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By Nigel Thrift

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Belly up to the bar of a brown cafe or proeflokaal tap house (see the Nightlife & Cafes chapter for details), lean over your brimming, tulip-shaped glass, and slurp. When the glass is properly overflowing, it’s called a kamelenrug (the one that broke the camel’s back), or an over het IJ-kijkertje (view over the IJ channel, the narrow channel of water behind Centraal Station that, among other things, separates central Amsterdam from Amsterdam-Noord). The hip, if generic, way to ask for one is a borrel (a shot).

The exterior of this ex–19th century orphanage bears a passing resemblance to Dracula’s castle, but the interior proves they really knew how to do an orphanage in those days. Monumental marble staircases, cast-iron banisters, stained-glass windows, marble columns, original murals—all have been faithfully restored. The rambling spaces where the dormitories once were now house stylish doubles and twins. Spare modern rooms, some sporting timber roof beams and wooden floors, line long, high-ceilinged corridors on two floors.

Despite all the usual trappings of luxury—the faux Empire furniture, thick carpets, molded plaster decorations, and doorman with epaulets and striped trousers—it remains behind the Amstel and the Grand Sofitel Demeure Amsterdam. Though the Grand itself is new, it boasts a historic site—it started out as the 15th-century convent of St. Cecilia, that was captured as a prize by the Amsterdam Admiralty after the Protestant take-over, and served as city hall until 1992. ) Planted on two beautiful courtyards just south of the Red-Light District, this newest of the grand hotels offers muted colors and understated luxury.

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AN INTRODUCTION TO TIME GEOGRAPHY by Nigel Thrift


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