Sauna & A Tasting House
Thursday - M.S.O. knows that I make use of the Golden Nugget's Spa out in Las Vegas whenever I get the chance. She thought that it would be fun to visit the Deco Sauna at Herengracht 115, but we were early as they had changed the opening time from 11 to noon.
Playing tourists, we poked around the neighborhood eventually ending up by the Westerkerk (West Church). Found a small bar where we spent the last of our paper guilders receiving euros in change. The barmaid made her views on the conversion to the euro known. "So now we're all the same. Just like America. That's supposed to be a good thing....I guess." We found her views to be in the minority, however. Most cash registers have long been converted giving prices in both guilders and euros. It's the small shops and bars using ancient mechanical cash registers that must resort to paper and pencil or calculator when doing conversions (1 guilder = .44 euro).
Headed back to Deco Sauna, and upon entering, it became obvious that we were in Europe. The decor came from the Au Bon Marché department store in Paris, originally constructed during the art deco rage of the 1920's. In a word, luxury. Brass buffed to a golden glow complimented the wood stained walls and columns. The scent of eucalyptus wafted from the turkish steam bath. After receiving our towels and locker keys, we were directed to the changing room. That's right - singular, as in not men or women but men and women. As were the showers, sauna and steam bath. "Icebergs. Blizzards. Baseball scores. No eye contact. Whoa, don't look there either!" Towels are worn when having an espresso or fruit juice or reading the latest newspapers while relaxing in the lounging area. This is a class place, unlike other saunas I've read and heard of in Amsterdam. If you're looking for a european-style sauna experience amid a variety of ages and body types, you'll feel quite safe here. All in all, the Deco Sauna is a unique (and enjoyable) experience!
One place that M.S.O. wanted to visit was a liqueur-tasting house. Knowing that Wynand Fockink opened at 3:00, we hopped a tram to the Dam. Originally opened in 1679, it recently reopened installing an authentic rough plank floor, antique posters and bottles dating back centuries. No seating is offered (as is the case in authentic tasting-houses) making this a hot spot for locals. Heading to the bar, I decided to try the honest approach - "Good afternoon. We have no idea where to begin." A gracious smile and a menu listing some thirty different liqueurs made from fruits, nuts, spices and even rose petals!
The small cordial glasses are filled to the brim forcing you to bend over and take your first sip while the glass sits on the bar, sort of like bowing to the sagging bottle-filled shelves behind the bar while you savor your virgin sip. Don't worry, everyone does it! Only then do you pick up your glass drinking normally.
Some of the offerings are bitter, some sweet. The strawberry tasted just like the freshly picked fruit. The chocolate mint would have been perfect around a roaring fire in a snowbound cabin. Different combinations are a house specialty. Heaven, a purple hued nectar, its sweetness was off the scale. It was nicely counterbalanced with Hell, reddish-brown with a tempered bite. "Kind of like a Manhattan," reported M.S.O. Open from 3 to 9, Wynand Fockink quickly became one of our favorite places in Amsterdam!
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