In the weeks leading up to our Europe trip, coffee and I had been going through a rough patch. First there was the great full cup spill in which I managed to dump an entire cup of coffee on myself at work and had to go home to change clothes completely. Then on a work trip in a taxi poured coffee on myself in an attempt to drink. Finally a week later, I spilled even more on myself walking back from the coffee pot. With all that behind me, I was sure my luck with my favorite beverage would turn around.
I suppose it was this mindset that convinced me that I could carry two piping hot espressos over five moving train cars without incident. I made it four, before one of the coffee cup hit the floor with 50% of the beverage ending up on my jeans. I sulked back to my seat feeling as though a piece of my soul had hit floor with that cup. But at least Kim had gotten her cup of coffee that morning.
We arrived in Amsterdam with my jeans mostly dry, my dignity half broken and my sanity waning. The “smallest big city” in the world has a way of changing your spirits. Amsterdam’s canals, common architecture, and carefree attitude lightened my day along with my wife’s gentle teasing. We made the short walk to an indoor outdoor cafe for a quick breakfast with plans to head straight to the Keukenhof gardens.
Things would not work out exactly as planned as Amsterdam tested our ability to adapt with change and go with the flow. Our tour, which should have been our first clue what we were in for, was fully booked until the final departure of the day. Okay, no problem, we wanted to take a canal tour anyway. This canal tour was eye opening for me as it gave me a drive by view of many of the different neighborhoods in the city.
We didn’t sit in the open air section of the boat for fear of the rain clouds lingering overhead. It was our fifth day of rain in five days in Europe. My new raincoat was holding up well and proving its worth as an excellent Europe trip purpose. Kim’s umbrella was struggling to maintain its structure in the strong wind and rain of the lowlands. This is me saying “I told you so”.
Finishing up the canal tour, we grabbed a tea and free wifi to prepare ourselves for the rest of Amsterdam. We used Rick Steve’s app to give us some audio walking tours as well as some nice history to shape our view of the places we were visiting.
As we lined up for our tour, it was apparent that we were the only ones not on social security (if Europeans have social security…) I knew that going to the Keukenhof gardens was mostly for an older generation as the distance from the nearest coffeeshop would preclude most younger travelers. I had thought it might appeal to a few more than two which gave me some evidence that Kim and I are simply old souls…
As Aaron and I boarded the bus in the rain, our cheerful tour guide had everyone in good spirits. We had about an hour drive to the Keukenhof in which our tour guide told all kinds of great jokes (#dadjokes #sarcasm). Not only did you have to listen to the cheesy jokes once, but once in English, then in French, then in Spanish. ? Anyway, the drive out was pretty nice and included loads of windmills (one old and many new). I stated that this was a signaling of the old world fusing with the new world, if you will. Aaron rolled his eyes and was not bemused with my intellectual insight.
As we got closer to the Keukenhof, there were large flower fields, mostly tulips, but surprisingly others as well. The colors were vibrant- red, yellow, pink. We got off the bus to what can only be described as shitty polka music being played through what I assume to be a 1980s boom box inside of a faux antique carriage – Welcome to the Keukenhof!! While loud and annoying to us, the older generation, or everyone else in the garden, loved it.
Walking through the Keukenhof was beautiful, but the four hours the tour allows for there is not necessary. Aaron and I finished our walk through the flowers and going up inside an old windmill in about an hour and a half. I did remember that Caroline’s family had a section of flowers there, so we set out to find them! We got footage to show her and it was really neat to find them. Especially since the information personnel did not seem to believe me when asking where “Verver Export” flowers were (“that name means nothing to me”). Proved her wrong! Ha!
As I mentioned four hours there is a little long, so instead of waiting for the assisted living bus guided by the amalgamation of everyone’s dad, we hitched a ride to the airport by bus and metro back to Amsterdam proper.
We checked into our hotel when we got back, took a little snooze (at least I did), then freshened up for dinner. We walked to the Jordaan (pronounced Your-daan) neighborhood for dinner at a charming place called Seasons. It turned out to be a touristy spot but we enjoyed ourselves nevertheless. Once seated, Jesse, the owner’s cocker spaniel, jumped up next to me and sat down beside me. She was such a cutie! Of course we got a photo! But after watching this bit every time someone new walked in, we realized this was a clever trick she was taught. Hook, line, sinker.
Our meal was delicious (I got the miso salmon and Aaron got the surf and turf). We shared an entire bottle of some French red wine – light and deliciouso.
We left with full tummies and a little tipsy. As it was 10 p.m., we decided now would be a good time to check out the red light district. The red light district is the one of the oldest parts of the city ironically surrounding the Oude Kirk or Old Church and was close to the port which attracted sailors and migrants. The building windows were lit with red lights and the women would pose in them. We walked through the canal area and saw about 30 “shops” and only one man being pulled in quickly to one. Most women in the windows seemed bored, like everyone does at work, and were texting on their phones, like everyone does at work. Loads of people milled about and you could hear some men cheering on their timid friend to take part. We also witnessed a prostitute yelling at some men in the street who were lingering in front of her window for too long. Or possibly they were taking pictures which is not allowed.
The red light district has the most coffee shops in the city which becomes very clear walking through as you can smell the pungent odor. Aaron and I argued whether this is technically legal in Holland and Aaron was correct that soft drugs including marijuana are technically illegal however the Dutch have a “tolerance policy” which allows coffee shops to sell pot and law enforcement looks the other way.
Amsterdam is known for it’s tolerance policy of marijuana and prostitution which probably brings a lot of curious tourists here but the city is beautiful and peaceful and the historical architecture draws just as many onlookers.