DAY 6 - Happy New Year’s !!!
Woke up feeling well rested and left the room by 11:45 AM , early for us! Walked over to the Nieuwemarkt and had brunch at Café Fortyn right on the square. We each had a delicious bowl of mushroom soup. Then across the square and waited in line at the bakery for a olliebollen, a traditional Dutch New year’s treat - fried dough ball with raisins. We learned our lesson from last year as one proved to be just enough.
Walked down Kloveniersburgwal and through the Waterloopleine flea market to the Rembrandt House, the house where Rembrandt lived during the height of his popularity. Love these museums where the building itself is fascinating to look at. Really amazing how they managed to restore the house and retrieve the works of art once housed there.
After our tour of the house, we proceeded down to Muiderstraat and waited for the tram to take us to the IJ Brewery. However, after a little while of waiting for the #10 tram and some incorrect information from a Dutch woman also waiting at the tram stop, we realized that the #10 didn’t stop here and actually the nearest stop was quite far away. So we decided to stop into the coffeeshop down the street, the Hortus and regroup. The proprietor graciously called us a taxi and off we went to the brewery. A little bit of advice for anyone seeking directions or taking a taxi to this place - make sure you specify clearly that you want to go to the IJ brewery and not the Heineken brewery. We caught the mistake after only one block of driving in the wrong direction, but it could have been much worse.
We arrived there at 2:40 PM to find them closed. But the sign said open at 3PM and I had emailed them in advance to make sure that they would be open on New Year’s Eve, so we decided to have a drink at the pub across the street which had a great view of both the brewery and the windmill next door. We returned at exactly 3:01 PM to find the place nearly packed! We recognized the bartender as the same fellow who works at de Bierkoning and this, combined with the minimalist atmosphere of this place made us feel instantly at home. M had an Indeejars and I a Pilzen, both on tap and they were fantastic. No carbonation at all as the lines were connected to the freshly made beer supply downstairs in the brewery, as we were about to find out. We ordered another round, this time M had a Zatte and I had the Indeejar as we were joined by two young American students and one from Montreal. It was there first trip to Amsterdam and someone had told them of the brewery. We gave them some tips of places to visit and then the bartender announced that the 4 PM brewery tour was about to begin for all those interested. So everyone at our table and about 10 others from the bar joined in on the tour. This blew away the Heineken Experience! What a great tour, filled with humor and a thorough explanation of each step of the brewing process. No free samples here, but plenty of product back at the bar afterwards. M had another Zatte and I another Pilzen as we said our goodbyes to the students.
It was getting time to head back to the centrum so we hopped the #10 tram and got off at the Leidsespleine. The Oester Restaurant on the square was closed so we decided to head back to the room and make a plan for dinner. It seemed that lots of places were either closed or closing up for the holiday so we were getting ourselves resigned to the fact that we might wind up eating pizza tonight.
We decided to try our luck on Wamoesstraat and we found another Spanish restaurant open called Manolo’s. Again we got lucky and were about to have another fantastic meal. We shared the grilled calamari starter, and the grilled fish platter for two along with an order of garlic bread, and washed it all down with a couple of small pitchers of sangria. We then shared a delicious piece of tiara missou for desert. This sure beat the hell out of pizza!
Extremely satisfied and quite buzzed, we made our way through the crowded streets over to De Kuil but the place was packed so we went back to our room for the festivities soon to begin. Poured a Vlo Speciale and filled up a bowl of hash mixed with various types of weed, we were getting geared up for the fast approaching midnight hour. Already at 11 PM we could see and hear the volleys from the thousands of firecrackers being ignited simultaneously on Damstraat just below our balcony. The always crazy, never ending display on the canals of the Red Light district had begun and the sky was beginning to light up with fireworks every direction we could see. Also, the moon began to peek through the clouds and the stage was now set for the arrival of 2005. At midnight, all hell broke loose with fireworks exploding all around us with a spent bottle rocket even landing on our balcony! This continued until 2 AM as we sipped and toked in the New Year. This was not as crazy as the last couple of years as the celebration seemed more subdued, maybe a reflection of world affairs, but still for visual effects and duration of festivities, I still don’t know of another celebration quite like this one. We had the munchies and ordered room service - pizza margherite (pizza after all) and a piece of chocolate rum pie and we were in bed by 2:30 AM.
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