Saturday, February 23, 2008


In our quest to find the best frites in the country, today we went to what many have said are the best, Vlaamse Friteshuis. We'd already been deceived by a frites shop on the Damrak (giveaway?) that calls itself the Best In Amsterdam, but they were rubbish: thick, unseasoned, gluggy sauce.

A tiny hole in the wall in the middle of Amsterdam, the queues gave it away and it was easy to decide between kleine and middel sizes, although not so easy are all the saus choices - what are hannibal, american, samurai? - but Belgian mayonnaise is closest to S&W mayonnaise so that's our favourite. It's a well-oiled (sorry) operation: man takes order and money, girl to his side scoops out frites and dollops on the sauce, two or three guys behind them continuously fry vats of frites.

They were good, if under-salted, but fortunately for us, our local frites place near the Grotemarkt in Haarlem is the best. Consistently fresh, delicious, no oily taste, seasoned just right.

After a decent coffee I left Dani and decided to go to the library that we walked past the other day. Wow. No no, WOW. I have never seen anything like it, and when they get it right here, they get. it. right.

A beautiful brand-new building, as I walked in I saw a room filled with kids and parents reading, drawing, having fun. Architecturally-gorgeous and light-filled, a piano player greets you, there's a cafe and you can sit in comfy chairs and lounges with a coffee and browse hundreds of magazines, use the internet for free, people chat and kids play, there's no stuffiness yet it's not distracting. The levels with books (one with new CDs and DVDs) have floor-to-ceiling windows facing all parts of Amsterdam, cosy armchairs with built-in desks, shared tables with plug-ins for laptops, private areas for study.

Years ago I became jaded with magazines. I'd get fooled by covers only to be disappointed by poor writing, uninspiring photo shoots, the repetitiveness. So when in Spain and I saw Charlotte Gainsbourg on the cover of Paris Vogue, I hesitated, but walked on by. Today at the bibliothek, I picked it up and ended up pouring over it, not moving, for an hour. Charlotte's pages of sharing words, pictures, felt open, intimate, an absolute treat. I love her notes on a photo of Yvan, something like "I wish he looked at me like he is looking in this photo, except he is looking at the photographer". And the article on her and Jean Nouvel's plans to turn 5, rue de Verneuil into a museum. Just the other day I was thinking if they do open Serge's home as a museum, I wouldn't like to go. I felt it would be a tacky invasion of his private space, a breach of intimacy. But reading their words made me think I would like to go. The photos of the apartment, by Mario Sorrenti, stunned me with how beautiful it is.

And now, just found that Paris is hosting the exposition Gainsbourg 2008 from October this year. I'm meant to be in Europe!

1 comment:

Mathilde said...

I LOVE the library. Amazing building.