Tuesday, May 13, 2014

First day in Amsterdam

I spent just a bit under 72 hours in Amsterdam and I must say it was fantastic. I am not sure what I was expecting and maybe I must admit I skipped most of the tourist sights here. No, I did not visit The Hague, or the red light district or even hit up a "coffeeshop', but I did meet some truly awesome people here and got a small but authentic view of Amsterdam.

Believe it or not, my Dutch adventure started on the plane ride from Berlin, I ended sitting next to a pair of German DJ's - Chopstick and JohnJon. Being unfamiliar with the German music scene, I had not heard of them before, but JohnJon was a real chill guy and actually doled out some great life advice to me during our 45 minute flight. The duo was scheduled to performed at Studio 80 that night and offered to put me and a +1 to the list for their 3 am set. I wasn't sure if it was a smart idea for me to out all night as the QS Conference was scheduled to start at 8 am the next morning, but I figured, I'll just go with the flow and see how the night goes.

My host in Amsterdam was Hugo, a Dutch student studying Medical Informatics. I didn't know him before I landed in Amsterdam as he is actually the classmate of a girl I met during my volunteer stint at the World of Health IT Conference in Nice, France last month. What a small world? Who would have thought my random encounter in Nice would lead me to a place to stay now in Amsterdam- and to come to think of it, another contact from WoHIT was also my "couch-host" in Berlin. Pretty damn amazing huh? - I love it.

After a rather sunny week in Berlin, I was a bit bummed to be greeted by wind and rain in Amsterdam. But my ever- enthusiastic host, Hugo, reassured me that the weather was really not that bad and was sure to clear up soon. After dropping off my things and a short bicycle ride(of course I rode on the back :p) into the inner city over the scenic bridges of Amsterdam(what a beautiful city) Hugo introduced me to the finer points of Dutch fast food. We started our weekend binge at FEBO- a certified Dutch institution, where vending machines meet fried balls of cheese and mystery meat. It was f*cking fantastic! Like little exploding balls of greasy joy, each of FEBO's plethora of croquettes were unfailingly delicious. This place is a must visit for Amsterdam, just makes sure you have exact change for the vending machines as they do not give cash back. After stuffing our faces we figured a couple of cold ones would be the best way to wash down all that delicious grease so we popped into a snazzy little jazz bar-Jazz Café Alto just off the main street. We were lucky to snatch up a pair of much in-demand bar seats just before the live show started. Even though I am not a jazz expert-couldn't name you any famous jazz musicians, I am definitely an admirer of the music. The vibe of this place reminded me of La Fontaine in Copenhagen, but a bit more intimate and cozy :). Hugo and I sampled a variety of Dutch brewery classics: the Palm, Brand, La Chouffe and Wieckse, with my favorite being Brand Zwaar Blond.

After our 3rd round of beer, I could feel my recent jet setting antics finally getting the better of me and I was starting to power down, but it was a Friday in Amsterdam and it just didnt feel right calling it quit so early ;p. So we refueled with some Flemish Fries from Vlaams Friteshuis Vleminkx(get your fries with mayo) and a slice from New York Pizza(decent pizza but there is nothing NY about this place). Feeling our energy returning we made our way to Studio 80. This club was fun but a bit crowded with drunk tourists, that annoying fact aside, the music was SICK. We showed up around 2am and just caught the last hour of Daniel Bortz-very good stuff and then we stayed on for Chopstick and JohnJon's set. As we were leaving I jokingly told the guys that their music wasn't that bad :p but to be honest, their stuff was damn good. I would definitely see them again - and for my Chicago friends- you should check out Chopstick and JohnJon in Chicago this June at the Primary :)

And so my first night in Amsterdam drew to a close at the wee hours of the morning and of course I knew I wasn't going to make the 8 am opening session at QS, but was it worth it? Hell yeah :) What a perfect way to start my weekend in Amsterdam, well everything was perfect except for a small bicycle crash on the ride home haha! -you can blame the bridges! ;p

-Ran - A Nomad in Amsterdam

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