We are on our way back “home” to London. At almost exactly this same time two weeks ago, we were also on a plane approaching Heathrow, having no idea how much a bed and a hallway would impact our lives (Ha!). This flight is considerably shorter than the one from Denver, only about an hour as you cross the North Sea.
We spent our final full day in Amsterdam trying to balance seeing some of the tourist sites without spending the whole day in crowds. Central Amsterdam is a relatively small area and can feel crowded and touristy. The neighborhoods of Jordaan and de Pijp,* just outside of central Amsterdam, were quite nice and significantly less crowded (outside of the locals frequenting the restaurants and bars in the squares). We had most of our meals (including a sampling of Dutch specialty Bitterballen) in these neighborhoods as they have excellent restaurants.**
*You can probably guess the Dutch translation of “De Pijp,” but it does not apply as you may think. It is believed to be a reference to the neighborhood’s narrow streets.
**No, we have not stepped on a scale since we arrived in London.
We began the day with a heaping plate of pancakes, a Dutch specialty.* From there we took a historical walk through the city, visited one of Amsterdam’s microbreweries, and made an afternoon stop at the Rijks Museum, the most well-known museum in the Netherlands featuring many of the masterpieces of Dutch artists such as Rembrandt and Van Gogh (“Night Watch” by Rembrandt and “Waterloo” by Jan Willem Pieneman pictured below).
*Like I said, no scales.
The most stressful part of our time in Amsterdam was deciding where to eat dinner. This is a time-honored tradition in the Fitzgerald family. To answer the question of “Where do you want to eat?” we like to answer “I’m up for anything,” “Whatever everyone else wants,” and of course the old standby, “Oh, anywhere is fine,” none of which are actual dining establishments. We say this despite secretly hoping that someone else will suggest the place we really want to go. If this sounds illogical, that’s because it is. As our family has grown, to now include spouses and (grand)children, well, it’s a wonder we ever eat at all when we are together.
So this is the starting point, and then you add in the pressure of only having a couple of nights in a city and you want to try ALL the best restaurants, and it’s enough to make lesser men crack. I typically like to avoid some of this anguish by doing some research ahead of time and making reservations, the sensible thing to do. But we have had kind of a lot going on lately.* Thankfully, despite my negligence, we had nothing but great meals.
*Yes that’s an excuse. And it’s a damn good one.
Until last night, that is. After scouring the internet for places to eat that also had availability that also seemed somewhat suitable for Saoirse (that’s a narrow hole we are trying to thread on a Friday night in July in Amsterdam), we settled on Paskamer, a wine bar serving small plates with a seemingly comfortable environment that received very good reviews.
We made a reservation for 7:30 and arrived a little early. Truth be told, for the first hour or so, we very much enjoyed ourselves. Good wine and food, helpful staff, and a nice atmosphere. We really aren’t that difficult to please. Around 8:30 or so, we placed what we thought would be our final order, a couple of small meat dishes that would serve as our mains. Around this time, the service, while still friendly, seemed to slow quite a bit. The staff repeatedly apologized, but it was never made apparent what was the cause of the problem. As we were trying to keep Saoirse entertained, I noticed the chef coming and going from the kitchen. After this happened a couple of times, I tried to eye him and see where he was going. It was getting quite busy after all, and it seemed odd for the chef to be leaving just as the restaurant was reaching capacity.
It turns out, the chef was going across the street, to another restaurant. It dawned on me now, putting the whole sequence of events together, that I recalled reading in one of the reviews that the owners of Paskamer also owned the restaurant across the street. The chef was pulling double-duty!
As the clock inched on and there was no sign of food in sight, we began to worry. Around 9:30, Grace approached the waiter:
Grace: We hate to be rude, but would you be able to give an update on our food. It’s been awhile, we have a baby, and if it is going to be awhile more, we are probably better off just getting the check and getting her to bed.
Waiter: Sure, no problem, I understand completely. Let me check on the food. Remind me again, what was it you ordered?
Grace and John: Eye roll
Waiter (2 minutes later): Yes, I’m afraid it is going to be awhile. I’m terribly sorry.
We quickly paid and made our way back to the hotel. So, after an hour of research and two hours spent in one of De Pijp’s finer restaurants in one of the most romantic cities in the world, we went back to the hotel and split a cheeseburger.
Thanks for reading.