Amsterdam

Friday 4/12

Our flight was late into Copenhagen – apparently they forgot to load all of the bags onto the plane so we had to wait while they loaded, balanced, and refueled the plane. That made us miss our connection in Copenhagen, however, they rebooked us pretty quickly onto a midday flight. The part of the airport by the gates was dark with low eilings, then we walked out into open area and it was a big fancy mall with lots of stores. I wonder who buys jewelry at the airport……the did give us 100 Kronos food vouchers so we found a cafe and the boys both got “chocolate buns” and I got a chocolate chip scone.carter got a very rich hot chocolate and Zak got orange juice.we found abooth and napped on the table. I am sure we were not the first!

A quick flight to Amsterdam where you could see the colorful stripes of tulip fields from the air. We gathered our luggage and we found the driver a the meeting place – a round metal bench in the center of a high ceilinged area in the airport. This is a great idea – the drive parked and walked I and met us and s we weren’t waiting on the curb. We drove into the city last a hotel that looked like it was argyle in the outside.there was a fair amount of traffic on the main highway. We got off and went on a side road right next to a canal and walking path – pretty neighborhoods and lots of bicycles everywhere. Bikes appear to have the right of way above all other modes of transportation – cars and pedestrians alike! We are staying a the Renaissance, such is right near the city center and train station. Mimi met us in the lobby. It’s always so nice to see Mimi! She is a fun and easy person to travel with.

We took a nap – so nice to be flat and not slumped over on a cafe booth or flight seats – and then asked the concierge for a recommendation for dinner. He recommended a place not far from where we are called Loefte known for the beef with a butter sauce gravy they serve with slices of white bread to sop up the gravy. We headed off on foot to the train station, which is the landmark we used t find the restaurant. The train station is ornate with a brick outer face and turrets and towers. one tower is a clock tower and the other one has a clock like face but only one hand. We figured out that it tells the wind direction.

The restaurant was at the edge of the canal and we could see large flat boats floating by. It was light inside – glad we went early as we got a table right away. The host handed us tickets in case we wanted t use the bathroom “2theloo”, and we ordered two of the beef dishes and a poke bowl and some onions and mushrooms. It was definitely tasty, however after a few bites I had enough of the beef.

After dinner we walked around Amsterdam. The streets are either wide boulevards or  narrower side streets by canals or very narrow alleys. We walked by the red light district – didn’t see many women in the windows but did see one and got a sense of the idea. Right beside the red light district is a whole bunch of pot stores, which I immediately labeled the green leaf district. They have pot in everything – brownies and lollipops and desserts. Entire stores dedicated to cheese and one dedicated to rubber ducks. We returned back to the hotel and got to bed early.

Saturday 4/13

Breakfast at the hotel was very nice – a wide range of options including great fruit juice. They had Belgian waffles too – the thick yeast based type with little bits of sugar in them. Yum. I will get that tomorrow morning. We headed over to the yellow bike tours meeting place. Our tour guide was Melissa, with hints of pink dye in curly brown hair and a Dutch accent. She was very patient with some of the folks on the tour – the bikes were heavy and single speed but it was like some folks had the minimal bike skills possible! The wider streets have bike lanes – the smaller streets bikes stay on the right ad pedestrians yield to them,  which was cool as the bikes just had to pay attention to the street lights. We went through neighborhoods and along canals. The road curved up for the canal bridges, requiring some speed going onto the bridge, which not all of the people on the trip were able to do. Melissa was very patient, and even had to go back and find some of the people.

Taxation keeps the houses narrow – as taxes are levied based on street frontage. The houses are also angled upward to prevent the facade from the pounding raindrops. Finally all of the houses have hooks at the top in order to hoist furniture up to higher floors, as most of the staircases are windy to save space.

The boys loved the bike tour. It was chilly so I brought socks and Carter and I both wore socks on our hands for the ride. Zak did not. I was glad the had a bike for him and both boys did great. We stopped at a bunch of places and learned a bit about them – neighborhoods like the Old City and the and she pointed out museums and some of the restaurants and other landmarks.

We hung out in the rooms for a couple of hours before going out to lunch and the Van Gogh museum. We bought tram tickets to get that experience. The concierge recommended a burger bar called the butcher. The burgers were very good tho very medium, which is not my favorite. I like them more completely cooked. We a,so had sweet potato fries and the boys got vanilla shakes that were really yummy.

We took the tram to the Van Gogh museum. Mimi and I thought it was amazing – just about every single Van Gogh classic that I could think of was right there. The boys were grateful that the museum had WiFi (sigh). “After a while it’s all just paintings”…… my mom and I spent a lot of time there and really loved it.

They had an exhibit that compared David Hockney’s work to Van Gogh’s – showing van Goghs influence. I had seen David’s work before but never at this scale – huge wall sized murals of his work. Also, Hockney works on the iPad periodically. They had two examples of how a digital “painting” evolved over time that were fascinating to watch – it was seeing the creative process emerge one layer at a time.

I was hoping the boys would know of his work and be interested. Their initial interest faded quickly and so the spent much of the time on their iPhones sitting on a bench while Mimi and I went through the museum. what a talented yet unfortunate person he was.  He was such a genius and hung out with successful artists, but never saw that himself. I suppose it means that he truly did his art for the intrinsic value of the art, and the backstory makes his paintings even richer and more compelling. And, of course, more sad.

We rode the tram in the wrong direction – on purpose – to go by the zoo and see more of the city. The trans are frequent and quiet and clean. Very nice. We rode all the way to the train station, seeing the other side of town in the daytime. It was fun. Upon disembarking, we took the boys back to the hotel and Mimi and I went to the next street up and to a little store called Camille & Mille that had some very cute kitchen stuff. Zak came with us to the grocery store and to the

Dinner was Italian that evening – a place close to the hotel – however most everything was close to the hotel. We stayed in a great location.

Sunday

Sunday we got up and went to meet the tour guide on the opposite side of the train station. The bottom floor of the station is a mall (sort of) and it was not entirely clear where to find the tour. Luckily we found it, and we got seats on the second floor of the bus. The bus headed out of town along the shoreline and towards the airport and Keukenhof Gardens.

As we drove along, I noticed eh bike paths all along the harbor. They looked fun to ride – many were street lights and crossing with pedestrians and cars. I decided I wanted to return with the boys and Mimi if we rented bikes.

The secondary highways were flanked by bike paths all the way out to the country. I’d like to try and come back and do a bike tour of the country. I think that would be fun. In part, of course, because it is flat – no Tour De France climbs in Holland!

We spent one day at Kerkenhof Gardens, and the gardens were amazing. So many tulips! Some plantings were all about bands of color and others were about variation in color.  They also had indoor orchid gardens. We stopped for lunch and then the boys got very tired so we parked them at a bench and Mimi and I continued to explore the gardens. There were SO MANY TOURISTS. It got a bit annoying after a while, so many tourists and so many selfies being taken. Sigh. The side of the garden we went to at the end (I thunk it was the east side) was more picturesque than the west side, so I would suggest starting there. Many more hills and weaving pathways and little water inlets. But the tourists, they were everywhere.

After taking the bus home the boys wanted some time to relax. That was fine with me – Mimi wanted to go and see Rembrant’s house, and I wanted to get a keyboard for my tablet. I started at an Apple reseller, then went over, beyond the train station to the MediaMarket. I was glad I did, as I got a nice keyboard, and also found the public library. The Opa.

Boy on boy was the library amazing! It is all new, and you walk in and see the children’s section on the left, with circular bookshelves and cozy places to sit. The lights were huge and shaped like jacks (like the toy jacks). There was an escalator up (that slowed down if no one was on it). The second floor had a cafe, but I was curious, so I went up. The third floor was a big open working space, the fourth was stacks, but lots of area to sit, the fifth and sixth also stacks, and the sevent (yes the seventh) had a cafeteria with many choices and a rooftop deck where you could eat outside and see a grand view of the city. I found a table at the corner right next to the huge window and put in some time working on the paper that I was hoping to submit on Monday (but didn’t – oh well – I am on vacation and the tablet is still not super easy to write a paper on, as I often have multiple tabs open simultaneously and can’t do that easily here).

Mimi texted that she was back and so I returned to the hotel. We asked the concierge for a recommendation and he recommended a local steak place. It was good, but expensive, and everything was a la Carte – all side dishes included.

After dinner the boys went to the hotel and Mimi and I went through the local neighborhoods – very close to the hotel there were some red light areas. I found it embarrassing to walk by those women in the windows – I would glance at them and smile – but really, I don’t understand why anyone would do that. What if someone gross came in? How do they stay safe? What happens if someone tries to be too rough? I just don’t know.

Monday April 15

After a fancy steak dinner on Sunday night (with steaks hailing from around the world yet indistinguishable to our pallets) we had dinner at a nearby touristy order by the numbers place in Amsterdam. Of course the numbers didn’t help the waiters accuracy – Zak ordered a Hawaiian pizza and got ham and mushroom. he hates mushrooms but was about to peel them off and I said no. We’ll send it back. I recalled how Gram B would send things back if she didn’t like them. I remembered how I sent back the meat at the very local restaurant near Vik in Iceland when the meat was so red I could not eat it. They cooked it more and brought it back. At the order by numbers spot they said oh ys five minutes and Zak got hs pizza. The food was good, and the boys and Mimi and I chatted a while, with the backdrop of the open sky above the canal and the retreating blue of a warm spring afternoon. I’m not certain how it came up, but somehow I mentioned Jerusalem and how amazing of a trip that must be. The boys shrugged and said everyone was jealous about Amsterdam – they would have preferred to be going to Amsterdam. INteresting. I told them well I dn’t want tohear too much. Last night I had a dream that I clocked Claudia on the chin with a suitcase, and then I had to say I was sorry. I don’t want to say I’m sorry to her ever. Plus, Iwould never do that in front of you kids. If I had to, I’d say “kids turn around”. They laughed. Zak said something like “Cause we all love Claudia soooo much” and I got the sense that maybe they didn’t. I wonder sometimes, but I rarely ask anything about her. It’s just too much. It’s like the infinite tempest that’s always on Jupiter’s surface. It’s swirling and fury is just part of me now, it’s just part of the picture.

I mom left early so she could meet up with her friend Holly and the boys and I went back to the hotel. I like to make sure they get in. Then I ventured out to see if i could find some place to exchange dollars for Euro. I got detailed instructions about a McDonalds and an alley between a cheese shop and a liquor store (between the wine and cheese I thought) but could not locate the alley. I could find a million “coffee shops” with the cloud of pot hanging over the front, and souvenir shops, and, of course, the red lights near the windows with the women inside.

I finally met up with HOlly and Camilla at the corner cafe we had been by dozens of times but never inside. I looked over Camilla’s shoulder at the TV in the cafe and the Notre Dame was engulfed in flames. What a terrible sight! It was all over the news, black smoke and crowds of Parisians shrouded in awe and sadness. I remembered when Greg and I were in Paris. I think we went inside briefly – I remember being on the Ils De Elysee – the tiny island where the Notre Dame stood. I considered texting Greg to see if he remembered whether we made it inside, but decided against it. He’s on vacation with his current wife. Our relationship is just history.

Holly took us on a whirlwind tour of the town. She avoided the red light district by zigging and zagging across the city and stopping at her favorite spots. I intended to peel off earlier, but it always was just around the next corner, and finally I gave up – I would not be able to finish this paper I had been working on and hoping to submit. Oh well. This time, vacation wins.

It was a beautiful evening and in the quieter neighborhoods the street lights glistened on the canals above the flat domino like houses standing shoulder to shoulder along the riverbank. They all leaned in, as if leaning to listen to the silence of water, to the streetlights all glisten. The quarter moon shone down, looking, surrounded by the deepening blue of the evening sky.

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