In October, in autumn as the leaves were turning, we lived for a month in ‘de Pijp’, Amsterdam’s southern bohemian shabby-chic neighbourhood. I’ve always loved the Pijp. I thought I knew it, but I didn’t really.
We arrived on a Sunday afternoon, the broad Albert Cuypstraat bereft of it’s famous street market and all of it’s charm. Oceans of tarmac, shuttered shops, a few parked cars and the city’s ubiquitous cyclists enjoying traffic-free freedom. We toiled up steep, cramped stairs, hampered by luggage, and the fear of missing our footing on harrowingly narrow steps. ‘We’ll bivouac here for the night’, muttered Jim when we were half way up. But we made it to the living room and being terribly British immediately put the kettle on for a nice cup of tea. We looked out onto the backs of properties on the Gerard Doustraat; a jig-saw puzzle of interlocking balconies, potted plants and outdoor furniture. It was all rather close. We sat watching two gents smoking, feet up on the balustrade, staring out into the distance – but their distance was us, in our living room, drinking tea. I dropped the makeshift curtain.
The flats in the building were divided in a front and back – not the usual one flat, one floor – pattern. This had it’s ups and downs – literally. Being at the back – away from the market – was good. It’s set up early every morning. But as a consequence the flat was spread over two floors, and the bedroom was at the top of a steep wooden ladder – a bit tricky. (The toilet was downstairs). The roof terrace was at the top of another steep, wooden ladder. Less tricky, we didn’t have to go out there. But we thanked our lucky stars – when the house was built around the end of the 19th century, our little flat probably housed ten people. We had the blessing of having it all to ourselves.
And what a blessing it was. On Monday morning I stepped out into the middle of a stall selling shampoo and shower gel, bottles and bottles of the stuff lined up like soldiers. ‘Three for Euro 5’, the stallholder told all and sundry. We nodded at each other and always said ‘goede morgen/middag’ depending on the time of day. A lot of things struck me during that month, but the first and most blindingly obvious was that we wouldn’t go hungry. There were cafes, restaurants, bars, terraces, take-a-ways; pop-up places, living-room restaurants, ice-cream parlours, roasters and delis. Couple this with the fact that the Pijp is home to 145 of the 200 different nationalities said to live in Amsterdam and you have a foodie’s idea of heaven. I spent the month strolling, snacking, sauntering, and salivating through the best the Pijp had to offer.
Always walking first, through the Albert Cuyp market.
Next Time: My Foodie Walking Tour of De Pijp.