Day 85: Amsterdam - Grampies Go in Circles - CycleBlaze

October 11, 2013

Day 85: Amsterdam

Today came up cold and raining in Amsterdam. No help for it, we put on all our clothes and cycled the 20 km in to town. Our "favourite" bike parking beside the train station was full. Yes full, no bike parking. How crazy is this place! Well, no problem, we moved over 100 meters to a place that did have space.

Amsterdam in the rain
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Traffic jam caused by garbage truck and narrow streets
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The plan was for the canal boat tour, and we stuck with it despite knowing that the windows would be clouded with rain drops, and fogged. We still felt we had not seen the major sights of the town, so we thought it would be good to get motored around and get shown what was what.

The tour, as it turns out, was very disappointiing. First off, it was a canned narration. That is always bad, because it can not respond to any special interest or question from the riders, and can even get our of synch with where the tour is really at at any moment. In this case, there was also a huge amount of dead air, reflecting the skimpy information actually presented.

One defence the tour operators could put forward is that unlike other major capitals Amsterdam does not feature so many huge and identifiable buildings and monuments. It is an atmospheric city of canals and bicycles, so what you need to do is just enjoy the canal boat ride. Maybe, but not in an enclosed boat in the rain!

Enclosed boat
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We did pick up a few things from the narration, though. For instance, there are five styles of gables on the narrow houses: step, bell, spout, and ... (two others). Because of its trading past, many houses are or were warehouses. Others were merchants' houses, but with goods stored on upper floors. Many houses (even new ones) have a hoist pole on the top front, used for raising stuff to upper floors. Internal stairs are too narrow. The rings of canals outside the inner city were installed as the city grew. One was for rich merchants, and there the houses can be double width. We noted some embassies in that area now. There are a number of houseboats parked along the canals - 2500. The number is strictly controlled. We assume that means the prices are sky high. Similarly, parking in the city is almost non-existent. Parking infractions attract heavy fines, payable immediately, before a car is released.

Out in the harbour
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There are actually seven bridges that line up for this shot
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Once off the boat, our day looked pretty grim, with the soaking rain. One of us, and there is a small debate about which, came up with the idea of buying umbrellas. This was not too brilliant anyway,since everyone else on the streets had one! We headed down Damrak, the main street, and found that every store had a good selection of cheap umbrellas, next to the marijuana themed tee shirts and maps of the Red Light district.

Typical souvenir shop
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Typical beautiful buildings
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The diamond factory was not an actual factory
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Buildings that face the bulb market
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Under out new shelters we sailed down Damrak, headed for the flower bulb market. We came across an Indian restaurant, the Kohinoor, named for the famous diamond and no doubt reflecting Amsterdam's reputation as a diamond city. We are not exactly Indian food experts, but we come from an area of heavy Punjabi immigration and have certainly tried our share. So when we rated Kohinoor among the best ever, that was pretty significant. It was surprising for a place on the main drag in so touristic a city. Our waiter was also an amusing but good surprise. He spotted that Dodie suddenly lacked her paper place mat (scammed as a souvenir) and brought a replacement. He asked Dodie if she wanted ice for her coke, and when she (Canadian like) said no, not wanting to make him run around, he unceremoniously gave the cubes (that, unseen, were already in the glass) the boot, onto the table cloth. Then he had Dodie feel the bottle, to make absolutely sure that the coke was at the right temperature.

Later, with about 1/4 of our rice (pilaf style) still on the plate he asked if we wanted more rice. When we said no (Canadian like, not wanting too put him out, and being satisfied anyway with that first plate), he grabbed the offending 1/4 plate of rice and made to usher it to purgatory in the back. So now we piped up, to save the rice. "Oh, you do want rice" he surmised, and ran off, returning with a fresh, heaping plate of rice.

When we were done what we had ordered, hot milk chai appeared, just right for the cool day. In summary, a perfect Indian meal. Our waiter then accompanied us to the door and literally waved us goodbye. Cool.

At the Kohinoor
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Hot food
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Fortified by hot food and sheltered by umbrellas, we continued walking through town. Still no museums, though. Grampies are real country bumpkins. One quasi museum was the Delft porcelain shop. Delftware originated around the 16th century, no doubt influenced by Chinese pottery. At its peak, there were 30 companies producing the usually blue and white, hand painted pieces. Now, only six remain, of which Royal Delft is the best known. The shop had representation from all six, though, plus antique pieces. For the likes of Grampies, there was also some cheap stuff, much of it made by the six real companies, though. Prices for the really real stuff were like €75 for a mug and up to €20,000 for an elaborate multilevel tulip holder.

Delft ware
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Delft ware that is not just blue
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Typical mug
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Hand painting
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Expensive pottery
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Colourful, delftware
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This painting is composed of tiles
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We began our return to the bike lockup early enough so as to be sure not to cycle in the dark, as well as the rain. Also, we needed to get back before the closing of the office, so as to pay for the ability to turn on the heater in the little cabin. That way we could dry out before trying to get onto an airplane.

As often happens with do it yourself projects, we have gotten to be experts on the ways into and out of Amsterdam just as we no longer need to know it. This one last time (for this year) though, we just zoomed seamlessly back, arriving fifteen full minutes before closing! So now we have heat, and maybe soon, somewhat dry clothes!

Tomorrow, to get to the airport, we need all our gear in" fit on the bike " order. Then once there, it has to change to "fit on the plane " order. We need to allow lots of time for that to happen, so though the flight leaves at 1:30 we will start out from the camping as early as possible. That means an early bedtime, but a snug one, here in this heated cabin.

Shiny tulip bulbs
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Typical stall in the bulb market
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Giant amaryllis!
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Dutch cuckoo clocks! Too low quality to beg for.
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Damrak St in the rain
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Church in the old town
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Let's smoothly get out of here!
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Today's ride: 37 km (23 miles)
Total: 5,638 km (3,501 miles)

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