The Red Light District lives up to its reputation. I see why the District is the destination for stag parties and red-eyed tourists; I didn’t touch a single seed, yet I bet I had more weed in my system than Ross Rebagliati by the time my wandering was done! To be clear, with Rotterdam marathon around the corner, it’s not as though my evening stretched on all that late. I was heading back to my hotel as troves of tourists were heading the opposite direction. I was even asked for directions on how to get to the District. Not sure why they thought a stone-cold sober guy heading back to his hotel would know! Truth is – marathon or not – I was worn out and ready for sleep. The night before hadn’t exactly been restful.
You know that feeling when you’re walking toward two people who look at you, look at one another, say something and laugh, and then look back at you? I know it’s paranoid, but it feels like they’re talking about you, right? In this case, they were. They were the couple who had the two other seats in the row as I boarded for the first leg of the flight from Toronto. I was wearing my Tremblant Ironman t-shirt, and it turns out that Goshan (my new temporary friend) had done the same race, and had the same shirt. His wife Nadia had been a “catcher” at the finish line in 2012. Who knows, she may have been the one who handed me my blanket. Made for a fun introduction with my flight-mates. Birds of a feather fly together, I suppose. Except we didn’t. Our row was right in front of the exit row, and the seats wouldn’t recline. The flight wasn’t very full, so the flight attendant moved Goshan and Nadia to other seats that did recline. Me? I put up the armrests and had a little “couch” of three seats to curl up. I slept…kind of. Better than most flights, anyway.
I was up and back at the window as we broke through the clouds on the descent to Iceland. What a strange country to behold! I have wanted to visit Iceland for a while – I suppose their advertising dollars are working. Having seen a bit of the area around Reykjavik…that temptation is not so strong. I’m sure it gets better at the Blue Lagoon or near the glaciers, and maybe I was just grumpy from “sleeping” for a few hours on a plane. In any case, the stopover was just a little over an hour, and then we were bound for Amsterdam!
The Dutch are on to something, I tell ya. There’s a train station right in the airport (well done, Toronto, you’re only a decade or so behind the times…), and so I was in Amsterdam Central Station (Amsterdam Centraal) in no-time. And then I was bewildered. Except for China, I’ve always traveled with company, and there’s a certain comfort in being lost with someone. At the very least, you know you’re not the only one who was no idea which way to go. (In China, I had a tour guide to rescue me.) Amsterdam was just me, saddled down like a pack-mule, and no clue where I was going. Happily, Amsterdam is a small and straight-forward city. The Venice of the North does not have the rabbit-warren of streets that characterizes it’s southern cousin, and so it was pretty easy to find the way to my hotel on a quiet street down in the Museum Quarter. Time for a nap!
Somewhat recovered, I emerged in the evening on the search for a real meal (they didn’t serve any food on either flight), and the chance to explore a bit of what this curious city has to offer. I found Dam square, showcasing a physical feat that may just be in the same ballpark as what I will not witness (it being too far ahead of me) on Sunday:
Then I found something else which relates to Sunday in a very different way:
Oh, Skechers! Showing up to cheer me on? J
What a beautiful city! Old buildings, canals and bridges.
I sat out on a patio eating dinner and watching the day darken (and using the free wifi to figure out how I’m getting to Rotterdam and check in on some work emails). For my first night in the Netherlands, I topped off dinner with some Dutch apple pie! (The next day, I noticed that the restaurant where I ate dinner was right next to the Sex Museum on Damrak. “Dam” it, I didn’t even check it out!)
I hear the Red Light District is best by night, so I ventured across the canal and into the District to see what all the fuss was about.
That’s a lot of windows and a lot of girls! A strange juxtaposition of beautiful old Amsterdam’s narrow streets, charming bridges, and cobbled walkways with….I’ll admit some beautiful faces behind the glass, but lacking the charm of their urban backdrop. Sad to say, some of those (less beautiful) women looked to have as much mileage on them as the cobbled walkways leading up to their doors.
In keeping with the setting, I sat down in a bar and drank a half-pint of Amstel. Potential patrons who walked in after me were disappointed to learn that alcohol was the only thing for sale in this bar – which I believe makes it a bit of a rarity in the District – and so left in a hurry. Truthfully, the atmosphere was nothing much, and I finished my drink swiftly. By then, I was starting to feel the need for sleep in a major way. I got back to my little room on my quiet street, and fell into bed. By Toronto time, it was barely evening. No matter, I fell asleep quickly.
Crazy to think all that had occurred in less than 24 hours!