It was an interesting voyage to the Netherlands from Southampton, and I was wondering exactly how we would reach the Dutch capital, seeing as Amsterdam faces east, onto the Ijsselmeer, and we would be approaching from the east. An announcement from the captain, in one of his few daily updates, revealed all, as he explained the ship would be entering the North Sea Canal, via two large sea-locks, which would then take us directly into the city centre, from the west. The locks are large enough to accommodate ocean-going liners, such as Queen Victoria, and after a short transit time we leisurely traversed this flat and rather tranquil areas of the Netherlands. The sun was shining, and the surrounding countryside was looking both pleasant and serene, and by the time our vessel sailed into the Port of Amsterdam, Mrs PBT’s and I were sitting in the restaurant, enjoying a spot of lunch. We weren’t in a great hurry to leave the ship, as we knew it would take time to berth, moor up and then wait for the land-bridge to be moved into place.
We returned to our cabin, put on our coats and walking shoes, made sure we’d got our passports, plus ship’s boarding passes, and headed down to the disembarkation deck. After swiping out, we traipsed along the covered walkway leading to the exit from the Amsterdam Cruise terminal. Despite having our passports with us, as instructed, there were no immigration officials present, and no one asked to see our papers.This was all very different from our previous cruise when, after docking at Hamburg, our passports were examined, and stamped. Perhaps the Dutch are rather more laid back than their German counterparts, said I but, as Mrs PBT’s pointed out, details such as our passport numbers and photos were all held on the Victoria’s manifest and would be made available to the Dutch authorities, if required.
It was about a twenty-minute walk into the city, which is marked by the imposing Amsterdam Central Station. Unlike me, Mrs PBT’s has never been one for walking far, and even though her hospitalisation and spell in ICU, was nearly five years ago, still suffers from mobility issues. So, sensing that she was struggling, I suggested we pop into the nearest bar, and grab a drink, and rethink our strategy from there.
Looking back, we should perhaps have taken a cab – there were several waiting outside the cruise terminal, but I’ve never been a taxi person, preferring to walk if possible, or make use of public transport. Eileen, on the other hand, has always championed taxis as a means of getting around. Talking to a number of fellow passengers, later that evening, we learned that several of them had taken cabs into the city centre, as they considered the walk to be too long.
We were roughly hallway towards the station when I suggested the nearby bar as a compromise, and Eileen agreed that it seemed the best option. I’d already noticed signs for a bar called “Delirium”, as we walked towards a bridge over one of the canals. The bar was directly below us and, as the signs pointed out, overlooked the water. Eileen wondered what sort of bar Delirium was, but I’d recognised that the logo and the signage were identical to those I’d seen several years ago in Brussels. I therefore knew exactly what to expect – a bar offering a wide selection of around 500 different beers.
Convinced I was telling the truth, and that it wasn’t one of Amsterdam’s “alternative” hashish cafés, Eileen agreed to give Delirium a try, so we walked down the steps to the water front, and found the bar nestling under the bridge, overlooking the water. The only trouble was that with few lights on inside, it didn’t look very open. Not being someone who takes “no” for an answer, I tried the door. It opened, so I stepped inside, and this is where a member of staff appeared and told us the bar didn’t open until 4pm. He asked whether we had a reservation – a remark I thought rather strange given the substantial size of the place.
We hadn’t, of course, until Eileen reminded me that it was Saturday, and Amsterdam was a favourite destination for stag and hen nights. The staff member seemed quite apologetic, so I asked if he could recommend a bar nearby, and true to form he directed us to a place called Hannekes Boom, just a few minutes’ walk away on the other side of the underpass. We thanked him for his recommendation and headed off beneath the wide concrete bridge carrying the road and rail lines into the centre of Amsterdam.
Hannekes Boom was quite well hidden, but Mrs PBT’s saw the entrance tucked away, in a corner, almost obscured by some bushes. It was a two-storey, rambling building, with an adjoining single floor section overlooking the river. With its canvas roof, and no side walls, this part of the bar was partially open to the elements, and seemed more of a fair-weather, overspill area than anything else, but there were quite a few hardy souls taking advantage of the relatively mild conditions.
Fortunately, we managed to find a table inside, and once seated the friendly young waitress brought us over a beer menu. After a quick flick through I ordered a bottled IPA from local Amsterdam brewery ‘TJI, whilst Eileen went for a Diet Coke. Looking around we were almost certainly the oldest people present, not that it mattered, as I liked the place, and by degrees Mrs PBT’s slowly warmed to it as well. Slowly, but surely, the crowd in the bar began to drift away, although after chatting to one of the waiters, we learned that many would be back, come the evening.
I decided another beer was in order, and this time I went for one of the draft offerings – a La Chouffe Blonde. La Chouffe use a picture of a little dwarf to advertise their beers, and whilst I have enjoyed this beer in bottled form, several times in the UK, this was the first time I had sampled it on tap. The waiter, who brought the beer over, told us that he’d spent time living in Norfolk, although he didn’t say where, but reinforced what he’d said earlier about Hannekes Boom expecting a busy Saturday evening.
We were fortunate to have experienced the bar during a quiet period, and going on what we’d witnessed earlier, it did seem a proper community pub. Given its situation, right on the waterfront, we could understand its popularity, but given its tucked away location we wouldn’t have found it without the guidance from the barman at Delirium. After paying our tab, we took a slow wander back to the cruise terminal. Mrs PBT’s hadn’t exactly seen the sights of Amsterdam, but she had experienced a little of the friendly and easy-going attitude of its inhabitants. However, knowing that I wanted to refresh myself further with Amsterdam, she suggested I took a trip into the city the following day, a suggestion I was more than happy to follow up on. Next time read about what I got up in the city centre, how I found quite a few pubs closed, and how I tracked down what is certainly one of the best beer shops in the Netherlands, and probably further afield as well.