Monday, March 12, 2007
If Whiskey is called the water of life in Scotland, which makes it distinct for its own reasons, then Amsterdam is unusual because there are more bikes then people in the city.
Of course Holland is also popular because of its tulips and canels, red light district and pot.
We got up at 3 am on Saturday to be ready for 3:45 cab to take us to the airport to go to Amsterdam. The flight is only 50 mins, so we were in the Netherlands at 9 am and had the whole day to ourselves. Since it's so close to the UK, we made it a weekend trip.
We had a choice between Amsterdam and Paris but since both of us have been to Paris and it was more expensive, we chose Amsterdam. At first I wasn’t all that excited, from the stories I’ve heard I was worried it would be one big red light district with pot being sold on every corner and hippies running around everywhere. While there, I never felt that way. Of course there is the red light district and cafes that openly sell pot but it wasn’t in your face. They kept to themselves and the whole city goes on in its rhythm. If you want it, you know where to get it but it was not obnoxious in any way.
We got there as the city was waking up. The sun was shining, it was really warm, which always helps and the mood was good. The architecture is beautiful. Most of the city was built in its golden ages – 1800s. It reminded both Neil and I of Riga a little bit, since the architecture is a tad bit similar. On the other hand it was totally something new that I’ve never seen before. They call it the Venice of the north because of the numerous canels running through the city. There are LOTS of them, with old boats tied to the banks so the owners can go for a Sunday afternoon float through the city. Which they did. It looked very romantic. Since the population is only 750 000 the city didn't give the busy/lose yourself and feel insignificant feel. It felt relaxed and romantic.
Most of the old city is closed off. There are two or three different roads on each street, depending on the space. One will always be a sidewalk, the other will be a bike path and if you are an oblivious tourist who is walking and staring at the architecture while a bike is coming, you will get the gling gling by the bicyclist – to get out of the way. They take their bike paths very seriously. Everyone is on a bike – young, old, professional and funky, grandmas with grandbabies, dads with their little ones, lovers with her on the back and him riding it, families, kids, and of course tourists who are trying to fit in and be cool but it’s very obvious they are not because of the big rental bike signs in front of bike and lack of confidence on the road. Which brings me to my next observation – we did not see a single overweight person. And food wise I did not notice any big differences in healthier menus.
The food there didn’t strike me as anything to write home about but we did luck out on a restaurant Pasta e Basta for dinner on Saturday night. When Neil said it was world famous for singing waitresses and waiters, I was expecting something funny, not serious. We got there and it was probably the fanciest restaurant I’ve ever been to. Italian food, romantic setting and the buffet was laid out on a piano. There were mussels and salmon and lots of other things (but who cares about other when there is this fantastic seafood?!) for entrée I had a salmon and crayfish lasagna, Neil chose the veil medallions with something that I can’t remember or pronounce. The food was seriously amazing – I never thought a salmon lasagna could taste that good. However, although the food was so good that it was worth writing home about, the best part was the singing. From time to time your waiter would go to the mike and sing. These people were not the local karaoke singers – they were professionals. There was one opera song, the guy blew the roof off and gave me goosebumps from how well he did it. There was a song by Sting “Fields of Gold” – it was amazing, there was a song from the “Wizard of Oz” and an Alicia Keys song. You’d think that Alicia Keys has a good voice – this girl could sing with Alicia Keys and not be ashamed of it. It’s worth the money to experience it.
Dutch seemed to be very laid back people. With all the traffic, including pedestrians, bicycles, cars, and other un-describable vehicles going 57 directions at the same time, it is it inevitable that someone will run into someone else. When it happened, they just kinda nodded their head and kept on going. Except when we were walking home from the restaurant on a dark street and a car was coming our direction, while a lady on a bike with headphones on was going towards the car. In the middle of the sentence of Neil saying “They are playing chicken” we heard a loud THUMP and the lady flew into a car parked on the side of the street. The mirror on the car driving was gone of course. So they stopped but the driver got out of the car and calmly said “Dama…” which means “Lady”. I think she was playing dumb and acting like she had no idea she broke the mirror, regardless of the fact that she dunked into the car parked on the side from the impact.
We also went to the Ann Frank house, which was very moving but I had to agree with Neil that they could have done a little more there to make it a little more personal. I haven’t read the book, which now I am planning to do. There were a few other places we went to but those I will leave for another time, as it’s time for me to get ready for work. Back to reality…
Of course that all the pics will be in PICASA