Thursday, June 24, 2010

Amsterdam Travel Guide: Doin' It Dutch Style!

Hi Bloggy Friends,

It didn't take us long to realize that the preferred mode of transportation in Amsterdam is the bicycle. Every street, whether major or not, is equipped with bicycle lanes, which makes getting around in the city on two wheels safe and completely practical. For two ignorant pedestrians like us, though, it's a little tricky. After nearly being plowed over a couple of times, we've had to learn to look both ways twice when crossing every street. The bike lane comes first and then the road for cars. I need to drill that into my brain.

In our normal lives Alan and I aren't bike riders. Philadelphia just isn't as bike friendly as I need it to be. We couldn't come to Amsterdam, though, and not try out this efficient system for ourselves. Thankfully, our landlord Daniel (who is the nicest guy ever) has two bikes that he rents out to his tenants. So, this morning we plopped ourselves up on those bad boys and hit the bike lanes to explore more of the city center.

Despite the fact I haven't ridden a bike in years, I picked it up rather quickly. Alan will kill me for saying this, but he needs a lot more practice. Thankfully, beautiful Oosterpark is located between our apartment and the downtown area, so we had a chance to pedal around there to become more acquainted with our wheels. I'm already in love.

Once downtown we found a nice spot to park and chain before heading to a neat outdoor market. There we found a few doo-dads for our home and similar goodies for family and friends.  Then we browsed along some of the busy streets and wandered past the tulips at the famous flower market before stopping off at a herring stand where we each tried fresh herring with pickles and onions. It was good.

At this point our curiosity got the best of us. While checking out some street performers in a lively square called Leidseplein, we ducked into a cafè called The Bulldog to see what all the fuss was about. Come on, you're not living unless you see stuff like this for yourself. This particular spot is like the Starbucks of cafès in Amsterdam. There are several of them littered about the city, but this one is cool because it was once a police station. Sure enough, people were sitting around smoking pot and eating something commonly known as a "space cake," which is essentially a pot brownie. They also sold bottled marijuana drinks, energy enhancers and something called herbal extacy. It was pretty cool to see it so freely used and sold.

The rest of the evening entailed more browsing, dinner at a yummy Caribbean restaurant and a stop in a gay-owned cafè called Downtown - just for the sake of comparison!

We rode home that night in a torrential downpour. Needless to say, we were super soggy when we finally reached the apartment. Splish, splash.

Have a great night.

Love, Josh


Mnowac said...

Such fuN! I lived outside Amsterdamn for a month in college and I had to check out the Bulldog too. There was also a fun bar called Indiana Jones, wonder if it's still there. I love Holland.

Bill Fogle said...

Catching up on the blog. I watched the videos but missed the literary parts! I know nothing, zip, nada about Amsterdam. Starting to get a sense of the attractions. What's the inside joke about the cafes, though? Just the free substances?

Casey said...

I would have LOVED that cafe. Also, congrats on the bike. I'm a mess on them...all over the place. One of the last times I was on one, I ran off the curb onto a major street--not good.