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Amsterdam -- She Shops, Shops, Shops


Think small. Think creative. Think "the Nine Alleys" (Negen Straatjes), a series of wonderfully wee streets in the Jordaan district that criss-cross the city's main canals. Get your hotel concierge to point you in the right direction and simply walk, walk, walk. That's exactly what I did and I discovered tiny specialty boutiques, mini restaurants, galleries and second-hand bric-a-brac stores. If you pride yourself on bringing back gifts with a difference, you'll thoroughly enjoy a shopping spree in this area. Here are a few of the places I stopped into...

Nine alleys of the Jordaan district...

Shops selling soap products are not really unusual in today's gift buying market. However, La Savonnerie (Prinsengracht 294) is definitely a cut above the rest and well worth a visit. Imagine the absolute best colours of the rainbow and over 80 different scents captured in bars of gentle-to-the-skin soap suitable for the whole family. Dutch men choose "Zino" in shades of blue for their morning shaves, Dutch women favour the smell of "fresh cut grass" in colourful green rectangles, while their older moms adore the pristine white of "lily of the valley." For babies and toddlers, La Savonnerie offers sets of "happy-color" building block soaps sporting embossed letters of the alphabet. What fun! Website:

Looking back, looking forward. Brilmuseum (Gashuismolensteeg 7) is a small, quirky eyeglass museum showing off 700 years of lenses, eye fashion and history. Check out all the styles ranging from yesteryear's wire rimmed granny glasses to today's ultra modern rimless look. Added bonus -- this is also a shop that sells glasses. Pick your favorite new pair then go back in history to see where that look originated. Open Wednesday to Saturday 12:00 to 5:00 pm. Brilmuseum offers a perfect browsing experience.

Ask any Dutch dentist and they'll tell you about Witte Tanden Winkel (Runstraat 5) a tiny specialty shop in the Jordaan that stocks anything and everything to do with keeping your teeth healthy. There's toothpaste in every size and flavour, dental floss matched with dental floss dispensers as well as over five hundred different types of toothbrushes and toothbrush cases. Journeywoman chose an elegant chrome-cased travelling toothbrush for herself, a sleek Italian-designed model for a girlfriend and a Thomas the Tank brush and holder for the kiddies in my family. It's hard to leave this shop empty handed.

Finally, any Journeywoman who sews or knits will want to visit the Knopenwinel (Wolvenstraat 14) where you'll find an incredible selection of buttons, buttons, buttons to suit any garment and any budget. In fact, even if you don't sew it's great fun to simply drop by so you can mention this place when you're telling your travel stories to girlfriends back home.

The floating flower market...

A mini history lesson! Step back in time and imagine the Amsterdam Flower Market of the 1800's. Then, farmers sailed barges through the canals and peddled posies straight from their boats. Today, in the same area, Amsterdam's flower market is housed in fixed floating barges located along the Singel, one of the city's oldest canals. Definitely worth a visit!

Currently, fifteen plus florist and souvenir shops line the waterway, their colorful wares and postcard stands spilling out of the stores and on to the pavement. There's heaps of fresh flowers, mini cactus plants, potted herbs galore, and an absolute myriad of tulip bulbs packaged for export. These bulbs make incredible gifts for the flower aficionados you know and love. They're easy to carry, inexpensive, and come with "certificates of health" that will allow you to pass custom regulations back home. However, be sure to pack these bulbs in your carry-on bag. This way inspectors can do their job without going through all your checked luggage P.S. Don't forget your camera - vendors' faces, floral arrangements and local passers-by provide great photo opportunities. Open Monday - Friday 9:00am - 6:00pm, Saturday 9:00am - 5:00pm.

In the same area...

While you're in the Flower Market district take a moment to meander into Maranon's. These folks bill themselves as "the world's no.1 hammock shop" and their emporium is filled to the rafters with every conceivable design and colour of the rainbow. I saw inexpensive cotton hammocks for babies as well as very, very costly silk models for adults - all produced by South American weavers. And if you're looking for mosquito netting for home decor or your next jungle adventure, you'll definitely find it here. Nets available in no less than four designer shades of turquoise, yellow, cream and white. It's a fun stop! (Singel 488-490) Website:

Anyone who decorates a Christmas tree will welcome a Dutch-inspired memento from this next little shop. The Christmas Palace is a store that specializes in all types of Yule decoration and Delft Blue porcelain. This is a browse, browse, browse kind of place. It's the ideal spot to add to your international collection of holiday ornaments or to do some early Christmas shopping for the folks back home (Singel 508-510).  

More shopping, shopping, shopping...




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