belgian border. We picked Britt up around 8 30 and were in Haarlem, dropping Britt off, by 11 30. Original and vague, plans were to spend the day in Haarlem (a tiny and picturesque town about 15 minutes outside of Amsterdam), but the wretched and constant rain convinced us to head for more museum laden land (read: dry)- so Amsterdam it was.

After settling on some underground parking in the centre of town, we needed some lunch, but stopped at a cafe for a mint tea to orient ourselves and take a breath from the longish drive. Taking the break was well worth it, giving us the chance to page through our Rough Guide and find a Veg restaurant on the way to the museum we wanted to check out. Located at Prinsengracht 60-62, Boldhoed, was our destination.
The wet day, and my soggy jeans could hardly dampen the atmosphere inside Boldhoed. The warm, wacky and hippy colours were a direct contrast to the Bronte-ish weather that hovered above our heads. The service was a painfully slow start, despite the large staff and the fairly small number of patrons. But, once I grabbed us a menu and made our stay obvious by sitting next to and affectionately petting Mikey (the resident fat ginger cat) our waitress made sure we had what we needed. I ate a really interesting lunch that satisfied my hunger and any signs of vegan-boredom that may have been lurking. Have you ever had a tofu crossiantragout? Me neither...until Amsterdam that is. What is it? Well...A stuffed sandwich with a tasty sesame top, filled with leek, seaweed, curry flavours and lots of tofu. Amazing and really unique!
We both had the soup and our lunches came with a sprout topped side salad. If I had been feeling gluttonous I could have easily indulged in an array of vegan deserts - all sinfully displayed in a glass case. But, I figured the pit stop at Puccini Bomboni, where we grabbed chocolate covered mango slices, a chocolate walnut treat and vegan chips for future cookies would keep me just fine for the afternoon. Kevin made friends by unabashedly exclaiming that we were from Belgium and he had never seen such amazing looking chocolates. I must admit that they more than made the grade in other sense-tests as well.
Heading out after our relaxing lunch we literally stumbled upon a totally organic market. On Prinsengracht (but, just a little further down from the veg restaurant), this market was bursting with excellent and wonderful foodstuffs. Everything from Tofu pate (which we picked up and had for a late dinner), and soy milk, to organic jams (we selected the cranberry option...who has heard of cranberry jam?) and second hand clothes. By the end of our market stop I was inappropriately dancing with delight through the westmarket, over the canals and in the direction of Anne Frank's House.
The museum was confining and cramped -and not just with tourists. You are left with at least a sliver of an impression of the life the Frank family lived before being wrestled away to the camps of Poland. I left feeling more than thankful for my life and freedom.
We slipped around the wet streets for a wee while longer, finding some neat home stores, and a great beer shop - which sold the flying canoe beer from Quebec, which of course we had to get! The drive home was wet and dark, but we were safe and snug in our apartment enjoying our tofu pate in no time flat!
To be honest, being the geek I am, I have never really had a taste on my tongue for Amsterdam, and had preconceived notions of garish lights, breasts galore, and tourists by the truck-full. Yet, much to my delight, I didn't see one butt plug, not one vibrator and zero window shows (with the exception of an elderly man walking about in his unders while I was waiting in line to go to the Anne Frank House). The city was wonderful, and I have full plans to go back.

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