Fri. July 18, 2014:
At breakfast I tried again to fix the coffee, make it better somehow. The coffee was from an automated machine, so I tried the mocha this time. No good, I added some sugar and even more milk. Still no good, I gave up and downed it in one gulp. My day was not off to a good start, my cinnamon raisin bread had gotten stuck at the back of the toaster (one of those conveyor belt dealies) and I had to fish out it from the back with a fork.
We packed up our bags and headed out. For our last night in Amsterdam we were going to be staying in fancier digs, at the Hotel Pulitzer. Brent had chosen it because it had a wacky design. They had bought a row of house along the canal and gutted the inside to make a fancy hotel that from the outside looked tiny. On our walk over we saw a baby bird, it made me sad, but Brent pointed out it’s all a part of nature and that there would too many birds otherwise, I imagined a nightmare scenario involving a lot of bird poop and we left it at that.
We got to the Van Gogh Museum about half an hour after open. It was unbelievable how many people were already in there. There were hoards of people, all moving at a zombie-pace. I blame the self-guided audio tour for that. At the more important works there would be a pile-up of people and we would have to wait for the crowd to clear before going back. The museum was well curated. They had on display paintings that had inspired Van Gogh as well as paintings by his friends and contemporaries (most notably Gaugin). It was sad to see how Van Gogh deteriorated over the years. The exhibit was in chronological order; you could watch him fall apart.
We finished the museum in about two hours, just in time for us to enjoy high noon. Outside the museum the line to get in was huge. In the park between the Rijks Museum and Van Gogh Museum there was a tourist kiosk where they sold tickets to various attractions, including the Van Gogh Museum, yet only three people in line there. In the park there was also a giant IAMSTERDAM sign that people were climbing all over.
We walked through the garden at the Rijksmusem, trying desperately to walk in the shade. I was really tempted to jump into the fountain; it was a really hot day. I don’t think my camera would have forgiven me though. A few blocks away from the museum, safe in the shade, we pulled out the map. We still had 2-3 hours before we could check in at the hotel. Turns out we had cleared out all the landmarks on the map. The only thing left was a giant park. At the risk of getting sunburnt we backtracked past the IAMSTERDAM sign again.
The park was beautiful, dotted with lakes and flower gardens and a few gazebos. We weaved our way around, patches of shade dictating which direction we would walk. We stopped a patio for lunch. The only things on the menu that caught my eye were the croissants (not available after 12) and snacks (not available before 4): so much for that. I was more dehydrated than hungry anyways. While ordering I noticed that they had Cassis Fanta, but when I tried to order it the woman had no idea what I was saying, so I just said Fanta. Turns out the default Fanta is orange. While we were eating on the patio, in the shade of trees, a bird pooped on Brent’s leg. It was quite ironic given the conversation we had in the morning about birds pooping on people, in which he had said it was really unlikely to happen.
On the way back to the hotel we stopped at an “American” candy store. I remembered seeing a sign in the window for Birthday Cake M&Ms which meant they might have other wacky flavours. They didn’t. I settled for a Wonka Crème Brule bar and a Fanta Cassis. Both were British, not American as the Fanta had the price on the can as 59p. I was still hungry for lunch; I took the opportunity to stop at a vending machine store. The cheeseburger was more like seasoned meatballs and the bun was soggy. It was really not good, but worth it for the novelty. For dessert we stopped at Ben & Jerry’s again. I had been torn the day before between two flavours, now I got to try the other one: chocolate and vanilla swirl with crushed Oreos and chocolate chip cookies. I got it in a cone this time and immediately regretted it. The ice cream made a giant, melty, sticky mess. It was all over my hands and face.
The hotel consisted of winding, curing hallways. It had been broken up into lettered sections and it was like a maze trying to find stuff. Thankfully there were a lot of signs all over the place. The so-called “slow” internet that was free of charge was pretty much normal, what was the high-speed one you could pay for like, I wondered?! We had a lot of catching up to do, two days without internet equals a lot of unanswered questions such as: what is the difference between “super ice cold” and just regular cold? (We had seen this on offer at a bar the other day).
While Brent looked up canal tours, I relaxed; sipping my Fanta… except it was not cassis. It was mango & passion fruit. I had been fooled by the purple can! Brent narrowed it down to the Blue Boat Co. for our canal cruise. And so we had to walk all the way back to the Rijksmuseum (the kiosk was across the street). As we waited in line I worried, the sign said that reservations are recommended for the evening cruises. Thankfully that was just a recommendation; we got our tickets no problem.
On the way back to the hotel (again), we stopped at Starbucks so I could buy an iced coffee. We had an early morning the next day and so there would be no time to stop for coffee. I was shocked; they did not have any iced coffees in the fridge!! Marks and Spencer also did not have any iced coffee. I was starting to get worried. I stopped in at LUSH because my free sample of R&B hair conditioner leave-in was running low and there was no way I would spend the last days of our vacation with crazy hair. We had googled “edibles”, because when in Amerstam… The internet suggested a café that was tourist-friendly, for the life of me I have no idea what it is called, the scribble in my book looks like Abaraxas. This place was not easy to find. We were walking down a busy shopping arcade and suddenly we had to duck down a really narrow alleyway to find it. Brent walked ahead, wanting nothing to do with the awkwardness that would ensue. I was really nervous about going in, scared I would be making a fool of myself. Earlier in the day I had gone into a shop that claimed to sell weed ice cream. There was a group of barely-18 year old girls, they were flirting with the shop keeper when finally one of them cracked and straight up asked if the ice cream really had weed in it and whether the guy sold “edibles.” He laughed and said no. I was afraid of that happening to me. The café was dark and a thick air of smoke hung around. The woman had blonde dread locks. She did not ID me, she did not give me instructions or warnings, she did not seem to care, she just handed me the muffin. Still, I was glad to get out of there.
We stopped at another grocery store. Honestly, we were anticipating the munchies in the evening after the muffin. We stocked up on soda, iced coffee, chips and mini stroopwafels. I finally found my Fanta cassis. Walking back we noticed that our hotel spans an entire city block: it totally made sense now. We had taken to wandering the hotel earlier and we easily walked for at least 20 minutes without backtracking. We had dinner at the Pullitzer bar. It was fun to sit in big fancy leather chairs; it was a very comfy set-up for writing: I managed to catch up while we waited for our food. I had ordered the Dutch plate: sausages, matured cheese, cheese fingers and bitterballen. I am not a huge fan of Dutch food (except stroopwafels), especially bitterballen. At least I tried it.
It was a little weird that during our evening canal cruise it was still bright out and boiling hot: even though it was 8pm, thankfully the cruise had drink service, and my discomfort with the heat was alleviated with an ice cold Coke Zero. The cruise offered us views of the canal houses in their entirety. What I didn’t realize, because you cannot tell from the street, is that some of the houses were crooked, leaning forward or to the side. Apparently the thing to do on a Friday night in Amsterdam is to pack into a boat and cruise the canals while drinking. One boat passed us that was crammed with guys; they were all standing because there was no room to sit. A little dinghy meant for two people passed by, it had four and the back was sinking. One boat had a dog in a life vest. One guy had brought his BBQ grill on the boat with him!
We passed some pigeons roosting under a bridge. We did not realize that one of the churches we had passed the day before actually sat atop a really wide bridge. We had no way of knowing that before. Because we were on the evening cruise we passed by the Red Light District. Again, we mostly saw people just sitting on the edge of canal drinking beer.
After the cruise it was still really hot outside. It hurt to get up off the seat because my thighs were stuck to the faux leather seat. We stopped at a hotdog vendor and I bought a peach iced tea. It tasted like Nerds and was just what I needed. I even managed to trick Brent, hater of iced tea, into trying it.
On the way to the hotel we each ate a quarter of the lemon-cranberry weed. It tasted pretty good, save for the skunky after taste. The label on the muffin had a warning about not eating the whole thing at once; it suggested having a tiny bite and waiting 60-90 minutes. While we waited for it to kick in, Brent googled “edibles”, turns out we had taken the recommended dosage. Good, good, except I really wanted to eat my second quarter. I had wolfed down the first one, while Brent slowly ate his. After 60 minutes I was feeling zilch. I wolfed down my other piece and waited… nothing. Thankfully we had the Roasted Red Pepper Doritos to keep us distracted, they made a good snack. I gave up around midnight and went to sleep. The most I could say I felt was a nice calm, but that is about it. At least the muffin was tasty.