leave your inhibitions at the door
So it was off to Amsterdam after our all too brief stay in Reims. The original plan was to stop and check out Bruges or Brussels as we haven’t been to either and they were on the way. But there was a problem. A week before our trip those assholes blew up bombs in Brussels and one of them had the audacity to still be breathing and on the loose.
I was looking forward to hanging out with Belgians. They have my favorite style of beer in the world and seem like a fun bunch of people. At least that’s the conclusion I came to when I saw how they don’t mind their nudie mags right next to kids’ coloring books.
Not pictured was the movie rack. You can only imagine what was mixed in with the “Thomas the Tank Engine” DVDs.
We got to Amsterdam somewhat late at night and, after a quick dinner, went back to the rental. It didn’t take long before Boom Boom and I realized that we had way too many coffees on the road to go to bed. In the four previous days in Paris we didn’t have much time alone so we decided to head out for a drink. Around the corner was one of the city’s Brown Cafés.
OK, I know what you’re thinking. So let’s just poach this elephant in the room right now…. I was with family, so there’s no way I was going to get baked on the trip at one of Amsterdam’s many cafes that serve marijuana. Like this one –
I swear, I didn’t inhale. But Space Cakes were fair game. I kid. I KID.
And another thing this post won’t cover – The Red Light District. With kids in tow, we weren’t going to check out the live sex shows, dildo shops, and its other non-family-friendly offerings.
We did a quick walk-through before lunch one day and saw a few of the scantily-clad prostitutes standing in the windows. It was just seedy enough for us to conclude that going there at night wouldn’t be that fun.
Anyway, back to the Brown Cafés…
It’s really just your basic old school pub. It gets the name from the light brown walls and ceilings, a color due to decades (sometimes centuries) of cigarette smoke. The one we went to was a modest 140 years old.
It was there where we were introduced to Genever, the Dutch national drink.
According to Wikipedia, it’s a juniper-flavored liquor that’s the predecessor of gin. It’s really hard to explain – it smelled a little like gin but the flavor was kinda sorta vodka-ish, maybe even some tequila notes. The bartender said the traditional way it’s served is to fill the glass the brim, put your hands behind your back, bend over and take a sip before picking it up. I thought for sure it was a “ha ha, let’s see what we can get this tourist to do’ move, but apparently that’s really how they do it.
I love Amsterdam as much as I do Paris, but for very different reasons. You can spend days on end in Paris and not see visit all the great museums and other historical must-sees. All while stuffing yourself at the world’s finest restaurants, street vendors with crepes, and everything in between.
Amsterdam, on the other hand, doesn’t have as many museums or important historical sites. The Rijksmuseum is pretty good…
And the Anne Frank House was one of the most powerful and emotionally-charged experiences I ever had.
But beyond that, not much else….
And no one – not even natives – will rave about traditional Dutch food. The only traditional Dutch food I had the whole time we were there was some Gouda…
And a sandwich from one of the many herring stands.
I like fish. I like pickles. I like sandwiches. But this was all kinds of fucking awful.
What Amsterdam does have are beautiful buildings and canals that are perfect for wandering and exploring
.But what we loved most of all were the people. In addition to being freakishly tall, they were also freakishly friendly. Everyone we encountered – in restaurants, shops, on the street – was warm and genuine. The stereotype of French people being rude to you if don’t speak the language isn’t completely true. Yes, there are many who were, but more often than not it was just a cold indifference. I get that, though. If you couldn’t be bothered with learning the language, then why should they really care about you? And Americans should be the last people to complain about the French. Imagine what would happen if someone came up to some redneck in the Deep South, started speaking a foreign language and expected the redneck to be nice? That assumes, of course, that the redneck didn’t immediately open fire.
The folks in Amsterdam, however, make it a moot point. Not only do most of them speak English, they LOVE the opportunity to speak it. And always with a big smile.
Have you been to Amsterdam? Did you inhale?