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Valiant, Steadfast, Compassionate

November 21, 2016

Amsterdam’s motto is Valiant, Steadfast, Compassionate, a lovely tidbit I learned on from the inflight magazine on KLM, and decided that that would be my motto as well.  Moments later I took a couple Nyquils and slept my way to the Netherlands, completely blocking my seat mate from getting to the loo. I’ll have to work on compassionate.

As I entered my cab at the airport, my driver informed me that I was very lucky because he was the most knowledgable drive in the fleet and he would tell me about the city if I so desired, which I did. (he also told me that as a young man finding himself in india, a guru had told him that it was his duty to share his great knowledge with the world.  I was a happy recipient).  He told me the history of the churches and the canals; bit about Anne Frank and Rembrandt; and about how Amsterdam was the birthplace of both freedom of speech and homosexuality.  I’m not sure how accurate his facts were but he was delightful.  Right up until he mentioned the reason Amsterdam wasn’t as great as it once was – Muslims.  The rest of the drive, he engaged in a sometime vaguely and often blatantly racist  diatribe about the influx of immigrants the country has seen.

But all was well when the taxi arrived and Nicola and Tiffany were waiting for me with coffee and croissant!  Sufficiently caffeinated, we wandered out in the rain past Dam Square (which makes me laugh, because I’m a child) the flower market to the theater to see Joe’s Violin, a film I’ve seen many times before, but never in Amersterdam!  The last of three, it drew tears and cheers and I was thrilled to have my dear, dear friends with me to see the European premiere.

(Side note, we have a bit of a deal that if I’m in europe they come to me and if they’re in the states I go to them.  There’s a birthday party in tennessee in the works, so looks like I’m headed south!)

A nap, a beer, and a city walk later we landed for dinner at a restaurant that had been suggested on my FB page, and Tiffany had done due diligence on and it was delish – the best tuna tartar anywhere for my money.  During dinner, I managed to persuade them to take me on a  walking tour of the Red Light District and mostly only got them to agree because they worried I’d do on my own if they didn’t.  It is, as expected uncomfortably seedy.  The women in the red lit windows looked healthy, which was a relief, but they were as often as not on iPhones and bored looking.  20 something male tourists peered at them laughing, but we never saw anyone actually go in.

As we walked back, I noticed many windows were open to the world, and had a great time peering into people’s homes.  I later learned that this is related to the RLD.  There, if a woman is occupied, she closes the curtains in her window.  The Calvinist philosophy suggests that if your curtains are closed you have something to hide.  I saw a naked man in a houseboat today, which I must say, I would have rather he’d hidden.

Back at our hotel we had a tasting of the local spirit, Jenever, a whiskey like concoction made from juniper berries.  1 year old jenever tastes a bit like gin, 5 was rather smokey, 10 was my favorite, 15 had the eau de underarm taste that I associate with scotch, and 20 was smooooooth.   I had a headache today.

This morning we dined in a charming cafe, complete with Hugo, a fat cat sprawled in a sunbeam then took the long way to the museum district to see Banksy and Warhol at the Museum of Contemporary Art (in a very very old building).  We briefly debated ice skating, but rejected the idea in favor of dim sum in a arty district known as Pijp, which we’re pronouncing peep.  Along the way Nicola explained to me the difference between a cafe (where one has a latte) and a coffee shop (where one smokes a whole lotta pot).  This was a very important piece of information.

Filled up we headed back by way of an art gallery and handbag store where purchases were made for a photo print of David Bowie and a handmade tulip shaped bag respectively. A couple beers later and it was time for my friends to leave me.

I spent the evening on a long walk through the narrow streets and eventually got on a wine and cheese canal cruise with many australians who each in his or her own way felt the need to tell me they were not comfortable with our new president and couldn’t believe we could be so stupid.

During the tour I learned that about 2000 bicycles are pulled out of the canal every year, and that if your car ends up in the canal, you should stay with it – the firemen will consider it a rescue mission if you are there too, but if you’re safe, then you must pay for the towing.  We learned that should you be interested in a woman in the RLD, it will set you back 50 euro for a half hour, of which after the rent and guards are covered the woman generally ends up with only 19, but that the average man is done in 6 minutes, so her rate becomes much better.  As we passed under the Skinny Bridge, we were told that if you kiss under the bridge your love will last forever, to which one of the Australians looked at her companion and said “don’t even think of kissing me!”

Tomorrow I shall check off the museums and do some more walking.  I won’t be hitting the coffee shops.

 

 

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