Spent the afternoon rambling around Amsterdam. We rode the tram through the city and hopped off on Koningsplein near Dam Square. It was HECTIC in the city! So hectic that we decided we had to fortify ourselves with some Vlaamse Frites! Belgian fries, for those uninformed. Delicious golden gems of potatoey goodness topped with mayo and sate sauce. DELISH!
Turns out the crowd would get worse because the fair was in town! It was set up in front of the Palace on Dam Square. Some things are the same the world over! Loud music, wild rides and lots of fried food. I managed to get Ton to ride their version of the ferris wheel. It was huge! And had great views of the city. After that, we wandered to the Begijnhof, which is a little oasis on calm in an overcrowded and hectic city. Originally, the Begijnhof housed catholic women who sought to do good works and practice their religion without actually becoming a Nun. Today, it remains housing for women, but also offers anyone who seeks it a place of solitude and contemplation in a quiet garden and a small chapel. (http://www.begijnhofamsterdam.nl/index_engels.html)
We moved on up the Damrak towards Beurs van Berlage. The Beurs van Berlage was built by Hendrik Petrus Berlage (1856-1934) for the Municipality of Amsterdam. Construction started in 1898 and was completed in 1903. It was Berlage’s first really large commission – and it would make him world famous. (http://en.beursvanberlage.nl/beursvanberlage/index.html). A beautiful building designed by Berlage (think Amsterdam School!! and you've got it!), who is a simply amazing architect. I hadn't had an opportunity to see the building up close and after seeing it, I'm not sure I took it all in. There is so much detail, so many things to absorb...gah. Pictures don't do it justice. Not mine or anyone else's.
But one can take only so much scholarly observation and religious contemplation before they are driven straight to The Walletjes, aka The Red Light District. This is always an odd experience. The women for the most part are beautiful, well-toned, and completely disinterested. What is most interesting is watching the men. Men who wander down these extremely narrow alleyways to see the women behind glass rarely stop to LOOK but rather march on, hardly daring to look at these women out of the corner of their eye. Ton looked down at his feet and soldiered on claiming the women behind the glass are intimidating and most men find them so. I just find it ODD. C'mon. It's just sex. *shrugs* You're window shopping for it just like you would in a bar. Except you're not buying them a drink first, you're just paying for it outright. Cutting out the middle man so to speak.
Past the red light district, we ambled back towards Centraal Station, past the Waag, and through China town. When we saw the famous Nam Kee sign, Ton had to stop for dinner. There was a wonderful little wizened Chinese man making dumplings at the front table. His economy of movement, his fast and practiced hands were fascinating. I wanted to take his picture, to film him, but I didn't dare ask. Somehow, his preparation felt a bit like ritual and interrupting it didn't seem right. Instead, I settled on Chinese Chicken Sate with green onions and Ton choose sweet and sour chicken. I could have had cuttle fish, or pork intestine, or crispy bowel (of what, the menu didn't say) but I played it safe. Bourdain would be so disappointed in me. Oh, or I could have picked my eel from the tank and let them cook it for me. Ugh. The food that arrived was worth the hype. It felt like home-cooking, not the standard Chinese-American fare we have come to know as Chinese. I want to add Chinese tea here is nothing like our heavy smokey tea in the states. It is jasmine tea and light as summer honeysuckle. I could drink it by the gallon.
The day was winding down and turning cold but we wandered down to the harbor, behind Centraal Station and took the Buiksloterweg ferry to Noord Holland to have a drink and take a few shots from across the harbor. I had a decent glass of bitter lemon at Cafe De Pont (http://www.cafedepont.nl/foto-s/) followed by a stroll through the marina. At the marina, we passed a series of bathrooms, all illuminated in a very weird blue light. Ton tells me they use that color because junkies who seek out private spaces like bathrooms, can't find their veins in that type of light. Interesting, no???
Then it was back on the ferry and onto another one! This one to Ijplein. By this time it was soooooooo cold and the wind was blowing we did nothing more than take a few snaps of a heron that asked to pose me. Being the kind American that I am, I didn't want to offend this native and obliged. Until the ferry returned to pick us up (8 whole minutes! Whew!) and then it was back to Centraal Station and the Number 5 tram to Amstelveen.
By the time we returned to Amstelveen THEIR fair was in full swing! If such a small fair can swing. I think they had three rides and a few mechanical arm toy-grabbing machines (what ARE they called??) I snapped a few photos and walked back home. To a warm pot of tea and a stroopwaffle. What more could a girl ask for?
I might not want to know the answer to that. Tomorrow if "family day". In the Amsterdamse Bos. Pannenkoeken anyone?
Tonight's bonus!! You get to see all my photos of the day!! You can find them on my flickr account..