Sunday, March 19, 2006

Amsterdam: Coolest. City. Ever.

Amstertram

I've been trying like crazy to get photos uploaded and to try and keep this space as current as I can regarding our vacation. At the same time, using a wireless connection can be spotty sometimes and I haven't had the energy to sit and wait for the photos to get uploaded. Hopefully, this post will wrap up a bunch of stuff that hasn't been finalized yet.

Obviously, you know that we're in Amsterdam after a brief (yet long-enough) tour of Paris, and it's pretty obvious that we're burnt on sightseeing (and walking without proper shoes). Once we were on the train to Amsterdam, I felt so much relief, nearly instantly actually. Paris was so much more appreciated once we were leaving.

We got to Amsterdam on Thursday evening and opted to grab a taxi to find our hotel. While it didn't actually work out as planned (the driver didn't really know his way and ended up dropping us off about a mile away even though he said it was close), we got to our B&B and immediately hit the streets to grab a nice dinner.

The restaurant we went to was upscale, more so than what we're used to, and the menu was in Dutch. I was kinda thinking, "uh oh, here we go again...Justin's going to get culture-shocked," but much to my surprise, our meal was excellent. In hindsight, I should not have ordered the vegetarian dish, but again, I don't really know Dutch and our waitress did her best to translate the menu before I took a leap. Everyone seemed friendly. The beer was cheap. Mark and Katie's meals were really good, and I got to share a little off of their's to fill me up. All in all, a completely and easily successful first night in Amsterdam.

Our digs

It helps to be staying at the nicest B&B in the world with the nicest, Dutch host you'll ever meet. When I first got here, I immediately realized that there's no way I'm going to overpublish the name of this place. It's going to remain my little secret, but let me just say, if you're planning a trip to Amsterdam and you're looking for a priced-appropriately, pamper fest with your own cappuccino machine in the room, send me an email and I'll tell you who to call.

Friday was finally a day where we could completely relax. We've got a decent idea of the all the sightseeing we want to do while we're here, and it's will keep us busy here about a tenth of the time. We chose Friday as a complete "nothing" day. However, we did have a small to-do list that had a couple key items on there: new shoes, souveniers, and cough drops (for Katie's semi sore throat).

Starting early on in Paris, my left achilles tendon started to actually hurt. I'm not sure why, maybe it was the insane amount of walking and stair-climbing that we were doing--in-and-out from the Metro and the museums--I think this was just the wrong pair of shoes. This is quite strange to me, though, because I brought the most broken-in pair of running shoes that I had. It seemed to make sense that broken-in running shoes were probably my best bet for walking to, fro, and between every sight we had picked out, but let me tell you, it was completely stupid to do that. Maybe I needed a new pair of shoes before I left, but I only assumed that would lead to more blisters.

Hence, the need for a new pair of shoes. We went to the shopping district near the Mint Tower, which might as well have been called the "shoe" district. I had millions of choices and settled on a great pair of Euro Adidas, but truth be told, they're only helping so much. You've seen the damage that I've inflicted on my ankle, and it's enough motivation for me to make sure I drop the "Blogger Fifteen" that I've gained over the past three months spent working on the Live Music Blog.

In a straight path from our digs to the shopping area, we were pleased to notice that there are many, many excellent restaurants in our area. We haven't had a bad meal here YET! I've never been so happy to be served hot, cheesy, spinachy lasanga with meat sauce with 1.50 euro Heinekens. It's beyond joyous for me, especially considering how sick of crepes we got in Paris.

Friday was a day of restaurant and city discovery, so it was only fitting that we saw the Van Gogh museum that night before dinner. It was much smaller than we had anticipated, but it still featured an amazing amount of Van Gogh's work and it was presented chronologically following his career as an artist. Starting with optimism and showing his first feature piece, "The Potato Eaters," all the way through his lamented, depressed, and debatable last work, "Wheat Field with Crows," the art and story was gripping and impressive to me. Van Gogh went nuts, with no specific mention of his affinity towards Absinthe (which we have in our room and I've yet to try) but more focusing on his self-deprecating nature towards the end of his life. He went nuts because he was a true artist, and he started to feel that his work was suffering because of his illness, a form of epilepsy not properly diagnosed in his day. He truly felt that he was a failure in the end, and he chose to end his own life prematurely.

Yet another reason never to doubt yourself and who you're supposed to be--you might just be the next Van Gogh and there's no one stopping you from that but yourself. Interesting, powerful stuff to me, and truly inspirational in its own right...

Saturday came and it was clear from the photos I took of my ankle that I had inflicted some deep, yellowish bruising around my tendons. Both of them hurt now. I iced them down all morning, took some ibuprofen, and we got walking to a nearby Mexican restaurant. On the way back and nearby our B&B, there is a year-round botanical garden. Per our host, it's actually one of the oldest in Europe, and it was beautiful in their three, warm greenhouses functioning as tropical forest, tropical rainforest, and desert greenhouse. Three distinct greenhouses with walkways, paths, trees, flowers, fauna, flora, everywhere! What a nice little zen area to relax and get out from the chilly, Amsterdam winter. A clear choice for an off-the-beaten-path sight that you'd want to see while in Amsterdam, I highly recommend it.

Crazy Leaf Head

From the top looking down

Last night, we got some good pizza for dinner and turned in. My "dogs" are hurting and we've got to get ready to see three nights of raging music--I've already overextended my achilles enough and tonight should only mean more. That's okay, though. Heineken brewery tour today (maybe) and music later. The Red Light District will probably be our last day, so I'm sure the really good photos won't be up until then.

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