Amsterdam: 7 hours to soak it in

Amsterdam is SO amazing! I took the train from the airport to the city center, realizing that this Saturday is the holiday for lots of Europeans who love to visit the city for its lax laws on prostitution and drug use. I arrived at the station and wandered around uncertain as to which way to go. As soon as I decided to commit to a direction, I walked up the stairs to the most beautiful scene... The city is stunning in its modern advancements and historical charm. The buildings are so old, colorful, and lined up and down the canal, providing a delightful backdrop for passing cyclists I enjoyed photographing. I'd been given lots of ideas on where to go but decided to take advantage of the weather and just walk everywhere. The cafes, shops, galleries were plentiful and quaint tucked into intimate roads utilized by the highway of cyclists and less by the infrequently used car. Nothing felt part of a chain of markets or a conglomerate of businesses. The dinging of the encroaching cyclist was merely a jovial, "Attention, I'm about to ride by..." making for a friendly sound still playing in my ears. I wandered and wondered, welcoming the strong feeling of direction to dictate my path, taking photographs of over the top decorated bicycles made so to help the owner find their mode of transportation in a literal sea of bikes.

I met Sachil and her mother when I asked her if she minded my taking her photograph with her bike. They were both sweet and shared more ideas to fill my time. I opted to head to the market "biologisch" where much like our Farmers Markets, the produce is healthy, seasonal,  and straight from the farm, the farmers are present, and the quality is perfect. Craft artisans, honey producers, butchers, food vendors, coffee carts, and mobile baking overs seduced with alluring scents, attractive vendors, and charming displays. I stopped at a glass counter where vegan sushi made with brown rice and 3 choices of filling were sold for 3,50 Euro. Topped with tamari and fresh-made wasabi, I was in heaven! I chatted with the vendor about food quality, my experiences in Italy, and all of the places I needed to experience while visiting Amsterdam. I wished I'd made more time to visit. I don't know why I felt it necessary to go straight to Paris when there was so much to experience in this new place. I made promises to return and kept walking in the direction of what could have been the train station. I honestly had no idea and seemed to prefer the feeling of being lost. Feeling as though I had more time to soak in the culture, I stopped in to a cafe to write and try a couple of Dutch beers. An intellectual-looking man named Joost ("Yost") sat down next to me to watch the voetbal (soccer) match but quickly became interested in what I was doing there. We spoke about beer and the series of events that lead me to Amsterdam. He shared that he works at a language school teaching English and Italian. When it came time to leave, he offered to walk me to ensure I made it in the right direction. He took me to a butcher shop where cured legs of pig where lined up in a row (hoof and all!) in a convenient position for carving. They sold fresh sandwiches made with these carvings and a slice of cheese. Apparently the shift in finer food culture was influenced by all of the visiting foodies from all over the world. The Dutch didn't have much to offer in this category of their culture, so they began adopting finer culinary habits and adapting them to their own style. Joost bought a sandwich to share with me for the rest of our walk. The street we traversed was busy with an incredible highway of bicycles flooding past with their fashionable riders transfixed on their destination. I did not want to leave. The youthful energy was inviting me for a lengthier experience, but my luggage was already bound for Paris... it felt important to join my things. So, with a goodbye and gratitude for my unintended guide, I lugged my heavy carry-on of computer and camera back to the station to arrive in perfect time for my flight to Paris.