Once the horrors of what awaited her if she took the coach journey sunk in, GW abandoned me to it and booked the cheapest train out of Amsterdam (She can't fly). Since we'd all made plans to meet up and have pie for breakfast, the lot of us ended up walking all the way to the printer (For her e-ticket) and the station with her to make sure she didn't get lost. The address provided by Yelp for the nearest printer brought us to a makeup store instead, so there was a rather touch and go period till she spied a sign down a rather dodgy looking alleyway just off Dam Square. The owner of the store asked us if we'd prayed to God we'd find a printer, and looked fairly pleased when we said we had.
Printer Dude: Good. He is always watching, and He will answer your prayers.
Well, can't argue with that.
After dropping her off safely at Amsterdam Centraal and pausing a moment to admire the stately brick red building (Also a work of Pierre Cuypers, who'd designed the Rijksmuseum), we walked towards the Jordaan where breakfast beckoned. Along the way, we passed the copper dome of the 17th century Round Lutheran Church (Ronde Lutherse Kerk) on the Singel, which today remains largely closed to the public.
Amsterdam's stance towards graffiti (Where the artists have to pay for the cleaning of the work) means that we saw a lot of unofficial tagging done on disposable plywood coverings over renovated buildings, instead of the buildings themselves. This sign is much funnier if you've read Adorno & Horkheimer.
It was too early in the day for most of the boutiques to be open, so we did a lot of window shopping. January's supposed to be the time for blowout sales in Amsterdam (They only have two sales periods apparently, the other one is in July), but somehow we never really got around to buying much things.
If you've ever searched for 'Best Apple Pie in Amsterdam', or 'Best Apple Cake in Amsterdam', chances are you're going to find Winkel 43 at the top of most lists. BH and I popped round for a slice when we'd visited in 2011, and ever since then whenever I've craved a sweet pie it's always featured heavily in my fever dreams. Thank goodness the rest were fairly amenable to my suggestion (Probably just so I'd stop abusing hyperbole) that we visit, if not I'd have run off on my own on a pie pilgrimage. Winkel 43 is located on the corner of the Noodermarkt, which is the heart of the Jewish Quarter in Amsterdam, and on Mondays and Saturdays there are street markets right outside to visit.
Even cooled down to room temperature, the homemade pie at Winkel 43 retains a delicate, crumbly softness to its crust, which never ceases to amaze me. The generous chunks of baked apple are studded through with plump, squidgy raisins, and the whole thing is served with a massive cloud of fresh whipped cream that comes out of a dedicated dispenser that sits proudly on the counter. IZV & BA agreed that it was really great pie once they'd tasted it.
There wasn't enough time for us to shop for clothes and accessories, but we'd set aside an hour for the purchasing of cheeses, so right after breakfast we were out the door and on the hunt. We hiked along the Prinsengracht, which offered a few hilarious gems as we passed, including this rather snarky sign:
There was also a painting of the Western Church, arguably Amsterdam's most famous, done in the style of a Van Gogh.
We also passed this sign, which invited a bit of philosophical contemplation, and a desire to have a peek at the store windows, which did have rather nice T-Shirts on display.
Did a bit of a double take when I saw this, and had to do a bit of a mental pat down to assure myself that no, I definitely wasn't high when I saw this. Which begged the question "Why does this then exist?"
Thanks to the handy map I uploaded that morning, we were able to make it to the Nine Street Neighbourhood (De Negen Straatjes) where De Kaaskamer van Amsterdam is located. The smell of cheese is the first thing that hits, but it's a rather inviting one that envelopes you like a warm hug.
Before she left, GW entrusted me with the mission of getting her a chunk of matured Gouda cheese, so when we went in I resolutely did not lose my head over the floor to ceiling cheese, instead going straight to the guy at the counter, who was more than happy to let me try a few different cheeses before settling on the Aged Farmhouse Gouda that had crystals and the right amount of bite. My work now done, I was free to check out the over 400 cheeses they had on display, as well as the specialty hams, salads and wines. We were too full from pie to get their freshly made cheese sandwiches, but now that I think about it I'm regretting not having tried one.
De Kaaskamer pride themselves on selling only high quality cheeses made by suppliers they know personally, and the artistry showed in the slices of cheese we tried. The shopkeeper was very knowledgeable about his products and generous with the tasting shavings he passed to us, so we had a very pleasant shopping experience.
Cheese (And truffled salami on my end) in hand, from there, we went to pick SB up to go to for lunch at Ron's Gastrobar. It was a bit of a hike, but we got to see the less touristy side of town.
Post-lunch, and pre-Wynand Fockink, I followed BA & IZV as they did a spot of last-minute souvenir shopping round Dam Square. The big clog outside the store reminded me of a book of nursery rhymes I had as a child, and the illustrations for The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe. I keep hearing so many contradictory things about Dutch clogs that I'm still not sure whether they're comfortable or not. I almost bought myself a pair to test them, but I remembered AT's complaints about the endless sea of shoes he has to contend with on a daily basis when living with four girls and held back.
As souvenir stores go, this one was well laid out and properly decorated, going so far as to have a cow grazing on the ceiling. Since you learn something new every day, I found that Miffy was Dutch, which come to think of it explains a lot about the amount of orange she wears.
On our way back to the apartment to do some last minute packing before we all split, we came across a row of street lamps that had smoke billowing from them. We're still not sure what was going on, but they were interesting to watch.
Apart from being woken up by French customs at 2 in the morning and missing two ferries no thanks to the X-ray search they put us through, the ride back to London was fairly pleasant. Amsterdam had been gorgeous as always, and now I have a few more places to show M & D when we visit in April to see the tulips.