I managed to do some Tai Chi in the confines of the hotel bedroom when I woke up.
Hub was still asleep so I did my version of a silent disco – earphones in and Tai Chi music playing on my Blackberry – I can hear it but no one else can.
The Pore Ole Leg was still complaining after having to sit still during the canal cruise the night before, but gentle exercise frees it up a bit and Hub wanted me to see the big square that he had discovered in his ramblings.
When we were talking about going to Amsterdam, we received two stock pieces of advice; ‘you must go to the red light district‘ and ‘you must try one of those cafes – you know – the ones that sell (hushed voice) drugs‘.
You can’t walk around Old Amsterdam without smelling the whiff of cannabis in the air. The seed cafes are prolific and if we had wanted to – we could have – but Hub didn’t want to and despite reassurance from several sources that a bit of cannabis might do the POL the world of good, my liver was already working overtime trying to cope with my legitimate drug regime – so we sniffed (and occasionally inhaled) but we did not partake.
When we were checking in on the first night, our receptionist gave us a map and circled the places of interest.
One of these was the red light district.
She advised us to go in the daytime and not to take pictures because many of the girls sitting – or standing – behind the plate glass, were students earning money to supplement their grants, and their parents were not aware of what they were doing.
Another receptionist said that many of the girls were Eastern Europeans, lured by the promise of legitimate jobs, who found themselves penniless, with no jobs and nowhere to go. A hard choice – not really a choice at all.
We decided therefore to walk/limp to the big square and into the red light district (and out again).
It was very hot and I didn’t bring a hat.
By the time we got to our destination – now known as Dam Platz – I was melting.
I fully understood what Hub meant by it being the best place to people watch however.
Surrounded by hotels and cafes with outside seating, gift shops, a huge Madame Tussauds, various monuments and structures, and densely populated by tourists, workers and people dressed as Death; it was busy and bustling and mind-boggling.
Hub hustled me into a gift shop and I bought the least ostentatious baseball cap I could find – black denim with ‘Amsterdam’ in fairly small and discrete lettering.
With my head cooled, we sat on a block of marble and watched the world whizzing past. I rather liked the girl who was making giant bubbles that floated lazily across the platz. I also liked the poor soul dressed as a soldier in multicoloured chain mail but both of the Deaths were far behaving in far too flippant and un-Deathlike a manner to be acceptable.
Avoiding almost certain death (and I’m not being flippant this time) under the wheels of mad moped riders, we managed to get onto the correct side of the road to enter the – deh deh dehhhhhh – red light district. The transition was fairly gradual; fast food shops gave way to sex shops and as we moved into the heart (?) of the district, we began to see full length plate-glass windows with hot pink tinsel streamers.
Neither of us really looked that closely.
We were both thinking of starving students and homeless immigrants.
We saw nothing to titillate or excite, just sadness and exploitation.
Weak and wobbly, we found a cafe by a canal.
Most of the people sitting at the tables outside were elderly and obvious long-time residents who viewed the curious tourists like ourselves with an air of resignation.
The cafe served the world’s best non-alcoholic pina colada smoothie though.
This is the photo we took of the red light district.
When we were on the canal cruise, we were told that the reason for these very tall, thin houses was because people were taxed on the width of their property. So the canny people of Amsterdam built very narrow houses, often with only one room on each floor. To compensate they went upwards and the elegant arched windows at the top were often just a facade to make the house owner look as if they had more money.
We liked the thin houses.
Drinks finished with, we made our way back into the bustle of Dam Platz and headed back to the hotel for a mega flop – and – courtesy of the hotel broadcasting Beeb 1 and 2 (as well as Chicken Noodle News) – ‘Flog It’ and ‘Pointless’.
I felt a pang of homesickness when ‘Pointless’ ended. Scooby knows that the theme music means dinnertime. I knew that Gap Boy wouldn’t forget to feed him but at that moment I missed Scoob’s doggy grin, over enthusiastic tail and drooling issues SO much.
It may have been the heat, it may have been the walking, it may have been the sadness of the red light district and missing Scoobs, but we both felt the need to stay indoors for dinner that night and be cossetted by the hotel staff.
We were well looked after at breakfast, and when we popped in for happy hour, but that was nothing compared to the gracious behaviour of the staff who waited on us during dinner.
Nothing was too much trouble. In more than impeccable English, the food was described by our waiter so enticingly, that making a choice was very difficult – we went with his recommendations and were not disappointed. The trio of sorbets I had for pudding was an absolute delight.
Amsterdam and the lovely inhabitants had already hooked us, now we were truly wrapped up in bliss – from the food, the courtesy, the kindness and the attitude of people who made us feel very special.
We were leaving early in the morning and I had decided that although I liked the double-decker trains, a taxi to Schipol would be better. The concierge booked the taxi and I paid the bill the night before so that we would have less to worry about in the morning – yes, yes – OCD. I don’t deny it.
Back in the room we packed all but the essentials, and full of good food and wine (Hub – not me), the day set on our last full day in Amsterdam.
I had come to the conclusion that it would be churlish to reject the kind assistance offered at the airport and was almost looking forward to being shepherded around the airport in a wheelchair – so was the POL..