Tuesday, June 16, 2009


It's raining again so it took us a while to pluck up our courage to venture outside. I really love the sound of the rain on the tent from inside of the tent; from outside the tent I don't find it anywhere near as pleasant. Not knowing what the weather is doing is a bit of a pain so we tend to just ignore it and get on with whatever we need to; this usually works out fine as it did today.

After buying our metro tickets 11.50EUR for 48hours each we took the metro in to Amsterdam central going past some pretty non-descript, depressing housing estates on the way. First stop for us was the Rijksmuseum which is being renovated so there were only a couple of hundred exhibits being shown but it turned out quite well being only shown the cream of the crop as it were. Both Caron and I have been amazed at the Rembrandt's as well as the Vermeer's; they are really quite exceptional. The museum doesn't only contain art but other exhibits and it we enjoyed getting a bit of background on Dutch history which we can now, sort of, fit together with the rest of the European history.

Feeling a bit peckish we had a small bite to eat at the Bulldog pub which Caron visited the first time she was here more than 20 years ago. It's actually more than just a pub because it also houses a dope smoking den and the smell of dope wafts up to where we were eating every now and then. A couple sat down in front of us and lit up joints because it isn't illegal to use drugs here. It's not entirely a free-for-all because one can only buy a limited amount and one can't just smoke anywhere and there is an age limit so there seems to be a nice balance between freedom and rules - at least as far as drugs are concerned. Walking back towards the station we came across the store below.

I think that one of the cigar and whisky evenings we have on a monthly basis we should change the format slightly and have a cannabis and champagne evening!

My father's comment regarding Dutch architecture came to mind when looking around at the canals around Heernegracht street; what architecture?

And to add insult to injury, there has been some decidedly dodgy foundation laying. If something strikes you as odd in the following photographs, it's not your eyes playing tricks on you; the buildings really are skew.

It's amazing that they are still standing.

Going further towards the station we wandered up and down the red-light district which was very different and not entirely what I had expected. In amongst all the sex shops, live shows and prostitutes there are plain ordinary shops like a corner cafe or a classical music school. The prostitutes rent little rooms like a cupboard and then parade in them waiting for customers to ring their bell. Right in the middle of the red-light district is a church called oude-kerk and there are prostitutes not 5m away from it's walls; a bit ironic I would say. We caught up with mellman having a peek into one of the windows; note the reflection!

Like drugs, there seem to be a fair number of rules about the sex trade so while it is legal it isn't welcome anywhere other than in the red-light district. Seems pretty sensible to me.

On a lighter note, walking along the canals there was a long line of small dinghys tied up with this in what would have been a dinghy parking bay.

Last visit of the day was to the 'sex museum' which was a bit of an eye-opener to put it mildly - not for the faint of heart but it elicited loads of nervous giggles from most of the people, both men and women, who visited it. Unfortunately, Caron, who normally has a photographic memory, swears that she can't remember anything! Damn!

From there it was back on the metro and we spent the remainder of the afternoon relaxing and reading again; I could really get used to this!

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