Saturday, April 12, 2014

Day 3: Not-So-Sin City

Last night, I witnessed the primal and hedonistic side of Amsterdam. This morning, I experienced its opposition in the neighbourhood known as De Pijp.  I love De Pijp! Well, to be honest, I didn’t notice a big distinction between parts of the Museumkwartier and De Pijp, so generally I can say that I love this lesser-known Amsterdam.

I set my alarm for 9am this morning, figuring that I wouldn’t likely need it that late. I ended up sleeping until 9:30, and I still didn’t feel perfect.  I guess my body still thinks of that as 3:30am!  Running cures jetlag, so what better way to see some more of the city.  I ran through the Musem-plein (a park with museums on three sides) in search of one of the “must-see” destinations in Amsterdam:

According to my guide-map of “the usual and unusual”, Zuiderbad was originally built to house a velox cycling school, and was subsequently transformed into a “marvelous swimming palace with a mosaic fountain”.  I did not go in to swim this morning, but it’s on the list for when I return next week.  The weekly naturist hour is on Sundays from 4:30-5:30pm.  I’ll still be in Rotterdam, so I guess I’ll have to wear trunks.

Next I meandered (is it “meandering” when you’re running at an easy pace?) over to Vondelpark, which is simply vonderful! Seriously, the parks in Amsterdam are beautiful!  Whereas last night I saw debauchery and the abuse of people’s own bodies, this morning I saw loads of people out running and cycling. A city of contrasts, indeed! In the second half of my run, I threw in some 200m strides to test out the legs.  The first felt great!  The rest were slow and rough.  Let’s hope that’s the jetlag… L

Having checked out of my hotel, I wandered in the other direction in search of a few more “usual and unusual” destinations.  I wended my way over bridges and canals, enjoying the streets.  I suppose any European in his/her right mind would be insulted, but some of the streets reminded me of parts of Boston – the architecture of the three- and four-storey houses…

Many of these old houses have these hooks mounted on their roof. I can only suppose it is to allow for moving items in and out through windows, as the narrow staircases and tight corners would otherwise limit one’s belongings to what fits in a box!

These “islands” serve a very fun purpose!

I don't know how well you can see the baby right underneath the momma bird. :)

I really thought the River Amstel would be more significant than this, though!  Oh………that’s just a canal.  Um…let me explain.  I have two maps of Amsterdam.  One has great directions and labels, but the “must-sees” are the Red Light District and Dam Square. Nothing wrong with those, but I’ve “been there, done that”. My other map has minimal labeling of streets (actually, lots of streets don’t even make it to this map) but it identifies all the “usual and unusual” destinations.  In my defense, I kept the map in my pocket most of the time, anyway!!

On my way to the real Amstel, I found the Albert Cuyp Market:

It seems you can buy anything here – food, clothes, flowers…even hood-vents for your oven.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t find a have a lot of need for enamelware.  Nevertheless, identified as an “unusual” destination, I had to check out the Emaillekeizer.

I…don’t know what to say about this place.  My guide-map reads: “…this is the place that caters to all one’s enamel needs…Recently it has, rather bizarrely, branched out into Ghanaian music…”.  I couldn’t say it better, myself.  More than just music, the store has a whole African-themed section.  Makes sense.  I mean, who doesn’t want to remember their trip to Amsterdam with an African memento?  I looked for an enamel number for my house, but they didn’t go past 50.

And now to the REAL Amstel – a little more what I had in mind!

The Dutch are known for gardening, so I guess it’s no surprise that even houseboats have garden plots:

My legs were starting to get a bit tired, but there was one more destination I wanted to check out:

This must truly be the best bakery in Amsterdam.  My guide-map says that they see up to 2000 customers per day.  Despite the line-up (on a Friday morning!), the very friendly woman behind the counter took her time to help me pick something.  I even tried their Easter loaf with marzipan – definitely want some of that next week!

On the walk back to my hotel, I found yet another beautiful place: Sarphati Park.  Once again, I felt a little like I was in the Boston Public Garden.

It's fitting that in the city of gardens the flowers would spread onto the cars as well!

The tram ride from my hotel back to Amsterdam Centraal was a whole lot more pleasant than the walk yesterday, and then I was off to Rotterdam!  It seems that free public wifi is the norm here, so I’ll blame that on why I missed my stop.  Yikes!!  Thankfully the same train stopped again at Rotterdam. (Or maybe it was the first time and I would have had to transfer from the other station?  I still don’t know.)

No long walk to my hotel today, as it was less than a km away from Rotterdam Centraal, and even closer the race expo….which is when my stress level started to climb again.  Recall my registration snafu?  Well, notwithstanding my email confirming I was in, this was the true test. 

It worked!! (And just in case anyone is wondering, no, I will not be pinning my bib to the race t-shirt.  That is entirely artistic license. I won’t wear the shirt until I know I deserve it by finishing the race!)

Compared to Boston or NYC marathons, the race expo was small and pretty uneventful…for most people, that is.  Some guy working a compression sock booth started chatting with me about his product.  He asked what my marathon PB is, so I told him 2:27. Curious, no reaction.  Deserved or not, I normally get some sort of reaction to how fast that is at race expos.  As Paul Zwama and I kept chatting, I learned why he didn’t react.  He’s a 2:20 marathoner and 1:05 half-marathon runner, and he’s hoping for 2:16 in May. (He’s not racing Rotterdam.)  Wow! He’s fast!! (BTW, I checked out his credentials online.  He seems to be legit….) In short (not my forte when writing), he’s invited me to visit him in Utrecht on Tuesday – he’s offered to be a guide for a day.  He’s even offered his spare room instead of a hotel.  I was a little shocked, but he just laughed and assured me this is standard Dutch hospitality.  His girlfriend didn’t seem to think anything of it, so I’m in!

Finally, I’d like to leave you with a few things that resonated with me today:

What a day!

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