Saturday, October 15, 2005

A Day Awake in Amsterdam

My first night in Amsterdam was not particularly restful. After just two hours in deep velvety sleep, I received a work-related call from the States ("Oh, is it late there?"). I woke up again at 4:00 a.m. then tossed and turned for several hours. The alarm went off at 8:00 a.m., but I felt absolutely drugged, and slept for another two hours. A brisk walk through the crowded pedestrian shopping alleys and a couple of cups of cafe latte later and I felt ready for adventures.

When I was trying to decide where to visit in Europe after Amsterdam, I asked my cousin, who travels often, what his favorite European city is. I was surprised when he said Amsterdam--but it does feel a bit like New Amsterdam, where he lives and where I often miss living. I was refreshed by a stroll through Vondelpark, which is much like Central Park, amused by the middle aged ladies rollerblading by while talking into their cell phones. It's a very human-scaled city--no monstrous skyscrapers blotting out the horizon, lots of water, trees to balance the paving. It feels foreign but not alien, and so much English makes it easy to get around. I did stray into the Red Light district today, which is close to the hotel. I didn't explore too far, mostly because it was starting to get dark and it felt strange being on the streets populated almost solely with packs of men roving around. I did manage to achieve my twin goals for the day: consuming a cone of frites and sitting in an outdoor cafe on Dam Square quaffing a glass of the local suds.

Some other observations: Smoking is allowed indoors as well as out. I'm a spoiled Californian, and not used to it. Lots of interracial couples. Even though enormous quantities of French fries are sold in cones, almost all other food portions are small. Which may explain why there are very few overweight people here. That and the bikes. I loved watching the bike culture here--vast fields of parked bikes, ridden everywhere by all ages, for pleasure and mundane transportation. Quite a few are outfitted with not just a child's seat on the back, but another one for babies on the front, just behind the handlebars, complete with fairing. I saw a whole family on one bike--two toddlers in a large box in front, dad pedaling, mom riding side-saddle over the back tire.

Work starts in earnest tomorrow, so I don't know how much more of the city I'll see. More pictures here.


At 10:42 PM, October 19, 2005, Blogger Rebecca said...

Fantastic pictures! I'm sure you're busy, but hope all is well and that you're having a fantastic time. Drink it all in!


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