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“The old shipyard is now a

thriving art community”

This page, top: brush up on your bike riding skills before a trip to

Amsterdam; it’s the best way to travel in the city. Below: the old

shipyards at NDSMNoord have been transformed into an artists’

colony with cafes, a man-made beach and even a boat hotel, for

visitors. Bottom left: descendants of Willem van Loon still live in

the charming canal side house that is now theMuseum van Loon.

16

| BNE September/October 2016

ESCAPE

a thriving art community with rows of graffiti-covered warehouses

and piles of shipping containers now transformed into studios, cafés

and bars. On one side of the harbour basin are the masts of a tall ship

and a floating boat-hotel. In the centre of the basin is an abandoned

submarine, while on the other quay wall is a two-masted schooner

called Zephyr, its jib sail flapping in the light breeze, parked in front of a

warehouse with a crane behind.

From the outside, the curious collection of buildings has an air of

abandonment but not all is as it seems. The crane turns out to be the

lofty three-suite Faralda Crane Hotel (suites perched from 35 metres up);

peeking inside a huge NDSM warehouse I find Art City, home to 200

artists’ and designers’ studios set out in rows with mini ‘streets’ between

them; and, when I see a bunch of people disappearing through the end

of a pile of shipping containers in a carpark I follow and find myself

stepping into Pllek, a large buzzing restaurant space with corrugated iron

walls and a front wall of glass opening on to a riverside beach, complete

with sand and deckchairs. While I munch on a sandwich, the waiter

points out the dance floor and tells me how the restaurant’s bench-style

tables and chairs are cleared away at midnight on weekends for DJs until

the early hours. In summer, the wide outdoor spaces are the setting for

festivals, concerts and food and vintage markets. It’s Amsterdam’s newest,

most vibrant area and it’s still evolving.

Another easy cycle trip from the EYE is along Amsterdam Noord’s

beautiful street of Niewendammerdijk, a long thin street which has

wooden houses dating back as far as 1565. As I ride along I imagine

its days as a flourishing shipbuilding village when many of the houses

were occupied by former ships’ captains. At numbers 202 to 204, De

Halve Moen (the Half Moon house), was built by shipbuilder Gerardus

de Vries Lentsh in 1909 and takes its name from the ship that had

sailed from the Netherlands into what is now New York exactly 300

years before, in 1609. The ship was contracted by the Dutch East India

Company to English explorer Henry Hudson to find a safe passage to

the Spice Islands and China in the East.

No visit to Amsterdam is complete without a cycle or stroll to view

the canal houses where wealthy ship merchants and some of the nation’s

great artists once lived. One of the best to see inside and muse on life in

those times is Museum Van Loon at Keizersgracht 672, on one of the

most prestigious canals. The house was built in 1672 and first occupied

by artist Ferdinand Bol, a pupil of Rembrandt, but it takes its name

from the family that were its last residents and founders of the museum.

A young Willem van Loon became the owner of the house and took up

residence in 1884 when his father gave it to him as a wedding present.

In a city full of museums (Our Lord in the Attic is another with an

interesting history), this one is a little different because descendants

of the Van Loon family still live in the upper floors of the house and

continue to open it to the public daily. The drawing room and dining

rooms on the ground floor are magnificent, with a selection of impressive

family portraits in each room as well as ornate furniture and wood

panelling. There are also bedrooms, formal gardens and a coach house to

explore – often special exhibitions are on display and taking time out to

sit and admire the garden is a highlight.

Revived by coffee and cake in the garden of Museum Van Loon

I continue cycling along Keizersgracht and neighbouring streets

Herengracht and Prinsengracht (Anne Frank House is along here) to

admire the best of the canal houses.

The Negen Straatjes (Nine Streets) is a network of cobbled streets that

cuts through this canal belt, lined with boutiques, galleries, great cafés

and restaurants. It’s a shopper’s delight with everything from cutting edge

design to vintage wares. Heading west across the Prinsengracht canal,

the Jordaan area is home to more upmarket galleries and boutiques as

well as some of Amsterdam’s oldest ‘brown cafés’ or pubs – Café Chris

is the oldest, dating back to 1624, and still a popular hangout, as is

Papeneiland (1642) or Café ’t Smalle (1780) not far from Anne Frank

House. This part of the tour is best done without the bike as the ‘cafés’

get pretty lively at night and it’s a fun way to end the day, sampling some

of Amsterdam’s traditional brews.

EAT

Pllek,

budget-friendly eats in a rough-and-ready interior – get there

early for a spot on the man-made riverside beach during good

weather.

Tt Neveritaweg 59. See

http://pllek.nl

IJ-Kantine,

a mix of French and international cuisine with an

industrial-themed interior in a large bright space right beside the

ferry.

Ondinaweg 15-17. See

http://ijkantine.nl