Monday, July 8, 2013

Day Whatever Amsterdam – In Which I am Sworn at AGAIN, We Ride Bikes, and Cheer for Andy Murray

I originally had some big plans for today, but the effect of all my big plans over the past couple of weeks had tired us out, and we needed a day of rest. I had planned to take a tour out to the countryside and take in the Big Three of Dutch culture, namely windmills, cheese, and clogs. But as it turns out, there are windmills in the city, and actually only a few people still wear clogs and I think I have a pair in the basement somewhere, and nothing could top my Wensleydale Cheese experience, so we stayed in Amsterdam and rented bikes instead. Or at least Zoe and Jacob and I did, while my mum took herself off to the Van Gogh museum.

It seemed to take forever to get the bikes sorted, and once we did, there was no instruction or hints. In fact, the rental dude only spoke Spanish so it was more of a series of grunts and gestures than a conversation. So we found ourselves out on the cobbled street, adjusting seats etc, while a bemused Dutch woman looked on, latte in one hand and a huge bloodhound at her side.

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Me (conversationally): Tourists on bikes – Hah! We better watch ourselves!

Gerda (not smiling): It’s such a problem.

Me: Well, it just requires some getting used to.

Gerda: I see the bikes are green now. They used to be red. Everyone knows it is a tourist if they are on a coloured bike. It’s like Hey Watch Out for the Tourist!

Me: Yeah well…

Gerda: Most tourists don’t even know what they’re doing.

Me: Well I don’t know if that’s 100% tr…

Gerda: It’s like “hey I’m a tourist and I’m going to stop on the corner and wave my map around”

Me: Umm well there isn’t really anywhere else to stop so…

Gerda: or “Hey I’m a tourist and I’m going really slowly to annoy the Dutch”

Me: So we should go really fast and not  know where we are going. That sounds like it might be annoying too.

Gerda: It is best if you figure it out before you go.

Me: Well I guess if you don’t know your way around a city…Ever been to another city before? And Rotterdam doesn’t count.
No? I didn’t think so. Why leave Amsterdam?

Gerda: And never get stoned and ride your bike.

Me: Yes of course. Thanks for the tips. Zoe, the nice lady says to put out your joint.

Gerda: And beginners should stay out of the parks as there are lots of dogs who could get hit.

Me: You’ve been ever so helpful and kind. Maybe you could just complete the picture by telling me to Fuck Off?

Well it didn’t really end like that but it was close. And happily someone else told me to Fuck Off not too long after that. Apparently, the Dutch don’t like anyone else in their city but them. Which is too bad as the city sees nearly 16 million tourists a year. I’m willing to bet that directly or indirectly contributes a fair amount of pocket money to many of the residents of the city.

But not to let Gerda’s Sermon get in the way of our nice day, we rode out of there and managed perfectly well, thanks very much, Gerda, riding our bikes all the way to the lovely Vondelpark where I didn’t see any dogs get hit by bikes but I did see two Dutch people ride into each other. So there.

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Then we rode across town and past this fabulous windmill

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and then on to the Skinny Bridge, as it is known here, over the Amstel River, where we stopped for lunch.

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Our waiter was very nice and lunch was delicious. We were sitting watching the action when a man with a set of dreads the size of a small beaver dam hanging off the side of his head rode up on his bike. We and the group of Dutch people beside us both casually watched as he rode up to the corner we were sitting at and turned down the street. I went to smile at him as we made eye contact when he suddenly flipped me the bird and told me to, you guessed it,


I guess he was upset that we were all staring at him. I wanted to shout after him, “well take that Beaver Dam off the side of your head and no one will even notice you”. If I had a small primate stuck to my head I’m sure a few people might notice me too. Seriously the dude looked like he had been out in the forest for too long. There was probably an entire colony of bees living in there. All the buzzing probably made him grumpy. Or maybe Angry Bike Guy had just swatted at him with his stick. Or Maybe Grumpy Bike Lady had told him to stay away from her bloodhound after it made a beeline for the dude’s head.

Anyway, Beaver Dam Guy certainly became a topic of conversation at the café and makes for a good story, even if he did piss me off a little.

After lunch it was time to return the bikes, and find my mum. We made it back to the hotel just as the Wimbledon Men's’ Final was starting, providing the perfect opportunity to crash in the lounge with a cold drink. We had been following all the matches while in England so it was very exciting for us to see Andy Murray win. A nest of flying ants added to the excitement by hatching right in the middle of the room we were sitting it, but they were very polite about it and kept to themselves, and so we left them alone.

We went for a walk after dinner and saw this excellent item in the window of a store that imports all things British.

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I certainly didn’t see this in England or you can rest assured I would have bought it. We carried on and ended up in the Vondelpark again. It’s so peaceful and lovely there, yet there are tons of things to do and it is full of little cafes and ice creams stands tucked away.  ’m pretty sure there’s no evil Friends of Vondelpark Society putting the reins on anything and everything fun here. Just sayin’.

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This poster adorns the garbage bins through the park. The sign says “Is this bin full? then use the next one!” What is that thing though? I’d be scared to go anywhere near it if I had any garbage. It’s like a cross between Big Bird and Pinocchio. Not Good.

This sign showing the location of a tree house in the park was much better as someone had decorated it perfectly with Christmas stickers.

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Exhausted by now, we went back to to our great hotel where, I should add, everyone is super friendly and helpful, and were asleep before we knew it.

Last morning in Amsterdam tomorrow then we head to Belgium for a couple days before coming home.

Thanks for reading, and for not telling me to fuck off…


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