Dutch Countryside

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It’s a SHLEP!

Day 14 — Van Gogh and a HOT time in the old Dam!

The Great Artist, with Van Gogh looking over her shoulder. At least Genevieve has both of her ears… at least that’s my impression!

Day 14 — Van Gogh Museum, aimless wandering and FINALLY get our rijsttafel!

When we packed for this trip, we brought sweaters, jackets, long pants and rain gear. We should have brought swimsuits, because it’s gone from warm to HOT here in Northern Europe.

The high today in Paris was 100! It was 97 in Brussels. It probably hit 93 or so here in Amsterdam. Thankfully the hotels in Belgium and Holland have been air conditioned.

But the streets aren’t. And we were already schvitzing pretty good when we got into the line for the Van Gogh museum this morning. Fortunately, the line moved quickly and we got inside before we completely melted. (Sounds like a lot of whining for folks from Texas, but believe me, it’s hard to appreciate art with perspiration running into your eyes.)

The Van Gogh museum is a very well done display of Van Gogh’s work. Contrasting with the dark sullen mood of his art, the museum is very big and airy. Today it was pretty well packed to the gills with pushy tourists. After about 20 minutes, I was setting picks so Genevieve could establish position in front of the informational panels. Took and threw a few elbow, too!

In spite of that (how do you say MOVE DOUCHEBAG in Italian?) we saw a fabulous collection of Van Gogh’s work — he only ever sold one painting and that was to his brother — as well as art by a lot of his pals from the impressionist movement. Good stuff. And the workout was pretty good too.

It was after 2 by the time we got out of the museum, so we found a place for one of the favorite Dutch delicacies, PANNENKOEKEN. Pancakes. Like crepes in France and waffles in Belgium, the Dutch eat plate-sized pancakes covered with anything you can imagine. We had a savory pancake (ham, cheese, onions and something else) followed by a sweet one, covered with pineapple, kiwi, bananas and ice cream. It wasn’t the best local meal we’ve had, but the concierge said we probably went to the wrong place.

After three days here, and walking through others’ clouds, we went into a coffeeshop, the original Bulldog (the Starbucks of Dutch cannabis shops), in the Leidseplein. This place wasn’t like the one I remembered from my last trip through Amsterdam. They served food, alcohol, had sidewalk tables … of course it might have been and I might have forgotten. Who knows? We didn’t hang out inside very long, but we did get a good look at the “officer on duty,” the sales counter.

We came, we saw, we coughed, we left.

One of the great little secrets of Amsterdam is the free ferry that takes pedestrians and cyclists across the harbor to a couple of different places. The five minute tour affords some beautiful views of the city from a vantage point that you don’t get stumbling around on the “hobblestone” streets. We took the boat ride… and the breeze was just what we needed to cool off a bit.

On our way back to the hotel for a little siesta (ALWAYS TAKE THEM!) we took a look at a small part of the huge, beautiful and very crowded Vondel Park, which was only a few blocks from our hotel and museum square. We sat on a bench and watched the young people roll in the grass, sit around in a circle, smoke dope and giggle. To think, in just a few years, we’ll be old enough to do that again.

Dinner was an Indonesian rijsttafel, a Southeast Asian feast of sorts, but probably the definitive Dutch meal. I’d set off to have one of these nearly 20 years ago when I had a long layover here, but got sidetracked and didn’t have the pleasure.

Tonight, we did. Rijsttafel means “rice table,” and consists of a large bowl of steamed rice and/or fried rice (we had both), accompanied by a bunch of different small dishes ranging from very sweet to very spicy. We had a smallish assortment — only about 15 dishes. The blend of flavors was unique and sublime.

Hopefully I won’t still be tasting it in the morning.

Tomorrow is our last full day in Europe before we head back to Austin. We’re going to get out of Amsterdam and tour the countryside by bus.

And yes, I’m going to eat that herring standing on a dike.

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