arrived at the hotel in Amsterdam late in the day, but its light until after 9 here now, so we couldn’t
resist taking a stroll to find some dinner.
As our hotel was very near the Old Town area, of course we went
town still has the layout as was created in the Middle Ages – very narrow
streets and crooked buildings. It’s also
immensely popular, so maneuvering through these very crowded cobblestone
streets was fairly unnerving for David on the scooter. After dinner I noticed he was moving about
more confidently, and he said that he had decided that if he took a spill, then
so be it – he would rely upon some of these crowds to help him get back
up! With that great attitude he took to
navigating the challenging streets like a pro.
Town was packed with bars and restaurants of all flavors.
We decided to try “La Paella” – because the
menu had a list of tapas, but once we got inside and saw the paella being
served we could not resist. Beautiful
pans of golden rice, mixed seafoods and veggies. Oh, yum!
As we claimed to not be very hungry, we split two orders – but had no
trouble cleaning them up!
was full dark by the time we left, and decided to head back through the Red
Light district which essentially surrounded us anyway. The incredible density and array of shops
continued, though the themes of the businesses started to shift into the more risqué. Alas, we did not happen upon the street where
the ladies of the night advertise themselves in windows down onto the street – but
I did not insist upon dragging my parents around to find it!
Back to the hotel after 11 - when we had had all intentions of an early night. A well! At least we needed no extra encouragement to climb straight into bed!
morning we joined our cruise mates for a tour of the city. We started on a canal cruise, and based on
the line we saw later to get on one of these glass boat tours in town, we were
very happy to have had a private tour arranged for us.
We also were treated to
a gloriously beautiful sunny day – the locals said this was the first of the
year so far?!
One gets a fantastic view of Amsterdam from the canals. There are many resident house-boats permanently moored in place. They have mailboxes, swewage control and fixed gangplanks for access. We even saw them doubling up (double parking) such that the second boad had access rights across the first boat to get home!
There is an incredible
variety of boats. Many with bicycles chained to a bike rack on the sidewalk. Gardens, including potted trees on the deck and...
This ingenious one that had a floating garden alongside.
Apparently these boat houses are now some of the most expensive housing in the city!
And of course, the bridges, too.
is famous for the architecture that has narrow houses with ornate and
individualistic roof treatments. Story
goes that owners were taxed on the width of their house – so they are all quite
narrow, but very tall. Some are more
narrow than others – 3, 2 and even just 1 window wide.
Most of these row houses come with hoisting beams from their peak. Such beams allow for hauling up your furniture, to move in through the window on the appropriate floor. Otherwise you’d never get that furniture up the narrow stairways! I love this idea, and kept my eyes peeled for the sight of someone moving in… however I never did see any hoisting in progress.
are subdivided such that a family may own only a single floor of the
house. We saw some cases of the front
door being split into two doors – apparently the halls behind them are split,
one door leading to the main floor, the other directly to the staircase. Such arrangements then necessitate mini home
owners associations, as the different families need to share the maintenance
costs for the front stairs, the stairwell, and the roof. I guess in Amsterdam it is typical that the
land is leased from the city – rather than owned with the house.
just a short time looking around the canals, you quickly get the impression that
the buildings all seem to be leaning one way or another! I chalked that up to ancient architecture,
but it turns out that is only partially correct. Some houses, notably this pair,
foundations that are failing. The
pilings that they sit upon were not driven all the way down into the swampy
ground. The portion that is exposed to
air, has a tendency to rot away, and thus they have settled unevenly.
it turns out that the much more common leaning front wall of the house is
designed intentionally! For, if you
wanted to hoist your belongings up the outside of your house, it would be
advantageous to have the top of the front wall leaning out over the foot. Clever, them danes.
On the bus back to the hotel -- LOOK, our first windmill! This is an industrial mill, grinding the grains for the brewery you can't see below. As opposed to the ones out on the dykes, pumping water out.
our tour, we had a couple of free hours, so we headed out for the Dam Square which was a few blocks away. Passed the very ornate Central Railway station, and this very popular canal side cafe.
Tons of crowds out, but we window shopped, and in the case of the Old Amsterdam Cheese shop, entered to taste some of their wares.
Dam Square is the commenoration of the dam across the Amstel river built in the 13th century to prevent flooding of the city -- thus the origin of the name Amsterdam. The Royal Palace sits here as well, the "Koninkijk Palace". Just a few days before our visit, the King of the Netherlands had his 50th birthday, which was a big celebration. Many of the oranged themed decorations were still hanging around the city.
Dam Square turned out to be the perfect place for a picnic lunch. To explain, I have to back up a bit to our
airline reservations on the way over. We
booked with United, but it was operated by Lufthansa. Not so unusual. But I did think it was quite odd that all of
our itinerary information said that there would be no meals on this
transatlantic flight…! I mean – it was a
super deal, so I figured the meal was just one frill they were doing away with. So we had purposefully gotten some
sandwiches-to-go from RISE Bakery before leaving.
we DID get dinner and breakfast on
the plane. Hum. So now the sandwiches were just sorta just coming along for the ride,
to Europe. :-/ We
fixed that problem, and they were delicious!
Heading back to hotel in time to transfer to the boat, we again walked back up the canal we had walked the night prior. Just so beautiful, in any light!
It was such a gorgeous Sunday afternoon - there were traffic jams every which way you turned!
Look at that grin! Can't walk through town without stopping for a quick pint.
Labels: Beyond the Barriers, Travel