With the help of a couple of Tylenol PM to squelch the beginnings of a headache and neck pain, I slept hard until 5:30 this morning. The bed was very comfortable, no noise from the street, blackout curtains to make it dark, and a very cool 21 degrees Celsius made this exhausted woman happy.
Took me a few minutes to figure out the espresso machine in the room and the rain shower head for the shower. The breakfast area was very nice. A woman made us each an omelet. They had a machine that squeezed fresh orange juice. Had another area with various breads, cheeses, dried fish (salted herring?), salad, and fruit. Interesting items that people have for breakfast. We stayed with the traditional omelet, bacon, and fruit. The coffee machine ground beans for good-tasting coffee. The coffee cups were small so it took several cups.
I forgot to mention that we met several nice people sitting outside the café – a young couple from Milan, a couple from Israel, and another couple – he was from Amsterdam and she was from Scotland. He had very interesting tattoos all over his neck, shoulder, and on his bald head. I wanted to take a picture but I figured he would think it was rude.
Today was another beautiful day – sunny with a very nice breeze. Using Google map directions, we walked 30 minutes to the meet up point for our first walking tour of the day. Our guide was Robbert (spelling is correct) from The Dam Guides. I found the company on TripAdvisor and Cruise Critic. Surprisingly, we were the only people on the tour today so it was nice being able to have a conversation with him as we visited the various points of interest. We learned a lot of history about Amsterdam – how the city was formed, the different religious influences, the rise and fall of tuplip commodities, Napolean’s occupation, the Nazi occupation, and how Amsterdam has become known for its inclusiveness and tolerance. It was a 3 hour tour and even though we stayed in a few block area, we walked a lot from point to point. The tour ended near the Anne Frank house (tours are a 2 month waiting list) and Robbert pointed us in the general direction of the Banks Mansion.
I tried using Google maps but I couldn’t get my data to work and I had a weak WIFI signal. We were hungry so we found a sandwich shop and ate some lunch. I was frustrated with the data signal because I had signed up for TravelPass through Verizon which was supposed to allow me to use data when I didn’t have WIFI. Finally found an information store and used their WIFI to map us back to Banks Mansion. We followed the canal and were back in about 15 minutes.
I got on the phone and called Verizon. Embarrassingly enough, it was operator error. I failed to change a setting on the phone from “block roaming” to “allow roaming.” Once I had changed that setting, the data worked fine.
We rested and enjoyed the wine and cheese offerings again. I had signed us up for the Red Light District tour that evening beginning at 8:30. The meeting point was the same so we had another 30 minute walk to the spot. This tour was led by Mark, the owner of The Dam Guides. Again, we were the only 2 people. He has a law degree and also works as an advocate for the sex workers (the term they prefer to use). The Red Light District was much larger than I had anticipated. I thought it was one street. No, it was several streets. There were stores, live theaters, peep shows, and, of course, the main draw – women (or men dressed as women) in the windows. (Think Bourbon Street on steroids). Many of the women Mark knew because of the legal aid work he does. They waved to him. We never saw anyone in front of the windows negotiating a price with the women. Mark said had we been there on Saturday night, we would have seen a lot of buyers.
We learned that the sex workers are unionized and they do not own the shop windows where they work. They rent the space from a corporation that owns the buildings and the corporation provides security, etc. They work either the day shift or the night shift and the rent is based on which shift it is – night, of course, being the most expensive. Our guide said that the current government is working to reduce the Red Light District. Tour groups going through will be banned beginning January 2020 and some buildings are being bought for other uses. There was a strong police presence and Mark said there were also a number of police in plain clothes. In addition, there are a number of round structures on the sidewalk. They were walk-in urinals so men (and women) would not pee in the canal and possibly fall in. Eeew.
It was an interesting tour. In retrospect, we should have waited and done this tour when we got back from the cruise. Two walking tours in one day was too much. Had I known how big the RLD was, I definitely wouldn’t have booked it. The walk back in the dark was somewhat spooky although a number of restaurants were still open so the streets weren’t deserted. We had a rain shower earlier but we were inside and luckily it didn’t rain on us walking back. We would have taken a taxi but the taxi drivers said the distance was too short for them to bother. Really? No money is better than some money? Okay, we will keep our Euros.
We were back to the hotel a little after 11:00. Embarkation morning was going to come early.
Random Facts about Amsterdam:
- Dutch are the tallest people in the world. The height of Dutch man is around 6 ft and 5.6 ft for Dutch women.
- The cleanest and safest tap water is located in Amsterdam. They have the best water in Europe.
- Amsterdam is a city which is built on poles – eleven million poles. The city is a placed a meter or so below sea-level. The train station of Amsterdam Centraal alone needs 9000 poles to be supported whereas a normal house needs only 10. These wooden poles of 15-20 meters are placed in a sandy layer which is around 11 meters deep.
- There are 1281 bridges in Amsterdam, 80 can be found within the canal ring. The most famous bridge is the Magere Brug or Skinny Bridge. When you’re standing on the corner of the Reguliersgracht and Herengracht you can see 15 bridges at the same time. You do have to stand on the side of the non-even numbers and count the bridge where you’re standing on as well.
- Amsterdam has more canals than Venice and more bridges than Paris. The canals are not stagnant like the ones in Venice so they do not have a smell.
- Most canal houses are very small at the entrance, the reason for this is that they only had to pay taxes for the size of the facade of the house. That’s why everyone built high and long houses. You can find the smallest facade in the world at Het Singel 7. It is only 1 meter wide and barely wider than the front door. As the house goes back it rapidly increases in width.
- Amsterdam has the highest concentration of museums per square meter of all cities in the world.
- Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is the only airport in the world that has a museum.
- You can find more than 4000 parakeets in the Vondelpark. They are not native to The Netherlands but were brought here as pets. A few escaped and decided that they liked the parks of Amsterdam.
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