Amsterdam, Day 1 - The Land of Beer, Boys and Bicycles

It’s 5:31 in the morning. I’m finding sleep a bit allusive. I’m tired but I can’t seem to sleep. This must be what jet lag is. Ugh. I had a wonderful day yesterday, even if I was dead on my feet. The flight over here took forever. 10.5 hours, and it felt like eternity. We had booked the end seats, but it was a full flight and someone had the middle seat. So I offered up the aisle so that I could be next to Courtland. For the flight back, we’re gonna do our best to see if we can get the two seats on the left side of the plane so we don’t feel like we can’t bother someone to get up and walk around a bit more.

We got in to the airport and going through customs was a snap. I got my first stamp on my passport! Courtland says I might not get another while we’re here, even though we’re gonna go through several more countries… but that’s OK. I at least got one stamp! That makes me so happy for some unknown reason. Go figure.

As we were walking through customs… what’s that smell? Who’s smoking in the airport? As we were passing through there was a little cafe on the side, perpendicular to a big “No Smoking” sign hanging from the ceiling with 6 or 7 people standing around smoking up a storm.

We got down to the baggage hall, grabbed our luggage, figured out how to work the train ticket kiosk then made our way downstairs to the train station. The we stood on the platform looking like the lost tourists we were as someone asked where we were going and we said Centraal Station and pointed us to the right train.

The train was pretty nice. Fairly clean with large, comfortable red leather seats. One thing I noticed was how quiet the train was as we glided along. It’s about 15 minutes from the airport to central Amsterdam. International style buildings (commercial and residential) dotting the scene along the way. Then the architecture completely changes as you enter Amsterdam are taken back to the 17th century. Not a modern building in site.

When we arrived into Centraal Station and made our way to the taxi area, we met a very confused taxi driver who seemed not to know where the street was that we were staying at. Which (after we finally found the place, is very odd as it’s one of the canals very near the station). Someone wandered along as we were discussing the possible whereabouts of our hotel and mentioned that it was easily walkable. Just go left then right then left then right… or was that right then left then right …

We got lost for a few moments, but I didn’t care much. The city is so beautiful. All the houses are very, very narrow and very tall (4-6 stories) and are right along the canals with dark cobblestone streets everywhere. All the canals are lined by trees whose branches overhang the canals. We stopped several times to just look and stare (as well as to catch our breath from hauling all this luggage around).

We finally made it to the hotel (which really is very close to Centraal Station) and checked in. The room is small and the bathroom is very, very tiny but modern. There’s one wall that has a big Rembrandt mural on it.

We spend the day wandering around the Central part, gawping at all the boys on bikes and being amazed at how many cafés there are and marveling at the ever present wafts of pot smoke drifting on the breeze from the hundreds of coffee shops around. Now, I live in San Francisco and am used to the occasional herbal smoke, but geez! I knew that a lot of drugs are legalized here, however, knowing that intellectually and seeing it in practice are two very different things. There’s a coffee shop seemingly every 10 feet. Head shops abound and there are several where you can buy mushrooms and seeds and all sorts of things that the US very much frowns upon. And did I mention boys? OMFG. We have arrived in the land of cute boys.

I commented before as to how quiet the train was and that quiet is continued throughout the city. There aren’t that many cars and there are thousands of bicycles. The streets are very narrow and everything is just so damn charming. About mid-day Courtland I and stopped into one of the cafés and had a pint of Paulaner. We just spent the rest of the day wandering around and taking in the atmosphere. Came back to the hotel room around 4:30 and watched a bit of Dutch television (commercials can be so much fun when you don’t speak the language) and crashed for about an hour. We then went back out and had pizza at a little italian place with the restaurant’s resident cat as a dinner companion.

Today we’re going to go the the Van Gogh museum and the Rijksmuseum. I’m going to bring my camera and take a ton of photos. But first back to sleep for a bit.