Sunday, July 29, 2007

Amsterdam

Well I won’t bore you with the details of my time in Paris. Going to play tennis in the rain with my niece & nephew. Or going to an air show in the rain. Or walking around Paris in the rain. Basically I’m saying it rained. A lot. But I’m over that. I swear.

Anyways, the real adventure started when I left Paris to go to Amsterdam and then on to my Baltic cruise. I was really excited! Now I like to think of myself as a good traveler (though GreekBoi will disagree). And I am. Well sort of. I’m good with arranging flights, trains, getting from destination to destination. But there is a bit of me that isn’t good with the actually traveling part. The waiting for a connection part. Anyways I got to Gare du Nord rather early and then basically camped out waiting for my train. While this wasn’t my first train ride in Europe, it’s been awhile. And I was lugging two huge pieces of luggage. But the train ride was fine from Paris to Amsterdam. Still overcast and grey, but there was nothing I can do about that except complain. I did run into a group of American teenagers back packing through Europe. I find it hard to believe that I was ever that young, or that stupid. Playing drinking games at 11 in the morning? Bad. Bring drunk and loud on the train. Worse.

Arriving in Amsterdam Central Station, I took the tram towards my hotel which is on one of the main streets. Unfortunately the road was under construction so that was a bit of a haze. My room, a single, was about the size of my closet at home. And I think the bed in my room was smaller than the one I had on the ship. Just too funny. And no clock in the room? Anyways, after I had gotten settled in I walked around town to get a feel for my neighborhood, try to find out where I was going to go out that night. There are different gay sections or mini-gayborhoods in Amsterdam. So I wanted to check them out. But I’m not sure if it was just a Wednesday night thing, or if I was just tired and I can’t stay out too late, but I didn’t really hit any wild and crazy places. Which was fine. I had a full day of sightseeing planned for the next day.

So I got up on that cold and overcast day and ate the nice breakfast that came with the room and then headed out to explore the city. I first head to the famous flower market and I’m a bit disappointed. Well, it’s the wrong time of year for tulips. You need to be here in April-May. Not July. So there were all of these tulip BULBs if you wanted to buy them, but no tulips. (Well I found a few hot house tulips). Taking pictures of the bulbs didn’t really cut if for me, but I did get some pics of other flowers. Anyways, I continue my wandering as I head to the Rijksmuseum. Now I’m wearing the one sweatshirt that I brought, so I keep taking little detours into stores to see if I can find a long sleeve shirt because I’m now convinced that I’ve completely packed the wrong clothes for the cruise and I’m going to freeze to death. Oh, I’ll look good, but I’ll be blue from the cold. Anyways, I make it to the Rijksmuseum which I like. Mind you I’m not a big fan of Rembrandts. Too many portraits of pasty, fat people. I do like the landscapes. And I’m loving the audio guides and the little interesting facts. In one portrait there is a little girl who is restrained in straps so she won’t move for the painter. And oddly enough that reminded me of my niece! Anyways, the Rijksmuseum gets a thumbs up, and then it was on to the Van Gogh museum.

So interesting trivia fact, apparently Van Gogh shot himself and then it took TWO DAYS for him to die. Dude, try again. I can’t imagine suffering for 2 days like that. I’d be like, give me the gun again! Again, love the audio tour. It’s interesting that a lot of the paintings at the Van Gogh museum have glass on them compared to the Rijksmuseum. I’m not sure what that means. I’m listening to the audio tour and they reference Claude Monet’s trip to the Netherlands where he describes “a typical dutch sky, grey and lined with clouds.” Amen! And then all of the comments about the “amazing light” in the Italy makes sense. Summers in Italy just have the clearest skies and I can imagine that all of the northern European painters were just enthralled with the light and weather of Italy.

After the Van Gogh, I continued shopping and finally found a shirt. Now Amsterdam must be filled with anorexics because I’m a medium-large in the US, but in Amsterdam I’m an XL-XXL. Just not right. Of course, everyone here walks and bikes so no wonder, but still. Oh, and everything is so expensive! Thank you W for a weak dollar! After my museum, shopping, and various wanderings, I make it back to my hotel for a disco nap. The sun is up till 10PM, so it’s weird here. But I try to nap despite the jack-hammering in front of my hotel. I do make it out that evening and I go to a bar/lounge place called Arc. It’s one of these places that’s so hip it hurts. Twinks galore. All blond of course. But the problem is that if you’re not drinking (which I’m not) or not smoking (ugh!), then you kind of stand out. But it was good people watching. There was supposed to be a night club next door and I wanted to get my groove on, but it didn’t open till 11PM and people didn’t really start going to it until 1AM. Ugh. I’m still not ready for that.

The next day, I go to Mike’s Bikes and rent a bike for half a day. They give me a route that takes me south of town along one of the rivers that feed into Amsterdam. The weather is finally turning nice and the bike ride is just amazing. It was surprising how quickly the city ended and the countryside began. I rode down to a little town about 10 miles south of the city where I got to see my first honest to goodness windmill. Cute little town and then on the way back I stopped at a riverside café and had lunch. The only problem (I know, complain, complain, complain) is that my allergies have kicked into overdrive. I mean 6-7 sneezes in a row. Sneezing so much that I was getting light headed. And no, I didn’t have a beer with lunch. Anyways, my weird allergies would pop up periodically throughout my trip. Anyways, by the time I get back into town, it’s actually hot!

I then head over to the Anne Frank’s House. A long line, but so worth it. A lot of people use the word evil to describe various things. But it really needs to be used when describing the Nazis and what they did. There’s a great quote in the museum that’s I’ll try to paraphrase: “Anne Frank put a face on the victims of the Holocaust. But she was just one. If we learned all of their stories we might not be able to bare it.” Too true. After walking around some more, I find a Mexican restaurant and have a chimichanga for dinner. Or course some stoners have to be sitting by me on the deck over looking that canal and have to light up. Ugh!

So that’s my issue with Amsterdam. I’m not into the drug scene. And for those who aren’t, there’s still a pretty rowdy party scene. And the British come here to party hard and they are not pretty/friendly drunks. So not a lot of fun. And needless to say the red light district wasn’t a big draw for me either. I think once you get away from the main tourist areas it’s really pretty, but the downtown is really over-commercialized I think. Anyways, at this point, I’m ready to get on the ship and relax. But I've got to deal with the luggage weight limit on my SAS flight. Inside Europe, you can only have a max of 20KG for your luggage. every KG over is 10 Euro. Can you sa ouch!

I get up early, catch the train to Schipol, and then check in pretty early. I’m over the weight limit for my luggage, but the check-in lady lets me pass. Waiting in the terminal, I see some of the A-list gays waiting for my flight. I think they are American’s, but I’m not sure. Anyways, it’s on to Copenhagen and the cruise!!!

3 Comments:

At 10:17 AM, Blogger Vig said...

The pictures are wonderful. I hope you'll tell more about the trip. Glad you're home safe.

 
At 4:50 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Hello,

We would like to do an interview with you about your blog for
www.BlogInterviewer.com . We'd like to give you the opportunity to
give us some insight on the "person behind the blog."

It would just take a few minutes of your time. The interview form can
be submitted online at http://bloginterviewer.com/submit-an-interview

Best regards,

Mike Thomas

 
At 8:27 PM, Blogger CJ said...

Sounds and looks as if it was a great time. Thanks for letting us cum along for the trip.

 

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