Back from holiday we were plunged into ‘real life’ again so a pause in the blog. We enjoyed Amsterdam but made some observations about life there. The first thing I noticed on the drive north was the lack of signs saying we had crossed into Belgium and later, Holland. Coming home we saw them, maybe the signs were blocked by lorries? It did make us a bit disoriented but thankful that we can drive straight through. Long may it last even if it is a security nightmare in these troubled times.
Talking of security Lou was bothered by the number of scooter and moped riders without helmets. They whizzed around the streets of Amsterdam, dodging trams, tourists and cyclists with what seemed to us reckless abandon of their own safety. Something to Google!
Friends spoke of tulips and windmills but we didn’t see fields of flowers studded with windmills. I saw and captured on my phone one windmill beside the autoroute going and another coming home. Apart from the myriad offerings in the tourist tat shops, that was it.
As for tulips I spotted the occasional one in shop windows or in the baskets on a couple of bicycles but that was all. However. I did appreciate the large glass vases seen in a gallery and a couple of cafes filled with tall fresh flowers with a token tulip in each. I imagine the cold spring must have delayed things. Mind you, Lidl had bunches last Friday when I dashed in.
As we wandered about the place the smell of ‘herbal tobacco’ constantly assailed you. Lou said he didn’t notice but I have a keener nose. It reminded me of meandering along the river bank at Toulouse one sunny afternoon amongst the student population! 🙂
There were bicycles parked everywhere and I was amused by a statistic I read that said at any one time there are 30,000 bicycles at the bottom of the canals and thousands more on land. My guide book suggested hiring one to experience the city as the natives do. No way would I attempt it! The trams and cyclists speed around seeming to know instinctively when one of the others is about to bear down on them. Plus there seems to be a one way system around the canals, up one side and down the other. Add that to not quite knowing where you are……terrifying!
Talking of canals, which is hard to avoid when discussing the Venise of the north, while on our canal cruise we were told a house we were passing was the old sluice house that once filtered the water of the canal and that each year there is a festival when people swim in them.
Looking into the murky water not far below us on a bitterly cold evening it seeemd the height of folly. Even the queen has swum in the canal we were triumphantly told. I’ve googled, of course, and she did swim in the canals as part of a charity event in 2012, when the city authorities pumped cleam water in to the particular canals used. i still don’t fancy it!
Cheese features on many menus, ‘Old Amsterdam’ seeming the favourite. Whisper it quietly but I am not a fan of Dutch cheese so didn’t succumb to temptation either in a restaurant or in one of the many shops offering huge circular slabs of the stuff. They made good photos though. 🙂
I mentioned the young people thronging the Moco gallery. That would please its founders. I’ve discovered (good old Google) that they are a couple who deal in art through their gallery and opened Moco as a way to bring art to a younger audience. From what we experienced at the cold start of the tourist season they have succeeded.
And lastly, the waiting staff everywhere. In the cafes and restaurants and our hotel we were treated with what came over as genuine care and interest and not forgetting the guides in the various museums. Information was shared and suggestions made in a friendly way which always enhanced the experience. It helped wipe away the bad feeling after the rudeness of the boat booth man!
Lou tends to operate on a ‘been there, done that’ attitude to visiting places but I wouldn’t mind going to Amsterdam again but when the east wind isn’t blowing!