I woke up fairly early the next morning round 9. That time frame is my sweet spot for sure. I really would like to have a job that starts at 10 because you can go out the night before if you like or do things prior, should you want to wake up at 8. I bade farewell to the room and walked in search of a church I had passed the day before. I figured there would be something to do there, maybe catch some Catholics on the way to mass. I once again stumbled into something very cool.
I arrived in the courtyard, which was easy to find due to the church bells that filled the air. I sat in the courtyard and listened for quite a while, five minutes or more, the bells ringing the whole time. I saw a crowd of people around the entrance of the church, but I also saw tents. People and tents = outdoor market! Brilliant location, too, right in front of the biggest church in the city so they maximized their exposure. It took me about an hour to navigate the whole market, it was shoulder to shoulder, one foot in front of the other packed. I saw people hawking knives, pots, pans, most anything, speaking in Dutch I guessed. Though we are separated by thousands of miles, selling stuff is essentially the same. There were demonstrations of how to use the newest gadget, just as I’ve seen done many times over here. No one has perfected how to chop vegetables.
I walked along the river and watched a tugboat as it slowly passed by. It was a very cool morning and I was glad to have long sleeved shirt. I walked along the river on a road and found a food stand. They served two things: Belgium waffles and cheese fries! Talk about selection, at least I could say that I’ve had a true Belgium waffle in Belgium so I went for it. The cheese fries used a white cheese and a healthy glob of mayo, both of which were just dumped on top of the fries. It looked fairly messy.
The waffle had two options: full or half room which meant they squirted cream into most or all of the waffle crevices. It was topped with powdered sugar because clearly, it wasn’t sweet enough already. It sure tasted good as I sat and watched a carousel go round and round. I think the morning made up for the bad night I had but not for the day that lay ahead. I made the fateful decision to take the long way to the train station to avoid the pile up for the outdoor market since I knew the general direction it was in, east. Boy I was wrong
I followed the river towards a church. The light poles around this area were crucifixes, with the light on the top of the cross, illuminating a crucified Christ. That’s exactly what I would want to see late at night. It felt very Exorcist like. I rounded a corner to check out a cool building. It was very square, but the first floor was more narrow than the rest of the building so it looked like a pedestal. This turn to check it out nearly cost me a whole lot.
I continued walking east/south with the idea that eventually I’d be on the road to the train station. I walked for a long time so I ducked into a market for some water. I made a point to check out these small markets that seemed to be everywhere. They were just big enough for the basics, but nowhere near the Wal-Mart or Target sized stores over here. It’s like a couple 7-11’s under the same roof, but you had real, fresh fruit, vegetables and meat. I selected what I thought was water but actually was a no calorie, lemon/lime flavored water with CO2! It was like drinking Sprite, but no sugar which is totally the way to go.
As I walked I noticed there weren’t many people out. A bit longer and I started to see women in veils and men with long beards. I had walked right into a Muslim neighborhood. People looked at me, but no one said or did anything. I wasn’t really scared, more on guard just because I was a minority, a visitor to their neighborhood. I smiled at everyone which is the best and only option I had. I kept walking towards what I hoped was the station or at least a part of town I recognized. Why did I start hearing the sounds of cars speeding? A few more blocks and I found out: I’d walked myself right outside the damn city! I was parallel to the highway now, what happened?
At this point, I freaked out! I mean I was by the damn highway, no telling which way to go. It was too far to back track so I had to think. My phone has a compass so I tried to figure out west. I sat down on a bench to calm down for a moment. Then, faintly, I heard something familiar. Yes, that sounded like drums, perhaps even a guitar, too. It’s coming from a western direction so maybe this is the way to go. I had no other choice than to follow my ear or hope for a cab. A few blocks later things look vaguely familiar.
I tell you it was a scene out of a movie as the trees parted to reveal a hotel, then a long van with a live band playing inside! Not only that, but there were tents, beers and brauts! In mere minutes I went from terror to elation. I was not only safe, I was drinking Jeffe, a Belgium beer, watching a band play 60’s rock! They had a long truck that had an opening compartment on one side and they were set up inside the truck. These guys probably drove around from parking lot to parking lot to play. A small crowd showed up and I watched a couple girls dancing and just having an absolute ball in a hotel parking lot. Amazing, saved by rock n roll again!
I finished my Jeffe, which not a beer I enjoyed since, but tasted very good this day, and headed up the road to the train station. I was finally, truly on my way to Amsterdam. I wanted to get to one place and just stay and hang out there. No more long walks, computer cafes and feeling lost. I had such a big smile on my face when I saw the train station. I saw some side doors so I figured I’d go in and see if I could get information about the next train to Amsterdam. Turns out I finally made the right decision as I was literally right in front of a large sign with train times as well as the escalators down to the right tracks. Adding to my luck was the fact that the next train was moments away, so if I hadn’t turned when I did, I would have had get to the same spot using the escalators, at the entrance. I just walked down and got to the platform to wait maybe 5 minutes before the train pulled up. I sat down and began to smile, a small chuckle. I had done it, really made it to where I wanted to go. I had traveled by train from Madrid to Amsterdam by myself! It began to rain and I didn’t care, I was in a warm train looking out for windmills. I was going to have a good time for the next few days, guaranteed, in Amsterdam!
I had hoped to see windmills, guy in wooden shoes and other stereotypes on my trip, but I didn’t see one. It didn’t matter once the train stopped and I stepped out into the air, into the city of Amsterdam! Why yes as a matter of fact I did smell herb shortly outside the station. I didn’t see a coffee shop though. I had other things to do first such as find a city map and my hotel. Then I could hit the coffee shops. I had mapped the hotel previously and I knew it was by the zoo. That was south east so I whipped my phone’s compass and headed that way. It wasn’t too far and I could follow the signs for the zoo.
Amsterdam is such a lovely city because it’s on the water. There are bridges everywhere. Not many cars, but a lot of bikes and pedestrians. I felt at home right away. I had walked a bit when I came to some shops. I didn’t pack much so I needed socks. Think about how much room a week’s worth of socks takes up especially dirty, smelly socks. They are pretty cheap too so why not just buy some when you arrive? Get out and buy new socks, enjoy that new sock feeling on vacation. Socks are cheap, maybe 1$ a pair, so a 5$ investment will be totally worth it. Don’t pack socks, buy them when you arrive at your destination on your next vacation.
After procuring clean socks I was very near my hotel. I really loved walking over bridges and looking down at the water. I crossed over such a bridge and got the feeling that I was leaving one part of Amsterdam for another. Perhaps this was the central/eastern point. the directions from the station to the hotel were very easy and I was on major roads the whole time. Shortly after crossing the bridge I faintly heard reggae music. Since this was right by my hotel, a coffee shop would be a choice find indeed. A lone man in dreads was inside smoking so I knew I’d be back.
It was only a couple blocks before I arrived at my hotel. I had to explain that I was a day early for check in, but they weren’t fully booked. I located my room and laid down. I was here, really in Amsterdam. How did I celebrate, by taking a nap! Why I laid down I don’t know, but I do know that I slept a couple hours. I woke up, realizing I was missing the city, specifically that coffee shop. I walked as smoothly and as fast as I could. The clouds were dark, too, rain was coming soon so I wouldn’t have seemed suspicious. I arrived just as the thunder rolled. I walked up to the counter and checked the menu. One could buy just about every strand of grass available in all weights, but they seemed to direct you to the hand rolls. I asked him what he might recommend and he just smiled and told me I was in charge; whatever I wanted would be good. I selected hash/white widow option. He said that was fine, but he did say, ‘no tobacco?’ As I found out, spiffs were rolled the Amsterdam way: hash or grass with tobacco. It cost about 5€ a spliff, very reasonable.
I selected a table by the window. There were only three men inside listening to reggae. One was just rolling spliffs. I lit up and waved my spliff at them hello style. It was my first legal joint! I stared outside at the rain. People were running from it and I laughed. I was at the place I wanted to be during a rainstorm. I decided to keep smoking until the rain stopped. What I soon realized was the grass was a lot better in Amsterdam and smoking a whole spliff by myself wasn’t a good idea. I lit up a smoke since it was still raining. I was baked, totally and there wasn’t anything anyone could do about it. I still have half a spliff left for later. I remembered there was a Chineese place right by the hotel so that would make a nice dinner.
I strolled taking in the fresh rain and smells. It was a gorgeous place to be that is for sure. The Chineese meal wasn’t anything special though I’m fairly certain the lady didn’t speak English. Lots of my encounters involved pointing and nodding. I was more concerned that I was coming off too high. I got a beer and dug in. It continued to rain off and on during the meal. I sat outside the restaurant and thought about lighting up right there. I elected to not be annoying tourist, smoking right by an entrance, besides it was 9-10pm on a Sunday. I figured I could walk and smoke and not bother anyone. I did have a moment where I realized that I had walked much further from my hotel than I wanted. It was sprinkling so I didn’t want to get caught in the rain. I was soon back in my bed as the rain softly pelted my window. Sleep came fast.