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The Allure of Amsterdam

Put this European city on your global pride to-do list this summer.


My last and only trip to Amsterdam was eight years ago when I was in the height of my international comedy career. I was there as a comic working at the famed Comedy Café in the heart of the city in Max Euweplein. It was much more than a trip or a gig. It was a window in to living in the idyllic city. I was there for a full month, living the life as a local, put up in a flat overlooking the club and the European plein (square). I was within walking distance of the buzzing hub of Leidseplein on one side and the oasis of Vondelpark on the other. I was in urban heaven.

On the weekends I was locked and loaded at the Comedy Café doing two shows a night. During the week we were performing all over the country in key cities; in Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht, Breda and others.



It wasn’t long before I slipped in to a rhythm and ritual. No matter how late or layered the nights were (and they were), I was up early grabbing coffee in a café, writing in my journal, walking the city, going to many museums and then running in the park before I had to do my shows at night. As time went on, the real life of a local took shape. I was falling for a resident, riding on the back of a Vespa in the rain, catching jazz at all hours of the night, hitting flea markets by day, and their favorite café and passing the days away. It was blissful. I could have easily slipped in to an idyllic life in that very provocative city.

I had just come off of a year abroad in Barcelona. The two cities could not be more different, but what was similar, is how I felt in each, at home. I would have happily taken up residence in The Dam for a year—but I didn’t. I was back in LA after my comedic while away.

So, when the opportunity arose in the summer to go back to Amsterdam for a whirlwind weekend, I jumped at the opportunity. I was so ready for a second serving. One quick and seamless direct flight on Lufthansa’s Premium Economy had me at Amsterdam’s International airport Schipol, the fourth largest airport in Europe and but a few kilometers from the city center. A Direct Rail link took me to Amsterdam Central Station. Once there the GVB (above ground local transport) had me at the door of my local palace in a matter of minutes. It was easy, economical and quick, just the way I like it.

Slipping in to the luxe five star boutique, Hotel De L’Europe was heaven. It is easy to see why it is often referred to as The Other Royal Palace of Amsterdam. Set right on the Amstel River with breathtaking views of the city and the river, by day and by night, it is as evocative of a spot as it can be and I must say as much as I loved the city, it was truly tough to leave.



The hotel surrounds its guests with original Dutch masters paintings. My room was an alluring green with a floor to ceiling painting. I felt like I was sleeping in an art museum, with an artist and as an artist, all wrapped in one. It made for very vibrant dreams.

Once out on the streets, the buzz and the sexiness of the city all came flooding back to me. I jumped on public transport to meet up with new friends to take in The Pride Festivities for the weekend. Before settling in to Rembrandt Square, where we spent a lot of our time for the following 36 hours, we took a cocktail cruise on the canal. Then we settled in to the festivities surrounding Rembrandt Square.



I met a ton of locals, many in from other cities in The Netherlands and heaps of people in from all over Europe to take part in the Pride festivities. The city was electric. I’ve experienced many a pride in NY and LA having lived in both cities for several years and one other pride abroad in Berlin, but nothing was quite like Amsterdam. I remember hearing stories about it from the locals, way back when. All that was told was true and then some.



The following morning, the official day of Pride, it was teeming down rain, pouring big heavy chunky buckets of rain. What amazed me more than anything is that it simply didn’t matter. It didn’t dampen the spirits, nor any of the festivities. Everyone was out with bells on, umbrellas in hand and their pride party firmly in place.



We were lucky enough to be in a boat and take in the festivities from the water with the entire city seemingly surrounding us, all around us, on house boats, on the street, hanging out of windows from up above, and all across the bridges. They were literally everywhere. I am convinced everyone in and around the city was out that day as the city was literally heaving with people, gay, straight, old, young, families, friends, singles, sexy people, party people, passing by people, little kids and lots of dogs. It was truly an all-inclusive pride party. It went way beyond a gay pride parade to an amazing human experience where people were celebrating each other.



It was remarkable in a city that at once had experienced no tolerance of any kind in its war torn days. To see the celebration of all and the gay pride being paraded through every inch on the city streets and crowded canals was exhilarating, incredibly moving and full of fun. It is something everyone should experience at least at one point in their life time. We on our boat were all moved, amazed and equally unfazed by the rain.



The party and the city-wide celebration went on way in to the night, all night. If you do make it over, make it a point to experience what the city has to offer outside of the pride as well, as it is quite the gem.

As tiny as Amsterdam is, it is chock a block with museums. Amsterdam has the highest density of museums with its 60. Be sure to hit The Anne Frank House, Rembrandt’s House, Van Gogh’s Museum and the famed Rijksmuseum, to name but a few of the city’s faves. Earmark the proper time so you can leisurely take it all in as it is best not to be rushed. Remember you’re on Euro time now.

Finish off your visit in Museum Square (Museumplein) at The House of Bols, an unforgettable and delectable visit to the 36 Bols liqueurs and Genevers. The spirited staff really tips it over the spirited edge. For cocktail enthusiasts it’s simply a must.

The best way to take in this city is on foot. You can weave throughout the cobblestone streets and pop in and out of cafes, restaurants, lounges, bars, clubs and concerts. The best laid plans in Amsterdam are to not have any. Simply let the city unfold before you.

We made a night of it at Little Buddha Restaurant Sushi Bar and Lounge that Saturday after Pride. If you’ve ever been to the ever sexy Buddha Bar in Paris, this is Buddha Bar’s sexy little sister. The food, ambiance and cocktails are unrivaled. We completed that intoxicating evening popping in and out of bars, all over town and through the Red Light District.

So, as you put your summer pride schedule in to place, be sure to include Amsterdam as there is nothing in the world like it, come rain or come shine.

More information on Amsterdam, check out Amsterdam Tourism.

For information on Amsterdam’s Gay Pride 2012.

For direct flights in to Amsterdam, fly Lufthansa.

For chic sleeps, check out, Hotel de l’Europe.

You can follow Karen Loftus and her adventures on The Global Road @LAKarenLoftus


Blogger Bio: Karen Loftus is a Multi Media Maven. She's an International Comedian, Writer, Travel & Lifestyle Editor and Globetrotting Photographer covering the good life on The Global Road. After globetrotting through The Middle East, Europe and Asia, entertaining Expats, execs, the US troops abroad and theater savvy audiences around the globe at international theaters and comedy festivals, award winning playwright and international comedian Loftus took a break from touring, slipping in tojournalism, putting on the page what she once delivered onstage. As a journalist, Loftus found her definitive niche in travel writing, covering the luxury lifestyle and vino trends in travel and culinary and cocktail tourism. It was a coming home as her Irish grandparents ran a speakeasy, distilled their own spirits and ran many a famous pub. This fashion forward foodie takes great risks and goes to extreme journalistic measures on the global road, parasailing, surfing, bungee jumping, four tracking and canyoning in search of the story. Today Karen's vibrant tales can be seen in 40 different regional, national and international magazines, newspapers and websites. In between her travels Karen still flexes her funny bone and will take up touring again in 2011. Her passion project Body Comedy where she uses humor to heal is hitting the Global Road. Karen’s worked with several thousand people over the years, from prisoners to teen prostitutes and women and children who have experienced abuse on the body. She’s been featured in several documentaries, MS Magazine & MSNBC. Comedy Central has been a supporter of the US program for seven years. Karen’s is taking her Body Comedy program and heading to Kenya in November to work with orphans and young entrepreneurial woman. A TV show is in development based on The Body Comedy Project. Stay tuned. For more info: You can follow Karen on Twitter @LAKArenLoftus