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Day 18
We slept like rocks. This is our last full day in Amsterdam and Europe, always the saddest one for us. It is cool and slightly overcast.
Another excellent breakfast at the hotel of soft-boiled eggs, 12-grain bread, several types of cheeses, hams, salamis, cereal, juices, waffles, coffee and tea. Our hotel is very clean and is in terrific location near Leidseplain Centrum. The staff has been very friendly, gracious and helpful. Our fourth floor room (there is an elevator,) although small, is ample and quite comfortable. Our window overlooks the popular Vondelpark. It is obvious from our vantage point that bicycles and canal boats are everyday ways of life here. It seems like everyone owns a bike and the canals are lined with vessels of all sizes. There is activity in the park all night long although for the most part we were oblivious to it.
The breakfasts at each of our three hotels have all been unique and delicious. Although soft boiled eggs are available at the Owl, I have not had any eggs since London. One of the most fascinating aspects of travel, at least from our perspective, is the different foods and flavors that are available to be sampled. To travel and not to taste the local cuisine is like sleeping without dreaming…
Amsterdam is somewhat dirtier and there is more flotsam and jetsam (read "garbage") in the canals than we remember, but is has lost none of its charm or quaintness. One sees more Americana now - near our hotel is a Marriott, a Hard Rock Café, McDonalds and Burger Kings, but one must look past all that and find the real pulse and spirit, which is pervasive, ancient and seemingly eternal.
The Pervasive American Presence
After breakfast we visited the room before venturing out, and I turned on the TV. Carol was immediately in heaven - the Dutch equivalent of HGTV was on, and it was interesting to watch the techniques of laying floors, cleaning the unique Dutch windows and building a bench, all in Dutch.
We had heard about the Amsterdam Museum of Torture, which after all is a part of European history, so we jumped on a #20 tram to where we thought it was located (we thought it was near the Anne Frank House.) Imagine our surprise when we walked several blocks and found it just a few blocks from our hotel. So we toured the museum, which was small, dark, gruesome and gory - not for the faint of heart.
Then we walked around the corner to the Bloemenmarkt on the Singel canal, where stall after stall of gorgeous multi-colored cut flowers are on display along with knickknacks and souvenirs of all kinds. We shopped for about an hour and then strolled back in the direction of Liedseplain. I bought a delicious Montecristo #2 at a cigar shop specializing in Havana brands and Carol bought a tin can of Droste cocoa for her Mom. We soon found ourselves back in Leidseplein square where we spent some time resting and sipping on white beer, enjoying the cool breeze, the savory Montecristo and some fabulous people watching on a delightful Saturday afternoon.
Wooden tulips at the Bloemenmarkt
Frogs at the Bloemenmarkt
We have seen more tourists from England and Australia than any other country including the U.S. on this trip. I have just insulted a group of five young travelers sitting nearby by telling them that I had thought from their accents that they were English. Carol thought they were Australian, and they were. She has an uncanny ability to hear a dialect and know quickly what country it is from… One of the fellows responded with "That's OK, mate. We thought you were Canadians…" "Touche," I replied, and we all laughed. We saw the birdman of Amsterdam as we sat at the café taking it all in…
The Birdman of Amsterdam
Coming from Tucson, where Mexico is an hour away and Mexican food is so abundant, it is ironic to be sitting in a café in Amsterdam where everyone is ordering guacamole, salsa, chips and Corona beer. It is a novelty to people…
There is very little car/truck/bus traffic. Most of the street traffic is comprised of bicycles and trams, in that order. As in Paris and London, we have seen dogs everywhere, even on the trams. The only places we have seen where dogs are prohibited are museums.
A true watchdog...
photo © 1996 the archive of light all rights reserved
Around the corner from the Leidseplein we stumbled onto the Looier Kunst en Antiekcentrum, the Looier Antiques Center, with dozens of shops selling everything from ancient musical instruments to ancient ship's sextants. Tremendous window-shopping… On the way there, we passed a curious park spotted with iguanas.
What are iguanas doing in Amsterdam?
We later noticed the iguanas pausing to study a new, modern, plastic, public urinal...
Lizards studying a new urinal...
I was not ready to test the new open-air urinal, so I visited an old-fahioned "closed" one...
We have seen, all around Amsterdam, diamond sellers. The most popular names are Coster and Gassan. Diamond cutting was first established in Amsterdam in the 1500s, and Amsterdam is still one of the major diamond centers.
Walked back towards Leidseplein for lunch and found the Mykonos café and had the Greek tourist menu for 21.50 Guilders (about $10 each) consisting of bean soup, garlic bread, grilled chicken, salad and rice. Excellent and more than enough food. Mykonos is located on a narrow street lined with Indian, Brazilian, Dutch, Thai, Uruguayan, Italian, Chinese, Mexican, Indonesian, Caribbean, and Argentinian restaurants. Something for everyone. Most, if not all, have "tourist menus" in the range of 20 Guilders ($10.)
Since we arrived in Amsterdam we have decided to forego our afternoon siestas, as time is running out, and it is not quite as warm here as it had been in London and Paris. So we took the tram to a busy shopping street southeast of the Centraal Station, where we bought more souvenirs, then walked back to Leidseplein where we took a 90 minute romantic canal boat ride, worth every Guilder of the 20 ($10) that it cost each.
On the canal boat ride
On the boat we met Grace Davis, John, Bill and Bills beautiful lady Elba. John and Bill are brothers from Jamaica, now U.S. citizens. Grace is a cousin, lives in an apartment in Amsterdam and works for the United Nations. Elba and Bill are in love. John has been in the U.S. Army for six years and is stationed in Germany near Frankfort. Bill is a talented musician. John shared with me his philosophy about the planet's last great empire: the American Empire. Grace told us that a tiny apartment in one of the canal houses, because of the "ex-pat" market, would rent for as much as $6000.00 U.S. per month!!! They were all wonderful people with great senses of humor and intelligence and senses of the world around us. We enjoyed the little time we spent with them, and had a lot of laughs. If they hadn't told me to duck (a low bridge was coming fast) when I took their picture, I would have been knocked into next week. I thanked them very much for the kind warning. All in all, the ninety-minute boat ride, which circled Amsterdam, was wonderful.
John, Elba, Bill and Grace
Grace and Bill (Bill trying to stay dry...)
We said goodbye to our new friends, thanked the captain, debarked and walked two blocks north to bustling Leidseplein square and walked among the restaurants of so many different nationalities until Do Brasil caught our eye. I had all-you-can-eat spareribs and salad and Carol had grilled steak with fresh mushroom sauce. Our Last Supper during this chapter of our Magnificent Journey. Dinner was actually so-so, but this Magnificent Journey could not have been any better…
Walked around the corner to Reynder's Irish Pub and has several pints of Guinness as we watched the spectacle before us - thousands of people milling about or like, us, sitting at cafes enjoying the din and clamor, street performers juggling and eating fire. Carol had Irish coffee, and we laughed at all of the Mexican Corona beer we saw - but then we realized that it is as much of a novelty to them as Guinness and Fish and Chips is to us. We sat and watched the parade of humanity. Soon a young fellow came by and sat down next to us - Chris Jett from Silicone Valley, also in the IT field like myself, and visiting a friend who lives in Amsterdam. We spent a very pleasant, enjoyable hour and a half visiting with Chris and taking in the never-ending amusement around us.
Chris, Carol and David
At one point a guy took off most of his clothes (he was discretely covered) and proceeded to put on a rope climbing/trapeze type of show. Then moments later, and inebriated pub patron took most of HIS clothes off and started a parade that wound through Leidseplein square then back to his table. Never a dull moment… A Dutch or German foursome also came and sat at our table but spent most of their time attempting to learn how to use a new cell phone.
The Naked Guy
The Naked Guy
A Naked Guy Wannabe
We had thoroughly exhausted ourselves again, but hey, this was our last day/night for this chapter of our Magnificent Journey, so at 11 PM (it is still light, like twilight) we said goodbye to our new friend Chris, wished him a safe and fun journey, then walked four blocks back to the Owl Hotel, where for the last time, we crawled into a European bed…

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