August 8 & 9, 2017
Amsterdam: Bikes, Bikes everywhere. When I arrived, a gentleman told me that Amsterdam had 880,000 people AND 2 million bikes! That should tell the story of a city more mobile on 2 wheels than 4. But with that information, you should also know that the bikes rule and as a pedestrian, you better quickly master that fact and NOT meander into the bike lane next to the pedestrian lane unless you want to have to tell the story how you got run down by a bicycle!
The bikers who are locals are no worry. They definitely are experts and will confidently weave around you…It’s us nasty tourists who are the issue. We rent bikes and then jump in the lane without truly understanding that biking in Amsterdam is about real transport…not a Sunday afternoon ride. Bike at your own risk…(-:
Having said all of that, I decided my 2 feet were the perfect way to see this wonderful city. And wonderful it is. Wow, where to start…I know I know…so many know this city as the place where you can do things legally that are illegal in most places…And yes, the Red Light District has lots to offer other than that….but it seems that is what Amsterdam is famous for…and by the looks of most of the younger tourist set THAT is really all they are interested in…Yet, there is so much more to Amsterdam…It’s a city of lovely rivers and bridges….History and Art…Music & Nature …A city that appreciates good food and cherishes their time outdoors…It’s also very friendly and accommodating…The people are so very welcoming.
When I arrived at the airport, I found it very easy to navigate. I think it took me less than 40 minutes to get out and into a cab…I wanted to take the train but wasn’t sure what station to go to for my hotel and I was quite tired and loaded down with luggage…Even though I only really had 2 carry on style pieces of luggage, I have a bunch of stuff I am bringing for the people in Congo like school supplies, toys and toiletries. So into a cab I went. An easy and quick ride from the Airport…Expecting to leave my luggage at the hotel, I was pleasantly surprised that my room was ready…Once in the room, oh how that bed beaconed me after no sleep on Delta’s terrible flight over… but I know the drill…Stay up until after dinner…and hopefully that will deter the worst of jet lag sleep. For the first leg of my trip, I am using Amsterdam as my transit point to Kigali…Even with a day and a half of meandering around hoping to soften the jet lag, I am still a bit tired.
It was a bit of drizzly when I arrived but even that did not deter me from exploring. The city feels very compact and organized and has a great feel to it…. Amsterdam is very International, full of people from every area of the globe. I chose a more local neighborhood to stay in to get a better feel for Amsterdam the city as opposed to Amsterdam the Tourist mecc…My lovely little hotel is about a 20-30 minute walk to the center of town. The hotel is actually a restaurant with 14 rooms above it…and lucky for me they put me on the 3rd floor which allows me to continue some stair training…and these little stairs are quite steep! The Hotel is in a vibrant and multicultural area….peppered with restaurants and shops representing all around the world…. In the evenings, all the young workers seem to crowd in the various cafes and restaurants to enjoy the lovely summer weather.
After putting my bags in the room, I blindly wandered toward Anne Frank’s House only to discover I needed to purchase tickets online…No worries, I will plan that upon my return…August seems to be THE season for Amsterdam’s busiest time…and anyone who knows me, knows I do NOT like to travel at peak tourist times or with Lots of tourists…period…So I quickly made my way down little lanes that seemed relatively quiet…still speckled with people but less frenetic….Also most know that I am not much for maps since I struggle with being directionally challenged and find getting lost to be much of the fun of solo traveling. Although, I am happy to stop and ask for directions…which also allows me to meet people…and all those who I have met have been delightful…and fun.
The waterways of Amsterdam are so calming…they seem to settle the hustling and bustling city a bit…as do the various wonderful green spaces like Vondel Park. I know it’s the main park that is quite well known but I felt like I found this wonderful space all on my own as I was walking to the Museum district. Getting lost will do that…seeing things unexpectedly feels like real discovery… There is this really interesting sculpture in the park and someone graced it with some flowers in her arms…She caught my eye and demanded I stop to greet her.… On this day, my 2nd here, the weather was sunny and I decided that I would rather take advantage of the sun than spend time inside a museum…So Museums are yet another thing to add to my return. The park was a nice respite…It was fun walking through and watching the various locals and tourists enjoy a little nature amongst the bustle of the city.
I wandered a bit and then headed toward the Flower Market. Back on the street, the whirling of bikes quickly reminded me to stay in my pedestrian lane. Once at the Market, I was in heaven looking at all the Vegetable Seeds…Yep, I did a bit seed packet purchasing because it’s hard to find good organic Vegetable seeds through US Seed Companies. I double checked to be sure I could bring them in and was told they are OK and sealed…Yay! I wandered on Nieuwe Spiegelsteaat and ducked into several wonderful Art galleries.
After meandering the market and playing with the mechanical butterflies and humming birds, I needed to find myself a nice bathroom…my pea sized bladder was calling…Lucky me I saw a McDonalds…always good for a pit stop…BUT to my surprise Mickey D’s charges to use the loo…So off I went to find a nice café to eat at and… On the way I passed the Allard Pierson Archeology Museum. It peaked my interest…and my bladder was screaming so in I went…I would much rather pay 10 Euro to use the bathroom in a wonderful Museum that is run by the University AND I can in turn learn something than give 1 euro to a conglomerate who gets plenty of my money when I feed my addiction to Egg McMuffins on my bike rides at home! (-:
The Museum was wonderful and small…no crowds like the National Museum of the Van Goch. The Allard Pierson Museum is under construction right now but the Egyptian, Roman and Greek wings are open and are really interesting. Amsterdam seems to teem with Museums from this to History, Art and Music…Even a Cheese Museum…I would guess you could find lots to do on a rainy day…But today I was enjoying the sun…so I wandered into the Center of the City and then over to the Jordaan District, which is the oldest section of Amsterdam and just walked and walked…The streets are charming and easy to navigate.
As much as I am a planner in my life, when I travel alone I like to not have anything planned, other than place to travel and hotel…This way I just let the trip unfold…It usually offers the best surprises. One such surprise was while wondering around aimlessly in the Jordaan, I saw this sign on the front of an Artists Studio that said: “This is The Place. There’s No Other Place Like this Place Anywhere near This Place. So This Must Be THE Place” Well with a sign like that how could I not go in. As I looked around the room, I saw a photo of that Statue in the park that had called to me…The Artist said he was the Sculptor of that. I praised his work and we began to talk…His name is Nelson Carrilho and he is from the Caribbean and has lived in Amsterdam since 1965. He told me how Jordaan used to be a wonderful place for artists and how they helped revitalize the area…Then people moved in and rents grew…AND we all know this story…Such a familiar saga happening all over…A story that disperses the very Artists that made the area so popular…He said it saddens him that the city doesn’t seem to see the value in keeping an Artists colony…one in which tourists can come and not only see good Art but also watch the Art as it’s created …We talked for quite a bit and it left me sad that this part of Amsterdam is disappearing…SO, If you find yourselves in Amsterdam and want to have a unique experience then wander over to Nelson Carrilho’s studio at Tuinstraat 142…Because as the sign on his studio says “There’s no place like this place”…And I think that also fits Amsterdam itself.