Wednesday, September 7, 2005

Bikes, phones, fine art and stairs

If we keep this kind of activity up throughout the trip, between all the walking and stairs, my legs are going to fall off. They are actually shaking right now as I sit here. And I've been resting for 4 hours.

The city is great! I like that there are so many people walking and riding bikes everywhere. It is so social. I'm so used to places where people just go in their houses and don't talk to one another. There are more people riding bikes and walking around than there are cars and trams and buses. And yet if you wander down some of the streets lining the quieter canals, it is so relaxed and peaceful.

I made the mistake of not taking a sleeping pill last night. Jessica too. We both thought that with as tired as our bodies were at the end of the day we would have no problem falling asleep. Wrong. We were both up all night. I think we each slept around two hours. So we finally got up at around 6am and started getting ready for the day.

The breakfast at the hostel was actually fairly decent. Cereal, yogurt, bread, cinnamon raisin rolls, oranges, milk, hot cocoa.... So we got something to eat and headed out.

First we rented some bikes. I haven't really ridden a bike in I don't even know how long, and all the bikes were too tall for me. I got the shortest one there and I still couldn't touch the ground when I was sitting on the seat without seriously tipping the bike. It was really rather pathetic, I looked like I'd never ridden before (but I never fell down or crashed!). We ended up returning them after about an hour. It was a nice idea though.

After picking up our Museum pass, we headed to the local mobile phone provider and I got a prepaid SIM card for my phone, so now I have a Netherlands mobile phone number. I finally feel connected again. Ahhh, peace. I can't stand being this disconnected. Must have contact with the outside world. I know, pathetic, isn't it?

First on our sightseeing agenda was a self guided walking tour from the Royal Palace to the Van Gogh Museum. I really like the buildings in this city. The Royal Palace (there is apparently a queen even though this has been a democracy for a long time) is fairly impressive from the outside, but we weren't allowed inside. We wandered down some shop filled streets and stopped for a late morning snack at a little courtyard hidden between there and the Amsterdam History Museum. We also saw Mint Tower, which used to serve as part of the wall around the medieval city. Everything past that is newer.

There was a huge flower market where they were selling bulbs for tulips, amarillos, narcisses, and other bulb plants (it took up an entire city block!), and a courtyard with a beautiful fountain and an large chess board, complete with knee high peices. Most of the Rijksmuseum is being renovated, but they had some of their artwork on display in the Philips Wing around the back. Some of the art in there is really amazing. I was able to take pictures as long as I didn't use a flash, so the pictures aren't that clear.

Behind the Rijks was what looked like a park with a beautiful, knee-deep pool of water. We stopped for about a half hour here, soaking our feet and reading. It was an absolutely beautiful day. People that were riding or walking by with their dogs would stop so thier dogs could take a dip or play fetch in the water. (I love that there are so many animals here, clearly well socialized and trained to follow their owners when off their leash!). There was also a huge grassy area where people were napping and reading. It was so peacefull. If we didn't have so little time in the city, I probably would have spent the rest of the afternoon just lying around there reading.

The Van Gogh Museum basically told the story of his life and grouped the peices together by where he was in life, explaining major events that influenced his work. I knew about his paintings, but I don't recall seing any of his drawings before. His stuff is really amazing. The museum is 3 stories. Lots of stairs (my legs are so tired).

After the Van Gogh Museum we were exhausted, and tired of walking and stairs, so we took the tram back as close to the hostel as possible. We had intended to go to the Anne Frank House between then and dinner, but decided we were too tired to walk that much more. We rested for a bit at the hostel and then headed out to dinner where we shared (very good) pasta and soup. Next we came back to the hostel, hiked back up the 6 flights of stairs to our room (yes, it's quite a workout) and passed out. For about 4 hours. I decided to get my internet fix and then I'm going right back to sleep (with a little help this time).

One more full day here, then we fly out early Friday morning...

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