Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul reveals the gayest spots in Amsterdam to be mary—Shop, Drink, Party, Sex. Viewer Discretion Advised.
If you read Gayer in Amsterdam Part 1, you’ll probably remember that after three nights in the canal city courtesy of the Holland Tourist Board, I returned gayer than ever. Well, buckle your KLM seatbelts because this post takes it up a queer notch. Here is Part 2 of my travel tips—for both gays-by-nature and gays-in-spirit: Be Mary—Shop, Drink, Party, Sex.
For Stay, Move, Eat, See—visit Part 1.
Shop. Thanks to the Inside Design Amsterdam 2010 fair sponsored by Elle Won happening at my groovy green hotel Lloyd Hotel & Cultural Embassy, I got a preview of H&M’s newest home store concept that will debut in Amsterdam’s Dam Square this Fall. Instead of loading up a shopping cart with shower curtains and pillows, customers grab a magnet with an image corresponding to their chosen item and attach to their hand held magnetic shopping cart. At checkout, the magnets are traded for the actual items. The result is a streamlined shop that is greener in that it doesn’t require wasted floor space and unnecessary packaging. Also courtesy of the design show, I was introduced to Holland’s leading eco-luxe blogger Annouck Post of Hiphonest.com. Check out her blog before heading to Amsterdam for her recommendations on designers and shops that blend luxury and sustainability, like the don’t miss store Charlie + Mary. For those with a little darker, heavier tastes with a splash of fetish, head to Mr. B flagship leather store on busy Warmoesstraat near the Red Light district. No need to be embarrassed if you’re like me and just indulge in fantasy from time to time, the staff was incredibly friendly in helping me choose and fit my newest harness. Hey, I’ve lost weight and pumped up my chest, so a girl’s got to look good at The Eagle, right?
Drink. Escape the madness of the nearby Red Light District and duck into The Queen’s Head for a drink and a friendly chat with owners Don and Arjan—who celebrated quite the gay wedding recently. The lush red interior with palm plants and disco balls has a view out to a canal, and had an easy mix of gay and lesbian locals and tourists.
Party. Curiously for such a rocking city, Amsterdam lacks big dance clubs. But one gay hotspot that is packing them in to a rather small venue is Club Church. The only worshipping going on here is of the male form—besides the dance floor there are several dark areas where the boys are getting busy. Check the website for theme nights—the underwear party I went to on Friday was packed, in multiple ways.
See. While the ad campaign may be true that Everyone’s Gay in Amsterdam, someone forgot to tip off city’s branch of the Hermitage Museum. Their exhaustive exhibit of artifacts related to Alexander the Great—one of the world’s most successful arguments against the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell military policy—there’s not one word scrawled about the famous warriors longtime male lovers Bagoas or Hephaestion. I couldn’t help thinking the omission was related to homophobia in Russia—where the original Hermitage is based. Still, the building itself is
worth a look for its historic importance. Built in the late 1600s, the enormous complex served over the years as a home for the old, infirm, and finally a nursing and medical home known as Amstelhof. After two years of renovations, the building reopened in June 2009 as a branch of the famed Russian museum, and separate from the exhibits, guests can get a glimpse of the old kitchens and restored church hall.
Go. I think it’s fun to fly the international carrier of the country you’re visiting—so the journey begins even before arrival. Well, I’ll admit to some exceptions for a few countries in the Asia-Pacific regions and Africa (not mentioning names). But I was in luck flying to Amsterdam on KLM. The extra 80 Euro I paid to sit in their Premium Coach area with extra legroom and bigger seat pitch was definitely worth it. The on-demand in-flight entertainment system kept me happily occupied coming and going watching the Academy Award-winning documentary The Cove (run, don’t walk your fingers over to your Netflix cue to order this gem—I’ll be meeting the director Louie Psihoyos at this month’s Condé Nast Traveler World Savers Congress in Singapore). J. Lo’s Back-up Plan was entertaining only from the perspective of marveling at how the filmmaker stretched a razor thin plot into 90 minutes of froth mostly by requiring Alex O’Loughlin to remove his shirt. And I’m not sure I should even begin to discuss what possessed me to sign up for the two and half hours known as Sex and the City 2. All I have left to say is Really?
For You Gays Only. Speaking of sex in the gay city, let’s get down and a little dirty. So if you’re just gay-in-sprit and offended, then move on. But if you’re titillated, then by all means, read on. For the most part, this is not a city where gays are going to find it hard to hook-up. Many of the bars and clubs have back rooms for sexy encounters (see Club Church, above). A bevy of international gays descend on Thermos Sauna—one of the nicest, cleanest, and most happening gay sex palaces I’ve had the pleasure of visiting around the world. In addition to the usual set-up of steam room, sauna, dark room, private cabins, porn theater, there’s a bar and restaurant, clothing shop and beauty salon. Clearly, the Dutch have a welcoming and unshameful attitude when it comes to gay sex. Except, oddly, if you’re staying at Lloyd Hotel. Weirdly, the hotel’s Internet provider blocks access to popular hook-up sites Manhunt and Adam4Adam. So if that’s your chosen method of meeting locals, you might just want to check with your hotel in advance about their policies. For the most part, Grindr worked fine, although occasionally it would tell me that every horny boy in Amsterdam was 0 feet away.
Well, on second thought, maybe that was true. After all, Everyone’s Gay (and green) in Amsterdam.