EXCLUSIVE | Three Gay Days: Amsterdam Part Three
By Joe Okonkwo | AN OUTTRAVELER.COM EXCLUSIVE
DAY TWO: THE JORDAAN
Good morning, sunshine! Or is it afternoon? A little bleary-eyed after last night's beer-soaked sing-along with that tall blond from Rotterdam? No worries: Amsterdam is prepared to offer a breakfast for champion hangovers. The Pancake Bakery (Prinsengracht 191; +31-20-625-1333; noon-9:30 p.m.; 4-12 EUR) will soak it all up with 80 different varieties of pancakes or omelets. Try the Paris Hilton -- or the Greenlandic, Egyptian or Masai pancakes -- at this historic 17th-century warehouse in the lovely, quiet Jordaan district.
Now that you're feeling better, it's not far to the world-famous Anne Frank Huis (Prinsengracht 267; +31-20-556-7100). A moving tribute to the young diarist, it draws more tourists than all the other museums in Amsterdam combined (arrive early to miss the crowds, or come during the evening in the summer, when it's open until 9 p.m.). Just around the corner is the pink triangle Homomonument (Westermarkt Square), a tribute to homosexuals persecuted everywhere (including those who died under Hitler's regime) -- it's equally moving because of its precedent-setting status as the only monument of its kind in the world. The monument is characterized by its triangular dock jutting into the canal.
All around the Jordaan are charming little caf?s and shops to explore; expect the same gay-friendly welcome here you'd receive anywhere in Amsterdam. Saarein (Elandsstraat 119; +31-20-623-4901; Sun and Tue-Thu 12 noon-1 a.m., Fri-Sat 12 noon-2 a.m., Mon closed) is another former dyke cafe, now now amicably mixed.
If you're getting hungry, dress up and visit one of Amsterdam's best restaurants, Christophe (Leliegracht 46; +31-20-625-0807; 29-65 EUR), just east of the Anne Frank House. Award-winning epicurean delights include "en cocotte" roasted quail, terrine of skate wing and a nage of beetroots. Also nearby, ?t Sluisje (Torensteeg 1; +31-20-624-0813; Wed-Sun 6 p.m.-1 a.m., shows on Fri and Sat; 15-34 EUR) features waiters in drag joining in the impromptu show that takes place at odd intervals throughout your meal. You'll be eyeing your steak or satay (big, delicious portions, by the way) as it makes its way across the room to your table -- then, suddenly, the lights dim and everyone breaks into song! Remember to book ahead when dining out in Amsterdam, and be on time: Most restaurant kitchens close around 10 p.m.
A night out in Amsterdam could begin any number of adventures. Gather information on local bars and events at the Pink Point, next to the Homomonument (corner of Keizersgracht and Westermarkt; +31-20-428-1070; daily noon-6 p.m.; closed Tues-Wed in Jan/Feb), the publishers of The Bent Guide to Gay and Lesbian Amsterdam. You might also want to explore one of Amsterdam's, ahem, "coffeehouses," which actually serve something more potent -- marijuana and hashish. Try The Other Side (Reguliersdwarsstraat 6; +31-20-421-1014; daily 11 a.m.-1 a.m.; 10-25 EUR), a particularly gay-friendly marijuana emporium, and as good as place as any to spark up. The vibe is casual; the clientele a mix of friendly tourists and local hipsters. The menu lists 20 varieties, describing origin, flavor and effects. Choose from Skunk, Skull, Purple Haze, Space Cake and more.
Once sufficiently "warmed up," head for the young and the restless along Reguliersdwarsstraat at Soho (Reguliersdwarsstraat 36; +31-20-422-3312; Sun-Thu 6 p.m.-2 a.m., Fri-Sat 6 p.m.-4 a.m.), which draws trendy young boys (and a few girls) with its posh mahogany and leather chairs -- not to mention its nightly two-for-one drinks from 10 to 11 p.m. Across the street, April (Reguliersdwarsstraat 37; +31-20-625-9572; Sun-Thu 2 p.m.-1 a.m., Fri-Sat 2 p.m.-2 a.m.) packs in men of all ages with its popular happy hours (6-7 p.m.), especially Sunday afternoon (6-8 p.m.), when the crowd fills the street. Carouse to a techno soundtrack at the Cockring (Warmoesstraat 96; +31-20-12345-6789; Sun-Thu 11 p.m.-4 a.m., Fri-Sat 11 p.m.-5 a.m.; cover 3.50-5 EUR), a very cruisy bar that attracts the nightly leftovers of leather men and well-groomed (and usually well-buzzed) lads from the twinkie bars over on the Reguliersdwarsstraat. Be prepared to wait in line for a while.
DAY THREE: THE FINE ART OF SHOPPING
It's your last day in town, sweetie, so slap on those wooden shoes and head to one of the classiest hangouts around: Caf? Americain (Leidseplein 28; +31-20-556-3010; daily 7 a.m.-11 p.m.; 9-32 EUR), part of the American Hotel built in 1882. Only slightly marred by the current reconstruction, it's an Art Deco treasure, rumored to have been the site of Mata Hari's wedding. You'll find a few kindred gay spirits here, dining at the well-stocked buffet and noshing on the famous pastries.
Need a different kind of refreshment? Devotees love Thermos Day Sauna (Raamstraat 33; +31-20-623-9158; Mon-Fri 12 p.m.-11 p.m., Sat-Sun 12 p.m.-10 p.m.) for its friendly atmosphere, beautiful Old World feel (lots of tiles) and spartan cleanliness. In addition to a swimming pool and rooftop terrace, there's a bar, caf? video room and even an attached hair and massage salon. One complaint visitors repeat is the many stairs you have to climb -- but that's typical for old Dutch buildings.
Now that you're refreshed, notice all the tanned bodies heading over to the nearby Vondelpark, with acres of green, leafy open space to jog, skate, bike or simply wander. On the park's northern edge, there's a track and a soccer field where you might be able to join in on a game. Catch your breath at a great outdoor caf? called Vertigo (Vondel Park 3; +31-20-612-3021; 2-15 EUR) in the park at the Film Museum -- it's packed with the buff and the beautiful relaxing after (or instead of) their weekend workouts. Since we know you haven't had your fill of culture yet, you're just steps away from Amsterdam's famous Museumplein, home to the superb Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum. The neighborhood here is also full of fine shops, good food and friendly caf?s.
For the best shopping, you've got to hit up the famous day markets. Among the best and most renowned is Albert Cuyp Market (Albert-Cuypstraat), where you'll find everything from fish to fabrics. For a more mainstream, high-end shopping experience, stroll along the P.C. Hooftstraat, home to plenty of big, familiar retail names and a few you might be happy to discover.
If you're shopping for something a bit meatier, head toward the Warmoesstraat, home to Amsterdam's leather scene. Men usually begin their evening a few blocks away, either at the Cuckoo's Nest (Nieuwezijds Kolk 6; +31-20-627-1752; Sun-Thu 1 p.m.-1 a.m., Fri-Sat 1 p.m.-2 a.m.), with its cellar playroom, or The Web (Sint Jacobsstraat 6; +31-20-623-6758; Sun-Thu 2 p.m.-1 a.m., Fri-Sat 2 p.m.-3 a.m.), with its rooftop garden. A favorite among travelers seems to be Wednesday's "Dildo Lottery." Later, go hardcore at The Eagle (Warmoesstraat 90; +31-20-627-8634; Sun-Thu 10 p.m.-4 a.m., Fri-Sat 10 p.m.-5 a.m.), where you have to buzz a little doorbell on the nondescript stoop. Buy your drink as soon as you enter, or risk staff ire. Also on Warmoesstraat you'll find leather shops and bars like Dirty Dicks, Cockring, Stablemaster and Argos.
If you get peckish, head to MAOZ Falafel (+31-20-625-0717; 3-6 EUR), serving up fresh (and cheap!) falafel with more than a dozen tasty sauces, relishes and vegetable toppings to complete your pita. Don't miss out on the highly recommended fries, too. Two locations are convenient to the gay scene: Muntplein 1 and Leidsestraat 85.