Insider's guide to... Amsterdam

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The Independent Travel
What's the weather like?

Amsterdam weather is predictably unpredictable: you can enter a restaurant on a clear evening and by the time the main course has arrived, you've missed a torrential, freezing rainstorm which has, in turn, fully dissipated by the time the tiramisu and coffee appear.

What are the locals complaining about?

Parking restrictions - it takes up to four years to get a parking permit if you live by one of the famous canals. Excessive fouling of the streets by the wholly inconsiderate urban canine population. Public transport: clearly complaints come only from those who have never tried to travel anywhere on English soil using the privatised rail networks or London Underground. The Dutch have a fanatical perspective on public transport. They are obsessed with efficiency and time-keeping despite it being one of the best public transport systems in the world. That's amusing when looking at the decaying English infrastructure.

Who's the talk of the town and why?

Herman Brood, rock star/artist and the Netherlands' answer to Lou Reed. Herman is in his 50s and is often known for showing up to gigs in a variety of states (mental and physical). Reputed to fill local stadiums for those looking for a laugh. His act has a reputation for being a bit "Edamish". That's plain cheesy to the likes of you and me.

What's the cool drink to order?

Other than the ubiquitous vodka and Red Bull, which has muscled its way into Dutch bars with a vengeance, a drink called Mojito. This is a deliciously efficient Cuban cocktail with double shot of rum, fresh mint, brown sugar, lime juice and crushed ice.

What are people eating?

Dutch people are fundamentally deprived of positive culinary experiences. They eat deep-fried meat in a variety of guises. Indonesian food is the equivalent of a late-night curry. A nasi goreng is treated like its counterpart in England, the chicken madras. Otherwise, sushi has arrived in force.

What's the latest stuff on TV?

It seems like the only thing on television is Big Brother, the Dutch version of MTV's Real World, where people have to stay in the house for a couple of months with a camera in every room. The last one to leave gets a nice big money prize. Also, being Amsterdam, it is possible to watch no-holds-barred pornography, which sits barely within the Judaeo- Christian morality spectrum with your cornflakes in the morning.

Where won't the locals dream of going?

Anywhere English tourists go - that is, the Leidseplein and the Bulldog Cafe. The Leidseplein is the Netherlands' answer to Piccadilly Circus, infested with tourists. Not any tourists, but most commonly, stumbling, giggling, red-eyed 18- to 23- year-old English, Australian and American students stopping off in Amsterdam during their whirlwind tours of Europe to avail themselves of the liberal Dutch policy on drugs. The most infamous of the coffee shops is the Bulldog, which given its name caters very much for the English clientele.

Where do the locals go that tourists don't know about?

The Supper Club, a surreal cross between restaurant, club and sex show. Then the restaurants and cafes in Amsterdam South, Cornelius Schuyttstraat.

Where are the chic doing their shopping?

The primary shopping area, akin to Bond Street, is PC Hoofstraat. All international brands are there. Big department stores such as Bijenkorf are also around. One of the best things about shopping in Amsterdam is the individual shopping experience. The great British high street doesn't exist here in that you won't find exactly the same goods sold in the same format in each town/area. The Dutch are very creative designers and it shows in the range of high- quality products in the shops. There are really good cafes and restaurants nearby and it's only about a five- minute walk to the Museumplein, where the Rijksmuseum, Stedilijk and Van Gogh museums are.

What's the trendy place to escape for the weekend?

London for a start. The Dutch love the British (apart from the 18- to 23-year-olds seen staggering around Amsterdam in a hemp haze). The UK's nightlife and clubs are really appreciated. Belgium is close by and is a great food and wine destination. In the summer the beaches are heavily patronised as they are quite close to Amsterdam, so it's feasible to do day trips. It is also distinctly unlikely that any three-cornered Union Jack handkerchiefs will be on view.

Peter and Sue Sweetbaum live and work in Amsterdam.

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