s a n d y f e e t . e x p o . e u r o p a . 9 8

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two nights in Amsterdam

We pulled into Amsterdam with the same plan we had for Paris - find a cheap room, a parking spot for Hermit and all the fun we could have with limited budget and time.

We drove to the center of town by the canals, parked Hermit and went in search of the best hotel deal around. We landed in the Hotel Van Haalan (a good band a couple of frontmen ago.) It was a tiny room four stories up, not ensuite but with a lovely view of he canal below and an even better location - just footsteps away from everything we wanted to see. An unexpected benefit - an in-room phone with a line I could connect to the net with -- what a luxury! It was fairly late by the time we got everything squared away, so I grabbed a quick shower (hadn't managed to find one in Paris) and hit the sack.

feet in amsterdam
our hotel

A quick study of a local map the next morning helped us to discover that we were located very close indeed to the city's Van Gogh (pronounced Van Hogcckkkhhh) van gogh ticketmuseum. No cameras allowed, but we got a very good fix of the impressionist paintings we had been denied at the Louvre. We splurged and paid extra for the audio tour gizmo and walked head to head through the whole museum.

Afterwards, we stopped at a restaurant for (what else?) Italian and wine. I picked up a few souvies, including some tulip bulbs for my garden. I have no idea if the things will actually grow on SPI but I figured it was worth a try, anyway.

After a short rest and another shower, it was time to sample the nightlife of Amsterdam. We of course had to check out the coffee houses for which the city is so famous (anyone who knows me well will not find this surprising) and found one in record time. (Hint, the sign stating that no one under 18 is allowed is a great tip off.)

the coffee shopDon't know if all the coffee houses are like the one we found, but this one was definitely a throwback to the legendary hippy era in the states. Designed to feel more like a crash pad then a traditional coffee shop, the main area was characterized by pillows, low tables and candles eveywhere. Heiroglyphs, mandelas and weird Indian-flavored artwork festooned the walls.The music was varied yet hypnotic and at a low enough volume so as to encourage chat. I wanted desperately to take some photos but there are some situations where pulling out a camera just isn't appropriate and this very much felt like one of them.

the view

view of the canal from our window

our room

Russell Relaxing

It took me one whole capuccino to work up the nerve to approach the corner booth and look at the menu of offerings. For the record, the prices are reasonable and the quality very high. It really felt strange to be so open about something one has to work so hard to hide at home, and I really couldn't help thinking home would be a better place if it could adopt some of the same attitudes. What I saw there: lots of young people (I was very likely the oldest person in the room) in various stages of repose with blissed-out expressions talking quietly among themselves.souvenir skins Some were imbibing as well, but I would guess that a majority were drinking coffee, juice or mineral water. There were no unhappy customers, no raised voices, no braggadocio. We stayed for several hours and watched the tide ebb and flow. Some of the characters the place attracted might be considered unsavory by SPI standards, but I felt completely safe and secure there.

We exited the coffee house at about 9 pm and immediately homed in on the local Ben & Jerry's. Strolled around a bit more (okay, I will admit that the rest of the night is a bit fuzzy) and crashed soon after in anticipation of our obscenely early ferry departure from Hoek van Holland.

next: London!

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