Thursday, November 1, 2007


Gezellig is something we've read about and witnessed, and now I think we're getting the hang of. It's basically the cozy, laid back, comfortable, no hurry way of being for the people of Amsterdam. Everyone in a shop or cafe gets good attention when they need it, but there's no need to rush, just chill out and wait your turn... enjoy some good conversation with the one you're with or soak in the atmosphere more if you're flying solo and have a good time. Based on this I am very glad that we are here for the week and haven't had to hurry much. I've noticed we tend to sit down to a meal and sometimes will be done before anyone else in the place, and they were all there before us! I think we're better and being relaxed at home, CF's made some delicious dinners. Oh and of course there's the street food. Love it!

Let's see, the last time I posted was Tuesday morning (so practice your gezellig, it's going to be a long post). We had our breakfast and watched the clouds break and a beautiful blue sky appeared. Up here in the rafters I can only see the sky (there's a little ladder and I can see the Singel canal below us from the second step up) but I really can tell what kind of day it's going to be from that sky. And I knew it was going to be lovely on Tuesday. So even though the Museum Quarter is a ways south from us we decided to walk. I had meant to be at the van Gogh Museum right when they opened but getting there a good hour later didn't seem to make too much of a difference. We made it there getting mildly lost only once, which in this city is pretty good. There was no line so the fact that we didn't print out tickets last week in Zurich didn't manage to come back and haunt us. I got the audio tour, CF took the printed material and we started with the exhibit, Barcelona 1900! We really enjoyed this exhibit, even if we were already entering Museum-Brain-Overload by the time we saw anything painted by van Gogh himself. The exhibit was about Barcelona's transformation around the turn of the century, and how some artists wanted to be associated more with Europe (more specifically, Paris) than the rest of Spain. Lots of great art nouveau pieces which got me excited to see Paris, and lots of Gaudi's work, which got me excited to see Barcelona. The van Gogh collection was amazing, but didn't actually contain many pieces with the great thick swirling texture that I really love. There was a large black and white photo blown up to cover one wall, an explanation was given that there are only three photos of van Gogh and this is the only one taken during his time as an artist. There were three men in the photo, one to the left and two off to the right in conversation. Turns out, Vincent was the man with his back to the camera. I turned to CF and we both smiled a little knowing smile. I like that we were both amused by this. Later CF said it was like the elusive Lemony Snickett. Ha! This is a very cool museum, I'm very glad we went.

We sat down for a meal out for the first time in Amsterdam, a light lunch at a cafe surrounded by museums. It was still a beautiful day out and I wished I could run outside and take photos instead of waiting for my sandwich. Then I noticed the big water feature suddenly went matte instead of reflective and I saw two people running... it was raining! It stopped as quickly as it started and before we were back outside it was lovely again. Before we left this cafe I went downstairs to use the restroom, paid .50euro to get in and noticed all the stall doors were glass. At least I was alone but this seemed a little odd. Then I noticed a light flashing in the last stall, demonstrating that once you went in and locked the door the glass turned frosted and a light went on inside, which gives the occupant complete privacy. How silly! What fun.

We decided on a path to walk home, up the west side of Amsterdam to go through the Jordaan district a bit more, this is supposed to be rather hip and bohemian. We hit a little snag along the way, my back is not being such a good sport about all this walking (I'm sure the large camera doesn't help). I must admit, yours truly got a bit cranky. Which angered CF who decided I was mad at him for the route we had picked which didn't seem all that entertaining. Oh well, you can't get along perfectly all the time. Once we really got into the heart of Jordaan we found the neighborhood so pleasing we forgot to finish our quarrel and just had a good time. One stop we made was at a shop with a wall of candy jars. The Dutch, they love their licorice! I had already found this off when I went to select some in the grocery store and got overwhelmed with the options so CF thought I was lost. We decided to try some with anis and some of the double salted (they love it salty or sweet, but mostly salty... mom, you'd fit in perfectly here).

We wandered all the way up and around till we were practically back at the train station, decided to go out for a drink and a snack and then head home for a little while. There's a couple of great looking little cafes near our place, we chose one and had a seat. I decided I needed both a drink and a little pepper-upper so I had an Irish Coffee. By the way, apparently it was the Dutch who introduced coffee to Europe, they make it GOOD here. I followed that up with the trendy fresh mint tea that many of the girls were having, which isn't alcoholic, it's just fresh mint in hot water and even comes with a personal little muddler. The fellow across the table from me had two Belgian beers, naturally. It was great sitting back in that cafe, not in a hurry to be anywhere. We might have achieved just a bit of that gezellig feeling.

I'll take this opportunity to point out that we're staying just a few blocks from the Ann Frank house, and it does seem interesting that we're many flights up, in the top of the building, which I sort of think of as our little hideaway. Of course I can look out the window, and even open the window and stick my head out, one of my favorite things to do up here. And I can't imagine not being able to look out at this beautiful city. They stayed up there for two years . I don't think we plan on visiting the house, I'm not really one to collect tourist attractions, though I hear visiting the house is very moving. I think I'm satisfied to pay my respects from here, appreciating the fact that here we are, so physically close and yet our happy little dwelling is so far away. This fact is far from lost on me.

So, back to Tuesday, we had a little rest and then hit the town as the evening started. I considered a popular looking little frites place but decided I'd like to try to sit down to dinner finally and didn't want to spoil my appetite. We wandered a bit through what many call the prettiest part of town, but this is also where the "coffeeshops" are, and this area is also crawling with what should be called the "munchieshops," tons of not-so-fresh looking pizzas and doughnuts abound. And of course this is the Redlight district, which we didn't walk the main canal of but there are actually girls standing around in windows all over town. It's sort of odd, but this city has done all right for itself with its strong commitment to tolerance and they get some control over the vices by allowing them.

We wandered in a bit of the more eastern side of the city and I noticed a sign for a Chinese restaurant that I remembered from my guide book. We decided to try it out. We had some Singapore style noodles and managed to guess which sesame chicken dish the couple at the table next to us had ordered and got one for ourselves. Very good! We wandered a while longer, I think I could walk around this city all day and all night... it's just marvelous. And eventually we came back to where we started, and finally gave in to the frites booth. CF ordered curry sauce, which proved to be not such a good idea, he said it was gross British style fake curry (he ended up throwing away the top layer, saving as much of the pommes below as possible). I decided to go with one of several kinds of mayo, I don't really know what the difference is, but the kind I got was amazing. I realized it was like eating a baked potato with the best sour cream possible, while walking down the street... and up the mile high climb of stairs... and back to this computer... and this was just a "small."

We had considered going back out for a drink but even we can't help but notice when the euros start disappearing a little too quickly for comfort, so we called it a night. And I think I'll give your eyes a break and start a new post for the new day.

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