At the Cafe'

Amsterdam Travel Blog

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 It must be around ten o'clock in the morning. I get out of the hotel to walk across the winding alley with the cobbled stones in search for a late breakfast. The streets in this part of the city are still quite empty. They usually get busy from afternoon till late nights. At this moment the cleaners wearing their high visibility coats are doing their job. They do not wonder what happened last night in these same streets they clean but just act on automatic mode as they do each day.

 Across the street I spot this warm and welcoming café which does not look like any other coffee shop. I wanted my breakfast to be food not cigarettes and coffee, so this seemed like the place. I walk up the couple of front steps, get my hand out of my jacket and turn the freezing metal door knob to get in.

As the door opens I finally get a good glimpse of the inside, the café is still empty and the warmth inside feels great and certainly welcoming. A waiter leaning on the bar reading the paper looks up and instantly comes to my attention. "Good morning!" he says in Dutch, and shows me to a table just by the front next to the street. As the restaurant was practically empty I trusted this was the best place for the first clients. This was perfect. As I took off my coat I saw a cat sleeping on the chair which adds up to the welcoming feeling of this place. I sit down and order some English breakfast and sparkling water. Coffee goes last as a treat and not to wake me up, the cold air outside has already done that well enough!

 I love the moment when your order is taken, you settle and wait for the food to come.

All is set and now you can just look around and get absorbed into the surroundings. Observe the place, the people and the environment inside and outside the café, if you're sitting close enough to a window. As you walk in initially you are the foreigner in all aspects, but as time goes by you become a local, only to let other people walking in after you be the foreigners.

 Some white candles are lit behind the front windows. The white feels cold like the outside, but the yellow glow of the flame makes you feel warm. The square tiles on the floor are blood red colour. Patterns are created from the tiles which got darker than the rest due to years of use. It always puzzles me how a tile just next to the other can vary so much in colour when they surely had the same share of usage.

I settle with the idea that although they were ‘neighbours’ and from same batch of tiles, the material itself might have had slightly different properties.

The wooden tables are thick, heavy and dark brown. Various cutlery dents on the top reflect the lights differently if you look closely enough.

 On the walls there are some black and white photographs. I just cannot associate the street in the photo with the outside of this café in any way, however I can safely assume there exists some relation. On one of the walls stands an enormous wine rack. As I look I wonder what system is used to trace the bottles.

 At the very end, opposite the front door there is a huge Rembrandt painting of ‘The Night Watch’. In Holland it’s a must to have a painting of a windmill, sunflower, Van Gogh or Vermeer! I have always found Art and Music to be the best ways to travel back in time, and in this café this massive painting compliments the atmosphere perfectly. This painting is considered to be one of the most famous in the world. The effective use of light and shadow in The Night Watch helps gives additional depth to the café.

 As the waiter picks up my empty plate he asks if all was fine. This is the most ideal time to chat up and seek some local information about anything I want to know. I learn that the café dates back to 1740. I see that apart from some modern coffee machine everything else looks old enough.  Even the waiter seems to be dressed up traditionally as it would have been in the 1700's. I also learn that apparently every restaurant in Holland has a cat to keep them free from rats. I thus felt very safe with the feline cuddled just nearby. The waiter is only disturbed by one thing here, people walking in an not closing the door behind them!

 I now order a coffee. Can't help notice the rattling sound of the teaspoon on the plate each time I raise the cup. Outside the window people walk up and down the street, some on bicycles. Here comes a young couple, the girl stops to have a peek, her partner tells her something and they walk off. Other people have a look at the menu and walk off. Maybe they are just checking to come by later, find the prices too high, or have no idea what they want! I think I must have been an hour in here. Outside the street is getting busier. Just across the road another restaurant is opening up. A man has just opened the door and is trying to set up a sign to the door. The restaurant it Spanish and clearly the man is not Dutch. After some failed attempts to fix the sign to the top of the door he goes and gets a chair. That does the trick.

 I pay up, put on my jacket, exchange some words with the waiter and walk off back into the street. Out from the warm past and back into the cold present. 

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photo by: pearcetoyou