On a recent trip to Amsterdam, I paid a visit to La Tertulia, a mother-daughter run “coffeeshop” in the artsy Jordaan neighborhood that appears to have time-warped from the 70s. I sat at a little fold-out table, lined with fauna, and ordered from their organic, grown-in-Holland menu a strain of marijuana called Bubble Gum. It was mellow enough that you can still feel where most of your limbs begin and end but sufficiently euphoric enough that you leave some weird Notes to Self on your iPhone. Here are mine from that day.
1. The Streets Here Have Twins
It’s taken me three trips down the same block to get from Herengracht 255, my hotel, the Hoxton, to Herengracht 254, a gallery called the Merchant House, because streets on both sides of a canal share a name. The four-block walk was chill though, and worth it, because now I’m standing in front of several works by Chuck Close, an American artist whose exhibit is currently showing. Close paints and shoots massive-scale portraits of people’s faces that are broken up pixel by pixel by pixel by pixel [Ed note: Remaining 9 “by pixels” redacted]. I’m staring in and out of these digitized mugs, remembering he could not recognize their owners if he bumped into them on the street. Some could even be his friends or lovers. I get to the portrait of his own face and—whoa!—time to get out of here.
2. Pllek: Dutch for Williamsburg?
To say Pllek, you have to open your throat and make a sound sort of like an exclamation from a Cathy cartoon: PLECHHH. The ferry to get there is super quick from Centraal Station. I couldn’t even successfully post an Instagram in the time it took to get from point A to point B even though I was connected via T-Mobile’s international LTE service. Pllek is a giant warehouse that is painted in the most beautiful primary colors. Primary colors really are beautiful. Inside, they sell toasts with pomegranate seeds and lots of Dutch beers. They host yoga classes and I’m told there are parties on most summer days, except for the day I am here.
3. This Is a Scary City to Be a Pedestrian
I’ve basically seen one human riding a bike with two hands today. It seems like everyone is devoting at least one hand to groceries and/or a texting habit. I wish I was on a bike because every intersection is kind of terrifying for a pedestrian. The hierarchy on those roads goes bikes, then cars, then bikes with tourists, then local bipeds, then tourists bipeds.
4. Sugar Addiction Is So Real
I’m now eating today’s eleventh stroopwafel, a buttery waffle cookie that is sandwiched together by a thin (how do they get them so thin?!) layer of gooey, salty caramel. Oh, man. One lonely cookie left. The good-bad news is that an entire stack only costs one Euro—1.11 USD—at the convenience store.
5. Is This Actually the Best Vintage Store in the World?
Zipper shares a block with the best cheese shop in town, Kaaskamer. The owner there will keep offering you samples after you’ve already checked out, which is a very sweet, un-American way to run your business. He just really loves gouda and wants you to really love gouda, too, that guy. Back to Zipper. The store’s buyers travel across Holland and to Los Angeles to score cool pieces. That’s what I’ve been told by the cashier: All the clothes come from the very specific locations of Holland or Los Angeles. They schlep them to a studio up North, repair them, and then they send things back to Amsterdam, to the store’s racks. I’ve spent an hour trying on jeans, color-blocked swimsuits, and a vintage MTV-logo jacket from the 90s. I imagine the latter belonged to the Dutch Kurt Loder. I buy them all for under 40 euros.
6. There is a Heaven
Heaven is in Amsterdam and it’s such a close walk to all the major bus lines and big museums. Its actual name is Vondelpark. Everyone is sprawled out on the grass, like an animated Monet painting. They’re facing a pond that is lined with crooked trees and filled with ducks. And…reindeer?! Nope, that’s just a seagull perched on top of a rock at the coolest angle. Do you think seagulls look at ducks and know that they are fellow birds? I can’t tell if I’ve been here for 20 minutes or 20 hours.
7. I’m So Glad I Ventured to the East Side
To get here, it took a way, way long time. Time means nothing anymore. I’m just glad I took this bus ride to the east side of Amsterdam. Otherwise I would’ve missed out on Wilde Zwingen. I would’ve missed out on the broad bean ravioli, sautéed in brown butter, and the zucchini flowers that were stuffed with pesto and gouda, beer-battered, and deep fried—blossom, stalk, and all—and served with salty sea veggies. Would’ve missed out on the dessert of carrot sorbet and chocolate mousse. Also: these four women who are celebrating their friend’s birthday. The kitchen brought out a cake that was practically lit with roman candles and they looked so, so happy instead of scared. I’m happy now, too, watching them.