|Eurovision 2012: Loreen representing Sweden won with a sizable lead over the "old" women from Russia. The Swedish newspapers were all on it.|
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Saturday, May 26, 2012
|To Vaxholm: Leaving the dock, the city faded into the distance as the boat headed toward one of the islands in the archipelago.|
|Water Travelers: Many fluttered to the coveted, outdoor seating areas to enjoy the good weather and cool breeze.|
|Oh Captain, Oh Captain: I hope you know the way back to Stockholm.|
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
|Keukenhof: The best of the Dutch Sailor Choirs entertained the crowd with their catchy songs, some even known by the audience.|
Saturday, May 19, 2012
|Keukenhof: The last weekend of Keukenhof's season had many visitors, but not as many flowers.|
|Willem-Alexander Pavilion: Cleaning and prepping took place to keep up the floral arrangements on display.|
|Fallen Petals: The flowers did their best to keep positive spirits during their last days, but some unfortunately ended up shedding a few petals.|
Thursday, May 17, 2012
|Amsterdam Chinatown: Each letter lit up separately, which naturally caught my attention. A number of photos later, success, as well as an inquiry from the owner.|
Saturday, May 12, 2012
|Old Medicine Bottles: An interesting find with a friendly seller.|
|Food + Drink: Families set up stalls outside of their Amsterdam apartments selling a variety of food items to feed the crowds.|
|Libraries: Local libraries also participated by setting up shelves of unneeded books outside for people to browse for the potential to buy.|
Thursday, May 10, 2012
(Continued from End of Week 38: Unexpected Tour Guide)
Their interests simply lay out: coffee shops, some sort of nourishment, and partially guided traipses around the city, including the Red Light District of course. For a couple of blocks I practiced my French, or what remained of it from high school, met with an encouraging, “you just need a little training.” Conversations started around their graduate program and the work it included, and from time to time I wondered back to my American friend to catch up on his life since he moved from the States, somewhere around the time that I did. Continuing down abandoned, now trash-lined streets after the rush of afternoon shoppers, the group became anxious as their departure loomed.
“We would like to walk toward the center, and along pretty streets”
“We would like to find food”
“I would like a hamburger,” another loudly stated from the middle of the pack.
Wait, aren’t you French?
“How about here?”
“If the menu is in English, I would try another place,” another of-course-I-know-what-I-am-talking-about remark.
“It looks good,” the alpha male remarked and everyone crowded the menu, one determinately walking in to inquire about seating. Luckily, our eight-person octopus could not be accommodated, and it continued toward Spui, tentacles reaching in every direction toward any restaurants in sight. If a menu hung outside, interest sparked around its potential, and even possibility of serving hamburgers.
“Yes, so one bacon cheeseburger with fries, four without fries, two plain cheeseburgers, and one onion soup,” our waitress repeated back to the table. Everyone looked at one another with confirmation: yes, the order sounded correct. For dinner we ended up in De Beiaard, a restaurant on the edge of Spui I biked by many times, but never seriously considered. Commonplace and expected, it would do. Hungry, the group waited as the waiter visited every ten minutes with updates on our table.
“They decided to say for dessert” … “Sorry, that table is still eating” … “Would you like some bread while you wait?” … “They are paying and should be leaving soon”
“The table is ready for you now”
After the burgers and my onion soup, the octopus continued toward the Red Light District on Oudezijds Achterburgwal, the area I accidentally stumbled upon while temporarily housed near Nieuwmarkt back in August. One I never intended to visit, but wondered through on Google Map’s directions – it was supposedly the quickest route to Dam Square. At the end of the Red Light District, and satisfied with what they saw, a final question from the French friends. Would I be able to help out with their last request?
“We would like to take the 16 or the 24 tram back to our car”
Pfffew, easy, I know this one
Pfffew, easy, I know this one
The pack filed onto the tram and the doors closed. Some sat in the back rows, but I stood, exhausted, partially amazed, and oddly delighted by the event that charged the day. An unplanned day that went perfectly to plan with all of the, “Could you please show me where we are?” … “Do you know where Abraxas is?” … “I would like a hamburger” … “How about here?” … “Would you like some bread while you wait?” and then the silence. The type that a steady tram ride, and place to sit, eases into place.
“Next time if you ever come back, let me show you around my favorite parts of city.”
Because trust me, it will totally change your idea of Amsterdam as you have changed mine.
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
|Marie Heinekenplein: A leftover couch from Amsterdam's Queen's Day sits in a square, the perfect place to release bubbles into the wind on a sunny afternoon.|
Sunday, May 6, 2012
We happened to run into one of the French friends on the street, near the coffee shop where six of them nestled around a four-person table.
Oh, this is really not the way I envisioned spending my Saturday afternoon.
It was a surprise to both of them, my American visitor holding his Blackberry and the French friend walking toward us, of their circumstance: meeting in the middle of an insignificant street off of Leidsestraat just after finishing their phone call with one another. By chance, we wondered down that street following an afternoon stop for beer and bitterballen at De Kroon overlooking Rembrandtplein, and upon arrival, conversations of our whereabouts quickly wove into the chatter of the nestling group. Within only ten minutes my Amsterdam residence became known, thanks to my American visitor, and the cover I hoped to maintain exposed. My reputation altered from “just an American” to an American who might be useful, and naturally the duties of leading fell onto my sore shoulders, or partially it seemed, as the excitement of my expertise quickly wore off. They already had their plans.
“Could you please show me where we are?” The alpha male pulled out a map, partially unfolded it, and pointed to the middle of the page, “I would like to lead them around the city.”
Yes HE would like to lead, my immediate demotion to a back seat driver came at a surprise but welcome nonetheless; I could still let my mind wonder as it usually wants to on a Saturday afternoon without the full responsibility. Under his finger stood a petit map of Amsterdam - a view extracted from a hundred kilometers above - general, incomplete, and nearly impractical. Gingerly, I took the map with an of-course-I-know-what-I-am-talking-about remark.
“Oh, there must be a detailed view of Centrum at least.”
Unfolding and refolding the map in different orientations, my origami moves led to only disappointment, so unexpected that my final opening of the entire thing confirmed my looming realization. In front of six French friends, my American visitor, and the Amsterdam natives passing by, who for sure thought I did not know my way around, I peered around to the other side of the outspread map as it lightly swayed in the wind.
Seriously, they are using this map?
Yes a GVB, or Amsterdam tram system, map, detailed to the minimum only showing enough information to contextualize the red, yellow, blue, and green veins running through the city blocks, illustrating each tram line and their relative location.
“We are here,” I pointed on the map, easy enough to follow as we stood on one of the main roads actually called out, “and,” turning my body to give a little more emphasis to my hand signal, “this is north, toward the train station.” That was already enough information and we started walking, a centipede of six French friends and two Americans, our path elongating and contracting depending on the unrealized speed of the leaders, who after three blocks turned back realizing everyone remained ten steps behind, or the playful slowness of the back, who walked as if absent of any responsibility, including themselves, laughing in between steps.
“Do you know where Abraxas is?”
Well, there goes my plan to do a museum this weekend.
“No, sorry, coffee shops are not my forté.” My American visitor arrived late on Friday night, preceding his arrival thoughts swam contemplating appropriate daily, and usually, semi-cultural activities and the commendable restaurant with an honest beverage to follow - maybe even a wondering walk home if the weather permitted. Our plans for the weekend diverged at the meeting of French pack and I recognized at that moment the day left my influence. An altered thinking followed, one required to happily join the excitable cluster wherever it may go.
This is definitely a side of Amsterdam I’ve never seen before.
Saturday, May 5, 2012
|Near Carre: Lights and stages were set up throughout the city of Amsterdam to celebrate Liberation Day on May 5th.|
|Behind De Bijenkorf: Some lucky photographers were closer to the action than I, but served as a perfect frame for my view of the performers.|
|On the Canal: A singer and whistler created his own stage, an elaborate music boat, to entertain the crowd watching from streets and bridges.|
Thursday, May 3, 2012
(Continued from End of Week 37: Night Ride Begins)
Two girls rode in front of me as I start up the Prinsengracht, one pedaling while the other sat on the back, looking onto the calmly lit canal with probably the same reverence that I had that night, the tingling excitement of the city enhanced the view seen many times over. We trailed a black Audi heading in the same direction. Slowly the number of pedestrians increased as we rode up toward the center, accompanied by their chatter and clinking, laughing and singing, pushing and playing. The dad just picked up his daughter to see better, a couple walked hand in hand, and, oh, a taxi just pulled behind us. The drab colored van followed, wary to pass the double passenger bike ahead of me; we kept riding sandwiched between two cars underneath the yellow city lights. The girls unapologetically occupied the road.
Biking at night twinkles with light moments and none, but imagined to be, adventures. Pedestrians who wander into bike lanes encourage a close enough ride by to playfully spook their little jump onto the sidewalk. Sometimes so close their cologne still remained in my senses as my pedaling continued. My passive aggressive bell at times attracted a verbal “ding ding” from a walking humorist. I laughed, he laughed, and we laughed like I did with a group of girls that crossed my path with an absentminded friend whose involvement with her purse distracted her senses. They froufrouly screeched her as I approached and finally slowed down, maneuvering around her with my right foot sweeping the ground for control. She obviously did not quite get it and so we just laughed.
Others proudly professed that they do not use their breaks at all, running through red lights across wide intersections, sometimes waiting in the middle of the road as a car from the other direction passed by if needed. One-way streets don’t really apply to bikes, and upon observations, many cars as well, an acceptance by all that share the road I guess. The only law-breaking, and ticket deserving, action is the absence of front or backlight during a night ride. With this in check, a sort of freedom emerges gliding through the city enveloped by darkness, and even security. “What are they going to do, jump out and knock over your bike?” a rhetorical question voiced to illustrate the benefits of riding home during late evenings, or early mornings, to discourage city predators.
Finally the taxi van took a bite of courage, or push of impatience, to roll and bump passed the two girls in front of me who did not even waiver at its narrow proximity. We continued over bridges, which in the Netherlands accounts for a hill, everyone leaning forward just a little to prepare for the ascent with their one-speed bike, and passed the Rosengracht, the street that I should have taken. But that way, the right way, would not put me behind the flock of bikers waiting to cross Stadhouderskade near the Heineken Brewery or cycle around Weteringschans and passed Mellow Yellow, arguably the bested name coffee shop in the city. Energy surged biking on Queen’s Night knowing that everyone on the same bike path entertained thoughts of their evenings - their expected drinks, merriment, and street concerts – maybe even nodding at the wise words that their friend said earlier that evening.
“Don’t make the same mistake that I made.”