Amsterdam. 1981.

Eric found a carousel of holiday slides from 1981 at Goodwill. It is always fascinating to see what changes and what stays the same. Often it is only the clothing that would give away the date of the photo.

Arriving at Centraal Station.

Always a familiar sight

Ravensbrück Memorial, Museumplein.

Despite traversing the Museumplein surely hundreds of times I’m embarrassed to say I never noticed this monument.

A Willy Blees sculpture.

Fishing? I know there are fish in the canals, but…



Vintage Slides: The Haring Eaters. Marken, Noord Holland. 1956.

In our continuing series of vintage slides here’s a charming slide from Holland. We believe these slides came from an officer in the American Military stationed in Germany in the 50s.

Here’s a typical picture of tourists devouring the raw “nieuwe” haring. Most Dutch people eat it with a knife and fork.

The photographer wrote that this slide was taken in Marken, an historic and touristic village just north of Amsterdam.



Amsterdam A to Zed: B is for bicycle


You just have to ride a bicycle—it’s by far the quickest, easiest way around the city. It may look intimidating at first, but once on a bike you have the advantage as bicycles have the right-of-way. Rent one from Frederic Rent-a-Bike—their bikes don’t have any annoying logos that label you as a tourist. (Many shops that sell bikes also rent them—without the tourist identifying adverts—just ask.) Sadly, bike rentals are not the bargain they once were (now about 10 euros a day, with discounts for longer rentals) so when you rent one, do use it!

Frederic Bike Rentals
Brouwersgracht 78

Amsterdam A to Zed: A is for app



One of the things that makes Apple’s iPhone so addictive are the wide range of third party created “apps” (which do span the admittedly silly to the overly complicated) but also include many which are downright useful and easy to use.

Kudos to the Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions for creating the elegantly designed Amsterdam Mobile Guide app. Download this to your iPhone (it’s available absolutely free from the iTunes App Store!) and you’ll have a combination city map/guidebook right on your phone. While far from comprehensive, the maps are great, and there’s good information on sights, museums, cafes, and restaurants. While it’s at its best while connected to the internet (where you can use it to pinpoint your exact location) it’s also quite useful offline (saving expensive connection charges) as most of the information is stored right in the app itself, providing useful descriptions of historical sights, museum opening hours, cafes, restaurants, shops and more.  And so far, the board of tourism seems to be committed to keeping it current with regular updates. One of the best travel apps I’ve come across, the Amsterdam app is simple to use, well designed, a great portable map—and much more.

iPhone image from The Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions.

Amsterdam Hotels


A friend of my sister recently wrote:

Do you know of any cheap but clean/safe hotels in Amsterdam (specifically, safe for a mom and child alone)? I want to get a hotel in Amsterdam for a couple nights to avoid all the train riding back and forth from my friend’s house in the Hague but money is very tight so….some inside info would be great! My friend in the Hague never really seems to go to Amsterdam; perhaps you can help?


I haven’t stayed in a hotel in Amsterdam for quite sometime, but I’ll try to give you some help.

My favorite hotel is the Ambassade ( great location, rooms, service etc, but it might be more than you want to spend. Hotel prices in Amsterdam have risen quite a bit since the introduction of the Euro.

I think the NH chain of hotels in the city are good values for larger hotels with elevators, etc.

You might also check out the Lloyd Hotel ( along the eastern docklands; they have rooms in all price ranges and it’s rather a fun place. A short tram ride from the historic center.

A brand new hotel that might be good for you is the Citizen M Amsterdam City ( it’s adjacent the WTC train station (NOT centraal Station) which you can get to by direct train from the Hague. It’s brand new, seems really nice and cheap. It’s in a quiet residential neighborhood, but the number 5 tram will take you to the museum quarter and the city center.

If you go to you can compare prices and possibly find a good deal. There are lots of great little hotels along the canals if you don’t mind the steep dutch stairs. Best places to stay would be along the Western or Southern canal belt. This is the most picturesque part of the city, and it’s central yet quiet. Hotels between the Central Station and the Dam can be nice, but the nightlife there can be noisy and perhaps a bit seedy for a child, though the whole city is quite safe. Find a hotel that meets your budget, check the location on google maps, then go to the hotel’s website to check it out and see if you can book it even cheaper directly.

Also, if you don’t plan on staying out very late in Amsterdam, you can easily get from the Hague (either Den Haag CS or Den Haag HS stations) to Amsterdam on the intercity trains which run quite frequently. The trip takes about 45 minutes. The The train system is excellent so you may also want to visit Haarlem, Utrecht or Rotterdam as well. You can check the schedules online (in English at By the way, you can get to Delft from Den Haag by city tram.


2008: A Year of Travel in Pictures

The year 2008 began and ended in San Francisco. So lets consider some old/new highlights of San Francisco in honor of the new year. Favorite old site: the fabulously eccentric late Frank Lloyd Wright Marin Civic Center.

Favorite new site: the fabulously eccentric just opened Renzo Piano designed California Academy of Sciences. Favorite old restaurant: deliciously Italian Delfina in San Francisco. Favorite new restaurant: deliciously eccentric Camino in Oakland.

In February it was off to historic Savannah for a week with my sister. I hadn’t been there since the long ago publication of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. I credit John Berendt’s book with turning a sleepy southern town into a major tourist attraction—and perhaps saving the city’s historic core.

From there it was a drive up to Baltimore for a visit with my brother and his family.

Then my first trip to South America for a 10 day stay in Buenos Aires. Loved the city, loved the food, and loved the fact that I could afford it! Rent an apartment through (thanks to Marc Leonard for the tip); eat at La Cabrera, La Dorita, Social Paraiso, and the cheese room at the fabulous Park Hyatt Hotel; have a suit made, have a leather jacket made; get a massage. Enjoy the urbanity of this great world city.

We took a side trip to Iguazu Falls. The falls are truly impressive, but it had much more the air of an amusement park than I expected. Apparently the “most visited site in South America” aspect had not registered until I got there!

After Buenos Aires, travel with business colleagues took me to Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. I probably would not have gone there on my own—there are very few tourists—but I’m very glad I had the experience.

A day long layover allowed a chance to see the Panama Canal, and a good deal of the Panamanian countryside as well. We put ourselves entirely at the mercy of a random driver at the Panama Airport and were rewarded with a comfortable, reasonably priced, and comprehensive guided tour! I’m not really a proponent of the “see it in a day” brand of tourism—yet neither do I feel the need to rush back to Panama.

Next up was a weekend trip to Denver to see the John Adams opera Nixon in China. We enjoyed the stylishly quirky Curtis hotel and appreciated the public transportation in what is  essentially a car-centric city.

I got to spend much of August in my former “hometown” of Amsterdam, researching a couple of travel articles (see the articles below) and visiting old friends.

A quick trip to Paris on the super-efficient Thalys high-speed train, confirmed what everyone has always said about Paris in August—all the best places to eat are closed! But I got to use the new Velib public bicycles—I’m hooked, what a great way to get around Paris.

The rest of the year was spent in California, tending to work, with short trips to Morro Bay and Ventura, and ending up back in San Francisco for the New Year.

Amsterdam Insider Tips

I’m often asked to recommend a “gay” hotel in Amsterdam — my usual response is to suggest booking any hotel you like; all hotels in Amsterdam are entirely gay friendly. A gay hotel here (and there are more than a few) has always seemed a bit unnecessary — unless one requires the specialized atmosphere and bondage-equipped rooms of the Black Tulip Hotel.

Though there a number of specialized gay hotels in Amsterdam, they — regretfully — mostly offer a lesser standard of comfort and style than many of the charming Canal House hotels that are merely “gay friendly.”

While my favorite hotels fall in this category — particularly the Ambassade and the smaller Seven Bridges — there is now a self-identified “straight-friendly” gay-owned and -run hotel that is equal in style and amenities to the best of the city’s mid-priced hotels. The Hotel New Amsterdam, located in one of the prettiest spots in the city center — the intersection of the Herengracht and Brouwersgracht — comprises three historic canal houses. Completely renovated by the new gay owners before opening last year, the hotel offers stylish rooms, modern baths, Rituals bath amenities, complimentary breakfast, canal views (from many rooms) and the unbeatable location. It’s not just picturesque, it is also quiet — and yet a short walk to Central Station and in fact any spot in the city.

Virtually next door is the romantic gay-owned restaurant De Belhamel, as well as the friendly Frederic Rent-a-Bike. Replacing and expanding the former gay hotel New York, the New Amsterdam is a worthy match for its “gay friendly” competition.

Amsterdam has finally joined the ranks of cities like London and New York in offering an half-price ticket service. Now you can buy available seats for a wide variety of events — classical music, pop concerts, theater, dance, jazz and even movies at the film museum — on the day of the performance for half price. It’s a great deal for visitors, who may not have made plans in advance, as well as for anyone with a free evening. The tickets are for sale in the Amsterdam Uitburo Ticket office (noon to 5:30 p.m.) on the Leidseplien — where you can also purchase advance tickets (at full price) for events anywhere in the city. You can see what is available each day online at, but you must purchase the tickets in person.

by Clay Doyle

for Travel

Het Laatste Biertje

In Amsterdam, out with friends for an evening, we’ll have a few sensible rounds of beer and eventually someone will suggest “het laatste biertje”. The last little beer has become something of a joke among my friends, for of course the last beer invariably produces an additional round and then another as each in turn steps up to provide his companions with a last beer.

This is something of a metaphor for my time in Amsterdam. I came on a whim, really, with no firm plans, and the idea of living here for six months, maybe a year. All right, perhaps I am being a bit disingenuous, as I did sign a two year lease on an apartment the day after arriving in the city. But the lease allowed cancellation at anytime with two months notice, so it wasn’t totally insane. Not insane at all, as it turned out, as two years turned to four years and then to six. And when the time came in August for the usual two year renewal…I found the building was being sold—I could get an extension on the lease only until the end of the year.

I’d never planned to spend forever in Amsterdam. But then I hadn’t planned to spend six years here either (six years, three months, two days!). But like that one last beer…each year just became easier and more appealing. My stay here has outlasted my initial desire to simply escape from Los Angeles. It has outlasted many of my ties to that city in which I spent so many years. It has outlasted my relationship with the young man with whom I moved to Amsterdam–he left years ago for the glamour and decadence of gay life in New York (Despite Amsterdam’s reputation, it can’t compete).

The last weeks have been such whirlwind of activity, I haven’t really had much time for reflection. There have been visitors, a trip to Paris, an exam in my language class, much sorting and throwing out of six years of accumulated ephemera, final dinners and drinks, a last visit from Logan, a festive farewell party, the Museumnacht, and finally, the removers. As I prepared my leaving, the elections in America, and the assassination in Amsterdam of controversial filmmaker and writer Theo Van Gogh by alleged Muslim extremists, cast a depressing tone over the city. Now it’s cold here my last night in the empty flat. It’s turned cold, but mostly dry, as the city slips into winter. The last of cafe terraces disappeared on the first of November, and Europe’s gone off daylight time, bringing an early nightfall to the city. Still, the Sinterklaas decorations have gone up and the displays of lights—coupled now with lights on all the bicycles (a sudden enforcement of a long neglected petty regulation)—create a festive, holiday air.

Having closed, two years ago, my Los Angeles studio/gallery/home of ten years and subsequently having survived three close encounters with death, the loss of a rented apartment in Amsterdam is not something I’m inclined to view with panic. In fact my initial reaction was a sort of freedom–I could go anywhere, do anything: I could travel for a year; I could relocate to a University with an MFA program in creative writing. I could hang out in LA with my family and friends, or sponge off friends in San Francisco. There was, and is, an appeal to a nomadic lifestyle.

But can I really leave Amsterdam? Could I return only occasionally and (worst of all) only as a tourist? I may not have really become a part of Amsterdam (I still mangle the language and stare at locals with bewildered expressions until they effortlessly switch to English; I’ve never bothered to get a visa, a resident permit, an identity card, or to register with the foreign police, all alleged bureaucratic requirements; I haven’t managed to marry, or even seriously date a dutch citizen. And yet if I have not become a part of Amsterdam, Amsterdam has become a part of me…the city and its culture have become a huge part of my identity; an important aspect of my self image.

I am an American who lives in Amsterdam. An American who chooses to live in Amsterdam. I don’t have a car (on the European continent at least); I travel everywhere by bike. I have a lovely apartment in the centrum, the quiet and charming Negen Straatjes. It has a view of (not quite over) the rooftops of Amsterdam. If you lean precariously out the window, there is even a canal view. I can hear the bells of the Westertoren, two blocks away, chiming the half hours throughout the night. This sound is somehow reassuring.

Though it seems so normal to say “am” and “have” the reality now is “was” and “had”. The fabulous apartment on the Berenstraat is mine no longer. The removers have come and the winter coats and the trinkets collected traveling through Europe and yet another collection of books and paintings has gone to storage. I return to California a somewhat rootless exile in George Bush’s America. I am hoping, scheming and plotting already my return to the adopted city I have come to love. With luck I’ll be back by the time the socialists retake the government! But what alternative adventures the fates may have in store for me, I really cannot at this moment even guess.

I will miss the sunny cafe terraces with the impossibly slow service. I’ll miss cycling in the brisk air. I’ll miss the incredible beauty of this city of tranquil canals and 17th century brick. I’ll miss the breathtaking skies of deep blue and amazing clouds and brilliant pink sunsets. I’ll miss my favorite restaurants and bars. I’ll regret that Paris is no longer a short train ride away. I’ll miss the Kaaskamer, and the Saturday farmers’ market on the Noordermarkt, the Friday Bookmarket; the Le Soliel pancake house and the cafe Nielsen (where I have had two exhibits of my photographs, and countless club sandwiches), Balthazar’s Keuken and the Utrechtsedwarstafel. I’ll miss the view of the Westertoren as I cross the Berensluis to do my marketing. I’ll miss the people in the neighborhood shops and the Splash fitness center and the familiar faces of boys I’ve never actually met. I’ll miss all the entertaining guests—American, French, British, Estonian, German, Italian—who have visited me here in the Berenstraat; if you haven’t made it in six years, you may have missed your chance. But I’ll miss most of all my faithful Amsterdam friends, and spending an evening with them, and having that one last beer.

Tot ziens Amsterdam! —Clay Doyle, 9 November 2004