Saturday, July 18, 2009


Amsterdam was an interesting visit. Let me first answer the question on everyone's mind: yes, we did in Amsterdam what it is illegal to do in most the rest of the world. There! Let's move on! So, we arrive after a three hour train ride in Amsterdam Central Station. It's a decently big place, and the building itself is a nice looking building from the outside. Inside it's nothing special though. We hopped one of the local trains to nearby Lelylaan Station adn wandered around for about an hour trying to find our hotel. We ended up stopping into another hotel and the immigration agency looking for people who could direct us. The hotel wasn't very helpful, but the imigration guy knew what we were looking for before we opened our mouths. He looked at us and said "Golden Tulip?" That's the name of our hotel. Well, one of the names. Apparently they prefer the name Fashion Hotel instead. But man the hotel is nice! For us that is. It's all modern and clean looking, with a big TV and a big bathtub in the room. Complete with a construction site outside our window. Luckily they don't work weekends...

Our time in Amsterdam wasn't like other cities - it felt to me as though the main attractions are the coffeeshops and they've tried to built a decent number of museums and other attractions into the city to give people something else to do. I mean, they've done a pretty decent job of that I think, but you can't really get around the fact that the main point of going to Amsterdam is marijuana. The town does not feel seedy though. It feels like there are a bunch of tourists there to be honest. It feels like a tourist town, which is okay with me. People were mostly very nice and pretty much everyone speaks English very well. The coffeeshops (that's where you can go to buy and smoke your pot) are really varied in their feel. Some are dark and dank and feel dirty and hidden, while others have a more open active feel. Some have friendly, smiling staff while others have staff that scowl at you and say "I don't do the drugs, I just sell them." I guess like with restuarants or bars - you just gotta find one that you like.

We went out to explore the city the first evening we were there. It took us about 30 minutes to figure out the tram system, but once we did we went into central Amsterdam and wandered around. It was very crowded! In fact it was always crowded, every day of our visit. Amsterdam is a busy city this time of year. We tried McDonalds to compare it to the US and found it to be just as addictively disgusting. That was basically the highlight of the evening.

The next day - the 10th - we got our 4-day tram passes and headed back into the heart of Amsterdam. We found a bagel shop that was pretty good. It was sort of half undergound and very small. There was a group of three people taking up two tables and one of the guys apparently hadn't ordered any food. He was just sitting with his friends chatting while they ate. I guess the owner was not happy with this arrangement and finally told him he needed to buy something or get out. It was kind of intense in a very subtle way! After the drama we just walked around the center of the city. We mainly walked around Dam Square which seems to be the main hub of the city. Boring day overall.

The 11th wasn't much more exciting. We finally found a grocery store that morning - they had been eluding us up to that point. I found some Bugles (you know, the cone-shaped, crispy, corn snack that you can stick on your fingers) and had to get them. It's been a long time since I had Bugles. Then we got fries from a fry shop. That's something we don't really do in the states I think. Fries aren't really seen as a main course back home - here (maybe more in the UK) they have fry-burgers! Craziness. This is also the day we got swindled out of €2. We had stopped on the sidewalk, looking and pointing at our map, obviously trying to figure out directions. A friendly-looking man came up to us and asked if we needed help. After telling us where we should be headed he very kindly asked if we would be willing to make a donation in return for his help. So we gave him €2. I only hope it's going to a good cause and not just booze! We found what we were looking for though: an old, wooden building from 1519. It's just one of the older buildings in the city, nestled between two younger buildings, as is the European and San Franciscan way of building. We did manage to see a bit of the red-light district that day too. Just a bit. But I'll talk more about that after the pictures. Oh, I totally forgot that we went to the Sex Museum too! It wasn't really impressive, but it was entertaining enough. There was a lot of artwork, old pornographic photos, and various mannequins in leather and studs.

WARNING: There are some pictures that contain nude mannequins and statues. If that's not your thing then proceed with caution!

Next morning we wen to one of the numerous pancake places around the city. The pancakes they serve aren't like the fluffy soft ones I'm used to - they wer more similar to a crepe. And you can get bacon or apples or whatever cooked into them. Then you can slather them with syrup and powdered sugar - yum! We got bacon in ours. The service at the cafe was pretty rotten though. I have to say, I think that the fact servers in the US rely on tips really does tend to make for better service. It was a rainy day that day, so we walked around the city huddled under our hotel umberella and ended up at this cool floating Chinese restaurant. It was right off one of the docks and Chuck said it has a reputation for being pretty good. We looked at the menu and found it was also a bit expensive, so we just took a few pictures. I love that there are all these house boats along the canals throughut the city. Some of them are really nice looking boats too. It would be cool to pull up at the floating Chinese restaurant in your house. By the time we had made our way from the docks to the red light district it had stopped raining for the most part, so we put away the umbrella. The red light district is an interesting place to visit. It didn't feel as seedy as I was expecting, although there were burly men inviting passers-by into dark clubs advertising "live sex." Ehhh, no thanks. And we saw the prostitutes displaying themselves in the windows. Most of the were old, or rather large, or just a bit unattractive, but there were a few that were actually good looking. And some of them were sporting packages both upstairs and down - in other words they were men with breasts. Some of the prostitutes would blow people kisses and motion for them to come over in an attempt to get business while others just sort of sat there. They all wore some sort of lingerie, or a bikini. The red light district was definitely an interesting place to see!

The 13th was a good day of sight-seeing. After getting some fries (and using our store-bought bottle of ketchup that I now carry in my purse instead of paying €0.50 for it) we went to see Anne Frank's house. As we walked down the road we realized that there was incredibly long line waiting to get into the Anne Frank Museum. We're not to into waiting in long lines so changed our mind on the museum and got pictures in front of the actual house front. So we saw where Anne Frank went into hiding which was a bit touching. Down the street was a cute tulip shop that we stepped into quickly. They had a lot of really nice cards with stylized tulips on them. Next I dragged Chuck to the outskirts of the city to see a genuine windmill! We took a very long ride on the number 2 tram to the very end of the line and followed the signs to Molen van Sloten. We walked through a much more quaint, peaceful, and beautiful part of Amsterdam to get there. There were all kinds of lovely green plants growing in front yards and backyards and along the small canals. The houses had steeply pointed roofs and looked so Dutch, or German. And we walked down a quiet little street lined with shops and houses that looked like something that would be on a postcard from Holland. and the windmill was very cool, even though it was right on the corner of a busy street. It was bigger than I was expecting and I was excited to find that the it was running. The windmill was milling. Well, the fan thing was spinning round at least. And when the wind picked up you could see and faintly hear it get faster. We didn't go inside - I just took lots of pictures. It was a very nice old-school windmill.

Our last day was boring - we just ran around trying to buy train tickets in advance and changed our mind cause they were so expensive (€110 a person). We ended up buying them at €115 on the day we left... So much money! But that was our time in Amsterdam. Not too exciting, but nice.

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