May 18, 2013
Today was all about exploring little areas within Amsterdam. In the morning we walked through a market - it covered several blocks of one street and a Church square. What fun it would have been to shop there. The breads looked yummy. There were several cheese vendors. There were veggies of all kinds. White asparagus is in season at this time of year. Vendors had fish and meat; sweets and treats; all kinds of wonderful things to eat.
The population of Amsterdam is about 800,000. There are 600,000 bicycles! I watched a young mom, having just shopped at the market, stuff the panniers on her bike with her purchases, lift her toddler onto a wooden plank just behind the handlebars. She backed the bike out of her parking area and straddled the bike as she turned to awkwardly lift her preschooler onto the back fender, legs straddling the panniers. We noticed that cars and trams yield to pedestrians, the bikes yield to no one. We were told that if you hear the bike's bell, it is probably too late!
We took a canal boat tour. It is nice to see the city from the water... even if we couldn't hear much of the narration. There were some very rude passengers on board and it took all I could do not to tell them to be quiet. I didn't want to start an International incident! I guess they weren't interested in learning about what they were seeing. I'm not sure why they bothered to pay money for the tour. However, it was still fascinating to maneuver through several of the canals and to see such a variety of homes, many, like the B & B we stayed at, dating from the early 1600's.
The owner of the B & B, Carlos, made reservations for us at a very typical Dutch restaurant for dinner. Then we took a stroll to the famous Red Light District. It was rather sad. It was very crowded with tourists... like us. The ladies of the night stood just inside full-length doors, trying to entice customers. Many of the doors had their curtains drawn. I did get one quick picture of the swans. Carlos explained that the swans and ducks prefer one of the canals in that area because it is shallower and they can bottom feed.
Then we hiked back to our home away from home, hiked up the twisty-turny steps - all four flights! And called it a night. The B & B is a charming townhouse. It is 4 meters, 20 cm wide and 20 meters deep. (One of the owners explained that when you are working with something that narrow, the additional 20 cm makes a difference!) The owners have 4 charming bedrooms they rent. They share a sitting room on the 2nd floor with guests, and breakfast is prepared in a tiny kitchen and served on the first floor.
Tomorrow we'll board the boat,
2 hours ago