Saturday 22 May 2004

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© 2004 Giles Orr

Setting things up with gotoday.com was a hassle (they changed several things and I had to negotiate changing it back), but, as with Venice, they get full credit for location! Easy walking distance to anything. The room is the same size and shape as the room in Venice. In fact, I have a "double" (two single beds pushed together, same as Venice), because it's what they had available even though I'm listed for a single. I miss the fridge. The washroom is even smaller than Venice - no tub, a shower stall with only the shower curtain (nothing on the floor) to indicate its limits.

One thing in the room that surprised me - the only bed covering is a duvet. The matress has a sheet over it, and you get a duvet to go with that. I looked for a sheet, even in the wardrobe, but no. Marcel says that's the way it's done - you sleep under the duvet, no sheet. The duvet is enclosed in a slip cover.

I meet Marcel here at 1300 - he said he's enjoying playing tour guide. I'll try for free activities in the afternoon, maybe Amstelkring ("Our Lord in the Attic") in the morning. Of course most stuff won't open until 0900.

The churches aren't as grandiose as Venice. Partly I'm becoming jaded, partly the Calvinist founders wanted plain interiors. I may have better luck in London.

The breakfast was excellent. Cold cuts, cheese, several kinds of bread (including a superb raisin bread), cereal, hard boiled eggs, coffee, tea, and juices. I'm stuffed, and that's good because it comes with the room. They had plain and strawberry yoghurt in pitchers, and the Germans (who seem to make up most of the guests) pour them on their cereal.

Dutch does indeed sound like German - the texture is very similar. By that I mean the way sounds and the rhythm. But the words are quite different.

After breakfast I went for a walk along Brouwersgracht, another must-see, pretty houses and houseboats. And I found huge street markets in a couple boulevards, all but permanent. Selling meat, flowers, fish, toiletries, vegetables, movies ... everything. Marcel says they're very common, which is how it looked to me. I came back to the hotel for a washroom break and a nap before going to Amstelkring.

Amstelkring is also known as "Our Lord in the Attic" - locals have no idea what you mean when you say "Amstelkring." That is on the guide's must-see list, and with reason. Very neat - a Catholic church crammed into the upper reaches of a typically narrow Amsterdam warehouse, and done with some elegance too. I used both cameras, but I'm so out of practice with the SLR I have no idea if the wide-angle stuff will be any good.

Amstelkring is in the RLD (Red Light District). It makes it more disturbing to have seen women that attracted me.

After Amstelkring I came back here to meet Marcel at 1300. I asked him to take me to the Vondelpark (recommended by someone on the plane, and a must-see according to the guidebook). He said we could take the tram or walk, I opted to walk. On the way we stopped by a bakery and I got an amandelkoek (almond paste filling in a pastry) and a Turkish honeyed donut. The latter was sweet, good, and unimpressive. But the almandelkoek was really nice.

The Vondelpark is a nice park, but ... so what? It reminds me a lot of High Park in Toronto, I've seen nice parks. Did get to see dog walkers, joggers, and inline skaters. And the guys stacking and climbing coke crates (may have a photo of that).

Then to Marcel's place where he lives with his parents. I helped him fix a Linux issue, and he let me get on the internet for a while. After a while of chatting, we went by an AH supermarket where I bought some chocolate bars for Beate. She asked for European milk chocolate. I bought myself some dark chocolate, which was very good. Also bought "Cheese and Onion" Pringles.

I took Marcel out to dinner at Kop van Jut in the Leidseplein area. He's definitely not into foreign food (Ethiopian/Chinese/Indian as I might have gone for) so we went for Dutch - I was glad to do it because I really wanted to try Dutch food once while I was in Amsterdam. Mine was very typical (the special: "Andijviesstamppot met 'n bal gehakt en kuiltje jus") - a big meatball stuck on top of mashed potatoes with endives, with a small amount of gravy. I also sampled Oude (old) Jenever.

After dinner I decided to try a coffeeshop. Greenhouse, their most recommended, was too far out (in De Pijp) so I went for the one they put on the must-see list (why it rather than the most-recommended?), Kadinsky. Marcel took me, but didn't participate - he says the smell makes him nauseous.

Kadinsky sells about ten different marijuanas, and about six different hashes. It's by the gram and you're expected to roll your own. But they do have pre-made joints "mixed" (with tobacco) or "pure." I chose the latter (it's their "AK-47" marijuana) for €3.50 but I didn't have a lighter and had to buy that too. It kept going out on me, the smoke made my nose run, and the taste is ... well, uninspiring. And ultimately all it did was leave me with trouble concentrating. Not a rewarding experience.

We wandered around some and eventually got back to the hotel. He didn't leave until about 2240, so it was a late night for me.

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