Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Canals, Red Lights, and Really Tall People

Gilles and I just returned from a great visit to Amsterdam. This city, whose motto is “live and let live”, has something for everyone. It is a beautiful and mostly peaceful city. There are as many bicycles in the Netherlands as there are people. Forty percent of the vehicles on the road in Amsterdam are bicycles. The lovely, strolling bikes with baskets (often milk crates), rust, and so tall that it is impossible to slouch. Their strong presence, and lack of cars, makes for an oddly quiet city. Unless of course, one is strolling through the infamous Red Light District or busy Damrak street.

The city is built around a meshwork of canals. Similar to Venice, but the buildings are usually set further back from the water. Low boats leisurely cruise the canals toting both tourists and locals. The winding canals make for some challenging navigation on foot. We managed to get misdirected in Amsterdam almost as much as when we were in Rome.

One thing we noted was how tall the Dutch are. Very, very tall. I felt short for the first time in my life. That feeling was particularly odd considering I tower over most women (and many men) in France. Last week, I was told that the athletic store in Pau only carries my preferred sneaker up to size 9. Not very convenient when I wear a size 10. I have a feeling I would not have the same problem shoe shopping in Amsterdam!

We are back in town for only two days before we pack up the car for a trip to Barcelona with our friends Jen and Dave who arrive Friday from Calgary. More traveling updates when we return!

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