|Nautical view of Amsterdam Central Station|
This only really impacted in the mornings, when I went looking for somewhere offering a spot of breakfast; or even a decent cup of coffee, as with the hotel charging €22 for a few rolls, plus the odd croissant, there was no way I was going to start my day there. Unfortunately, with nothing in the vicinity in the way of shops, I was left with little choice but to pick up a couple of croissants from the outlet in the hotel foyer, and resort to using the coffee making machine in my room.
|Mercure City Hotel - from the waterfront|
There were a couple of occasions where I could have ventured into the city centre; the first one being on the Friday evening when the vintage buses, hired to transport us to Haarlem for our visit to Jopen Brewery, were dropping people off in Central Amsterdam on the way back to the hotel, whilst the second was a farewell drink in a couple of city centre pubs late on Saturday evening, after the end of conference dinner.
|Obligatory windmill - De Molen Beer Cafe|
I escaped from the hotel on Sunday morning; the day of the post-conference excursion to De Molen Brewery at Bodegraven. I intend writing a separate post about our visit to this iconic brewery, but suffice to say the trip involved a train journey and rather than travelling into central Amsterdam and then out again, a twenty minute walk along the river to Amstel station enabled us to make the hour or so rail journey south-west from Amsterdam to the town of Bodegraven.
It would have been a pleasant walk, were it not for the heavy rain which was falling, but by the time I made the return journey, during mid-afternoon, the sun was shining and I was able to appreciate the canal and riverside scenery as I walked back along the banks of the Amstel; the river which flows into the city centre, and after which the Dutch capital is named. It was a lovely walk back to the hotel, and amongst other sights, I saw some rather luxurious looking houseboats along the way.
That evening I arranged to meet up with a couple of fellow bloggers at a city centre pub, so some time after 7.30pm, I walked the short distance along to the Metro station and took the train to Amsterdam Central. It was my first time in the centre of the Dutch capital since 1975, and after I had got my bearings, the place seemed pretty much as I remembered it. The sun was shining and the city was bustling; mainly with tourists, it has to be said, but seemed just as vibrant as it was 40 years previously.
We had arranged to meet up in a pub called t’Arendsnest (Eagles Nest) which was slightly south-west of the Central Station. I started walking in the general direction of the pub, stopping several times to take photos of the picturesque bridges across some of the canals. t’Arendsnest had been recommended to me by Stanley Blenkinsop; an occasional contributor to this blog, but Italian blogger Jacopo, who I was due to meet shortly, had been the person who suggested meeting there.
|Canal-side beer at t'Arendsnest|
Jacopo was the first to arrive, and once he had grabbed himself a beer and settled down opposite me, he said that EBBC attendees, Sarah and Brett were also planning to join us, but he wasn’t sure about his compatriot, Arianna. Sure enough, Sarah and Brett appeared shortly after, having arrived by car following a meandering tour back from Bodegraven. They had also dropped Irish Beer Snob bloggers, Wayne and Janice off at the airport, en route.
|Royal Palace - Amsterdam|
Our conversation centred on the sometimes vexed subject of should bloggers and writers get paid for the work they do, and why do many companies (breweries and PR organisations), seem to expect bloggers will give their service for free? The discussion got a little heated at times, especially around the area of remaining impartial and losing one’s integrity when being paid to write a piece, but the general consensus was people like us who write about beer, should be rewarded, where appropriate, either financially or with “goods in kind”.
|In de Wildeman|
The next day I checked out of the hotel shortly after 10am, and made my way up to the Metro station. Despite having caught a train there the previous evening, I ended up on one going in the wrong direction. Mistake rectified, I ended up again at Central Station, where the plan was to deposit my suitcase in one of the left luggage lockers.
|Interior - In de Wildeman|
I too was totally baffled by the system, so after standing reading the instructions and seeing other tourists looking as bemused as I was, I gave up on the idea and decided to lug my baggage around with me. First stop though was something to eat, and a Big Mac Meal from McDonalds, by way of a distress purchase, seemed the best way to ward off the hunger.
By the time I left the fast food outlet it had started to rain; not heavily but enough to be a nuisance. Plans for sight-seeing ended up on hold (the heavy suitcase I was towing behind me didn’t help in that respect). Instead I ended up heading for one of Amsterdam’s classic pubs in the form of In de Wildeman, which I found more by luck than judgement.
The door to the pub was wedged open, so I was able to ease in with my suitcase without any trouble. I chose the larger of the pub’s two rooms, which was on the left hand side. There were two couples sitting there, and after a few minutes conversation I ascertained that one of them was from Essex. Like me they were at In de Wildeman in search of good beer. They also recommended a couple more pubs for me to try.
|Simon - manager of In de Wildeman|
I left some time around 2pm determined at least to see Amsterdam’s Royal Palace, where I had been photographed standing opposite, back in 1975. I found the palace without too much trouble, but I was rather disappointed to see two tacky-looking hot-dog vans, parked in front. Somehow I can’t see Buckingham Palace allowing that sort of thing in front of the Queen’s official London residence.,
Brouwerij de Prael, which had been recommended by the couple in de Wildeman. It was also the bar Jacopo had been making for when we parted company the previous evening.
Brouwerij de Prael is a modern multi-level bar housed in a much older building. It is tucked away down a very narrow side street which borders on an alley. As might be guessed by the name, there is an on-site brewery which, as I soon discovered, turns out some amazing beers. Apart from a party of young male beer-tourists, sitting at a high table enjoying a series of “tasting bats”, it wasn’t overly busy when I arrived. I found a vacant stool at the bar, and parked myself down.
|Beer list - Brouwerij de Prael|
I was feeling rather peckish by that time, so I ordered a rather large cheese and tomato sandwich, which arrived on dark and filling, rye bread. There was plenty of salad to go with it, so I like to tell myself it was the healthy option! It certainly filled me up and helped soak up some of the beer as well. By the time I Ieft for the short walk back to Central Station, and the train back to the airport I was more than able to resist those big cardboard cones of chips, covered with mayonnaise; the very food item I had been unable to find the night before!
|Best beer of the trip!|
A quick shout out to my fellow bloggers, writers and broadcasters who were mentioned in the post. They all have their individual stories to tell about the EBBC and their own particular takes on the world of beer and brewing. You can discover a bit more about them by clicking on the links below:
Arianna Pellegrini: La Ragazza con la Valigia www.laragazzaconlavaligia.com
Arianna Pellegrini: La Ragazza con la Valigia www.laragazzaconlavaligia.com
Brett Domue: Our Tasty Travels http://ourtastytravels.com
Jacopo Mazzeo: Beer Without Frontiers http://www.beerwithoutfrontiers.com/
Janice & Wayne Dunne: Irish Beer Snob www.irishbeersnob.com
Martyn Cornell: Zythophile http://zythophile.co.uk
Sarah Finney: 5MinutesOfFinney http://www.5minfinney.com/