Hookers and pot.

imageHookers and pot?  Seriously?  We were in Amsterdam so it seemed appropriate.  Haha.

Current update.  On a train from Amsterdam to Berlin.  Here’s a little more of an assessment on Paris and one on Amsterdam.
Paris is a giant and beautiful city.  Everything is very nice.  It seems like every nook and cranny is a place that was created specifically for a couple.  So many different cafes along the river to sit and have a nice meal or just talk or people watch.  There was some hustle and bustle to it but it all seemed orderly.  To this plain American, everyone is dressed to the nines in Paris.  Leather shoes, skinny jeans, tailored jacket and an elegant scarf.  Reina commented that we should’ve bought me a European man bag to blend in.  I scoffed and started chanting “USA!, USA!, USA!”
Amsterdam is controlled chaos.  You always have to be alert with your surroundings.  Not that there is violence or muggers or any of that.  It’s the freaking traffic.  This place is heaven to a cyclist or someone that rides a scooter.  As a pedestrian, you have to watch out for those two things, PLUS trams, buses, and cars.  Not to mention all the other pedestrains, about 1 out of every 5 is partaking in that old AMsterdam tradition – Smoking weed.
Yes, that’s right.  Marijuana (weed, pot, Mary Jane, etc) is everywhere.  If the sign on front of the building says “Coffeeshop,” then they ain’t selling coffee.  They sell weed.  A gram of the good stuff goes for about 5-10 euro.  A weed brownie costs about 5 euro.  Very interesting comparison to the United States, where it’s illegal.  Marijuana is legal to smoke anywhere in the city where you can smoke cigarettes.  And that includes just walking around.  There were some people giggling and you could tell it was that kind of giggling.  Ha.  And in Amsterdam you can find the infamous Red Light District.  Women stand in front of glass doors and people walk up and basicaly “window shop.”  If you have interest in a woman, you allow her to open the door and negotiate services desired and the amount to be charged.  If you and the prostitute agree, you follow her into the back.  So different than anything we have ever seen.  The whole area is spread over a canal and lasts probably four blocks.  A bunch of drunk young men acting crazy.  Kind of that juvenile Vegas feel, but much more tawdry.
Amsterdam as a city was beautiful.  The canals were fabulous.  We took a hop on/hop off bus and boat tour.  The buildings around the canals are four or five stories.  Because of the instability of the ground below the buildings, most of them can’t exceed four stories.  In the middle of the city is the Anne Frank House.  An amazingly somber place about the little girl who kept a diary while hiding from the Nazis during World War II.  We were very lucky when we first arrived.  There was only a 30 minute wait to get in.  The next day the lines were over 2 hours long and wrapped around the block.
The food here was very good.  Cafes representing every corner of the world were here.  Turkish, Italian, Argentinean, Chinese, Greek, Mexican, and evern American food.  Haven’t had a hamburger yet but they are everywhere.  We’ve had no problem using our credit cards with the chip installed.  In fact, most of the places, the waiter will pop your credit card into a handheld device and charge your card right next to the table.  The little device prints out the receipt and you sign right there.  We did have a challenge figuring out how the gratuity system has worked.  The little device doesn’t add a tip and there’s no place to put in a tip.  You must leave it in cash.  In Amsterdam, the common practice is to “round up.”  For example, your bill comes to 27 Euro.  If you have 30 in cash, you just leave them the 3 Euro.
The public transportation in Europe is wonderful.  We’ve taken two trains now and both were very lean and ultra comfortable.  We rode the subways in Paris and Amsterdam extensively and were very impressed.  We did have a small issue when we were supposed to get off the subway and nobody else was exiting the car.  Evidently, the first person to exit must push this little green button to open the doors.  What happened to us was funny.  We stood there waiting for the doors to open and nothing happened.  Then the subway started moving.  Hahaha.  We had to ride the subway to the next stop and come back.
On the Airbnb rooms.  You couldn’t ask for a better local experience than both of our places.  The first place was on the small island of Saint-Louis in the Seine River.  Totally gorgeous but around 120 square feet.  The one bedroom apartment we had in Amsterdam was probably 400 square feet and was above a cheese shop.  Wonderful.
English was prevalent in Amsterdam and was widely spoken in Paris also.  Since we were in the sourist sections a lot, there always was someone to assist us.
Wonderful vacation.
Apologies for any typos in this post.  I’m retyping onto my iphone.  For some reason I can’t hook my ipad to the internet here.

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