Amsterdam. A beautiful city that we had dashed through as a family two years ago (to the cries of "I need a POTTY!!!" when none could be found) and whose airport I knew extraordinarily well, having spent several 6 hour layovers within its admittedly pleasant but still airport-ish confines. Mike had gotten to explore Amsterdam during several of his kid-free layovers and now...it was my turn. We would explore at leisure and go anywhere and do anything we wanted.
In honor of no kids, we started out by having some very fine beers.
Which is a good thing to do in Amsterdam. They are quite fond of beer there. They are also, of course, quite impressively permissive, what with the Red Light District and coffeeshops where patrons (mostly tourists, apparently) openly smoke marijuana and other "soft" drugs are available.
However, Mike and I are boring. Really, terribly so. I apologise for the utter lack of titillating stories. The most exciting thing we did in Amsterdam was eat some magnificent Indonesian food. I also really enjoyed a street book market, where I bought a used Dutch version of The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
Oh, and I bought a piece of Dutch apple pie. It was pretty good, enhanced by watching the bucketfuls of rain that were puring down outside that day while we sat cosily within and had espresso.
Honestly, I wouldn't blame you if you stopped reading this blog right now.
I did take a photo of some, ahm, shall we term them gardening pursuits:
Keep in mind that these were smack dab in the middle of the tulip bulbs and other innocuous plants for beautifying one's existence. I'll bet customs agents are not chipper when people try to take these sorts of souvenirs into their home countries.
I did not take any interesting photographs in the Red Light district. It's frowned upon, so if you're curious, I suppose you'll have to go there yourself. The ladies of the night stand or sit in their red lit windows, wearing lingerie and looking largely bored, fluffing their hair or smoking, occasionally gesturing to potential customers.
Comparing Amsterdam's Red Light district to Patapong's in Thailand (both during the day when not much is happening, the nighttime possibly being another animal entirely), Thailand is far grittier and doesn't have a sense of humor about the whole thing. Amsterdam does.
We did the obligatory walk-through one of the streets and called it good. Interestingly, the area is the oldest part of town and quite lovely; the houses are some of the most valuable and sought-after real estate, no one seeming to mind the business being conducted one bit.
If it makes you feel better that you're still reading despite our lack of crazy (even though they were entirely legal, how weird is that?) pursuits, Mike and I did have beers before the book market, and he had beer while I was browsing the book market, and then we both had a beer together after the book market.
It's possible you might see a pattern here. Can't imagine what it might be.
No, you're right, that's not terribly interesting. This next bit would be some hot gossip, but then, I would never tell you that those legs being held down by the Gollem Pub's resident feline belong to Mike, a professed cat non-enthusiast. Not I.
We did almost get taken out by a trolley. Those are really quiet, and they sneak up on you, especially if you're crossing the road looking the wrong way. The bicycles have the ultimate right-of-way, and we pathetic pedestrians learned quickly that we had best keep out of their way. The bicycles there are great, outfitted with baskets and silk flowers and even some baby seats on the handlebars for the parent on the go. Interestingly, almost no one wears helmets.
We laughed uproariously at the Beer Bike, a strange contraption of much hilarity that is pedaled by a group who are also leaning on a bar down the middle of the thing, and well-lubricated thanks to the 30L of beer that comes with a booking. It looked like a lot of fun.
The fellow who jumped into one of the canals (and then had to be hoisted out by his friends to a round of applause from both sides of the canal) also looked like he was having fun, but then, I have to tell you, that water is brown and murky and more often than not smells like horse manure.
I would love to see the statistics as to how many have been seriously wounded after falling down the steeply pitched stairs in Amsterdam while trying to get to the bathroom. This seems like an unkind thing to do to your drinking patrons; I was wary of the stairs even when cold sober.
Around every corner was another exquisite view,
or something stand-out interesting; even the graffiti was amusing,
and sometimes whimsically delightful.
All in all, what with the fun and beauty and everyone cycling (even if I was too chicken to attempt it this time around) and with its deep sense of history and tolerance, we found Amsterdam to be a truly great, vibrant city.
Even for us boring sorts.