Field Notes-Amsterdam

Exploring is exhausting but typing on my Kindle Fire is maddening.  The keyboard I brought for it is not working, so I apologize for skipping out for a while.

We have been spending more time around the center of the city, and discovering that the bulk of tourists seem to be in those areas.  I love it here on Lijnbaansgracht Street, one block from the museum district, but back to where the masses are.  There are a lot of large, elegant hotels on the canals.   We went to the Flea Market and the Flower Market.

Even the mannequin is taller than me.
Even the mannequin is taller than me.





BIKES RULE:  We should have been born with eyes in the back of our head (although I think my Momma might have been an exception).  As a pedestrian, you have to be constantly alert.  Between watching out for cars (which are mostly the minority in the historical part of AMS),you need to make sure you are really on the sidewalk and NOT a bike path.  Most of the time, you can figure it out, but there are times when there are so many parked bikes on the sidewalk, that you are forced to share the road with bikers.  Most of the time, you can hear them coming (like bats coming out of Carlsbad Caverns at sunset), but on the chance you are listening to Dutch folk tunes on your IPod, they will run you over.   One young lady hit Dean as we were coming off a bridge that was lined with parked bikes on both sides (hence no place to walk but the street).  Anyway, this is just a simple warning:  Read up on your tour books. When you arrive here, look at where the bike lanes are located.  Figure out the scene here and you will be fine, except for Dean who has a tire track on his pants.

After banging up my knee, I gave up on the idea of riding bikes.  However, bike rentals are scattered around.  If you are intimidated by the numbers of bicylists, go out in the early evening when the numbers are down (which is the opposite of bats).  Anyway, you may want to familiarize yourself with your surroundings before jumping on a bike with a map.

The Dutch haven’t passed laws on handfree bicycle riding, but I’m betting it is just a matter of time.  Saw a lot of cyclists reading their phones and texting.  In the evenings, it is not unusual to see couples out on a date, the gal on the back, riding side saddle.  Brought back memories of jumping on the back of a friend’s bike when mine was kaput and speeding off.

EVERYONE SPEAKS ENGLISH:  One day, I went up to a sales clerk in a department store.  I had been searching for gloves since my arrival but could only find stores with socks.  (The Dutch apparently love brightly colored socks.)  I told the woman, “I’m sorry.  I don’t speak Dutch.  Can you tell me if you have any gloves?”  A woman standing next to me turned looked my way and said,   “Of course she speaks English.  Everyone speaks English here.”   It’s true.  It’s a blessing, travelers.  It makes life so much easier.

THE DUTCH ARE HAPPY, FRIENDLY, TALL AND BEAUTIFUL:  So what’s wrong with them?  I wasn’t there long enough to figure that out, but if I had been, my negative nature would have forced me to dig up the dirt on these affable and gregarious people.  It just seems, well, unseemly.

WHERE WAS THE DOG POOP?  Everyone warned us, including Rick Steves, to watch where you walked.  The Dutch don’t like to pick up their dogs’ deposits.  Afterall, they pay a lot in taxes (50% TO 60%).  For that, they feel the government should be the ones picking up their dogs’ shit.  Personally, I think politicians in all countries should be responsible for picking up the dog shit of all their constituents.  Just to let them know who really is in charge….the dogs.

Trouble is, there were scant amounts of dog poop when we arrived.  We had just missed King’s Day, which is The Netherland’s biggest holiday.  I gather it is their Mardi Gras.  I think street cleaners (who I assume also speak English) had cleaned up the city right before we arrived because by the time we left Amsterdam, the poop was starting to drop here and there like early cherry blossoms.

Last night,we dined in an amazing place, Bo Cinq, at Prinsengracht 494.  It was sort of a Moroccan place, but not really.  First of all, they had the best bar drinks.  The bar scene was cool and hip beautiful people, which is why we were immediately seated in the dining area.  For an appetizer, we had fresh tuna with salted cod, which I will be trying at home.  Our entrees, seabass and a seafood tangine were perfectly prepared.  (I almost ordered the Ray dish like in sting ray, but when I asked our server about the dish she gave me the wink-wink servers give you when they are trying to telepathically tell you, “Run for your life”.  Later, she pointed to a guy two tables over who had obviously and foolishly ignored his server’s crossed eyes and hand gestures . This poor guy was hacking away at his “ray” with a gardening tool, while trying to put on a happy face for his date.

OK. Time to pack for our departure tomorrow morning, then, we are going to an Indonesian restaurant that was highly recommended and we won’t be getting back till late, like in vacation late, after 11 or 12, so I need to get this packing out of the way.  I don’t know about you, but I do not pack well after a few drinks.

I have switched to Dean’s IPad and should be able to report back more timely.

PS:  I still love this place.

Day 2- amsterdam-it

I love this vibrant, young, picturesque city with it’s unique architecture, canals, cyclists in biblical numbers, with countless appealing shops that warrant a good face print on their dressed-up storefront windows.

Today we went to the Rijksmuseum which is only one block away.  Worth it but DO buy your ticket online to avoid the on-site ticket line. It will be an open ticket so no reservation time to be locked into later.

However, avoid any sudden burst of spontaneity after your museum tour.  When you see the ground level water fountain, a circle of revolving frigid water where people are standing in the middle, just shy of getting wet, walk away.  First of all, under most cicumstances, you would never mingle with any of these folks unless they married into the family.  Look straight ahead.  Keep walking to the cafe with the sign that reads, “wine and beer.”

Now I sit here with ice on my knee., limping on the second day of a 16-day vacation.  Nothing is broken– just a swollen knee missing a  lot of skin.  There’s a shop nearby that sells walking canes.  They open at 10 am tomorrow.  I bet I won’t have to wait in line there.