Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Amsterdam!!

Ok, let me say right of the bat that if you ever thought you'd like to come to Amsterdam. You will! Do it! First impression: I never seen such crazy traffic!! And I'm not even really talking about car traffic. There must be a million bicycles in this city. It's like trying to pass through a swarm of bees without getting stung. Not too much car traffic but the roads are like knotted spagehetti and they're made of brick as well as the sidewalks. It's difficult to tell which is which. In fact, sometimes the sidewalk IS THE ROAD! Look both ways, look again and maybe 1 or 2 more times, then go. I thought I'd be hopelessly lost, but it's fairly small and I got my bearings pretty quickly.
I checked into the Hostel Anne Marie which was great. Big, clean, cool/helpful people working there and met some great travelers there. Droped off the backpack, got a map and info on what to see and I'm off. The red light district is way across town so I head in that direction. By the looks of things the girls are busy. OK, I know where that is and head back. On the way I stop at a supermarket. Funny thing. Everyone speaks English, but everything is written in Dutch of course. Couldn't stop laughing at my predicament. A label reading American vegetarian trying to avoid meat in Amsterdam. Well, I learned that "met gehekt" means "with meat". So I'm able to pick out some vegetable lasagna (with corn??) and get back to the hostel and meet my fellow travelers. From Germany, Oz, and Virginia. We all hit it off immediately and decided to check out a blues club. But first we had to warm up with 2 bottles of wine, some funny amsterdam cigarettes, and 3 hands of Bullsh*t (the game, not Dung). Turns out that its an open jam at Bourbon Street. So I sign up and play a couple of tunes much to the delight of my new friends. Breakfast the next morning consisted of Coffee, OJ, Bread, and PB & Jelly or something called nut nougart. Afterwards I decided to check out the Van Gogh Museum, but first I need to get in the right frame of mind. Off to a coffee shop. The key word is "Coffee" as opposed to "Cafe". All you get at a Cafe Shop is coffee. I can get that anywhere. So I find Bulldogs Coffee shop, pick out "white widow" from the menu and swap stories with 3 guys from S. Carolina. Off to the museum. Funny Story: When I bought my parka for this trip I knew it was a Dutch Police Parka, but I didn't know that they were still in use. As 2 mounted cops crept up behind me I couldn't help but wonder what they were thinking of me. Here I am basically impersonating an officer after just enjoying Amsterdam's finest. I couldn't help laughing at the irony. Normally in the U.S. this situation would cause instant anxiety. Not here. Didn't care. It's all legal. Well, I wasn't sure about the parka though. They either didn't see me or didn't care because they went right on by. However, the next day I did get stopped. As they hauled me off to jail I quickly realized that it was a problem. Nah, just kidding. They were rather nice. After I told them where I got it and how much I paid, they just said I'd have to stop wearing it. Oh well, so I have to wear it inside out for 2 days, beats jail! Interestingly, the security guard at the museum let me pass through even thought the metal detector went off. I probably should have seen if I could have gotten in for free.The Van Gogh museum is great. You can't fully appreciate the paintings until you see them in person and up close. I was quite impressed. Couldn't take any pics though.On my last night there we all decided to check out a jazz club. Great original quarted (drums, bass, piano, sax). Sat front row. Didn't drink, didn't need to.Amsterdam is awesome, I highly recommend it. Check out the pics page.Coming soon: driving through Belgium to Gay Paris.....Cheers,DJ

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Gay Paris

Ok. So after checking in and juicing up Steve and I headed out on the town. I was content to just wander around and check things out, but Steve wanted to see the Eiffel Tower. Of course, we were pretty clueless so we just started walking in what we thought was the right direction. We were cracking ourselves up trying to get directions. Parisians in general do refuse to speak english so with the lingual ability of a three year old I coached Steve on a few phrases and we tried them out. It was hilarious! People looked at us like we were martians with two heads!! I almost got a out the camera just to catch the looks they gave us. A stroke of luck brought us to a bus stop which happened to go to the tower so we hoped on. The Tower is exceptionally striking at night! It´s all lit up and every so often flashing lights go off. Headed back and finished of the last of Amsterdam´s finest and off to bed. If you could call it that? More like a taco shell.

Next morning stopped at a bakery for a fresh pastry and coffee. Excellent bakeries, tiniest coffee. More like a shot. Strolled down to the Seinne River, saw the Louve, L´Opera, the Palais Royal and got to Notre Dame just as Quasimotto began ringing the church bells.

Next day decided to hunt for the Lizard King. Pere Lechaise is a huge cemetary. Took about an hour to find Jim Douglas Morrison´s grave. Very plain and small compared to most of the others. Headed back towards the hostel and climbed up to the Sacre Coeur Church. Probably the highest point in the city. Masses of people around, guitarist playing "Californication" and pretty well. Fantastic view! Hung out with fellow travelers till about 2 am when we decided it was time for a drink. Wound up at a kareoke bar. Parisians don´t want to speak english, but they have no qualms about singing in it! Just kicked it with our $10 pints of beer!

Next day I couldn´t get motivated to go to either one of the museums that I should have gone to (The Louve and Mussee D├ôrsay). Eh, the Mona Lisa is tiny and not that impressive from what I hear. Never cared for it anyway. Walked around taking more pics and enjoying the springlike weather. Later, 13 of us decided to go out to The Frog & Princess. Packed. Had a good time and everyone made it back except one fella who went off with an asian hooker.

All in all, Paris is OK. Reminds me somewhat on NYC without any skyscrapers or Yellow Cabs.
BTW: Paris girls have nothing on the Dutch or English. Wonder what they´ll be like in Madrid....