Monday, September 12, 2011

Cafe Papeneiland and Prinsengracht Canal


On the corner of Brouwersgracht and Prinsengracht, the Prince’s Canal, stands Cafe Papeneiland, a classic brown cafe if there ever was one. We found ourselves there when we called our apartment only to discover that other tenants had left late and we would need to delay coming for another two hours. Jetlagged and not really comfortable about wandering with luggage in tow, we decided to stop in after spotting it from a bench across the Prinsengracht Canal. Little did we know that this was one of the oldest brown cafes in the city, having been opened originally in 1642.

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A hot cup of tea and coffee were just what we needed for a quick perk up and it was nice to sit indoors. On the small counter in the bar area there was a lovely apple tart, but since we needed to stay awake, it seemed that avoiding sugar was the right idea. I’m still thinking about that tart. Not only was the cafe one of the oldest in the city, but there was a young woman plying one of the oldest trades, right there on the premises. A young couple walked out of the bathroom together, thanking the bartender. He was tucking his shirt inside his trousers, while she was looking flirtatious and a bit disheveled. As she continued to smile I almost laughed because she was giving away their little secret. I thought they were a couple, until I looked out the window in the last photo and saw her alone, adjusting her bra in public, until its contents almost spilled out. It seems the laugh was on me.


The Prinsengracht is the longest of the three canals that encircle the center of Amsterdam.  There are a good number of businesses and restaurants nearby and it has bow to stern houseboats on either side. It happens to be one of the canals frequented by the tour boats and also is alongside the Anne Frank Museum and Westerkerk which you can see in the distance in the above photo.

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At the corner of Prinsengracht and Westerkerk there’s a tram stop where you can take a ride into Dam Square on Raadhuisstraat. The #13 or #14 both go there, but I found the #14 even more useful when I took it to Rembrandtplein and Waterlooplein where the flea market is held, Monday through Saturday, 9a.m. to 5p.m. Unfortunately, I went on a Sunday and missed it. Apparently, the stop and go bus that has a stop near Noorderkerk also goes to Waterlooplein. It goes to the train station, makes a loop to head back along the top of the Jordaan neighborhood to Prinsengracht, and then follows the canal to the Amstel River where it goes to Waterlooplein. I’ll need to ask more about it on my next trip, because I have an impression that it may be free transportation.

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Here’s a photo of Rembrandtplein during an art fair I discovered on a Sunday. The photo to the right depicts Dam Square. It may be an important hub and the center of activity downtown, but I found it lacking in charm, except for Nieuwe Kerk, a late Gothic basilica to its left, where Dutch royalty were once crowned. It is now used primarily for exhibition space. What a shame to see the former stained glass windows bricked up on the side of the building.

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