Mandy Davis - Diva of Deception

The Diva of Deception, Mandy Davis, is a professional close up magician and balloon modeller working for the corporate market as well as banquets, dinners, receptions, weddings, bar/batmitzvahs, private parties etc. As a member of The Magic Circle, she is chairman of the Young Magicians Club and editor of their coveted glossy magic magazine. Mandy is also a member of Equity.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

AMSTERDAM - FIVE DAYS OF DELIGHT

It was just like coming home - to a place you've never been but you know so well when you get there. We arrived at 2.30 in the afternoon not knowning where we were located as such - well we'd done a bit of a recce on t'internet but you can never be sure. It was only as the days went by that we discovered we were in exactly the place we wanted to be - thirty seconds from the flower market on the edge of a canal, two minutes from Rembrandt Square, the trams and our favourite cafe; ten minutes from Reinsplein and the Covent Garden atmosphere. Down the road two minutes from the canal bus. And even walking distance (our walking distance, not normal people's) from Dam Square which was a minute from the Red Light District.

The hotel was a boutique hotel if I knew what one was - very modern with a wet room rather than a bathroom and stylish but a little basic for me as there were no tea/coffee faciilities. By chance we hadn't booked breakfast and that turned out to be a godsend - Amsterdam doesn't wake up before eleven and so we weren't walking the streets tired as hell by 9.30 with nothing to do. It's very much a night place which is us to a 'T'.

After unpacking we walked to Rembrandt Square and discovered, with guide book help, Cafe de Kroon an upstairs place with a glass walled area overlooking the larger than life statues which make up The Night Watchman with Rembrandt himself on a plinth surveying the scene. The decor was in the style of a Viennese cafe with period furniture, faded elegance. We drank tea, many kinds of teabags and a pot with a cosy, and ate 'mixed nuts' which relied heavily on our favourite rice crackers. Then we walked to Dam square through the fashion shops and sat to gaze at the royal palace and Madame Tussauds. We asked directions to the red light district or Reinsplein but confusion got us on the wrong tram. When we were told by the driver, we got off - only to find we had arrived at the latter whilst thinking we were heading to the former! Geography was never a strong point for either of us. We spent the evening dining at Boom Chicago who put on a splendid improv show - as we'd seen so many times in Edinburgh. They are always worth the money, always different and the audience participation is fun and secure from the safety of one's own seat. Supper was beautifully cooked rib eye steak piled high with caramelised onions and tomatoes. We walked back to the hotel on a rather stange route but we did get there!

Tuesday was dull and rainy in places so we walked slowly to Waterloo market (like Portobello under the Westway) and drank home made soup outside a specialist shop. The spent the afternoon at the Jewish Museum which was absolutely fascinating to both of us in different ways - very interactive, lots to see and experience. We had lunch there, falafel and houmus, then walked all the way back to the hotel! So much walking - not us at all.... on the way we booked 'love seats' at the Tuchinski Movie theatre - a wonderful art deco building. A short rest, then drinks and mixed nuts at De Kroon before taking our places on our love seat - a two seater setee in a private box holding four such chairs. Price included wine and nibbles too - but we needed them to get through three hours of Pirates of the Caribbean 3! Yet we could still get dinner at midnight - try that in London. Rob had proper home-made lasagne and I settled for a tuna nicoise!

Wednesday, as scheduled, was hot. We went two minutes in the opposite direction to the first canal and the water bus. This took us only as far as Central Station, another architectural vision. I had a proper Dutch breakfast - two slices of bread, ham, hard boiled egg (I passed on the cheese) then we got another boat to the Artis Zoo where we spent the afternoon enjoying the feeding times (of the animals on this occasion) and I managed to take some superb wild life photos.
We got a tram back to the hotel. We had a six-thirty lunch literally around the corner - wonderful tapas of garlic mushrooms and bread covered in pureed tomatoes and more garlic. Then we actually took a siesta before venturing on a tram to take in the infamous RLD. We walked, with the crowds to glance at the windows at the pasty, skinny, bored females on their mobile phones or smoking and chatting to each other. Occasionally we'd see negotiatons taking place before the window (or rather glass door) was opened, swiftly closed and the curtain drawn across. It didn't seem at all furtive or alluring but then it all took place in brilliant blue skies as the sun didn't set till ten o'clock. We sat by a bridge, with a drink or two, watching the world go by. At ten we went and stood at the famous Casa Rosso Theatre and made sure there were others going to see the sex show before we joined them! it was - a sex show. We made the mistake of sitting on aisle seats at a non-stop show - so were constantly bothered by people comiing and going, by drinks being passed up and down, by people wandering the aisles and blocking our views.... eventually we learned to move up into the corner seats so we'd be undisturbed! None of it was sexy - just a sex show although we were both quite fascinated by one performer who smoked a cigar.....

We ate around midnight in a Chinese restaurant full of Chinese before tring to get a cab back - but no one would take us as they decreed it was only 'up the road'. Well it was - but a good fifteen minutes or more so we walked it as we had no choice.

Thursday was rainy and dull but we'd scheduled Van Gogh for the day. After a tram ride to Dam Square (no walking this time) we had a Dutch mezze style breakfast at the Nieue Church Cafe before continuing our journey. Unfortunately we relied on someone else dinging the bell so the tram didn't stop where we wanted it to and we had a good look at the residential areas before getting back to the museum. Van Gogh was OK - not a lot to say really, he painted what he saw and that was it... we did the kids' quiz which gave us more interest in the exhibits, looking for jigsaw pieces of paintings, trying to recognise these small fragments from the larger pictures. However there was a second exhibition which was startling, fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable - as well as being much much bigger than Van Gogh who didn't seem to have done a lot by comparison.

Max Beckman was a famous German artist in the thirties whose work was among that termed 'degenerate' by the Nazis. He therefore moved to Amsterdam, intending to end up in Paris, but the war kept him in Holland for ten years. He was extremely prolific and much can be read into his works. Some of his tryptiches were fascinating in their interpretations of the world in which he lived.

We stayed there till it closed at six then caught the tram just one stop to Reinsplein (Reins Square) where we sate and had drinks and listened to the accordion players who entertained the masses of people sitting all around. We ventured to the Hard Rock Cafe shop which we found situated in a lovely modern square right by a canal (isn't everything) and then wandered the streets around looking at restaurants and finding all the ones recommended in the guide books. Eventually decided to go Greek but the choice was amazing and even this particular place also covered Spain too! We opted for Kleftico but were somewhat daunted by the amount of cheese in everything; now I hate the stuff but even Rob, who loves it, found it far too much! There was feta on the salad, the meat was cooked in it and even the chips were heavily sprinkled with parmesan! We sat out there on the street for hours, even during a short rainy patch, and watched the people and laughed and laughed - you had to be there. Then we went just around the corner to a tiny, but air-conditioned, jazz cafe where we had a brilliant time listening to a live jazz quintet, sitting among friendly people of all ages. We walked home around 1.30 and the streets were still busy and fun.

Our last day - luckily we had an evening flight so we checked out and sat on a canal by a busy shopping street. I went wandering among the shops for an hour or so before rejoining Rob who'd been basking with beer on the hottest day of our trip. We breakfasted at lunch time on Gazpacho soup (for me) and scrambled eggs and smoked salmon (for him) before a last visit to Rembrandt Square and Cafe de Kroon to promise that we'd be back very soon indeed....

3 Comments:

Blogger David Weeks said...

It sounds a terrific, fun-filled, though busy, trip.

I must get you to show us, on our map, where to go and what to see ~ though I guess we walk less than you do!!!

1:08 am  
Blogger Brian Sibley said...

A great account of what was obviously a terrific trip! The Dutch Tourist Board should employ you IMMEDIATELY!!

And really fabulous photos - especially the lions! can't wait to see more!

8:37 am  
Blogger Diva of Deception said...

I don't walk a great deal; I am thinking you may be able to do the walking we did. Taxi drivers aren't to be trusted at all and anyway when we asked two of three to take us back to our hotel (took us ten minutes to walk with several sit-downs at 1. a.m) they told us no, it was only up the road!

Not even the ones at the back of a very long queue would do it!

11:23 am  

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