Thursday, January 6, 2011

Dam It Feels Good to Be a Gangsta

Okay, it's taken me a couple of days more than I thought it would to muster up an entry for this magical city.  But I loved it so much, I just had to sort through my racing mind to figure out what to say...

This is one of the most aesthetically-pleasing cities I've visited.  Between the rows upon rows of cool bikes, the canals lined with charming little boats, the brick streets, and the beautiful historic buildings, it's all just so nice to look at and soak in.  And that's not just one street - it's the entire freaking city.

Bikes!  Canal!  Brick streets!  Historic Buildings!

Colorful bikes!  Bikes with buckets!

Canal lined with charming boats!

It's almost too much goodness in one place, isn't it?

I'm thoroughly annoyed by the amount of exclamation points used in the photos above, and I apologize.  But I think they got the point across.

In all this biking loveliness, Ken and I decided to rent some for the day.  After living in bike-friendly Portland for awhile, we consider ourselves to be good bikers.  So we thought we'd fit in just fine on these sweet rides.  

Well, my friends, biking in Amsterdam is a whole new level of biking.  After dodging a gazillion pedestrians, mopeds passing every three minutes (they're allowed to use the bike lanes), small crazy Euro cars whizzing by on the side streets without bike lanes, and the final hurrah of a garbage truck backing out in front of us, we were a bit frazzled.

Post-garbage truck, Ken proclaimed, "I feel like the paperboy in the Paperboy Nintendo game."

And he was spot-on.

As a side note, I'll say this: Europeans drive their tiny little fun-sized Euro cars like bats out of hell.  Narrow streets, pedestrians, snow...they don't seem to be phased by any of it.

As a pedestrian, I always wanted to flip the bird to the occasional car flying through the ped-friendly narrow streets of our neighborhood in Portland (and they often got a "what the f is wrong with you?" arm raise and glare from me on the street corner, which I'm sure they didn't even see, or perhaps laughed at as they sped away).

Living here with these maniacs makes me want to tape my hand/arm into a permanent bird-flipping position for my daily walks around the city.  They're nuts!

Anyway, back to the biking.  For our final ride, we took the bikes to Vondelpark.  A ride through the park was much more low-key and enjoyable...

Unraveling our nerves at Vondelpark.

Special bike lane.  Fear the mopeds.

Let's think about this for a moment, shall we?

Our final day in this fair city was spent exploring the amazing Albert Cuyp street market.  So cheap, and so many booths.  You haven't seen two people more excited for cheap in Oslo will do it to you.

Albert Cuyp market...ahh.

I doubt anyone except Portlanders will understand what this beautiful little gem is (unless you've traveled to P-town and enjoyed it for yourself).  I heard they put up a temp storefront in Amsterdam, since the owner loves the city so much.  I also heard it was only open for the summer of 2010.  We found it (it was right behind the market), and sure enough, it was closed.  We aren't coffee drinkers, but I love their chai.  Too bad it was a no-go.  Nice to see a little piece of home, though!

So I haven't yet addressed the two things synonymous with Amsterdam in most minds: the "working girls" and the "coffee shops".  The ladies are only in a few distinct areas of town, so it doesn't give the whole city a strange aura.  The coffee shops are all over town though, and the smell of the green stuff seeps from them.  Peppering the streets with clouds of herbal essences.  Like you're at some sort of never-ending indie music festival.  Pretty comical.
We didn't patronize.  But I wonder if they have good chai?

So, in case you can't tell, we had a lovely trip, and can't wait to go back!

I realized I forgot a Moment of Zen in the last post.  It should have been the massive steaks that Bryan and April made us on Christmas Eve (no photo available, because we dug in as soon as they landed on the plate, and finished them off in record time).  So there you have it.

The Moment of Zen for this post:

A heavenly cream puff from a cart on the street, and pretty oilcloth from the market (which I'll be using to make one of the awesome bike seat covers they had everywhere).

And one last very important message:  Ken has decided to blog.  It took visiting Copenhagen, which is one of his favorite cities, to get him to finally blog.  So I'll post his ode to Copenhagen tomorrow.  You don't want to miss it!