Amsterdam, The Netherlands - Sunday, September 07, 2003

We've been flying pretty fast and furiously through Europe with no time to upload our pics, type up journal notes, or call family/friends. It kinda makes us feel like we are late completing a work project. Haven't felt that in a while...say a year and 9 months! So here it goes....

We stumbled onto a typical, old Amsterdam hotel. It's not uncommon for folks to own a brownstone on the canals where the family lives on the bottom 2 floors and rents out 4-6 rooms upstairs. Very narrow, circular staircase! We loved hanging out and chatting over wine with the owner and the amazing fresh-cooked omlettes/great coffee for breakfast. Much better than a hostel!

Most of our time in Amsterdam was spent wandering around the narrow streets and canals (dodging the 40% of the population that only rides bikes), though we did visit a couple of museums, spent time an amazing photo exhibit, took a canal boat cruise, and checked out the Anne Frank House (AFH).

*AFH had been spruced up quite a bit since I'd last been there in '89 with a coffee shop, book store, and plaques in every room. AF wrote with such clarity and spoke in a voice beyond her years. Quite an impactful museum.

*Earth From Above Photo Exhibit - we randomly found an outdoor photo exhibit with very large format color images taken from the helicopters by Yann Arthus-Bertran back in 1995. His intention was to create a thorough survey of the state of the Earth on the eve of the twenty first century. Cruise his website to check out the photos...AWESOME!

Coffee Shops
It's common knowledge that the Netherlands has a more liberal view on drugs than the USA. Soft drugs (pot, hash, mushrooms) are perfectly legal and readily available in both bars and most prolifically in "coffee shops." Hard drugs (heroin, cocaine, X) are all prohibited. It's quite surprising to order a beer in a pub and see cannabis and beer listed on the same menu. As for coffee shops, they sell both coffee along with joints, bags, and bongs. Coffee shops are found in all neighborhoods on most corners, not unlike Starbucks...just selling a different habit! Did we partake? Come on....our parents read this. Keep wondering.

Next Stop - Red Light District (RLD)
We walked through the RLD one night along with a few wide-eyed Asian tour groups (video cameras working overtime!) and soaked up the atmosphere. Prostitution is legal and regulated in the Netherlands. They pay taxes and have medical regulations (condoms, checkups). Quite a surreal environment with sex toys, ladies of all size, shape, and color for rent in the windows, live sex shows, porn video cabins abound. It was actually fun watching men from all walks of life nudge their buddies before trepidatously approaching the door/window of a pretty prostitute with a question. Most got the door slammed on their face. Others went in for a while...

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