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Monday, April 16, 2012

What happens in Amsterdam stays in Amsterdam

  We own a book called "1001 Places to See Before You Die" or something like that.  On the subject of The Netherlands, it suggested the seeing the tulips, visiting a coffeeshop and checking out the red light district.  And so last weekend, that's what we did.

   We drove to Amsterdam from Brussels.  It look about 3 hours but much of that was getting out of the Brussels gridlock on a Friday evening.  It was a very pretty drive with little farms with cows and sheep grazing near the highway.  We saw a lot of new windmills and several old windmills on the way.   The Netherlands is called Pays-Bas in French and it is truly flat as a pancake.  (More about pancakes later.)

   On Saturday morning, we drove to Keukenhof Gardens near the city of Lisse.  The gardens are only open from mid-March to mid-May and we arrived early in the morning.   The flowers were amazing.  Acres and acres of tulips, hyacinths (which smell wonderful), daffodils, daisies, and then there were swans, canal boats, windmills, wooden shoes and the whole Dutch scene.  Brett and I spent hours and took hundreds of pictures of these flowers.  By the afternoon, the parking lot was jammed.  It was such a peaceful and beautiful place...and then we went to Amsterdam.

   We got off the train and were immediately greeted by the strong aroma of marijuana and a bazillion people on bikes.  We had a lot to learn about the bikes.  Evidently, in Amsterdam, bikes have priority.  I'm not sure if I mentioned it before but "priority" is a big deal over here.  In Belgium, traffic coming from the right has priority.  This means that people entering the road from the right can pop right in front of you.  Frightening.  Also, pedestrians here have priority.  But the cars don't always seem to care and I don't want my dying words to be "Damn it.  I had priority!"

  Bikes in Amsterdam have their own section of the sidewalk (in red brick) and you do NOT get in their way.  They warn you with a little bicycle bell, ding ding, which is not easy to hear.  Our "Welcome to Amsterdam" scene was a burly male bike rider elbowing a pedestrian who got in his way in her face.   After that, I was very careful to stay off the red brick.

   We saw the tulips so the next things were the coffeeshops and the red light district.  We were warned to visit that district in the day time so Brett and I strolled through in the early afternoon.  It occurred to me that the prostitute seniority system may be similar to that of nurses in the US.  The young cute ones work night shift and the middle-aged ones with more seniority get day shift.  I guess that explains what we saw which were women far past their prime sitting in windows in their underwear.  It was really just sad.

    So in the evening, we visited a real Amsterdam coffeeshop.  They have a menu of different kinds of joints and hashish with bizarre names.  Brett and I chose only coffee in the coffee shop (random drug testing at his job) but we were in a smallish room with about a half-dozen other patrons who were enthusiastically imbibing in the herb.  The place was densely smoky and before we finished our coffee, we were both not quite right. I don't know what this stuff is but it seems very potent.

   The next day, we visited the Heineken Experience which was similar (but better) than the Coca Cola Museum in Atlanta.  We tried to go to the VanGogh Museum but it was so crowded that we only made the gift shop.  We reassured ourselves that we live so close by that we could come back at any time, but I believe the residual effects of the coffee shop just made us lazy. 

     We had some good meals, too, but the cuisine wasn't up to Belgian standards. (Who's a food snob?  I am.)  The best thing was a pancake (like a fat crepe) with melted Gouda and ham inside.  They have great seafood, too, of course.  And there were cats in the restaurants which I thought was very cool.

  So our next trip is back to the USA.  And I can't wait to see all my friends and family.  Two more weeks. Yay.


  1. what a cool excursion, kathie!
    can't wait til you get back home.

  2. That's for the travelog - it was very interesting!

  3. I love reading your blogs. You are a brave woman over there. :)