a unique perspective on this crazy world


I still have things I wanted to say about some of my other travels this year but I’ve just landed in Amsterdam so must continue my europhile dialogue 🙂  As usual I have written bits and pieces as the trip progressed but you will be hearing about it as I record my memories because too much was happening to be able to write it all down in the moment.  Someday I may have a boring trip but not yet 😉

This isn’t “my” city the way London, New York and Paris are but it’s familiar.  So I am trying to challenge myself on this trip.

I am staying in the funky new Sir Albert Hotel.  Definitely worth checking out.  The imaginary St Albert thinks the Pijp is the cool place to reside in Amsterdam so I’m seeing if I agree with him 🙂

http://www.siralberthotel.com/

my digs in the pijp

my digs in the pijp

I have now used the trams a little bit but I can’t quite remember the drill but do know you can take a train from Shiphol to Centraal Station in minutes and save some cash.

It took me a couple of tries to get on the right platform but as long as you get on the right train it is really easy and gave me a chance to gaze out the window and note the sky.  It’s the moody sky you see in all the famous Dutch and Flemish paintings.  I thought it was fake until I started spending time in Amsterdam.

I cheated and took a taxi from Centraal Station as the Pijp may be cool but it’s a long walk – and dragging all my luggage into and off the tram seemed not terribly fun.  It might be a little harder to get to but staying in the Pijp is definitely adding to my experience of Amsterdam.

It feels like a real neighborhood.  I feel really far from the Leidseplein even though it is only a short walk away.  This afternoon I just wandered aimlessly around the neighborhood to get a feel for it – and find some lunch.

my new 'hood

my new ‘hood

Amsterdam is always full of surprises.  I turned the corner from the hotel to amble next to the canal – and found myself wondering the protocol when there are women in their underwear looking at you as they stand in the window and you aren’t in the Red Light District!  (I later learned there are some mini Red Light Districts near the canals).  Amsterdam is not a place to be timid – but you might want to ask the concierge for directions 😉

Amsterdam is a city overrun with tourists so it was cool to feel like I was wandering through an authentic Amsterdam neighborhood but meant I needed to put more effort into finding lunch.  And I was famished as my body clock was totally off.

I finally stumbled upon the Marie Heinekenplein.  The weather had turned on me (welcome to Amsterdam!).  It was unfortunate as sitting in a public square eating lunch is one of my favourite things to do in Europe.

I was definitely not in a tourist ‘hood.  All the menus were in Dutch so choosing which restaurant to try felt like a bit of a gamble.  But – as expected – there was an English menu once I got inside.

before the rains :)

before the rains 🙂

When you’re jet-lagged time moves more slowly so it’s been a splendid day.  It’s nice to revisit places and not have the pressure to “fill every moment with 60 seconds worth of distance run.”  It’s not my forté.  Relaxing is not my strong suit.  But I am at heart a creative person – and have learned to appreciate a lot of creativity comes from down time.

And it makes you more human.  And lowers your blood pressure.  So today has been a great day for my physical – and mental – health.

My wandering gave me a taste for the neighborhood and I decided I should try a restaurant called Braque for dinner.  Some spirit just seemed to be calling to me 🙂

When I hit the front door of the hotel and it was pouring rain, there was a great temptation to just stay in the cocoon of the hotel and eat in the hotel restaurant.  But I am a traveller, not a tourist, and needed to have some small adventure on major jet lag day ONE.

So I grabbed a complimentary umbrella and dodged the bikes and scooters to jaywalk across the street where I was quickly confronted by a uniquely Amsterdam problem.

I don’t normally use a large umbrella so didn’t appreciate its wing span and one of the spokes hit a bicycle.  At first it seemed OK but then it slowly toppled into the street.  It didn’t seem to have a kickstand (maybe why it was so easily toppled) so there I was in the street trying to figure out how to get a stranger’s bike to stand upright while also trying not to lose the borrowed umbrella perched precariously over my head or get hit by a car.  Only in Amsterdam…

But I persevered.  I finally parked the bike against a building and braved the rain until I reached Braque.  It looked really busy but I know as a solo traveller you just have to be polite and smile a lot and someone might find you a seat 🙂

http://caferestaurantbraque.com/

Lucas was busy running food to the brave patrons sitting outside but he said his friend was leaving so I could have his seat at the far end of the bar next to the kitchen.  I was just there for dinner – but, as happens so often, it became an evening about far more than the food.

The food was delicious though!  And I would encourage you to check out the restaurant – and make a reservation.  And a great meal in Amsterdam is not as easy to find as it is in Paris.  But I think the chef might be French 🙂  The menu definitely has a lot of French influence.  I had some of the best bouillabaisse of my life followed by a perfectly cooked steak.  It was more impressive as getting a medium rare steak in a country with an indifferent palate takes a bit of explaining – but Lucas obviously conveyed my request for a bit of blood on my plate 😉

It was my first night in Amsterdam and a perfect way to start the current euro journey.  It’s why I am in love with Amsterdam.  I have now met so many Dutch people like Lucas.  Warm and gracious with a big smile for you.  A great conversationalist with knowledge of all sorts of topics, willing to engage in a conversation that isn’t just small talk.

I also had a brief chat with the guys sitting next to me at the bar while I was waiting for my food.  They were both from another part of the Netherlands but one now lived in Amsterdam.  I suggested that the friend visiting was also kind of a tourist.  That turned into a lively debate as to what constituted a “tourist”.  It’s an interesting question…

Lucas confessed to being tired because he had been up late the night before at a party to celebrate freedom.  The Americans talk about freedom a lot.  But, for the Dutch, it is a reason to throw a party.  How can one not fall in love with them? 😉

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