We have just boarded a high speed train called the Thalys which is taking us to Paris via Brussels.
What can I say about our short visit to Amsterdam. We visited the Anne frank museum which was very interesting after having read the books and seen the movies. It was definitely worth a visit but I am very relieved that we purchased our tickets ahead of time so that we could go right in because the line up must have been at least 2 hours long.
Amsterdam is a small city, geographically speaking with a population of about 700,000. It is situated on the north sea and is divided by an intricate canal system which form half circles from the central train station and port. We took a short canal cruise (my choice) and were able to see some amazing architecture dating back 5 and six hundred years. The canals and bridges are quite a site but the fact that they seem to be used as a very handy garbage can really detracts...cans, bottles and rubbish can be seen floating along wherever you look!
We walked along the small streets for quite a while. Since our stay was short we were mainly in the touristy area around the famous red light district. Here you will find tourists....lots of tourists...."coffee houses" with the familiar sweet smell of cannabis wafting from the doorways, tourist shops with inflated prices for umbrellas with a cannabis leaf, t shirts, plastic knickknacks such as windmills, ashtrays....and other "typical" dutch items.
Since we were in Amsterdam and wished to take in the full cultural experience we strolled down the red light district. It was smaller than I expected with one after another red lighted windows with girls scantilly dressed in florescent bikinis trying to entice the passerbys. Most people strolling along seemed to be people such as ourselves out for a look- tour groups, couples - rather than serious customers. Some of the girls seemed quite young to me...one girl opened her door and I asked her how old she was...she replied, "twenty one," but when I said, "Do you have to say that?" she nodded. The girls do look healthy and clean ... Not your typical Emerald street hooker types!
Wanting ton take in the full cultural experience, Chris and I decided to attend a show. Surprisingly the line to attend was filled with couples, ranging from their twenties right up to their eighties, and tour groups. I really can't say I saw any leering men in trench coats. The show itself is advertised as "tasteful" and I suppose as far as sex shows go it was but since I've never been to any others I really am not an expert. The performance occurs on a stage with theaters type seating. There are a variety of acts with some audience participation. Some of it was light hearted and humourous but other parts, although I won't go in to detail, could make you squirm if you are not used to this kind of thing. It was an experience and I'm pretty sure Chris enjoyed this particular cultural experience.
The primary mode of transport in Amsterdam is by bicycle. There are literally bikes everywhere. Bikes line the roads, literally piled on top of one and other. Some look like sturdy vehicles in steady use but others look as if they have been in the same spot for months with rusted chains and broken parts. Carmelos, the owner of the B and B which we stayed at told as that abandoned bikes are regularly tagged and taken away but judging by the number we saw, I think someone is not fulfilling the duties of his job!
Amsterdam is definitely a breeze to walk around or see by bike or tram. There are hardly any cars and once you get a feel for the general layout of the city it is quite easy. There are plenty of places to stay in the city centre but it is relatively pricy. We stayed in a bed and breakfast with a comfortable, large room and shared bath. It had a very,very steep winding staircase which you pretty much had to crawl up and I would definitely not want to come down, after imbibing in a few drinks! The BB was a bit odd as there was no central living area or breakfast room. We were given coupons to eat at a greasy spoon down the road! The manager eras helpful however, and the room served it's purpose.
We are now well rested, enjoying a glass of vino as we travel towards Paris where we will have a bit of a break from this whirlwind pace as we will have three nights there!