Saturday, February 16, 2008


There is a favourite scene in one of my favourite movies, The Spanish Apartment, when Romain Duris arrives in Barcelona, walking through the train station wide-eyed and talks about how all the names, everything, is foreign to him but he knows in a year's time it will all be familiar, be his. I felt a little like that today, spending the day in Amsterdam, a little more familiar with this city, one of it's people.

To say it was a beautiful day is an understatement. It was gorgeous. It was almost-bitterly freezing cold, 4C and warranted a coffee stop halfway through to defrost my gloved-yet-numb hands, but the blue sky and sunny air was bliss. Everyone was out, and I mean everyone. The streets were hard to navigate, thick with accents - French, Russian, Liverpudlian lads on sex-and-smoke weekends.

I said goodbye to Dani in Chinatown and took my time in my new favourite shop, Toko Dun Yong, an emporium with every Asian grocery you could ever want, with really good prices. Fresh blocks of tofu, white miso, pale stalks of lemongrass. Isn't lemongrass the prettiest thing?

Nearby the Nieuwmarkt stalls had organic fruit, vegies, cheese and breads, and then I discovered what could be my new favourite bite in Amsterdam. Tokos are Indonesian eateries with choices of curries, noodles and snacks, usually to take away, and I tried a broodje met kip sate (bread roll with chicken sate) at Toko Joyce just off Nieuwmarkt square. A crunchy bread roll filled with succulent chicken satay for only 2.80E. Yum.

I walked over to Waterlooplein, stopping to admire the lovely view at Sint Antoniesbreestraat, and decided to save a stroll through the giant flea market for Dani as there were too many crazy nicknacks to admire alone. A coffee break to warm up, then through the Dam over to the Singel which was lined with busy terraces. I found my destination easily. Puccini Bomboni is allegedly one of the top ten chocolate shops in the world and well, I had to decide for myself. Unlike some chocolate shops, there was no snobbiness and the girls that worked there were lovely. The counter was lined with their famously-interesting flavours of bonbons - I chose vanilla and poppyseed, lemongrass and honey for myself and lemongrass, tea and cranberry for Dani, as well as a block of Valrhona and chocolate drops for cooking. I saved them for when I got home, so, are they that good?

Yes. The chocolate was pure, smooth, not richly sweet. Lemongrass had a fresh citrus zing and honey, my favourite, was just that mixed in with bittersweet chocolate with tiny chocolate curls. It is preservative-free so I might just have to stop here the day I leave and pick you all up some.

From here I took the tram down to the Albert Cuyp markets in De Pijp and boy, was it jam-packed! It was almost too hard to walk down with some stalls too crowded to see what was on sale. But amongst the usual crap on sale in markets the world over, the produce stands are worth the pushing and shoving. Bargain vegies, corn fed chicken, and I really wanted some fish - cod especially, but I didn't know the Dutch for cod, so I tried my luck asking and was hacked off a lovely piece of kabeljauw.

Heavy with shopping, I headed home. A really lovely day.

No comments: