European Vistas, Day 1

Amsterdam, Holland. It’s the second day of our tour. Today is the first day that I’ve had time to open my journal. We’re having breakfast in the hotel restaurant. We had a buffet today–hard boiled eggs, bacon, sausages, cereal, fruit salad, and an assortment of rolls, breads, cold cuts and cheese. I’m not normally much of a breakfast eater, but I’ve been trying to eat a good amount so that I won’t be hungry in a couple hours.

Last night we slept remarkably well due to sheer exhaustion. Yesterday morning we woke up at 4:45 AM in our London hotel room. By 6:30 AM, we were on our way to Dover, England to take the ferry to Calais, France. The southern part of England was very picturesque countryside, although Friday morning was gray and rainy. I can only imagine how beautiful it must be with a blue sky shining beyond the green sloping hills, dotted with wooly white sheep. I tried to stay awake to take it all in, but dozed off a few times. Our tour director’s name is Barry and he’s from Amsterdam. Marc (who is reading this as I write) pointed out that he just lives in Amsterdam, and that he sounds like he’s from England. Anyway, so far Barry has exceeded our expectations of what the tour guide would be like. His commentary has been incredibly insightful and he talks about the history in a way that makes you want to listen.

It took 1.5 hours to reach Dover. The ferries are nothing like the WA state ferries. These ships are huge, with three passenger decks and four car decks–maybe more? Marc seems to recall a total of nine decks. It took an hour and a half to cross the channel. Despite the blustery weather we went out on the deck and took a few pics with the white cliffs of Dover in the background.

The port of Dover.
Dawn & Marc and the white cliffs of Dover.
Marc, white cliffs of Dover.

After we got off the ferry, it took a long time to get to Amsterdam. We didn’t arrive in Amsterdam until 4-ish. Since Barry lives in Amsterdam, he told us that he had a special optional excursion planned for us that is different than the normal excursion, which is dinner in a floating Chinese restaurant..? Instead, he had arranged for us to take a canal cruise, followed by dinner in a small restaurant that serves traditional Netherlandish food. After dinner, Barry would lead us through the Red Light district. It sounded ideal. I was hoping we would at least get a glimpse of the Red Light district. I’m already aware of how much we won’t be able to see because we’re on a tour. Barry pointed out the Rijksmuseum on the tour bus. We obviously wouldn’t have time to see it, or the Van Gogh museum, or Anne Frank’s house.

And so at around 5 pm, the tour bus dropped us off canalside. Barry told us that Amsterdam has more miles of canal than Venice, and after our 1.5 hour cruise, I believed him. There were a lot of houseboats along the canal, some of them were quite adorable and had small “patios” with lots of plants and flowerboxes overflowing with geraniums.

 

Houseboat residences.
Pookie.
Cool building along the canal.
Pretty building along the canal.
Sunset on our canal cruise.

Amsterdam also has tons of bicycles–and they are the really cute, vintage bicycles! Barry told us no one has “modern” bicycles because they are the first ones to get pinched. It was interesting to see so many fashionably dressed people riding around on these vintage bikes. The women especially–they ride in skirts and high-heeled shoes! I didn’t see anyone wearing helmets or sweatpants.

Fashionable women riding their bikes.

After the cruise we went out to dinner. The restaurant had great ambiance–white tablecloths and candlelit tables. I guess you could say we sat at the “young people’s table.” Joe and Sue are a married couple, I’d guess around our age, from Michigan. There were also three sisters from Australia on the tour with their parents–I’d guess they were in their early twenties. And also a student from LA who looked like Josie Packard from Twin Peaks. For an appetizer, we were served raw tidbits of herring. Everyone just kinda looked at them, then at each other, then back at the herring. Finally I took a piece and ate it as everyone watched for my reaction. It wasn’t bad, I said, and after that a few more people tried it, including Marc. For dinner, we had a white fish with a creamy sauce, and a yummy, flaky dumpling with chicken gravy. For dessert, apparently a certain someone let Barry know that it was my birthday the day before. And so I was treated to a huge dessert plate with a sparkler, and everyone sang Happy Birthday.

Birthday dinner.

After dinner we set out for the Red Light District. Sue and Joe re-joined the group. They had left before dessert and said they were going out for coffee. I asked them if they’d had coffee and Sue looked at me sorta perplexed and said, “No…” It wouldn’t be until the next day that I would realize what they had really gone out to get at one of Amsterdam’s “coffee houses.” I knew that drugs were legal in Amsterdam, I just didn’t know that they were called coffee houses. What are the places that sell coffee called? Anyway–the stroll through the Red Light District was… interesting. Barry told us that if any of us took pictures that he didn’t know us, not that I would have anyway. But as we were walking, a tourist (not part of our group) took pictures of one of the girls who then proceeded to scream, “Turn off your bleeping camera, you bleeping bleep.” I thought someone would try and confiscate her camera but no one came out.

After that we walked back to the bus which took us to the hotel, about 15 minutes out of the city center. We were asleep by 11 PM. It was a very long day, and today we had to get up at 6:30 AM. This morning we are stopping in Amsterdam for a diamond cutting/polishing display (whoop-de-doo). Then we leave for Germany.

Go on the next part of the journey!

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