Amsterdam

September 22, 2015 - Amsterdam, Netherlands

Tap.  Tap.  Tap.

No way!  I had just managed to fall asleep on the plane.  Must be a mistake.  No…

Tap.  Tap.  Tap.  Tap.  On my leg.  Yes, very intentional.

“Kel, I’m sorry to wake you.  But the aurora borealis are dancing off the icefields in Greenland.  Do you want to see them?”  I was so weary but that rapidly gave way to “weepy” for the unique opportunity to see this phenomenon from 40,000 + feet.  The lights indeed seemed to dance and shape shift even as I craned my body to see out of Bill’s window.  Beautiful.  As I suspected, I was not quite able to get back to sleep, but thus began “Bill and Kelly’s Excellent 2015 Adventure”.

I think I first started writing “trip journals” when my parents took my sister and I on a camping trip to Europe in 1972.  I was thirteen and these more-than-four decades later still have the lined paper with scrawls of orange ink across each page.  Even then I think I appreciated that memory would fade.  I have relied on journaling to keep our trips fresh in my mind and in order to enjoy “new” stories years from now after I have completely forgotten.

 

It was a seven hour flight to Amsterdam.  We travel with carry-on only so within minutes of disembarking the airplane we were in search of the trains that would carry us from Schiphol to Centraal Station in the city.  This was not so easily done.  I had assumed that there would be signs or language that would make this a no-brainer but such was not the case.  We had already printed our tickets and once we’d finally located the rail we stood patiently at the track awaiting our train.  I was not entirely convinced we had the right tracks and soon my suspicion was confirmed by a kind stranger.  We had to hustle up the flattened escalator and down to the next set of tracks where within moments we boarded the train into the city.Bill and Centraal Station

Public transportation is huge in The Netherlands; Europe in general, at least compared to the states.  Bicycles are immensely popular as well and even have their own parking lots.  There are hundreds if not a thousand bikes locked outside Centraal Station.  From there it was only a 10 – 15 minute walk to our accommodation, The Love Boat.  Seriously.  That was the name when I made the reservation although recently the name was changed to The Sky Boat.  our boat red and black

I had kept this decision a bit of a secret from Bill.  I wasn’t sure if he would think it awesome to stay on a canal boat or if it would feel claustrophobic to him.  I played my “thumbs up” hunch correctly and Bill’s inner child prevailed.  It’s a bit of a quirky lodging choice to be sure.  The boats are moored in the canals and hooked up to the appropriate necessities like water, electricity, and sewer lines.  We won’t be floating down the canals on this boat but we’ll have a taste for staying in one by the time we leave.  It soon became apparent that the stairs down into our lodging might be a little dodgy if one were to over-imbibe.  Of course we’d test that before the night was out. stairway in canalboatatop the canal boatThe Kitchy KitchenOur front door

We were both very tired but I hoped to push my agenda of staying awake until the local bedtime.   First order was to purchase 72-hour I-Amsterdam cards that would give us free entry into most museums, free rides on trams and buses, as well as a free canal boat tour.  The later sounded appealing to me.  I thought it might also give Bill the opportunity for a wee snooze.  We wandered about again too long before we settled on The Gray Line tour and found a location where some tours began.  Rain had been threatened for the day; not unusual here so close to the sea; but so far we’d lucked out.  Our tour began at 1:30 p.m. and with our handy English-speaking headsets on for the narration, we were soon cruising down one of the many waterways of this city.  Much of Amsterdam; in fact, much of the Netherlands (what we often refer to incorrectly as “Holland”) was once sea.  The land has been reclaimed by the use of pumps to drain the water and create tillable, livable land below sea level.  The picturesque windmills served functions other than that of grinding grain; they were used as part of the system that drained the water from the polders.  About halfway into our canal tours the skies opened and rain began to pour.  We were in a glass-covered boat making rain no issue until the time our tour ended.  Then, I must say that we got a little soggy.  Upon exiting the boat I asked the captain where the nearest place was for a beer and he directed us across the canal and into the famous Red Light District.  Because it was pouring rain, we stopped into the first, cozy, pub (looked like a pub to us) we could find.  We both asked our bartended Laura for beer recommendations and were soon settled into our first sample of the trip.

This was a great little spot right off Oudebrugsteeg.   There were several wonderful things about it.   The first was the cozy atmosphere and the second was Laura herself.  Bill and LauraShe was a delightful young woman with very good English-speaking skills.  She explained that her dream was to go to America and speak at high schools to instruct girls how not to get pregnant.  She had watched the incredibly highbrow television program “Sixteen and Pregnant” and now had the impression that not only were all the little American girls promiscuous, but that Americans in general had their heads up their asses when it came to teaching sex education.  She was incredulous that the “just say ‘no’ agenda” was such a popular family planning resource.  Another very unique feature about this little place was the toilets.  There was a doorway leading to the toilets but once you stepped through that doorway you found yourself on the tiny spiral stairway heading down.  Another potential challenge to those who may be tempted to over-imbibe!  And as if it couldn’t get any better, just outside this establishment were white circles about 10” across imbedded into the narrow street.  Every so often and without notice, these would rise up from the ground with flashing red lights on them.  According to Laura, they were to discourage automobiles on the narrow street but in effect, they did provide some entertainment as we watched the unsuspecting pedestrians navigate these little soldiers of defense at a moment’s notice.  Hey, we were tired and punchy. Phyliss, Bill, and Annie

We left Laura’s and headed off to find an Albert Heijn for some supplies.  Once we’d finished there the plan was to give in to our exhaustion and go back to the boat.  Instead, I recalled that we were in fairly close proximity to a place named De Drie Fleschjes; the “Three Small Bottles”.  This was an already well-known rather famous place in Amsterdam before Anthony Bourdain made a “stop-over” there a year or so ago.  De Drie Fleschjes was established in 1650 on Gravenstraat and is a “tasting room” for the Dutch spirit, jenever.  It has wooden casks along one wall that are rented out by businesses or individuals to hold their own booze.  Many of these had padlocks on the taps.Bill and Phyliss Cask

As fate would have it, we met another couple on holiday from Vancouver, British Columbia (originally from Australia).  We both seen the same episode of Anthoy Bourdain and were soon sharing a small table at the back of the room.  The jenever is very similar they say to gin; neither or which will I ever need to sample again.  As I was chatting with our new friends, Sheridan and Anthony; I could hear Bill inviting another couple to our tiny table.  Two women who appeared to be in their 70s were speaking in Dutch near the casks and sitting on lonely chairs.  Before you know it, Phyllis and Annie had joined us.  Phyllis had lived in Virginia all of her life where this handsome Dutch man had courted her.  After a couple years he persuaded her to marry him and they lived almost-happily-ever-after until her died an untimely death at the age of 51.  Phyllis chose to continue to live in the Netherlands but returns to stay with her siblings every winter in the southern states.

After some delightfully interesting and friendly conversation, Phyllis tolds us that one of the casks on the wall belonged to her husband.  The anniversary of his death had been this past Sunday and they’d had a helluva party in his honor at De Drie Fleschjes.  The next thing I know, she is handing Bill and key to the padlock for her husband’s cask.  She wasn’t sure there was anything in it or not, but wanted to share with all of us.  How is it that we are so lucky?  Turns out the cask was dry but Phyllis had the bartender refill it and then he also delivered an order of osseworst with mustard.  I would describe osseworst as a roll of raw beef with pepper and spice added.  It was Annie’s favorite and soon became my dinner!  It was so yummy! Group photo with osseworst

We spent a couple hours in the company of Sheridan, Anthony, Phyllis, and Annie.  It was an incredible time.  Phyliss even showed us a picture of her husband on the wall of the place and yes, he was a handsome fellow.  Bill tried to get a couple from Brazil to join in with us but the language barrier was too much for them.  I’d had enough jenever chased along with a little beer that I kept falling into German instead of some reasonable facsimile of Spanish (since I cannot at all speak Portuguese) when trying to talk to them.  That really messed them up!

I assured our lovely ladies that if the rest of the trip was horrible, it would all be made well by this afternoon we’d spent with them.  I think this might be true indeed.  It was another “spirit lead” moment.

Following that celebration Bill’s hunger gave him a kick and we spent the next several hours looking for food that spoke to him.  We did not find it; however, we did take an accidental diversion through the Red Light District where the prostitutes market their “wares” in street level windows.  Prostitution is legal and regulated in Amsterdam as is the use of soft drugs such as marijuana.  There are “coffee shops” selling different varieties of weed and edibles throughout the city.  Anthony and Sheridan confessed that they had totally wasted their first evening (the previous one) by having the coffee shop experience.   They said they got completely turned around, freaked out and the whole trip (so to speak) was not as they had hoped it would be.  It’s also not on our agenda.The proper way to sample

 

We did manage one more stop and some conversation before finding our houseboat and testing the “ladder” into the accommodations.  I did try to encourage Bill to back down the stairs but the man has his own style.  Thankfully, he reached the bed without any major mishaps.  I’m hoping tomorrow we both have a little more energy and can explore this city more vigorously and less “liquidously”!


Pictures

New profile picture
Packing cube contents
atop the canal boat
bike parking lot
 
 

8 Comments

Sally Armstrong:
September 23, 2015
Glad to know you made it and are already having fun!
Love you!
Sally
Jess:
September 23, 2015
What a fantastic start to your adventure! Loving "The Love Boat"!
Annette DeRosia:
September 23, 2015
So glad to see the adventures have started in earnest already! I have been looking forward to the first entry and eagerly anticipate the next several...enjoy!!
Penny:
September 23, 2015
I LOVE the Netherlands! Happy to see you made it and are having a really cool experience - - as you usually do! Does the boat sway a bit when you sleep? (no, I do not mean do you make it sway!) ;-) I love the feel of being on the water. Keep on having a great time! Hugs to Bill!
Love you!
Penny
Vera:
September 23, 2015
Hope you get rested enough to enjoy the rest of your trip. Amsterdam is fun and the people so open. ENJOY! Love, Aunt Vera Looks like we will be with your mom 11-thru 13th.
Caroline Nash:
September 24, 2015
I loved my time when I went to Amsterdam! I'm not sure if it's tulip season still or not, but the tulips in Kuekenhof are incredible. I can't wait to read more about the rest of your trip!
Mom:
September 24, 2015
Your "outreach" is phenomenal. Your personalities are like magnets attracting strangers who become friends. Thanks for allowing me to adventure with you.
Mom:
September 25, 2015
Your "outreach" is phenomenal. Your personalities are like magnets to people who become friends.---Thanks for allowing me to adventure withyou...'Looking forward to the next adventure.Mom
Fuzzy Travel · Next »
Create blog · Login