Friday, June 8, 2012

Welcome to Amsterdam!

I thought I wrote a review of Amsterdam last year when we rented a houseboat there.  But after searching frustratingly for it (I apologize for all the vague subject labels in blog version 1.0...will endeavor to improve from now on), I only found pictures.  So I must have wrote it up in a dream or something.

We both loved Amsterdam last year.  It isn't all drugs and hookers.  They make up such a minute part of the city, it's almost laughable.  You'd be surprised at how many young families there are.

You'd also be surprised with how most people ride around in granny bikes (one gear only) with an infant in the mini seat attached to the handle bars and a larger kid in another attached seat behind Mom/Dad, all without helmets.  Or the number of families teaching their young to ride along busy, busy streets wobbling away, 3 across. 

You wouldn't find that happening around here.  We are so safety minded in NA, we'd likely judge those parents as incompetent.  But in Europe, it works.  We've only seen one accident involving a tram and a cyclist.  The cyclist was in error.

Cyclists in Amsterdam have a bit of a God Complex.  They will ignore traffic signals and will tear around corners without slowing down.  It takes a couple of streets to get into the groove as a pedestrian.  In reality they can be more dangerous than cars as they can be silent.

Most will ring their bells but when bikes from both directions are, you will have to figure out who and why they are ringing.  Plus their traffic lights aren't always the same frequency as automobiles so you really do need to look.  D's parents will be heading to Amsterdam this summer (first trip to Europe) and he is worried for their lives.

We arrived on the eve of a long weekend and the number of people there were staggering.  In hindsight, it was very much like game weekend in Munich.  It caught us off guard as we remembered the quiet slow serene Amsterdam that we fell in love with.  Both of us wondered if we'd still feel that way after a week of trying to weed our way through aimless crowds.  Luckily after the long weekend, it mostly reverted back to what we knew.

After stopping for fries at Manneken Pis (not the best, in my opinion, Vlaamse Frites further down the Damrak is better) we weeded our way towards our apartment.  Then it happened.  We took a side road to get away from all the people who were slowing us down too much and ended up at what I believed to be a known intersection.  D felt we should turn left and I felt we needed to turn right. 

For about a minute, we were 'that couple' you see arguing at a street corner, maps out, pointing in opposite directions with people giving us a wide berth.  Normally I get deadly calm when I engage in debates but when you add heat (it was really warm that day), having travelled for 7 hrs already and maybe a bit of dehydration, my patience just evaporates, especially when it was looking like we were running late.  And I hate being late.

And when D gets that certain 'tone' in his voice, somewhere between condescending and know it all, I start raising my voice (how dare he?!).  He actually accused me of suffering from 'pork deprevation' and 'I would be happy to admit I was wrong if I was' (crap).

So I bring out the you 'half German half Scottish bull head' (yes we resorted to name calling).  'I may not be able to locate an airport from the air but I know my street maps.  I think all the beer you drank in Munich killed one too many brain cells...I'm not going to keep standing here looking like an idiot.  I'm going this way.  If the next street is Overtoom, then it's the right way, if not then you are right.'  So with a defiant look, D followed.


  1. ha ha, and the Dutch are so cool that they took no notice of you having your 'discussion'? Of course.

  2. I'd rather be sailingJune 9, 2012 at 10:22 AM

    Hey... you're on vacation. You're supposed to be relaxed. So you make a left instead of a right; so what! At worst you make a wrong turn and have to turn back; at best (and this has happened to us) you end up stumbling onto an amazing new scene/site/destination you never knew existed and would never have discovered had you made the 'right' turn in the first place.

    What is that old saying "If you don't get lost at least once on vacation, then it's not a vacation" or something to that effect.

    Not that it's important but who was right - you or D?

    BTW are you visiting Belgium? I lived there for a couple of years (many years ago) and loved the country. Brugges (Venice of the North is nice), Antwerp, Ghent to name a much history.

    Enjoying the armchair tour as we follow you and D around.

  3. Hi Lizzie!

    We just got some subtle sideways glances...

    @ Sailing;

    Outside of this little outburst,(rare, 2nd time in 9 yr, 1st time was last yr in Rome, again over directions) we too are great wanderers. I would say at least 80% of our time in a new place is spent just following our noses.

    In this instance, I needed to get us to the apartment to meet the owner and pick up keys. I allowed us 1 hr to walk what should have taken 45 min.

    We were at 1 hr at that junction with about 15 min of walking to go. Luckily the owner ended up running late as well.

    Belgium, or specifically Brugges has been on D's list since he saw the movie 'In Bruges'. We have been talking about it for this fall instead of Nice.

    The bits and pieces you've revealed about your life keep getting more and more interesting! Will you be sailing to the North Channel this summer?

    To answer your question, it was Overtoom. I'm 2 for 2.

  4. I'd rather be sailingJune 12, 2012 at 8:19 AM


    2x in last 9 years or 2x in the last year? Sounds better when you spread it over 9 doesn't it? LOL.

    Trust it's not a sign of a trend beginning...

    Lot's of sailing in the works this year; Chicago - Mackinac Island race in July (Mackinac Island, I highly recommend you & D visit by the way - no vehicular traffic on the island)

    Georgian Bay Regatta (week long regatta from Midland to Colpoys Bay - Wiarton) and of course 3-4 weeks (or more) cruising in the North Channel.

    DW and I just picked up a 5th wheel so that will figure prominently in our future travels (mainly fall and spring).

    BTW... did you get much snow during your ski holiday. I was in Whistler in March... the night before we went skiing they had 56 cm of fresh powder on top... what an incredible skiing day going through all that light snow... can you say 'leg burn'

    Enjoying your photos and tour. I love the architecture on the older buildings.

    I can remember being in a bar in Antwerp and someone mentioned the building we were in was over 500 years old... and this to a guy fresh in from a country where if something is 50 - 75 yrs old we consider it to be 'antique'

  5. I'd rather be sailingJune 12, 2012 at 8:34 AM


    After posting I realized I hadn't commented on you being 'great wanderers'

    I think that's one of the best ways to travel... no set plans.

    One of our best trips involved flying into Glascow arriving at 5:00 am. We sat at a coffee shop in the terminal and waited for the first car rental place to open at 6... rented a car, bought a road map and headed out for 2 weeks.

    Other than the flight no reservations for anything. We had a few places in mind to see but took the wrong exit out of the round-a-bouts and discovered something completely different... one of our more memorable relaxed trips.

    Maybe why my kids got me a t-shirt a number of years ago on a family vacation that reads 'I consider on time to be when I get there'

  6. @ Sailing;

    I prefer 2x in 9 years...

    D is so laid back I actually enjoy it when he challenges me regardless of outcome -- He looks like Michael Fassbender when he gets worked up...not a bad thing...

    Wow, some wonderful time on the water coming up. Congrats on the fifth wheel. I've always felt it is a great way to see our continent. Which model did you go with?

    Snow was off and on this past season. The base was reasonable. There would be longer periods of no new snow and then we'd get dumped, 14 - 20+ cm a day for days on end. D skied a lot (6 weeks) last season and I would say he got fresh snow half the time.

    I too chuckle at our concept of 'antique' and what we get to buy in our 'antique stores'. Then you go to a place like Turkey where you can actually buy things we would expect to see in a museum is mind blowing.

    There is an export law limiting how old a item can be taken out of the country but just to see some truly historical items for sale is enough for me.

    Did you end up choosing that part of the world for your big anniversary trip after all?