Monday, July 25, 2011

Glimpses of Amsterdam

I recently received an email from a reader who wished to know a bit about my impressions of Amsterdam, Holland, as he and his wife are thinking of visiting there. I'm grateful for that email, as I am usually reticent to write extensively and though my return email was brief, it provided a sort of jump start for this post. My fear of writing is really about beginning the process. Once I am done, it often feels good to have written.

After an inauspicious first step out of the shuttle bus that brought us from the airport to the office of the agency from which we rented our apartment and a desperate plea for a space to be momentarily ill, we finally found ourselves in a lovely, spacious, airy apartment overlooking the Singel Canal. I took to our neighborhood immediately, feeling quite fortunate that my wish to visit this city had finally come true.


I was not disappointed. After walking around a bit on our first evening in Amsterdam, sitting in an outdoor cafe just a few steps from "our" place, I felt right at home. Perhaps it's because I am a European native, but whenever I'm on that continent, I immediately feel a sense of belonging. I wasn't sure if not knowing Dutch would impact on my enjoyment of our visit but it was a needless worry, as it appeared to me that English is actually the second, unofficial language of The Netherlands. Besides, in reading signs in Dutch at museums, one became somewhat competent at deciphering some basic sentences. It was, of course, especially helpful in long passages, to have the English translations beside the Dutch ones. I've been telling people that the question I most frequently overheard on the streets of Amsterdam was "Where are you from". So many cultures are represented there. I was not surprised to hear Spanish, Italian, French and German spoken by visitors but hearing  English spoken by so many Americans was not something I had anticipated.


What a happy, bustling city!  I don't know if it's because it's a small city with lots of buildings packed together which makes it seem this way, but I have never seen so many bicycles, both parked and moving. And watch out if you're crossing the bike strips between the roads and the sidewalks! 

Amsterdam is a romantic city; full of lovers walking hand in hand, the younger among them occasionally stopping to kiss. It was common to see a girl hitch a ride on her boyfriend's bicycle, chatting and laughing all the while. These people details endeared the city to me immediately. It crossed my mind, however, at how lucky these fashionable, pretty people are to have such a high standard of living. I counted myself among the lucky at being able to enjoy such a place and with a wonderful guide who has visited Amsterdam more than a dozen times, to show me around.

I took a series of photos that I call the Where's Wayne? collection. Here is one of them. I asked Wayne to stick his tongue out like the statue but alas he is a very shy man and would not cooperate  :-)



Wayne, with his sharp eye for detail and excellent memory often alerted me to the small, quaint details of this old city. Sometimes it felt as if we were walking among a living hidden pictures exhibition. A fresco above a doorway...


...an artistic arrangement in a window...



...a bit of graffiti on a sidewalk...


... a sculpture of a deer on the top of a building...




The canals and architectural details of the buildings provided endless visual entertainment for me...











...and there were quite a number of rainy days, though that didn't stop anyone, including us. Except for one exceptionally rainy and gusty night when Wayne had to meet a colleague for dinner, we were out and about. On these rainy nights, we stayed close to home so we could easily duck in out of the rain.



To be continued, if you're not too tired of the tour yet!

20 comments:

  1. Very delightful tour. Thank you for the photos and the details, and taking us on a tour of a place we may never see. It is a joy.

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  2. I hope this takes at least once. Second try. I really appreciate being taken on a tour of this beautiful city. Wonderful details and photos.

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  3. thanks for the tour! I don't think I'd ever tire of this. great photos.

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  4. Beautiful photos, Gina - they bring back many happy memories of one of my favourite cities. Maybe I'll retire there - on a houseboat!

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  5. Nice City, but be careful what you photograph.

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  6. I've only been once, many years ago, but it's a lovely place and your photos have brought back some memories. Glad you had a good time.

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  7. Great tour~ thanks for sharing. Next best thing to traveling myself.

    Thanks for giving me the words above to explain to some of my blogging friends as to why I can no longer leave a comment on their blog. It's frustrating (I like to leave my golden words ;>) when I enjoy a post.)

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  8. Thanks, everyone!

    imac - Wayne forbid me to take photos in the Red Light District as well as of coffee shops (pot shops) where there were patrons, saying it was very uncool! I managed to get a few coffee shop pics, without patrons, though. No one came out to yell at me, so...

    Francis - I will go visit you! :-)

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  9. Amsterdam is a great city. The best thing is that the centre is so compact. Most places are easily reachable on foot.

    I'm glad you enjoyed your time there

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  10. Jams - we really got around but not just on foot, we took the trolleys a lot, too. We did a lot while we were there and still have time in the day to rest and unwind, which was a great feature of this get-away!

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  11. I will never tire of seeing your pictures of Amsterdam or anywhere else you choose to go. The photographs here are marvelous and I love the story.

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  12. Thanks Gina! I'm delighted to have helped inspire your post. I do confess to have visited Amsterdam a few times before, though not as a main destination. I still wonder whether K & I would prefer other destinations in Holland: perhaps Rotterdam (despite the absence of any old buildings there, flattened in the war) Leiden, the Hague etc.

    But your well-chosen set of pictures and words do help remind me what it's like, and how worthy of a day-trip it is, if one is staying not too far away. I would have to come to see the Van Gogh Museum.

    Part of me hankers for an older more rural Holland. I lived in Arnhem for a few months in 1947, when I was 5. Milk was delivered by horse and cart, poured from a tap into jugs which the householders would leave outside the door. Times of austerity when the Germans had not long ceased their wartime occupation.

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  13. Susan - I will feature the museums in my next post, then! All I needed was your warm encouragement! :-)

    Vincent - I regret that we never made it to The Hague, which was originally on our itinerary. It would have been wonderful to see the rural Holland you mention. Next time, perhaps. Or at least, I hope. Since I can't get away for ten days ever other than in summer, the tulip season trip will have to wait until I am very old! :-)

    It's wonderful to have you visit here. I am in awe of your writing! Will be stopping by Wayfarer's Notes as soon as my groove for blogging is completely regained!

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  14. I love to share the journeys of others, especially through photographs and words - and because the view and experience is not that of the 'officail tourist guide' but individual perception.
    Continue please.

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  15. Amsterdam is a spiritual home of ALL forward thinking free people!

    Wonderful trip :)


    Aloha from Waikiki;


    Comfort Spiral

    ><}}(°>


    > < } } ( ° >

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  16. Thank you so much for taking me there.

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  17. what a pretty city!
    I love all the quaint buildings
    your night shot is fantastic
    I have always wanted to visit Amsterdam

    welcome home :)

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  18. Gina, these shots arre beautiful - I'd be proud to have taken any one of them.

    Glad to hear you enjoyed your trip, we'll have to talk about it!

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  19. Too tired? You crazy? I wish it never had to end! I was eager at every turn. So fun playing treasure hunt via your & W's little child eyes -- by far my part of the tour.

    Of course, you now have me reconsidering my lack of passion for Euro-travel...

    xxoo. Thank you.
    U

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  20. UMM - Thanks for taking the time to look at my post. I know how busy you are. I love Europe and I've only just begun! But South America and Asia call to me, too... xxoo love you so, so much!

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