We reminisced of our first overseas trip together with our return to Amsterdam. The quality of our accommodation has certainly improved. Our first trip we stayed above a bar in a tiny room with a minuscule bathroom about the size of the toilet that filled it with the shower above it. Shortly after we arrived we rented bicycles to get around like the locals. We explored a lot of the city in both the tourist and residential areas and we had lunch in Vondelpark. We covered a lot of ground going from one end of the city to the other and took another break later at the Public Library where we had drinks at the café on the top floor with the views of the city below it. In the evening we ate a tucked away local restaurant called Van Keruwyk. We were very happy with the recommendation and the good food and laid-back atmosphere. That night the weather turned on us. It was cold and raining and this carried through the following day.
The following morning we decided not to visit Zaanse Schans as we originally planned due to the miserable weather. Instead we escaped indoors to visit the Anton Corbijn exhibition at FOAM. We hoped it might stop raining, but we still got wet wandering to and around the Jordaan neighbourhood. Later we paid a brief visit to the Hermitage Amsterdam as our hotel had provided us with free passes for it. We took the underground transit from there to central station while still considering the idea of heading just outside of the city. The weather was even worse when we arrived so we left and ended up meandering through the seedy, red light district on the way back to our hotel. We are staying in Sofitel Legend, The Grand, which was built in the 15th century and was once a convent and the city hall. It is at the centre of the city but adjacent to red light section of town, which today was literally trashy with stinking wet garbage piled everywhere. There are a lot of nice areas in the city, but this is not one of them. The area was filled with a lot of young men strolling through it, either seeking out the easy access to drugs and prostitution, or simply taking a curious peek of this unique part of Europe. In the evening we ate at a nearby brasserie and met up with Marianne, our Dutch friend living in Amsterdam that we met travelling through Peru and Bolivia. The last time we saw her was two years ago in Rio de Janeiro. It was great to catch-up over drinks. We like Amsterdam and will be back again. We return to Vancouver tomorrow morning. I have now seen 85 sovereign nations and a whole 100 countries according the the Traveler’s Century Club. It seems the more I see, the more I realize there is to see. Travel is great that way.