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“Rollin’ in Amsterdam”

A travelogue …

The culturally bloated, artistic, and liberal city of Amsterdam, with its eight hundred thousand bicycle population, copious coffee shops, and infamous Red Light District, had us undoubtedly intrigued by its kooky character. We were assiduous walkers during our two-day experience—and rightfully so. Much needed to be done for two tourists seeking refuge in Amsterdam’s guilty pleasures.

The Goods

After snoozing, and taking intermittent snack breaks on our four-hour train ride from Frankfurt, Kathleen and I arrived at the highly anticipated travel destination of the Netherlands. We exited the Amsterdam central train station to the likes of some sunshine and brisk wind and began our foot journey to the hotel. In a state of sensory overload from the city’s unique surroundings and busy tourist activity, we shuffled through the area of Dam Square, stopping every so often for a photo or to heave our overnight bag to my other shoulder: going against the advice of the hotel’s tram ride suggestion was a great way to greet our new cultural friend.

Between the bickering over a Madame Tussaud building photo and my complaints over having to carry the "heavy stuff," our patience was starting to wear thin. We eventually nestled into the Seven Bridges Hotel lobby where Gunther hooked us up with a room key and confirmed our time request for breakfast the following morning. We did the standard walk-through of our room, organized some things, freshened up, and then made our way back down the windy, narrow hotel stairs into the area where Amsterdam’s seven bridges can be seen. Naturally, Kathleen requested her typical cheeseball photo in front of a small field of statues, and I begrudgingly obliged and began snapping away.

Not long after she snatched the camera from me to exhibit her usual perfectionist picture taking of the nearby scenery, my stomach began to growl, so I made the decision to stop at the nearest quick food establishment for a fast fix. I saw my window: New York Pizza. NYC style pizza is good just about anywhere and it’s never a bad time to throw back a slice or two. At three to four euro per slice this was aristocrat food, but its taste proved to be worth the currency.

With our idea to tour one of Amsterdam’s fine museums in the afternoon, we thought for sure we had a stellar plan in place, but no such luck. We roamed around like a couple of street beggars, with our map serving only as a distracting time waster. In the name of convenience, we walked a few steps toward the canal cruise ticket booth, purchased two tickets for a one-hour touristy cruise, and were content with the idea that we'd soon be resting on our rears for some merry sightseeing. In a boat loaded with thrill-seeking Americans, we cruised along Amsterdam’s canals with the friendly captain as our bilingual guide and/or interestingly entertaining fact guy. The most memorable tidbit was about some guy getting two years in prison for stealing the mayor’s bike. The crime of rape, he said, only warrants one-hundred-and-sixty something man hours. Strange, indeed.

A quick break for a mid-afternoon coffee in one of Amsterdam’s premier coffee shops and we found ourselves among some of that funny green grass that offers up a pungent smell. Upon entering the dungeon-like place—a few scenes from the movie Ocean’s Twelve were reportedly filmed there—we had the feeling that we were, in fact, in a scene from a movie. There were odd looking characters, including a man with a ZZ Top-like beard; bongs that looked like humans; and normal-looking Joes hanging at the bar and at tables in a room filled with smoke clouds. An informative menu chaperone sort of fella stood behind a small black counter at the back of the room, where, after a series of questions and answers, I put in my request for an Ocean’s Twelve special. Kathleen ordered a cappuccino at the main bar, which somehow added a bit of normalcy to the character-like atmosphere.

Later, while in the Rijksmuseum staring at a Monet paining, it occurred to me that I should be focusing my attention on what I know best—some good chow—rather than pretending to be an art enthusiast. I went over to Kathleen and put on my best hungry face. It worked, but finding fine dining in the city would be tricky. We were looking for middle of the road, reasonably priced, quality grub in an attractive, cozy restaurant. Voila. Enter the Luden Brasserie. Our brains occasionally work the same job, so two veal dinner entrees, two glasses of red, and a near doppelganger desert choice were the orders for the evening. We got fat and happy in less than two hours.

Then it was time for, well … nothing says romance like a stroll through Amsterdam’s Red Light District. Of course I’d been reluctant to sneak out of our hotel room at three in the morning dressed like a pimp on a red light treasure hunt, so it was a welcome opportunity to join hands and walk the De Wallen in true couple fashion. Along with the rest of the tourists, we gawked at the high- and low-class prostitutes who advertised themselves behind the door-sized glass windows of the Amsterdam brothels. And when the hooker gazing ran its course, we headed back to our quaint hotel, which was only a handful of canals across the way. We were safe and sound and fast asleep just after the stroke of midnight.

The following morning, for no apparent reason, I woke up in a paranoid sweat, as Kathleen remained asleep. In the bathroom, I spent an excessive amount of time staring at myself in the mirror. Eventually, I left the bathroom and took my place on the leather chair in the corner of room, which had someone’s ass print still on it. She rolled out of bed after the phone call notifying us that breakfast would be served. A double knock at the door in no time and a clean-cut Dutch looking gentleman appeared with a food-loaded tray of jellies, jams, breads, croissants, cold cuts, fruits, yogurts, juice, and tea. Content with our slovenly appearance, we were fine with devouring breakfast in the comfort of our hotel room.

After I finished licking the jam off my spoon, and Kathleen swallowed the last piece of cheese, we committed ourselves to yet another museum visit. But first, we would need to make an impromptu stop for a rather lame diamond polishing tour. It was entirely uninteresting. Guys mostly sat around reading newspapers while their diamond polishing tools lay unused. We briefly talked about how our precious time had been wasted on our walk over to the Van Gogh Museum, where security scanned us through with the rest of the deadbeats. Thankfully, my artistic soul was with me that day as I turned from side to side on all floors of the building to appreciate this man’s gifted artwork and interesting life story.

For the afternoon goodbye, we topped things off with a stop at Sarah’s Pancakes, and while it wasn’t your hefty American-style flapjack, it was still worth the bite. As usual, I drank too much soda at the diner, which prompted another bathroom trip on our walk back to the train station. In my standard rebellion fashion, I kindly refused to pay fifty cents to relieve myself. A brief “sorry, I don’t have any money on me” to the bartender and I was on my way to the central station, outta the city of Amsterdam. Kathleen and I then joined hands, once again, and gracefully bowed out of this wonderfully bizarre city that stays tolerant of most other cities' taboos.
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I felt like I was there. Thank you, you're an amazing writer.
Uh oh, I have that song stuck in my head again, Vincent (Starry, Starry Night).

I felt like I was there. Thank you, you're an amazing writer.
Uh oh, I have that song stuck in my head again, Vincent (Starry, Starry Night).

Thank you, Christian.:) Now I have that beautiful song stuck in MY head.
 

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Cloudyskies
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