The Planet Amsterdam


Second to last in a series!

September 3 — It felt like we had landed on another planet when the taxi dropped us at our hotel. Maybe it was the Tesla.

We had less than 24 hours in Amsterdam, plenty of time to get into trouble (although we didn’t). At times we felt like we were the only people who weren’t downing shots every time a tourist boat cleared the bridge, or partying on the canal, or celebrating a bridesmaid’s or groom’s last blast of freedom. But, man, it was a hoot to watch.

We stayed at the Ambessade Hotel on the Herengracht canal, which we later learned had always been a prestigious address where wealthy merchants built homes. Although the city was built in the 13th century, the oldest residential home in the city is located along this street, at number 81. As in many European cities, houses used to be constructed of wood frame; most houses prior to 1600 went up in flames. Number 81 dates to 1590.

Our first mission was to find lunch. We stumbled upon Brix, at 16 Wolvenstraat, on a nearby side street, and shared a delicious ham and cheese sandwich, salad, and of course, beer. The beer packaging was innovative; the brew light and refreshing. Todd drank “Slomo” while I drank “White Bastard.” (The food was so good we went back for breakfast.)

The restaurant had a temporary art show that captured its vibe: large photos by Amsterdam based Sander Dekker. “He works with unpolished male and female models, which he selects on distinct facial or raw features portraying them as they are in reality. Not being perfect, nor trying to be, yet they are extraordinarily intriguing and pleasant to look at.” His work is “defined by humor, positive energy, and infinite freedom.”

Given our limited time, we took one of the many canal tours along the Amstel River, which wound through the old town to the main port, past the impressive boat-shaped science museum and the maritime museum. I couldn’t help but think about the effects of global warning here. We were five feet below sea level in most of the city, with quays that seemed only a few feet above the waterline. How will this historic place, with its fretwork of canals, survive?

They really know how to put the Rembrandt in Rembrandt Square

They really know how to put the Rembrandt in Rembrandt Square

Saturday night and the joint was jumping. At 7:15 we walked down the canal street to Rembrandt Square where we gorged at Indrapura on rijstaffel, which translates to “rice table,” the Indonesian cookery that features dozens of small plates. We picked the middle-of-the-road menu (for 35 Euros per person) that included: crab/shrimp cakes with a sweet dipping sauce, marinated vegetables, gado gado (snow peas and carrots in peanut sauce), chicken thighs in a soya sauce, beef braised in soya and cloves, very spicy beef in coconut sauce (which wasn’t that spicy), beef satay, chicken satay, fried prawns in garlic and spices, spiced peanuts, and two kinds of rice. I’m not even listing it all.

Todd's face pretty much says it

Todd’s face pretty much says it

Back at the hotel, we closed the windows against the revelers and slept well. And then we were off to the airport at 10:00 a.m.. Ready to leave and yet not. Isn’t that how all trips should end?


Next (and last): An Integrated Theory of Travel

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