Home Again

 Trip to Amsterdam  Comments Off on Home Again
Nov 062009
 

welcome homeI landed in Los Angeles on Tuesday evening.   To say that I was exhausted is like saying water is wet.   I was spent.   As I stood at the baggage claim, fingers crossed that I would see both of my bags, a baggage handler walked up next to me with one of my bags.   As he started to hoist my heavy bag onto the carousel I said, “Hey, that’s my bag!”   I took it from him and asked him why he had it as the bags from my flight hadn’t begun to pour onto the conveyor belt.   He told me it came in on the earlier flight.   Yes, one of my bags came in on the flight I was unceremoniously told I couldn’t make because I was 5 minutes too late to check my bags.   I asked him where my other bag was and he said he didn’t know.   On all of my other flights my bags were the first to come off the plane as they were the last to get on the plane due to my stand by status. I stood there and waited and waited as bags tumbled down the belt.   No sign of my big apple green bag filled with Dutch cookies and my sweaters.   “YAY!” I exclaimed like a child as my bag somersaulted down the ramp towards me.   I pulled it onto my, not so smart, Smarte Carte and wheeled my belongings outside to catch a cab.

Why is the Smarte Carte in the LA not smart?   Because it doesn’t have a brake.   The ones I used in both Amsterdam and in NY had a brake built into the handle.   When you aren’t holding the handle down the wheels lock.   It makes it much easier to load heavy bags onto a wheeled cart when it can’t roll away from you.   Needless to say, as I was trying to load over 100 pounds of luggage plus my heavy carry on onto the cart in LA after travelling for over 24 hours it would have been nice to not have to chase the Smarte Carte around the baggage claim area.

It didn’t make sense for me to have my husband come down to fetch me at the airport.   Traffic is crazy.   Plus I wasn’t sure what baggage claim would be like etc.   I got into the cab with a very funny cab driver.   He was older and I am guessing he was Thai.   The car smelled of garlic as if he had just eaten a wonderful garlicky feast in the cab before I arrived.   We talked about Amsterdam and marijuana.   Even though I told him Amsterdam wasn’t where the mermaid was that that was in Copenhagen, Denmark, he kept asking me about Denmark.   After correcting him and saying, “Holland” a couple of times I gave up and just answered his questions and chatted.   He told me he used to smoke marijuana all the time but now that he has children and has to be more responsible he doesn’t anymore.   We talked about legalizing marijuana and about how we need to educate our children.   It was a funny half hour and a great way to end my trip.

new-bed_72When I came home John, my husband, had decorated the apartment with streamers and “Welcome Home” signs he printed on his computer.   He had gone to Target to buy streamers and a sign but they only had Happy Birthday signs.   It was so wonderful to see him!   I knew I missed him on the trip but didn’t realize just how much until I saw him.   Clearly, I was tired because I welled up when I saw the homemade signs and streamers.   Sleeping in my bed (our new king bed we bought a month before I left) with my husband near by was so nice. 15 nights away is a long time.

I am still exhausted but not as dazed as I was the first night and first day back.   Jet lag is crazy.   I keep waking up at 3:30 in the morning with my body saying, “Why are you still in bed? It’s after noon!”   When I try and go back to sleep and wake up at a more normal hour of say, 6:00a, I feel more tired than if I would have just gotten up for good at 3:30.   I am just going to keep powering through.

I have also continued walking.   It certainly isn’t the same walking I was doing in Amsterdam, but it is nice to keep my body moving as I found I really enjoyed the physical activity.   I live in a wonderful neighborhood.   While LA doesn’t smell nearly is lovely as the Amsterdam neighborhoods, and it definitely isn’t as pretty or quaint, it will suffice for now until my next adventure.

My intention is to keep writing.   I have some reflections and thoughts about my trip to Amsterdam I am going to share in the next day or two.   I am going to continue looking at life with a fresh neighborhoodperspective and I plan on sharing it.   I am looking forward to future travels which I plan to capture both digitally and with the written word and plan on sharing them with you.   A thought came to me as well, if you have any questions for me about, well, anything, by all means ask me.   I would be happy to give your questions some thought and answer them. In the meantime, I am happy to be home again.

 Posted by at 9:31 am

Fat Girl Travels Home

 Trip to Amsterdam  Comments Off on Fat Girl Travels Home
Nov 052009
 

clouds canal boatMy last day in Amsterdam was bittersweet.   Sima and I had a wonderful breakfast on the boat.   Then we walked around town on the way to her shop.   We poked in and out of little shops along the way.   The sky was beautiful the day after a heavy rain.   I always looked at the sky with Van Gogh in mind.   He loved the clouds and the light of Holland.   On my last day we had Van Gogh clouds. We had lunch at the cafe across from her salon.   It was cold the day after the rainy Sunday so I ordered soup.   It was a hearty vegetable soup of squash, potatoes and green beans with a fresh shaved mountain of Parmesan cheese floating in the center of the delicate broth.   It was served with a couple of slices of crusty bread.   We thought we would eat outside but it was just too cold.   We brought our plates inside and enjoyed the warmth of our lunch and of the heater next to our table. Then it was time for Sima hair.   We walked over to her salon where Sima worked her magic on my hair.   She brought my hair back to my original dark brown and layered some warmer dark brown highlights in.   I feel like I am walking around with her artwork on my head.church

We stopped at the Albert Heijn on the way back to the boat.   I needed to pack so we decided to cook dinner at home.   She made an absolutely delicious meal of home made pesto sauce on fettuccine and an arugula salad.   Ben made outrageous garlic bread.   We sat and enjoyed our last meal together.   I was definitely   tense.   I had packed while Sima was cooking and I knew my bags were very heavy.   I had gotten up early and walked over to the Kaas-Brood shop to get some cheese to bring home.   50 Euro later I had some gouda to bring home.   Even though I had read it was okay to bring back I was definitely concerned it might be a problem.   Of course, the thought of leaving Amsterdam and my sister was weighing heavily on me as well.   I had checked the availability on my flights and knew I wouldn’t have dinnera problem getting to JFK from Amsterdam but that my flight from JFK to LAX looked pretty full.   The next three flights from JFK looked progressively worse throughout the day.   It looked like I might have to layover another 9 hours and catch the late flight.   So, that was definitely giving me more to think about and worry about.

I got in bed relatively early that night.   At midnight, when I was just ready to turn off my light, Gnamish, the greatest cat alive, came to visit me on my final night.   He walked around my bed a couple of times doing laps, stopping at my face for love and snuggles. Then he left to turn in for the night with Sima and Ben.   I had a difficult time sleeping Monday night knowing I had a huge day of travel ahead of me.   Flying stand by made what is already difficult even more so.   Air travel just isn’t easy.   I don’t care what your shape or size it just isn’t an enjoyable experience.   Sure flying Business Class or First Class is much different than coach, aka steerage, but the process just isn’t easy. I woke up at 5a unable to sleep more I got up and to finish up my packing. Then I showered for the last time in the fish bowl.   No one was on the street that early so I had no looky loos.   Sima made coffee and we chatted a bit.   It was a beautiful morning.   The dusk sky was blue and hazy.   The moon was hanging over the city like it was still night time against the darkish morning sky.   I am sorry I didn’t take pictures but my head was busy with thoughts of the coming day.

We could have walked to Central Station with my bags but it made more sense to just call a cab.   They would take the 20 minute train ride back from the station so Ben could go to work and Sima could then go on to her salon.   The airport was hopping with travellers.   I had to check in at a little kiosk and then take my bags to another line to check them through.   I asked specifically about checking them all the way through to LAX but they insisted I could only check in to JFK.   It felt wrong.   I should have pushed them to check me all the way through.   I should have followed my hunch as my intuition knew better than the Delta/KLM employee at Schipol (Amsterdam Airport.)   I hugged Sima and Ben   goodbye.   I was very sad but didn’t cry.   My emotions were busy worrying about catching my flight and moving through my day.

After leaving Sima and Ben at the first security check point.   I had my passport stamped and carried on to my gate.   Security is different at the Amsterdam airport than it is in US airports.   I don’t know how it is at other European airports but here you go through security at your individual gates before you board.   I stood in line at my gate for the secondary passport/security check where they asked me questions about my stay in Amsterdam.   They asked why I was there and where I stayed and if anybody had given me any electronic items to carry on board.   They asked me if I packed my own bags.   After I was cleared to go through the next security check point I realized I hadn’t spoken to the gate agent.   I was told to leave the secure area and go back out and speak to her.   She informed me that it was “unlikely” that I would get Business Class to JFK and to take a seat.   She was rather unpleasant.   I asked if I had time to use the restroom.   I did.

Again, I found an interesting difference from the US compared to Amsterdam.   I am not a fan of public restrooms.   I am sorry to find myself talking about the restroom again, but this was fascinating to me.   Rather than give you paper seat covers, which is wasteful, there was a dispenser of toilet sanitizer on the wall with directions to spray it onto some toilet paper and clean the seat.   I thought that was rather ingenious!

I did have to go through security again, where I got the full work up.   I set off the alarm as I walked through the metal detector.   That is the first time that has happened in a long time.   A female security officer asked if it was okay for her to check me.   It wasn’t a problem until she patted down every inch of my body.   Again, that odd Dutch personal space thing.   In the US, when I have set off the alarm they use a metal detecting wand to find out what set the larger machine off.   But not in Amsterdam.   No joke if she didn’t rub down nearly every inch of my body.   My arms, my chest (under, over and in between my breasts without giving me the full breast squeeze) my thighs, my legs, my back.   It was a little bizarre.   As she finished my full body massage, I was beckoned over by another security officer who opened my carry on and my purse and asked me questions about my belongings.   The thing that was funny is I had two lighters and three books of matches that I had bought as gifts that didn’t make them blink an eye.   There was no mention of my baggie of liquids either.   Airport security seems so arbitrary and I don’t feel any safer because of it.

business eliteAs it turned out, I was able to fly Business Class to JFK. It was a bit cramped as it was packed with people.   But it wasn’t nearly as cramped as coach would have been.   We were delayed a bit on the tarmac in Amsterdam and I only had an hour and a half to make my connecting flight.   Of course, in NY I had to clear passport control where they stamped my passport and checked my customs form.   Then I had to claim my luggage and head over to customs where they wanted to talk to me about the “food” I had brought back with me.   I had packed my bags with some different kinds of cookies and mustard and mayonnaise in metal tubes (like toothpaste.) I had brought beer glasses home from the Brouwerij ‘t IJ (one didn’t make it…) and some other goodies.   I really buy a lot.   I had wanted to bring home some of the fabulous Belgian salami we had eaten but had read online that it is illegal to bring meat products of any kind into the US.   You can’t bring fruit or vegetables in either.   (Obviously, bringing lighters and matches is okay though.) I was pretty careful about that and I was honest with the customs agents.   However, it took time.   They scanned two of my three bags and asked me about the contents of each.   I told her, “cookies, socks, tubes of mayo and mustard, t-shirts, tampons…”   She started laughing and said, “Did you say tampons?!”   To which I replied, “Yes.”   She couldn’t believe it she kept saying to her colleagues that she couldn’t believe I said “tampons” and that that was the most honest response she had ever gotten.   It was an odd and funny experience.   I don’t think tampons are that hilarious but it got me through customs without actually having to open my bags.   Unfortunately, when I got to the place to recheck my bags for the remainder of my travels I came to find out that my intuition in Amsterdam had been correct and they should have checked me all the way through.   Becuase they hadn’t checked me and my bags through to Los Angeles I had to walk over to one of the agents and check in again recheck my bags.   And, because I had taken all that time in Customs, and the ensuing laugh riot about my feminine products, it was now 55 minutes before my flight.   Per Ms. Friendly at the counter I couldn’t check in for my flight because I had missed the hour prior to take off deadline.   There was no discussion about over riding the system or calling a supervisor to get me on the flight.   It was, essentially, “Too bad.   I am putting you and your bags on the next flight.”   I had already checked and knew the following flight, the flight she was putting me on the stand by list for, was nearly full when I had checked the night before.   I could feel myself welling up with tears.   There was nothing I could do.   I was at Norma’s, the Delta employee who works in the bowels of JFK’s, mercy.   And, she had none. I had to wait 3 hours for my next flight.

The upside is the gate agent for my flight was nothing short of kind and helpful.   There wasn’t a chance I was going to get Business Class to LAX with 15 people ahead of me on the list.   There were 10 seats available in coach.   When I explained my predicament of having a large ass and needing an empty seat next to me she laughed and was so great with me.   When the plane started to board she called me over and asked, “Is a window and a middle seat good for you?”   How she treated me washed away the bad taste that Norma had left with me.   As I sat in my coach seat the flight attendant came over the PA asking people to move quickly and get to their seats as it was going to be a full flight.   I smiled knowing I was going to be comfortable (The seats are so close together.   The seat in front of me was nearly touching me.   There was a slim chance that I would be able to use my tray table), or as comfortable as I could be in coach, the rest of the way home.

cloudsI know that travelling and specifically air travel is difficult no matter ones size.   But given that I am a woman of size I am clearly biased in my consideration that it is more difficult for fat people.   Besides dragging heavy luggage filled with clothes that are twice the size of an average person (think about it, if I am twice your size than logically my clothes will be twice the size of yours.   Like a word problem in math, it figures that if we bring the same amount of clothing on a trip and my clothes are twice the size of yours than my clothes will also weigh twice as much.) Then there is the whole walking the miles of airport terminal carrying my largess as well.   Then there is getting on the plane down the long breezeways and then getting on the plane through the small doors and down the the tiny aisles.   As I approach a plane the first thing I do is stop and rub and give a little “you can do it” pat to the outside of the plane.   It’s a superstition with which I am just unwilling to tempt fate.   Then as I walk onto the plane I inform the first flight attendant I see that I will need a seatbelt extender and where I am sitting. I was very lucky on this trip.   I was able to fly Business Class from New York to Amsterdam and from Amsterdam to New York.   I was also very fortunate that on my Los Angeles to JFK flight and back, even though I had coach, I was able to get an empty seat next to me.   There isn’t a chance I could fit comfortably in a coach seat with the arm rest down.   Not only would I be miserable but the person next to me would be also.   There are a lot of considerations being a person of size and travelling.   I have to say with this trip the pay off far outweighed the cost of having some discomfort. This fat girl will continue to travel and will continue to write about her experiences.   I also promise to not make a habit of writing in the third person either.   It just seemed fitting (ha, I said fitting) in this moment.

 Posted by at 1:42 am

Last Day in Amsterdam

 Trip to Amsterdam  Comments Off on Last Day in Amsterdam
Nov 022009
 

haarlemerstraatWhen I arrived nearly two weeks ago I had spent nearly 24 hours traveling here.   I had attempted to fly a week earlier but because I was flying on a stand by ticket I had to abort the mission as my original flight to JFK was oversold by 17 seats.   When I finally arrived here I was exhausted but thrilled to be here.   I arrived at 6a.   We took the train from Schipol Amsterdam airport.   I was dazed for sure.   We then walked from the train station.   My luggage seemed so loud as we rolled it along the cobble stone streets.   Little did I know then that that sound is a very common sound.   You hear people wheeling their luggage through town at all hours of the day and night. So, when we got back to the boat and dropped off my things and started our day it felt like I was going to be here forever.   Two weeks seemed, at that point, like it would last forever.   The first two days were very long days.   We packed a lot in.   And, now it is my last day.   It feels as if I blinked and now it’s nearly over.   We have had amazing late nights; climbing into bed at 3a on average.   I have walked many, many miles.   I have drank many a great beer and talked to many wonderful people.

This morning while Sima was getting ready I walked over to the Haarlemmerstraat, the little shopping street nearby.   I wanted to go to a coffee and tea shop (not to be confused with a Coffee Shop where people by weed and hash) to buy some coffee for John.   I was going to kass shopgo yesterday but we thought it would be closed on Sunday.   Many of the stores on the Haarlemmerstraat don’t open until 1p on Mondays.   The coffee and tea shop isn’t open at all on Monday.   They were open yesterday.   I am sorry I didn’t get John coffee.   He and I will just have to come back together.

I then went to the Albert Heijn to pick up a couple of things and to get a bottle of water.   It was packed with people.   I wish I could bring tons of things back with me but I just can’t.   They have fascinating spices and cookies and salami.   Things I haven’t seen at home.   It is illegal to bring meat products back into the United States.   It isn’t worth the risk.   It is unfortunate because I did get some small salami logs that were really good.   They weren’t too salty or garlicky.   They had an interesting flavor.

As a relatively picky eater this trip has been a real stretch for me.   I finally tried something called filet americain.   I purposely didn’t ask what was in it.   I had a feeling it was raw meat.   I didn’t love it.   Quite frankly, it was one of those flavors that I could do without ever having again.   I just looked it up on line to be sure and yes, it is raw meat.   Sima insists that here it is beef but I have read that it can also be made with horse meat.   Honestly, the thought of it turns my stomach a bit.   I may be adventurous in some ways but I just can’t stand the idea of eating Mr. Ed.

pieWe had a rainy Sunday yesterday.   It poured heavily all day.   We stayed in and had a beautiful breakfast of orange yolked eggs (the norm here) and some of that amazing heavy dark bread I got at the Saturday market.   Then Ben ventured out in the pouring rain and bought puff pastry.   He came back and baked an apple pie.   We relaxed and talked all day.   Then some French friends came over with their beautiful 14 month old child.   We played Scrabble and ate pie.   It was really nice being with Sima and Ben and this beautiful family.   To see the difference and similarities of how they are raising this beautiful little boy was lovely.   Last night we played cards and ate left over munchie foods from the party.   It was a great day!

I am going to miss Gnamish, their wonderful cat, so much.   He just made me take a break from writing for snuggles.   He climbed up onto the CPU under the desk.   From there he climbed up me and put his paws over my shoulder.   He is the loviest cat. Every night before bed he comes into my room and paces until I get in.   Once I get in bed he gets up on my chest and leans down and rubs his nose against mine.   I will miss him beyond measure.gnamish steering

The first Monday of every month they sound the emergency siren.   I was sitting here at the computer when it went off this morning.   At home, I know they test the emergency broadcast system on TV and on the radio.   But near me they don’t sound sirens.   I don’t even know if we have sirens outside in LA.   I assume they have them in other places.   It is a disconcerting sound.   I remember in college they would sound the sirens.   When they would students would stage “die ins” and lie on the ground in protest.   That is San Francisco for you.

Now, Sima and I are going to eat the last of the eggs and the dark bread and head out. We are going to walk to her salon.   She is going to do my hair for the first time in years.   I can’t wait to have Sima hair!   She is a brilliant hair stylist and colorist.

breakfastThere is so much I will miss about being here.   I really like the way of life here.   Unlike a vacation where you stay in a hotel and eat out and do a lot of tourist attractions, I spent this trip immersed in the lifestyle.   I shopped and cooked and walked around.   I didn’t do nearly the amount of touristy things I would have liked.   I don’t have regrets.   The time flew by at what feels like a record pace.   I missed many of the museums and the parks.   I did do the things that were on the top of my list.   I feel like I am going home refreshed and renewed with an altered perspective on life.   Since losing my job before I left my life is a bit uncertain.   After being here I feel like I can go home with new inspiration for what’s next.

 Posted by at 2:14 pm

Halloween in Amsterdam

 Trip to Amsterdam  Comments Off on Halloween in Amsterdam
Nov 012009
 

We spent the day yesterday preparing for the Halloween party on the boat.   I brought decorations from Los Angeles and Sima and Ben road their bikes to a friend who is a caterer to get pumpkins.   The pumpkins we kept seeing in the markets were different than the pumpkins we get in the US.   Their friend ordered some for them so we could carve pumpkins.   Then Sima rode her bike to the grocery store for things while Ben washed the outside of the boat.   Meanwhile, I walked over to the Saturday market for supplies.   I decided to make chopped chicken liver.     I bought fresh onions and garlic (I still had some fresh thyme from the week before) at one of the outdoor stands and then walked over to that amazing butcher shop a couple of blocks away.

butcherThe butcher shop was PACKED with people spilling out the double doors onto the street.   I walked over and realized people were taking numbers.   My number was 80.   When I arrived the number sign was on 47.   So, I waited with all the other people.   Of course, they came by with a tray of some slices of unidentifiable meat log samples.   I obliged and took the one that seemed to not have giant chunks of fat in it.   In hindsight, I wonder if those hunks were cheese.   It was around a half hour wait.   The people were all so friendly.   I had to listen for the beep of the changing number and then look at the number to see where we were as I couldn’t understand them when they hollered the numbers.   When it was my turn I walked up to the front and was mesmerized for a moment by all the different things they had in the cases.   The livers weren’t on display.   Of all the things, they don’t sell chicken fat.   They sell chicken parts. They sell whole chickens. But they don’t trim the chickens like we do at home.   So, if I wanted to get chicken fat I would have had to buy chicken and trim it myself.   After the butcher I tried a Le Poulerie (a poultry butcher down the street who might have had chicken fat but was testy that I had bought my liver elsewhere.) He had goose fat.   I even went to a meat stand in the outside butchermarket and asked for chicken fat to no avail.   I will say, the butcher shop I went to smelled so much cleaner and looked so much cleaner than most meat departments in grocery stores at home.   I don’t know what kind of laws they have as far as cleanliness but it smelled so fresh in there.   The glass cases were immaculate and the floors were pristine.   A beautiful big marmalade cat sauntered into the shop while we were all waiting.   He weaved in between people’s legs.   He came to me for some loving.   Then he hopped up on a bench and sat next to one of the waiting customers.   No one blinked an eye that there was a cat in the butcher shop.

As I was walking back down through the Saturday market to head back to the boat, who should I see walking in the crowd towards me?   Yes, it was Lester the Molester.   He was so excited to see me.   He smiled a big smile at me and started to speak to me.   The market was very busy and he was pushing his bike through the crowds as he had been doing last week when we were at the tram stop when he kept touching me.   The crowds of people worked to my benefit as the tide of people pushed him farther past me.   I took the opportunity to pick up my pace.   I looked back and saw he had managed to maneuver his bike in the crowd and was following me.   Again, the big crowd of tall Dutch people worked in my favor as I slipped into someone’s booth and snuck out the back side.   I walked back up the back of the market and scurried back into the crowd.   That had me walking behind him.   He never found me after that.   I am sure he is just a harmless old man.   Who rubbed me the wrong way, both literally and figuratively.

lis sim hallowI decided to be a cat for Halloween.   It didn’t take a lot of effort.   I gave myself whiskers and an upside down triangle nose.   Sima and Ben were a pirate couple.   Arrrrr. People started arriving around 9p.   Sima and Ben have some really lovely friends.   One group of their friends are French.   Really wonderful people!   I have so enjoyed spending time with them this trip.   Last night was no exception.   At one point last night it had gotten warm on the boat so I was sitting outside on the landing with a couple of people when more people arrived.   This woman was standing above me when I feel something heavy hit my thigh.   Then I heard a thud and then a splash.   Yes, she had dropped her keys.   First they hit me, then the boat step and then they splashed into the canal.   That is it for those keys.   They are gone forever.   She had just locked her bike up across the street and her house key was on the ring as well. She was much less upset than one would imagine.

Everyone was standing around the table eating when I walked in to use the restroom.   I was standing there in the bathroom when I realized my hair was moving.   I had a big brown spider climbing down the side of my hair.   It wasn’t a Halloween prank. It was real!   I didn’t scream.   I didn’t want to make a scene. I shook my head but then didn’t see where he went.   So, I came out of the bathroom and got Sima’s attention.   Both she and Ben came over and checked me for the spider.   We couldn’t find him.   For a moment, I thought maybe is was the great Dommelsch beer I had been drinking and that my eyes were playing tricks on me. I went back to do what I has intended on doing and there he was sitting on the counter blending into the stained wood.   I sent him away…far, far away.simben hallow

Some of the women who came to the party last night were from Finland. They brought some licorice liquor.   I am not a fan of licorice but it seemed impolite to not oblige them and take the glass.   The liquid was black and syrupy and the licorice smell was as bit noxious.   Someone else obviously didn’t like it either and left it on the storage box on the side of the boat next to where I had sat back down with a wonderful French woman.   Then a very nice Dutch man who works with Ben stepped out onto the edge of the boat.   As he came out of the door his coat caught the edge of the glass filled with the black sticky liquid.   It was a slow motion moment where there was nothing I could do. There was no where to go as the liquor spilled down onto me and my coat and my coat pocket.   For the rest of the night I smelled licorice and the side of my coat was sticky at first and then it just got stiff.   I don’t know that my coat will ever recover from this trip.

Around 1:30a   the party started to wind down.   It didn’t mean people were done partying though.   They were just done partying here.   Everyone was going to go to a bar called Mini Bar.   It’s a bar where you get your own mini fridge filled with mini bottles of different liquor.   You pay for what you drink.   For those who know me, I love mini things.   Mini is a good marketing tool if you want me to purchase something.   Last night, however, the pull of mini wasn’t strong enough to make me want to go out.   I had had a really great evening filled with really good conversation and some great beers and snacks.   I didn’t need to go out and drink more.   I stayed behind and cleaned up the boat a bit and washed my face and fed the cat.   It was a welcome time alone for the hour and a half until Sima and Ben got back.   Then we hung out together and chatted about the evening and snacked on some of the leftovers.   Again, I found myself going to bed at 3:30 in the morning.

Today we had tentative plans to maybe go to the zoo.   It’s a bit cold and rainy and blustery so I am not sure what we will be doing.   I have been so lucky with the weather here.   They say that October is the rainiest month in Amsterdam.   This trip I have been fortunate to only have had a little rain.   Mostly it has been hazy and cloudy with patches of sun and blue sky.   I can’t wait to process all my digital photos and share them.   The sky here seems so different than at home.   I know it’s the same universe but the way the clouds patch the sky and the hue of the blue just doesn’t feel like Los Angeles.

orange eggsWe had a lovely breakfast of heavy dark bread I bought at the outdoor market yesterday and eggs.   I have never seen a yolk like this.   The eggs look just like eggs we get in the states but the yolks are bright orange.   I assume it is from the chicken’s feed.   Like most things I have eaten here in Holland the taste is clean and fresh.   We toasted some of the pumpkin seeds from one of the carved pumpkins.   Now Sima and Ben are making an apple pie with the apples that didn’t get   eaten last night.   It smells so nice in here and it’s warm which is a lovely comparison to the cold and gloomy rain outside

Tonight we are thinking of going back to the great Belgian restaurant and then possibly to an Improv show in the Leidseplein.   Tomorrow Sima is going to do my hair.   Then Tuesday morning I am hoping to get on my flight with my stand by ticket and head home.

 Posted by at 5:05 pm

No Such Thing as Personal Space in Amsterdam

 Trip to Amsterdam  Comments Off on No Such Thing as Personal Space in Amsterdam
Oct 312009
 

stop and goMaybe it’s because everything is packed together and everything is small but it seems there is no such thing as personal space here.   When we had dinner at Tabac the other night.   We sat at the end of the bar as the 5 tables in the restaurant were over packed with other diners.   It was the perfect spot for me, I thought.   Since I was at the end of the bar and there was a table a couple of feet behind me I figured I would be out of the way of the other people as well as the wait staff.   But like I said, there is no such thing as personal space in Amsterdam.   For part of our meal, a man stood nearly leaning against me drinking a beer.   Sure, the restaurant is tiny and it was busy.   There just isn’t a consideration that he shouldn’t have been leaning on me.   When he finished his beer he literally put his glass down next to my dinner plate on the bar.   I said to Ben, “Really!?”   He just smiled and moved the man’s glass to the inside edge of the bar.amsterdam night

The other night we were walking near the Amstel to go to the Italian restaurant.   It was a lovely night.   It was Thursday so it was late night shopping here in Amsterdam.   Most of the stores usually close between 5p and 6p but on Thursday they are open until 9p.   So, the streets were thick with shoppers and tourists and people getting off work.   Rather than say excuse me or step into the street to avoid me a man literally walked into me hard from behind, grabbed me, gave me a bit of a rub and a squeeze as he walked by.   My little purse was up under my coat so it wasn’t like he was a thief.   It was a pretty obvious what he was doing.   The funny thing about it was he was in a very nice suit.   As I have said, I am definitely the largest person I have seen here so maybe I am like steak to a starving person.

smallest buildingYesterday, I spent the day walking around the city while Sima worked.   It was so lovely.   I saw the smallest home in Amsterdam.   I was on a search for a yarn store so I walked through parts of the Jordaan I hadn’t yet seen.   I found myself in a little square.   I sat on a bench and people watched for a little while.   A walking tour came by so I cocked my ear towards them and listened.   That is how I knew about the smallest home.

I sat across the street from Sima’s salon at a little cafe called Festina Lente and had sparkling water and watched the world go by.   When Sima got off work we went back over to Festina Lente and had a beer and bread with dip.   Can you smell the garlic?   dingyWow.   It was this beautiful crusty bread served with garlic aioli, sun dried tomato pesto, and an olive tapenade.   Then we walked over to a friend’s house.   They live in a beautiful restored building that was originally a sweets factory.

Later in the evening we met Ben over at some other friends.   As we were walking and walking and walking I was again very grateful that John and I started walking weeks before I came here.   The practice has made all the difference in the world.

red lightAround 11:30 we walked over to the Red Light District.   What a fascinating place.   All kinds of women in the windows.   For 50 Euro you can have the woman of your choice.   Some of the women were very beautiful.   Some, well, not so much.   Black women, white women, asian women, homely women, blond women, brunettes, red heads, some with glasses, some smoking.   Then there are the windows that have the blue lights.   The blue lights indicate they are transexual.   So, you have these beautiful women in tiny lingerie with outrageous figures busting out of their bras and a penis outline under their g-string.   We walked around for hours.   You aren’t allowed to take pictures of the women so I tried taking some long exposure images with my little camera of some of the streets.

I have much to do to get ready for tonight’s Halloween party.   Will post details and pictures tomorrow.

 Posted by at 3:04 pm
Oct 302009
 

Before I came here to Amsterdam I did a lot of research on the city.   I spoke to people who had been.   I spoke to my sister who has lived here for 2 years.   I read about the city on line.   I did my homework.   In the United States, I am often surprised   many places don’t accommodate people of size.   I am always surprised at my doctor’s office that all the chairs in the waiting room have arms.   I was surprised at jury duty that all the chairs had arms.   Certainly, I am not the largest person to serve on jury duty.   I know I am not my doctor’s largest patient.   Yet, those places are uncomfortable for me so, they must be uncomfortable for other people.   Am I the only one who complains or thinks about this?   I can’t imagine I am.

me trainI was informed that, undoubtedly, I would be the largest person I would see here in Holland.   So, far that has been the case.   I have seen some plump women but no one close to my size.   I was warned that people would stare as well.   In the US, I experience that a lot.   I shop at a Trader Joe’s near my apartment that is in a predominantly Russian neighborhood.   I have found that many of the older Russian women are fascinated by me.   They will stare and nudge whoever they are with to have them stare as well.   I had a very funny experience at Canter’s Deli a while back.   There were three older women sitting in a booth.   They couldn’t stop talking about me.   The part that was funny was I think they thought they were whispering.   They were not.   They were very loud and couldn’t stop talking about me.   When we got up to leave I stood in front of their table and said, “I could hear you and that was not very nice.”   They were definitely shocked.   Maybe I should have left it alone.   I don’t know that at their age they were going to learn some great life lesson from me.   At first, I felt good about speaking up.   Then later I felt bad about it.   Not about what they were saying, that was their problem.   But that the last thing I wanted to do was hurt their feelings.

I had another experience many years ago in a shoe store.   It was one of those self-serve shoe stores with many aisles of shoes and shoe boxes.   I came around a corner and standing before was a young boy around 6 years old.   He stood and looked up at me with his mouth agape.   He smiled and looked up at me and said, “Wow.   You are SOO big!”   I said, “Yes, I am.” Then he said, “My grandpa is big too…why are you so big?!”   So, I told him, “You know how some people are big and some people are small and some people are different colors?   Well, I am big.”   He giggled.   Not in a judgmental way but like he had learned something wonderful…like about dinosaurs or the universe.   Then he started to walk towards me.   I think he wanted to touch me.   Just then his mother came around the corner and found him.   It was a really beautiful moment.

In the US, my size is definitely a consideration.   I have found here it is a much bigger consideration in that everything is so small.   I know my photos aren’t doing the severity of how small everything is justice.   There is no scale comparison. At the party the other night I had to use the restroom.   I asked where it was and literally burst out laughing when I opened the door.   It was smaller than most peoples hall closets.   I opened the door and was greeted by a small toilet attached to the wall with a tiny sink hanging over the lip of the toilet.   How in the world could a man stand at the toilet?   Maybe if he stood in the hallway… I straddled the pocket sized toilet with both of my hips touching each side of the bathroom.   My belly was just shy of touching the sink.   I closed the door and stood there chuckling.   I pulled my pants down and sat.   Luckily, I realized I was sitting on my pants.   Had I not noticed it could have been one of the most embarrassing moments of my life.

Yesterday, I walked over to the little bread shop and then to the Albert Heijn (the grocery store) and picked up some things.   We had a the damlovely lunch of fresh bread and cheese and gorgeous tomatoes and cucumbers.   Then Sima and I set out to find items for their Halloween costumes.   Then Ben met us in the Dam.   It was interesting being in the square in front of the Queen’s palace without the carnival.   It was nice to see the difference but I was sad the poffergie guy wasn’t there.   I still think about them.

When Sima and Ben were talking about us going to dinner last night, to either the Thai place they like or the Italian restaurant they like, they considered that both places were very small and tight.   We opted for the Italian restaurant.   It was ridiculously small by US standards.   In fact, there is no way a US Fire Marshall would have allowed those tables and that many people to be inside.   In the US, maybe 10 people would have been “allowed” to be in the space and there were at least 25 people packed in there.   You sit shoulder to shoulder with people.   The food was unbelievable.   They put down some hot, crusty bread with little pots of garlic butter, a sun dried tomato and pesto tapenade and some of the most amazing green olives I have ever tasted in my life.   I asked the waiter what they were and he said, “Olives.”   Then I asked, “What kind?” To which he responded, “Green.”   Yeah, that wasn’t what I wanted to know.   I wanted to know what kind.   I could see they were green but they were also buttery and tart without too much vinegar flavor.   I ordered penne with pesto and smoked chicken.   Sima ordered truffle ravioli that were insanely rich and delicious.   Ben ordered lamb that came with salad and oven roasted potatoes.   I am sorry I didn’t take pictures of the food as it was visually stunning.

pointe arcariAnother thing I have noticed here is the food is served so hot.   Ben says it isn’t always this way.   My experience so far has been that not only does my food come molten but it stays that way.   The roof of my mouth has been burned beyond recognition by the lava filled bitterballen.   Even Ben’s potatoes last night were ridiculously hot and retained their heat for most of the meal.   At one point, I felt like a little kid.   I popped a piece of potato into my mouth and quickly spit it into my hands.   Of course, at that moment Sima looked up at me.   I apologized.   It was either that or burn a hole in the roof of my mouth.   Interestingly enough, I find my coffee gets cold very quickly.   More interesting than that is the crazy amount of coffee I have been drinking.

Now it is Friday around 1p.   The sun is peaking out through the cold cloudy sky. Sima is at her salon for the day.   Ben is at work.   I am going to walk around today.   I found a yarn shop on line that should be an interesting walk.   There is so much I want to see and do and I have made my peace that I won’t be able to get to everything.   It will just be a good excuse to come back another time.

 Posted by at 1:56 pm

Amsterdam to The Hague and Back Again

 Trip to Amsterdam  Comments Off on Amsterdam to The Hague and Back Again
Oct 292009
 

This has been such an extraordinary time for me.   I have found myself doing things I never thought I would do.   I have tasted foods that I never, in a million years, would have tried.   I have forced myself to step outside my comfort zone in almost every way.   Whether it is showering in a fish bowl, climbing insane flights of stairs, walking many miles alone through the city or trying venison it has all been really a fabulous stretch for me.

Tabac Cafe

On Tuesday evening, we went back to Tabac for dinner.   It is a little cafe/bar on the corner by the boat.   The first night we went there and just had beer and snacks.   Tuesday night we had beer, snacks and dinner.   I still can’t get over the cheese snacks.   To me they are the perfect snack.   Fabulous Gouda cheese in a crispy filo like dough.   They are served HOT with a sauce that reminds me of a Thai sweet chili sauce that is served with Thai egg rolls.   I am not usually a fan of curry but thought I should try something different.   I ordered the Xtra Spicy Green Chicken Curry.   Oh man, was it hot!   It came in a little bowl with a little mound of rice, mint yogurt to cut the heat, a green salad and some odd root chips.   It was very tasty; a symphony of loud flavors.

Sima wanted to take me to a cafe she and Ben love.   She warned me that it was very small inside.   I wasn’t concerned because I have been pleasantly surprised regarding how small things are here and yet I haven’t had a problem fitting.   We walked over to the cafe yesterday for lunch.   To say that it is small is a HUGE understatement.   It is like a cafe for Lilliputians.   No tables.   A tiny bar that seats 3 on one side of the door and 4 on the other.   There is a tiny counter that holds a cash register and a little glass display case of salads behind which is a small kitchen where they make the sandwiches and coffees.   Then there are 3 little cubes lining the only available space backed up small worldagainst the wall next to the cash register.   We sat there and held our plates when the food was ready.   We had outrageous sandwiches.   Sima and I shared two different sandwiches.   I have been so pleased with the freshness of all the foods I have eaten here.   The meats have been so fresh.   Nothing tastes old.   I had spicy salami with roasted tomato and zucchini and some kind of strong white cheese.   The sandwich came toasted.   Sima got turkey, bacon and avocado.   It was a great dichotomy of flavors with my sandwich being hot in both flavor and temperature and Sima’s being cool and fresh.   The cafe is called Small World Cafe.   It is definitely small literally but very, very grand.

Later, Sima and I walked to the Central Station to get a train to The Hague.   A friend, central stationwho I have known since I was in Junior High, lives and works in The Hague.   The train took close to 45 minutes.   It was good to see more of Holland.   Being here in Amsterdam it is hard to imagine a big city with the tiny streets and tall narrow buildings.   The Hague is more of a cosmopolitan city with some of the same old charm as Amsterdam but with some sky scrapers thrown in the mix.   Sima and I found a lovely cafe on a shopping street and had a coffee.   Then we poked around some stores.   Kristin met us and walked us through the Parliament grounds.   Then we went to an old fancy hotel for cocktails before dinner.   It was a very civilized hotel…very upper crust.   After cocktails we walked over to an Argentinian restaurant where Kristin goes often.   The service was amazing.   We drank wine and ate great food.   dessertSo often, I find, meals are just a way to get fuel to keep going in life, but this meal was an event.   We were there for hours.   One minute it was 9 and the next it was midnight.   In between, which 3 bottles of Malbec were consumed along with a gorgeous meal.   When the tray of desserts that Kristin had ordered arrived, Sima and I gasped. It was a tray covered in a decadent assortment of delights.   Then came the port wine.   Because it was so late we would have had to take two trains to get home.   So, Kristin ordered us a car to drive us back.   It was a far cry from the Stop/Go.   Nothing short of a miracle, I didn’t fall off or out of anything.

Sima and Ben have a wonderful cat!   It has been so lovely for me to have cat time.   We lived with a wonderful cat named Chuck and lost him nearly a year ago.   There is something completing about having a pet.   I think it makes the day brighter having the love of an animal.   Sima and Ben’s cat, Gnamish, is such a love!   Every night he comes into my bedroom and climbs up onto the bed and snuggles for a little while.   He climbs up on my chest purring like a motor boat, then leans down and rubs his cold wet nose against mine.   In the mornings, he HAS to climb into my arms while I am trying to write my blog.   Everything lisa gnamishmust stop when he needs attention.   He is very demanding when it comes to love and I am more than willing to oblige.

Today we are going to sort out Halloween.   Sima and Ben need costumes for their party on Saturday night.   I think I am going to go as an American tourist.   Yes, I am going to go as me.   I was thinking about carrying a picture frame and going as the Mona Lisa.   But I think I will just carry my camera and take pictures.   I found a yarn store I want to venture to as well.   Other than that I don’t know what today will hold.   Tomorrow, I am toying with the idea of a museum again.   Maybe Escher.   Maybe the Rijks.   I think right now I am going to throw myself together and walk over to get a fresh baguette from the bakery.

 Posted by at 1:15 pm

If It’s Tuesday in Amsterdam It Must Be a 5 Mile Walk

 Trip to Amsterdam  Comments Off on If It’s Tuesday in Amsterdam It Must Be a 5 Mile Walk
Oct 282009
 

Another amazing day in Amsterdam today!   Sima had to go her salon.   She was booked all day. canal near rjiks I decided that today was the day I would go to the Van Gogh Museum.   I figured it would be a nice thing to do on my own.   Part of me wanted to just stay on the boat.   After falling off the bus yesterday and then not really knowing my way around I was a bit apprehensive about venturing out on my own.   I got my cameras together and headed out.   I braved getting on another Stop/Go bus.   This time I managed to not fall getting off.   The ride in itself rjikeswas an adventure.   The streets are very narrow.   A car barely fits down them and here we are in this mini bus tearing down the one-way street on one side of the canal. (The Stop/Go goes both ways, so-to-speak, on this narrow one-way street and then back on the other side.) We got to one of the little bridges and they were doing some kind of construction.   So, the driver backed down the street and took a detour.   It was unbelievable.   First, that he backed up half a block but also that he was able to do it without killing any pedestrians or taking out any of the parked cars on the canal was genius.

I got off the bus and rather than catch a tram to go the next 6 blocks I decided to walk it.   The area where the Rijks Museum is located is absolutely beautiful.   They are doing a lot of construction on the museum.   I understand there is a lot not on display during the renovations.   Some people I have spoken to say they like the smaller displays.   It makes it easy to get through and they have the best out. I walked a couple of extra blocks and went to the Van Gogh Museum.   van gogh musThat was an extraordinary experience.   The artwork, his madness and his story are so compelling.   I spent hours reading all there was to read and listening to the descriptions of the artwork on the headset.   He was truly mad.   I wonder how he would have been in these times with the advent of medications to ease that kind of mania.   I wonder if his work would have suffered had he gotten the kind of help available today.

Rather than catch a tram I walked back.   It was definitely a long walk.   It was also fascinating.   I love seeing all the differences and automatsimilarities from home.   I walked by a fast food restaurant that was like an old Automat.   I remember there was a great episode of “That Girl” where Marlo Thomas’ character, Ann Marie,   goes to the Automat and doesn’t have money for food so she gets a bowl of hot water and puts ketchup in it to make soup.   Well, here they are filled with Dutch fast food.   They have sandwiches and little friend croquettes filled with veal ragout and other equally, distasteful for me but not for them, goodies.

I am also amazed that more people don’t get hit by trams here.   Of course, I don’t know the statistics but I haven’t seen anyone get hit by one. The trams just go down the middle of the streets here.   There are no barricades.   There isn’t even a curb or a raised tram comingbump in the road to tell you that there could be danger ahead.   The other night I saw someone standing on the tracks in the middle of the road as the tram pulled right up behind them.   Finally, the person turned and jumped out of the way.   It doesn’t help that they are quiet either.

I love to people watch.   No matter where I go in the world I love to watch people.   It doesn’t have to be anywhere special.   I love to see what people are buying at the grocery store.   I love to watch people and how they interact with people.   I am just completely fascinated and curious about people.   Being here has been and continues to be a delicious study in a completely different way of life.   Certainly, we are all human. However, the lifestyle here is so different.

There are hardly any cars on the roads here.   Of course, I haven’t been on any highways.   So many of the streets where I have been are narrow and the ones I have seen that aren’t that narrow share the road with the trams.   The main form of transportation seems to be walking which is followed closely with biking.   Imagine, if you will, an intersection.   The streets are cobble stones or brick.   On two sides of the intersection is where two small cobble stone bridges over the canals meet.   Then you have two flat one way streets.   I don’t know that my words will do justice to this.   I will see if I can get a picture that will better describe this perspective.   If you are following this, imagine a car coming over one of the bridges, a couple of bicyclists coming the from a different direction and then a handful of pedestrians.   When they all polittemeet at the intersection there is no stop sign posted.   There is no yield sign posted.   Who do you think has the right of way?   You are probably wrong.   The pedestrian had better stop because neither the bike nor the car will slow down.   Quite frankly, in that instance, which I have witnessed numerous times in the couple of days I have been here, the pedestrian stops and the car and the person on the bike slow and some how maneuver around each other without fully stopping and barely skipping a beat.

The other thing I find ingenious are the children seats on bikes.   In the States, I am used to seeing big plastic “safety” seats on the back of bicycles so riders can take their children on afternoon outings.   Here it is a matter of necessity.   The seats for the children on the back and on the front are just little seats with metal arms.   No belt.   No helmet.   I have seen some people riding with two children; one on the back and one on the front by the handle bars.   Earlier this morning, I saw a woman with a toddler on the back of the bike and she was carrying an infant strapped in front of her.   I am sure the Dutch don’t have a greater amount of child fatalities than we do just letting our kids walk places.   It is just appears to be a gentler and freer way of life.

 Posted by at 12:09 pm

Watch the Fat Girl Fall OFF the Bus

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Oct 272009
 

looier canalI thought I was done falling.   I don’t normally fall.   I have managed for quite some time to keep my feet firmly planted on the ground.   Until I got to Amsterdam last week I can’t remember the last time I fell. Then I did that amazing fall to my knees as I tried to step up over the gap from the house boat to the landing.   That was a good one.   Today’s fall takes the prize.   Sima had to go to her salon.   She normally rides her bike.   Since I am here we decided to take the Stop and Go part of the way and then walk the rest.   The Stop and Go is little bus.   More like a van but bigger that makes a big loop in this area.   It is one Euro and will stop whenever you wave it down.   We walked to the corner and one came in moments.   We got on and off we went.   About half way to our destination another woman got on.   Sima told the driver where our stop was and asked for her to stop on the bridge. Instead, she stopped short to leave us on the corner.   I had been looking at a map the whole time.   I was thinking that given how bumpy the ride was reading the map on the bus was a recipe for car sickness.   When I looked up I felt a bit dizzy.   Unlike the tram, there isn’t a huge rush to get off but I jumped up and headed for the door.   As I got to the step I just sort of jumped.   I can’t describe it really.   My head felt foggy and it seemed like a long drop down but I thought I was going to make it.   Then mid flight I realized “this is going to suck!”   My feet went down but the momentum threw me forward onto my hands and knees.   For a brief moment, I wanted everyone in Holland to be somewhere else.   Unfortunately, 3 people were standing in front of me.   There were two men on the corner.   Sima was behind me and then next to me in seconds.   “Are you okay?!” she asked me as she went to help me up.   I stood up and then there was all of the obligatory “are you okay?” “do you need help?” etc. from all the strangers.   I told everyone I was fine and off we went.   But WOW were my knees and palm of my hand burning.   Again, the pain to my ego was extraordinary compared to the rest of me.   I think I will be fine in the morning.   Maybe a little sore.   Maybe a little bruised.   Like Ben said, I will never see those people again.   If they see me they may remember me as the fat girl who took a swan dive out of the Stop and Go but I certainly won’t recognize them.

salonI spent some time with Sima in her shop.   It is in a very quaint neighborhood.   I walked around a little bit.   It was Monday evening so a lot of the stores were closed or closing.   I went into a health food store.   They smell the same as they do in the US.   I window shopped and then went back to Sima’s salon.

I had been thinking about going to the Anne Frank House.   I had actually decided against it.   I knew it would be emotionally difficult for me.   Then today I decided I wanted to go.   I didn’t want to regret not going or to always wonder if I missed something. Sima and I left her shop and I walked over to the Anne Frank House by myself.   The line earlier in the day had been very long so, I wasn’t sure if I would even get in.   When I got there the line was rather short so I waited and paid my way in.   I walked in and as soon as I turned the corner and saw Anne Frank’s pictures on the wall I just stopped and felt overcome with emotion.   I stepped aside as my eyes filled with tears and a lump formed in my throat.   The rest of the way through I kept finding myself having to step aside and compose myself.   They have dated quotes from her on the walls.   They have brief videos of people who knew her and her family discussing her and them.   Again, I had to deal with those crazy Dutch staircases.   I couldn’t take pictures in there but they anne frank housewere remarkably steep and narrow and difficult.   They have a small opening behind the bookcase for you to climb through just like they had to when they were in hiding.   It was an overwhelming and challenging experience.   First, for me physically but also for me emotionally.   What they endured until they could no longer endure is incomprehensible.   Seeing the picture of her father standing in the empty house in 1960 was so moving.   I am so glad I went to the Anne Frank House.   It put so much into perspective for me.   Life is so short and precious.   Not a moment should be wasted!   This last quote is the one that I feel compelled to share,

“April 5th 1944. I can shake off everything if I write, My sorrows disappear, My courage is reborn.” Anne Frank

 Posted by at 11:38 am

Staying in a Fish Bowl in Amsterdam

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Oct 262009
 

street viewStaying on a boat on a canal in Amsterdam is like living in a fish bowl.   Canal tours go by and people look and take pictures. The shower is on the street side of the boat.   There is a big picture window in the shower.   You literally see people walking by as you shower.   I know I could close the blinds but it is kind of a pain in the butt.   Once the window steams up a bit it is more difficult for people to see in.   Really, someone would have to intentionally stand on the edge and look down to see anything.   I suppose if someone wanted to work that hard to see in then who cares.   I would just prefer people don’t take pictures.

In my experience Amsterdam is a   rather voyeuristic city.   People leave their curtains open and live their lives like no one is watching.   Or maybe they are living their lives knowing people are watching.

lisa massageI haven’t been to the Red Light district, yet.   We did go by some red lights near the centre.   Although, the red lights were on their weren’t many women in the windows.   There was one woman sitting on her stool in the window twirling her hair smiling as people walked by.   Like so much of the Amsterdam I have experienced so far, the windows are designed for people to watch and look.   The difference is the woman who lives on the corned isn’t necessarily inviting anyone in.   The women in the windows with the red lights are definitely inviting you in…for a cost.

It was a beautiful Sunday yesterday.   We slept in as we were up until very, very late.   I went for a little walk and took some snaps with the little camera and then pulled the big camera out for some other shots.   It is rainy today so I will probably leave the big camera behind.vince vaughn

Much later in the day we went for a LONG walk.   We went back down to the centre.   I wanted to get those little pancakes again.   I just can’t describe them well enough to do justice for how delicious they are.   As we walked by the Tuschinski movie theatre near the Amstel Canal we noticed a large crowd of people.   There were photographers snapping photos.   Then a car pulled up and the crowd roared and flash bulbs went off.   Another car pulled up and the crowd roared again.   I had no idea who it was.   It was a Dutch actress.   Then moments later another car pulled up and a tall man stepped out of the car.   The cameras flashed again and the crowd went crazy.   It was Vince Vaughn.   He was here for the premiere of Couples Retreat.   Just recently I posted on a friend’s Facebook wall that I always think it is great when I see actors out where I am.   Living in Los Angeles it happens a lot.   It kind of gives me the sense that I am doing the right thing.   That may sound silly but I’ll take any reinforcement I can get that it isn’t time to give up my dreams.   It was perfect that I travelled around the world and found myself just steps away from Vince Vaughn.   Sure I wasn’t here for a premiere of my movie.   But there was something calming and great about it.

clock towerWe walked by some art galleries.   Some of the artwork, to me, was like something that was done in a kindergarten with finger paints.   Some of the artwork was disturbing.   In one window, someone had taken to fawns, cut them in half width wise and then sewed them together.   They were hanging together as one, like a siamese two-headed dear, their faces sweet and innocent.   There was a fabulous pig statue in one gallery window that I coveted.   The good news is all the galleries were closed.   No purchases were made.

We finally ended up at the restaurant that Sima has been wanting to take me to.   The restaurant is called De Zotte.   It is a Belgian pub and restaurant.   Like most of Amsterdam it is small tightly packed inside.   After the long walk we ordered beers.   There were so many to choose from.   They didn’t have the Dutch beer I have grown to love so I ordered something that had a great name.   The beer was called Delirium Tremens.   It had 9% alcohol and tasted lovely.   After half the glass I felt a bit light headed but figured it was just from the long walk.   After the first bottle, I knew I was drunk.   One bottle was enough to make my head swim.   We had dried Belgian beer sausages and bread with pate.   After the second bottle we ordered dinner.   Sima asked if I wanted to split a meal.   I should have.   I left nearly half my steak.   The fries were great!!   I stepped outside my comfort zone with food and tasted Ben’s venison stew.   I was surprised I liked the way it tasted.   I would never order it but it was good for me to try something new.   We also had some pate, again, good for me to try something new that I NEVER would eat at home. The third beer with dinner was probably too much as the first half of the walk back to the boat I felt pretty awful.   The second half of the walk back was delightful.lis sim de zotte

As we got close to the Anne Frank house on the walk back, we saw a big police action of sorts.   Police lined the street on both sides.   They had police vans and police on motorcycles.   It seemed like they had a blockade but they were still allowing cars through slowly and they allowed us to walk.   There were a lot of people standing around watching them too.   Sima asked someone what was going on and they said they were there to keep some squatters out of a building.   It didn’t make a lot of sense that they would need that many police for something like that. Also, they way they were lined up it didn’t seem like they were keeping people out of a building as much as they were blocking a street.   In the US I might have asked one of the police, “hey, what’s going on?” but here they seemed very serious so, my curiosity will never be satisfied.

Sima needs to go spend some time in her salon today.   I was thinking about going to one of the museums but have decided to go to the Anne Frank house.   I wasn’t going to.   I have walked by twice.   I find just being at the building to be incredibly moving.   I honestly don’t know how I will do being in the house.   It may be too much for me.   I suppose that’s the point.   The point is to feel something.   The point is to be moved.   The point is to remember.

 Posted by at 1:44 pm