Amsterdam Getaway

Forget the Hamptons. Amsterdam is my candidate for the best long weekend getaway for hip and jaded New Yorkers. In just a few hours more than it takes to drive to Montauk on a busy Friday, you can arrive in this splendid little city of canals, art, and wall to wall charm. And given the cost of a summer share in the Hamptons, it’s probably not much more expensive.

I had been promising the beautiful and mysterious woman I travel with that I would take her to Amsterdam one day and the opportunity finally presented itself as a sort of appetizer to a visit to Paris. The two full days we spent there turned out to be the perfect dry run for future weekend escapes.

Amsterdam is one of the most comfortable cities I know. It is also one of the most ravishingly beautiful. New York has its pockets of beauty (a few blocks of Brooklyn Heights, a mews in the West Village), but in Amsterdam the beauty goes on and on, seemingly forever. You could spend days wandering along the picturesque canals of the central city and never fail to be astonished at each turning of a corner. It gets better at dusk, when the arches of the bridges over the canals are lighted making the place look even more like something out of a fairy tale.

This most open and tolerant of cities is known for its Red Light District, where fleshy wares are on display in picture windows, but there is another type of voyeurism available to the stroller in Amsterdam that is, to my way of thinking, a lot more fun. Amsterdamers, it seems, hate curtains and as you stroll the canals of the Prinsengracht and Herrengracht you can sneak a peek into the home life of the well-to-do lucky enough to have flats in this historic district. Many homes here have starkly modern interiors that belie their centuries-old facades.

Often, you will be able to see through the entire building to the backyard and beyond. It’s the modern tourist’s equivalent of the “keyhole” views that were all the rage in sixteenth and seventeenth century Dutch domestic painting.