Thursday, May 14, 2009

Day 5




Today we had our first order of Amsterdam fries. Well, I ate most of them. And they were GOOD. I intended to blog regularly but have ended up mostly posting photos on Facebook, which takes some time each day and is just fine. Today we meant to go the Riksmuseum but dawdled at a guitar shop, a record shop, a couple of re-sale dress shops...then a cafe for coffee and an apple pancake, which is alot like the crepes we'd find at home, but more delicate, with crispy, buttery edges. Yet another reason I will cry when I leave Amsterdam. We have walked, walked, walked. Have not rented bikes, but did buy a canal tour ticket, which is good for 24 hours, on and off as you please. We found a marvellous Turkish restaraunt last night called The Divan, and had eggplant tapenade, hummus, and tzatziki like never before. Like so many things here, the American or Americanized version seems watery. As Jeffries says, however, the Dutch cannot turn a 6-4-3 double play, and if you want dirt here, you have to go buy it. Not gossip, but soil.

Our first couple of nights we stayed out pretty late, enjoying the nightlife, particularly a bar called Gollem, a beer tasting bar with deep taps...met a couple of cool guys, Tigh and Tristan, and had a long chat and a late trip to a "snack bar," late night bar food joints. Our night out, combined with jet lag, had us sleeping in pretty late on Day 2. That morning I had a croissant from a Greek bakery that was so good, I haven't a clue what we'll be getting that could be any better in Paris. Our apartment is above a tobacco and postcard shop, they hang their rack of cheap cd's on our front door. Around the corner is a snack bar, and small bar, various clothing shops, and a small plaza where they had a food market on Wednesday. It's all very cozy and lovely and there's really nothing better than getting up to write in the morning by an open window with the sound of bike traffic below. When overstimulated by too many sights and sounds, it's also nice to read Elmore Leonard on the futon.

I'm really taken with the "coffee milk" that we get with our coffee--it's sort of halfway between condensed milk and half and half. I'd like to bring a bottle of that home. The bread, the cheese, olives--I could live on that, too. We were talking today about how to bring Holland home--how to bring the coziness home. People here know how to work and also how to relax. I think the images of cafe culture that we might take to be ennui or a slower pace of life is actually just people who know how to relax, relaxing. When you work, you work.

There are sixty-odd miles of canals in Amsterdam and we have spent the better part of our time walking them. It's just endlessly entertaining to see what is around the next corner, and of course we see the same places twice, but it doesn't matter, because we're turned around alot of the time. The little bar where we watched soccer was actually two blocks from the Turkish place...and not too far from the place Ken and Aimee recommended as "the Belly restaurant of Amsterdam," Baltazar's Keuken. I have thought quite a bit of Brendan and Anne Marie here, and how Belly is where we go when we want something cozy and of high quality in Eugene.

We found De Saloon, where Jeffries' brother used to hang out, and enjoyed that. That same night we saw the red light district, which is right out there, like you'd imagine. We bought cheese at a big corner cheese shop, and a loaf of the best polenta bread I've ever had. Not too many nights out to eat, yet--alot of small meals while we adjusted to the time change. The coffee is excellent, not so much unlike the coffee I make, but smaller quantities with coarse sugar cubes and coffee milk.

We may share a favorite moment, so far, when we saw a father helping a younger teenaged daughter do her homework on the front porch of an alley house. It was dusk and you could see in the front window of the house, where there was a long, simple table in the kitchen. She was laying across the threshhold of the house looking glum and he was leaning over the textbook. There was probably a bar or cafe half a block away, or a Spanish restaurant, or a book store, and down the way from that a big white dog watched us walk by, keeping watch from an open second story window. I'll think of this dog as Mr. Sweety, also a character from the Elmore Leonard novel I finished last night.
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