i finally get to sing 'in the port of amsterdam'part 1

so yeah. it's been a long time since i've done a diary post, which, as i take a quick look back through the blogchives, i regret. i don't feel like writing up the miscellany of my days, but then i miss them. so i might do more. i'm not sure. here's my amsterdam holiday diary.

i always have to know at what exact point a holiday started. there is confusion here; after band practice and packing, rachel and i set off on the bus to liverpool street on a sunday evening. this should have been the start; but on arriving at the train station, we found the typical british rail replacement bus service waiting to take us to harwich, which kind of shat on the leisurely, wine-soaked train ride we were expecting. so we unloaded at harwich, queued for the boat... and then we really got going. our cabin was an awesome captain's suite, which was huge. bigger than our bedroom at home. with complimentary white, red, champange, juice, beer, cola, and fruit, en suite, with a telly, a table, and a goddamn sofa.

so we grabbed our beers and went up on deck to wave bye-bye to old blighty, swamp lights disappearing into the fog. it went quickly and was cold, wet, and beautiful. then it somehow reappered, massive on the other side of the ship, and we floated out of the harbour.

the next day we were woken by the captain's announcement half an hour ahead of disembarking. we transferred to train, and passed through rotterdam and a fair amount of the actual country in an hour and a half or so. so then we got to the station, and went to get out some euros, and a funny thing happened. i tried at the ING machine there, it paused, and said there'd been a communications failiure. same with rachel. we went to another atm and the same thing happened; then on the third attempt, at a different brand of cashpoint, it told us we'd reached our daily withdrawl limit. the whole thing was quite confusing and panicing... suddenly phone calls from the bank came through saying my card had been cloned and was i abroad and they were putting a limit on what i could take out. they said to use my credit card, so we went to pancake corner (great) except when i did that they called me up and asked if i was abroad and so on.. rachel had a similar thing except at that exact moment she couldn't take out any of yer actual money.. by this point, we had walked with all our baggage from the station to our hotel on the leidesplein, right at the other end of town and were very grumpy as we couldn't get money out to get on the tram. the phonecalls lasted all day, with rachel being given an additional spending limit and an hour to take some cash out.. which we tried to do at another ING cash point, which again gave her nothing but ticked the money off the account, leading to even more phonecalls and a manic run around the city looking for a cash point of a different make. it took nearly all the time we had and... well anyway, eventually we got some money out and could reset ourselves.

we et spanish near the harbour, in front of the lights and canal, nomming just the right amount of tapas. the patas bravas was strange - it was a kind of spicy mayonaise they had on, a very lowland approach.

tuesday we rented the obligatory bikes, fressing bagels for breakfast. i don't remember at any point being told that amsterdam is a costly city. i mean, what with the pound being how it is, against a capital city, maybe it's to be expected. tbh i didn't actually know very much about amsterdam before leaving. i didn't realise how canal-based it is, i didn't know.. blah. anyway, we got our bikes and cycled round the vondelpark. i was a bit slow at first but soon got back into it and ended up loving the bikes - really nice solid build. then we parked up and went into the van gogh museum, which i found initially disappointing, but ultimately pretty good. well when i say disappointing, that's untrue because i never really got what was meant to be so great about van gogh before, and most of the museum was more celebratory than explanatory. it would say 'he started experimenting with pointalist techniques' but not show you any examples of pointalism to compare what he was doing to what they were doing. when you finally did see his contempories, they were brilliant, and improved my estimation of van gogh too because i could could see what he was doing differently. the fact that his brother was an art dealer and basically seemed to tell him what he should be doing helped him along a bit. but it was enjoyable, especially the special exhibition on night paintings, which had loads of great works in.

afterwards, we cycled up the east side of the city and found some very cool little areas north of the old jewish quarter while i couldn't work out where we were. we plonked our bikes down and walked into the old central town, the red light district, which seems to take on all comers; bridal shops next to chinese supermarkets next to bars and dope shops. most of it wasn't very nice; tacky fast food and dingey looking coffee shops and sex for sale, not a good mix. there was a ruling a few years ago, apparently, where the coffee shops could no longer sell booze and cannibis. most went with booze but some stuck to weed, and being coffee shops, have internet too. surely dope and internet is an even worse combination than drink?
we had a drink in a brown cafe, thought a little bit, then tottered back to our bikes and cycled back to the hotel. then we went round the corner for an indonesian dinner on one of those busy side streets of the leidesplein -- a sort of leicester square equivelent, although one of the things i've learned from this trip is that while cities have some analogues between each other - warehouses, rivers, and lots of stuff to do - you just can't map them on to each other -- and it was well nice. it was upstairs somewhere, and we had a mezze/tapas equivilent of lots of nice small dishes.then went for a drink in a bar while a salsa band entertained us for one song, then bored us for several subsequent, similar songs.

the next day we woke up, not just saddle sore but bruised. we got some bagels and went to the rijks museum
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