This blog is now retired. My new site is at: Predictably Irrational.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Amsterdam Day Three

Today we decided to venture back into the city to see Anne Frank's hiding place. Afterwards, we had planned to separate, so that I could take the girls shopping and Tim could check out the Red Light District.

First, we decided to try a local bakery for breakfast. We all had some sort of sweet pastry, which was divine. I had a good strong coffee with mine. Another thing that is “small” here – coffee. Espresso mugs filled with wonderfully strong coffee. There are no vendis and grandes in these parts. One size fits all and it works perfectly.

The cool thing about this bakery, other than it was FILLED TO THE TEE with breads, pastries, donuts, etc. was that it also had kitty cats all about. The hostess kept tripping over her cat behind the counter as she helped us and merely laughed about it. When we sat down to eat, there was another cat lying cozily on the radiator, right next to where Mi-Mi was eating.

We find that pets are very much family here. I have seen several dogs run alongside their owners and their bikes, or the little ones are tucked away in a basket. And they all seem to be able to go anywhere: grocery shopping, the trams, throughout the city, restaurants, etc. I love it.

After the bakery, we walked over to a center called “Loods 6” and perused a shop called “Sissy Boy”. Well, you'd have to be a sissy boy to afford the items in here! It was a little reminiscent of a Pottery Barn, but with clothing. Pants were around 100 euros, which is about, I don't know how much, but since the dollar sucks, it would be well over $100 dollars...I think I heard 1.5 times, so around $150. Furniture and plates were all high dollar as well. A beautiful store to LOOK at, but certainly, out of my budget.

Tim went back to the boat after just a few minutes hanging out with us at Sissy Boy. The girls and I strolled further down Loods 6 and found several shops that were closed. Apparently, Mondays are the equivalent of Sundays in the U.S. -- everything is closed!

We saw one shop that was well lit and try as we might, we could not figure out how to get in. We just assumed it too was closed...

So we strolled through the neighborhood and passed through a 'play area' with basketball, 'soccer' areas and a playground. All this situated on concrete. But there's a great view of the water.

We made it back to the boat to ready ourselves for our jaunt back into the city. We were able to take the nearby tram all the way to the area where Anne Frank's hideout would be. Usually, we have to get off, take another tram, then get on/off at Central Station. Thankfully, this tram was a one-way trip. Oh, this is a great shot of a billboard at the tram station we use (the #10), and it appears in many of the other tram stations throughout - the girls giggle everytime we see it:

We actually wanted to eat first, before heading to Anne Frank's house. It was lunch time around the time we made it into the city. As easy as one would think it would be to find a place to eat, it wasn't. Did I mention that Mondays here are like Sundays in the U.S.? Many places were closed. But we did stumble onto one eatery, which again, was heavenly. Here's it's daily menu: I started off with the house red wine and while Tim and CJ each had a coke, Mi-Mi opted for chocolate milk, which came out in a nice tall soda-fountain type glass, with a mound of fresh whipped cream. I had to give it a was divine.

We can't really decipher the menu as most places NOT on the regular tourist path are not in English (and why would they be? We are not in the U.S.). We do our best to recognize some parts and order what would be our best guess.

My picky eater CJ ordered the hamburger, or as it was advertised, “Smart Burger” as it was made with bio-beef (whatever that means).

Tim ordered the Club sandwich and we had an order of “Tosti”. I can't remember if I had anything else, but it was all so, so good.

After lunch, we made it to Anne Frank's hideout. No pictures are allowed, so I don't have any to share. I could get this statue of her right before heading over to the hideout:

It was a bit sobering but a very interesting tour that I'm quite glad we did. It wasn't very crowded, which was great news. Apparently, the queues to get in and can get really long but I think we came at a better time...even though it is an Easter holiday for some folks out here.

It was about 4:30 PM when we got done with the hideout. Tim was directing me to where I wanted to shop, which was called “Nine Streets” and he headed off to the Red Light District. First, I had to feed CJ, who would not eat the scrumptious bio-burger because there was something “red” in it. My girl had not eaten a thing all day, except the pastry from the bakery earlier that day.

We hit a pizza place where she had a cheese pizza. Mi-Mi had ice cream and I had a glass of wine. Nearby, there was a cat being cozy at the table:

The pizza looked divine: a very thin, fresh looking crust, with fresh looking tomato sauce and covered with mozzarella. When the pizza is brought to the table, it's uncut, which seemed unusual. She ate nearly half the pizza, she was so famished. I was really sad that I was still full from our lunch because I really wanted to try the pizza.

So we started our shopping trip and walked down one of the busier streets. I wanted to hit the paths along the canal, because according to my map, that was where all the quirky shops would be.

So we walked a bit and I started getting frustrated because I wasn't seeing as many shops as I thought there would be. We finally came across a really quaint soap shop and decided to look through there. I found out that all the soaps in the shop were made by its owner and they were all so beautiful. I picked up a few for some friends, as did CJ.

We found a few more shops and when we entered the toy shop, the owner was closing it up and explaining to another patron that she closes at 5:30, but would stay open longer for her. It was now 5:50 PM. This was not a good sign, as most of these little shops would probably close around 5:30 too.

Even though we found some shops, it wasn't nearly the number outlined in our little tour book. And what we did see were now closed. Tim had mentioned an indoor shopping area that he had seen in the book (before we separated) so I looked it up and found that it closed at 7PM. We could get a good hour to look through there – and according to my map – we were only a few blocks away.

So off we go. The maps in our tour books are not very detailed, so some of the streets do not show up on the map. I found one intersection that we were on and assumed that I had my orientation correct and we walked on. Instead, I started seeing street signs that I could not find on my map. Again, I decided that it must be because these streets were just not being named on the map so I kept going, thinking that the next street down would provide me a name of a street that would BE on the map.

CJ finally said, maybe we should just walk around and not try to find the mall. This made me feel so much better, as I was concentrating on the map rather than our surroundings. So we dropped the map and started touring.

We found one brightly colored store, I think it was called Blokker, that looked like a fun store to shop in. All the lights were on but we could not find a door. We walked around this thing a good few times and no luck, no door. The only thing we could figure out was that the garage door was it's door, and since it was closed shut, this indicated that the brightly lit store must be closed.

We walked around more and laughed about the fact that we were LIA – Lost in Amsterdam. We weren't panicked because I knew I could always get a taxi. In my mind, I am still waiting for that recognizable street name to get me back oriented to where I needed to go.

Finally, Tim and I exchange text messages. He's headed to Centraal Station and I tell him we're happily lost and we'll be there when we can.

After crossing over several tram tracks, I find that we are nowhere near a Tram station. I see a sign that indicates where to go for a tram and we follow it. I have no clue where we are in Amsterdam, but it's obvious that we found the non-tourist district. It seemed to be a Turkish area, where we had a few glances from the locals of being out of place. We finally reached the tram station and I approached two men waiting for one and asked if this would get me to Centraal Station. They both said I was on the wrong side and had to cross (my first indication that I was way off on my orientation) and to get on the #17.

So we cross and the #17 arrives and we get on. I see on the tram's location board that Centraal Station is nowhere on it, which means we were way, way, way off. I believe we were about eight stops away from Centraal Station, which means, if I had been going the way I thought we were going, I should have only been three stops away.

As we move closer to Centraal Station, I see all the streets that I was looking for...and the indoor shopping center I was also looking for? We passed that too. Oh well. At least we had a nice walking tour of the city.

We meet up with Tim at Centraal Station and head back to the area where our boat is. We stopped at the grocery store to pick up some food to fix for dinner.

Again, no super-sized shopping carts. People buy stuff for one to two days, hence, no need for the big refrigerator. Everything appears fresh – bread, fruits, meats, eggs, etc. Bags cost money, so most folks have their own shopping bags. We paid 15 cents (whatever the equivalent is in euro) for ours... I thought: if we could do this in the U.S., make people pay for their shopping bags, we would have less trash and promote reuse. But of course, someone there would protest something about their rights being violated...

It's around this time – the route between the grocery store and our houseboat – that the girls get giddy and silly. We have no idea what happens, but this section makes them laugh at everything and Mi-Mi gets in her silly mode. It's funny for a few minutes then it's like, alright already. But because Tim and I are in vacation mode, we seem to have more patience and tolerate the giddiness.

Back at the ranch, we enjoy another glass (or two) of wine. Tim and I have a toast out on the deck of the boat, as the weather was 'warm' enough to sit outside and enjoy the view. “Warm” it wasn't – you could still see our breath as we talked, but because we've been acclimated to the weather, we knew it was the warmest it could get and we took advantage of it.

Dinner was pasta with pesto, cheese and bread. Divine.

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