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European Vacation-Part III Amsterdam cont’d

Day 2 in Amsterdam comes, and it’s time to check out of our hotel. We weren’t quite ready to leave Amsterdam so it was time to find somewhere else to stay. We packed up our suitcases (no, we didn’t travel lightly) and hit the streets looking for a vacancy. Julie had wanted to stay at the Hemp Hotel. We stumbled across it, and decided to check in. The concept was a great idea, everything was made from Hemp, the staff was friendly, but the accommodations were a little dingy and had the scent of body odor emanating from every corner. The room had a sink in it, and the bed was squeezed into two walls so the only way to get in it was to slide in from the bottom. Most buildings in Amsterdam are tight in space. The hallways are narrow and the stairs are steep. Definitely not “American” sized! If we had to use the toilet, we had to go up a flight of stairs to the bathroom above us. I think we even skipped showering the next day.

View from my window

We considered staying in a hostel to save money, but after peeking inside one and seeing it full of people piled on one big bed and sleeping in bunk beds,  we changed our minds.  I am sure that there are many hostels that are accommodating, but we needed somewhere that we could rest comfortably, not have to sleep with one eye open, and take a nice hot shower. In total we spent about a little over a week, flying by the seat of our pants. We stayed at a Best Western, a gay friendly hotel, and other random places in all different parts of the city.

Here are some of the things I enjoyed while in Amsterdam: Vlaamse frites (basically french fries smothered in mayo) don’t knock it til you try it! The people..they are very friendly! Many speak English, and better than some who speak it as their first language. While in a coffee shop, a nicely dressed woman came in, sat beside us and lit up a joint. She had a quick conversation with us about what our plans were for the day, and then excused herself while she had to leave and go to work! The architecture of the city itself is amazing. Canal houses are tall but narrow. Most are only about 30 feet wide. There are pulleys at the top that people use to get furniture inside because the staircases are too narrow. This type of architecture can also be found in some parts of New York city( known as brownstones), also once known as New Amsterdam, when Dutch settlers started a new life in the New World.

We spent many of our days in coffeshops, living in a “haze”. I do not recommend doing that because the city has so much more to offer. Many of the streets look the same and it is very easy to get lost (especially when under the influence) and end up on a street saying to yourself “didn’t I just come from here?” We didn’t take cabs, or public transportation, we walked everywhere and that to me is the best way to experience a new place. Bicycle use is HUGE  in Amsterdam, every street you walk past is lined with bicycles. Many tourists ride them, but more residents own bikes than cars. There isn’t much space to park a vehicle in the city, and before the smart car was introduced here in the US, I saw many of them in Amsterdam.  Men and women were cycling to work in their suits, dress clothes and  some women in heels.  But I can’t even ride a bike at home!

We didn’t try too many different foods. I am a very picky eater, and if I can’t read it, I don’t eat it! Julie on the other hand, was so hungry one night and we were lost. We came across some sort of deli that looked like it was getting ready to close. She just picked something on the menu, because the big guy behind the counter was yelling something at us in Dutch and we were scared. It appeared to be some sort of sausage, and she was eating it without hesitation, I could not bring myself to do it. Honestly, I don’t remember what I ate for an entire week.

Hanging out at a coffeeshop (Julie on the left, me on the right)

We wanted to find the Red Light District, strictly out of curiosity of course!  For something that is so taboo to us, we wanted to view it for ourselves.   The streets are lined on each side with women sitting in the windows, dressed in racy lingerie and brings new meaning to the term “window shopping” or maybe that’s where the term came from? I tried so hard not to make eye contact, as if I wasn’t interested. I never walked so fast down a street than I did there! I read somewhere before hand that they frown upon taking photos in this area of the city, and if you break out a camera the girls will robe up and go inside. At night you can see the glow of neon lights lighting up the street. Despite what the Red Light district stands for, it really is a beautiful sight and a must see!

The red-light district in Amsterdam by night

Red Light District

Well, time was running short, and we still had a few places to visit. We definitely wanted to get to France, and I wanted to spend some time in London before I headed home. So it was time pack it up and head back to the train station. We lost our luggage tickets that we got from checking our luggage in earlier that day so we could spend just a little more time in the city. But it was hysterical to watch the luggage handler bring out every black suitcase one at a time before we identified ours! No surprise we lost our luggage  tickets, after frying our brains for a week it’s completely understandable.

When I go back, I will do some things differently. I will visit the museums and parks and try new and different foods. I will make hotel reservations, even though it was a fun experience going day by day staying at different places in every area of the city but I’m a little too old for that now! And I will take more pictures! And if they decide not to take away the coffee shops from tourists, I will definitely visit them again.

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