The drive up to Amsterdam took a little under three hours, made a bit longer as we got lost a couple of times in confusing interchanges on the freeways. Our plans for the stay were to meet up with our good friend Doug Hoggatt (aka the Griz) at the Hotel Acacia in the Jordaan. Doug was on assignment with his employer, Echostar (Dish Network) in the Ukraine working to set up an operational unit there. He’d been there for a few months and was happy to see a couple of good friends in a city he’d long wanted to visit.
Situated canal-side in this crowded part of the city, we found that parking close to the hotel would be quite costly so we moved the car to a park and ride lot a stop or two outside of town with easy access via the metro. Once in town we knew we’d not need the car again until our departure for Paris, a common situation in Europe given the often crowded, narrow streets of the center cities. We spent the bulk of that first afternoon walking around, reacquainting our selves with and introducing Doug to a city he’d not visited.
One of our first stops was to a small shop known as the Grey Area: Amsterdam is famous for its “coffee-shops” where locals and tourists can purchase small amounts marijuana and/or hashish for personal consumption. This city, which has tolerated “soft” drug consumption for many years is a model for the wave that is moving across the United States, with Colorado and Washington States now make retail sale of these products legal.
Dinner that night was standard Dutch fare in a restaurant not far from the Acacia and we closed out the evening with a quick drink at the Café de Gijs, the small bar directly across the street from the Hotel. The next day was one full of sightseeing, beginning with a stop at a houseboat museum, and most of an afternoon, much to Doug’s chagrin, at the VanGogh Museum. We took a break back at our rooms and then, fueled with a bit of our medicinal products hit the streets again, with dinner at an Italian place. As I’ve mentioned in prior posts, most major European cities offer food of all types, indeed some of the best ethnic food I’ve encountered comes in a city not of that origin.
As the evening progressed we wore down and decided to call it an early night. We bade Doug farewell for the evening as he went up to his room; Joanna and I weren’t quite ready to turn in though and so we walked down the street away from the hotel, the canal to our right as we sought a spot for one more drink. The bar we stopped in at was very crowded and we spent ten or fifteen minutes trying to find a place to land to no avail. Discouraged, we started back to the hotel on the next street over, which deposited us right in front of the Café de Gijs.
We approached the front door and walked inside, to be pleasantly surprised to see Doug sitting at the bar, as if he was waiting for us to arrive. Who says that truly good friends don’t have some kind of special ESP? And so we spent quite a few hours at the bar, I recall drinking many, many glasses of Drambuie, a magical spirit and one I associate with our many trips to visit the Carlisle’s at Kamp Angst in Oregon. Conversation at the bar was spirited and we benefited from the fact that the Dutch are pretty proficient in English, making up for our language shortcomings. It was a night we all remember with great fondness, one of those memories frozen in time, to be pulled out when needed to warm the spirit.
Up the next day for more sightseeing, we finished up a simple but satisfying breakfast at the Acacia and made our way to various parts of Amsterdam, hunting for souvenirs and enjoying a nice fall day out of doors. We eventually made our way to the Museum Willet-Holthuysen, a 17th century canal house that provides a fascinating glimpse at the life of a well do to couple of the mid-1800’s. The back-story here was even more interesting in that the official website refers to the husband: “Abraham Willet was a hedonist”. Needing to find someone who could finance the lifestyle he sought for himself, he courted the spinster Louisa Holthuysen, who would not marry until she was thirty-seven.
As we were leaving the museum, one of the guides took us aside and advised us to take a close look at the picture of Louisa as rumor has long had it that she may have been an individual with a confusing set of gender characteristics. Regardless, these two found each other and appeared to have a long and satisfying marriage, one that suited both of their proclivities.
Dinner that night was a long anticipated visit to a Rick Steves recommended Indonesian restaurant for a taste of some rijsttafel (rice table). Given our fond memories of the elaborate one we’d enjoyed in 1984, what we consumed at Kantjil and de Tiger, while a nice meal, did not match the number of courses nor the overall sensation we had with the earlier meal. I look forward to being in Amsterdam again this summer where we will rejoin our hunt for a memorable rice table.
We bade farewell to Doug the next morning, sending him on his way back to the Ukraine. Interesting to think now about the events in that country, given the very good time that Doug had while working there. We made our way out to the car park, loaded up the car and began to make our way out of the lot, which was surrounded by low metal bumpers made from round pipes, not more than six inches or so off of the ground.
As I pulled up to the intersection to make a left turn and exit from the lot, a truck was trying to back up into the road we were coming out of. Trying to assist him, I attempted to move to the right hand side of the intersection, only to hear a loud scraping noise coming from the bottom of the BMW. I pulled back, parked the car and got out to examine the situation.
I’d run over one of the bumpers, hitting it at just the right angle to split the distance between the front and rear wheels. An initial glance revealed no damage topside, but a quick peek underneath disclosed some damaged plastic body hardware. Nothing too serious and yet, another banged up rental car to add to my list of European driving transgressions. Here’s hoping the Highlander can survive six months of my driving it over there.
Gray Area: http://www.greyarea.nl/home.html
Amsterdam Coffee-Shops: http://www.amsterdam.info/coffeeshops/
Houseboat Museum: http://www.houseboatmuseum.nl/engels/index.html
Van Gogh Museum: http://www.vangoghmuseum.nl/vgm/index.jsp
Museum Willet-Holthuysen: http://www.willetholthuysen.nl/en/about-museum-willet-holthuysen
Kantjil and de Tiger:http://www.kantjil.nl/en/