K-Sweet didn't have to work on day 2, so after a quick breakfast at Schiphol train station, we took advantage of the free day to take a train downtown to walk and explore. Actually, I just recalled that our train trip from the airport to downtown had a funny moment... As the conductor walked into our car, we showed him our tickets, and he said something like "ah - first class, come on" with a smile, as he waved us into the next car. I said something like "no, it's okay, we're fine." He again repeated what he said, and a Dutch passenger in our car laughed at us. I quickly realized this dude was telling us we were actually sitting in first class when we shouldn't be, while I thought he was giving us a free invite to the glory land. whoops.
So, we arrived downtown, and canals, bicyclists, electric trams, and people are everywhere. Hardly any cars. People are sweeping up in front of their shops, and it's exactly what I pictured. Very cool.
After wandering around on foot, we began tram-hopping here and there to get a sense of the street map that we had. We badly wanted to check out the Rijksmuseum - Amsterdam's "classics" art museum (it houses what is commonly referred to as "The Night Watch") - so we made that our first stop of the day. The place was mind-blowing. Two Vermeers, plus an abundance of Rembrandts. And the thing is, they had a lot of historical galleries that featured craftwork found around the home, and that contextual exhibitry actually worked quite well.
We took off from the Rijks and eventually landed at a little square called Leidseplein, a place that had a lot of restaurants and pubs, and a little ice rink set up for kids. It also had these things:
Chocolate-covered waffles for the win, or as kel called them, "crack cocaine." Leidseplein was a cool spot, so we hung out and grabbed some food and beer. Here's a video of the area:
At the end of the night we met up with Caroline, an old friend of my wife's who had done a year abroad when she was in high school by coming from Netherlands to Iowa for a year. Caroline rules, and was very fun to walk around with. She took us to the red light district, which was a lot less of a big deal than I had been told. Plenty of regular restaurants around it, and all kinds of ages wandering around the streets. It actually seemed like a decent area, so I don't know if it was cleaned up throughout the last several years, or if I had some sort of euro-blinders on where everything seemed nicer than it was.
We ended the night with Caroline by going to one of her favorite spots for dinner. The place was small, had nothing on the walls, and the chef stopped by top speak the menu of the night to you personally. It was phenomenal. Kel and I shared a prosciutto starter, and we chowed down on this dinner that was a prime cut of beef placed on top of goat cheese, all covered in this puree of mixed berries. It was the best damn dish of our entire trip, and to top it off, we ordered this pear "pie" of some sort that came with a side of sour creme. HOLY F%^K. the waitress said the grandmother of the business' family makes the dish once a week, and that she will not tell anyone else in the family the recipe. i'm not a big foodie, but this place ruled. Chao, you are drooling right now, eh?
Here are some pics and a vid:
Also - one final thing about this first full night out in Amsterdam - just about everywhere you go downtown, it costs the equivalent of about 75 cents to go to the bathroom somewhere. I went into the water closet at Central Station, and there was a turnstyle to get inside, and there was a woman sitting inside the men's room, with a clipboard, at a desk (that had a fridge), watching people piss. I'm 100% not joking. funny stuff.