Tuesday, July 31, 2007


iPot. Says a t-shirt. Can you tell I'm in Amsterdam?

This vacation came to a bumpy start as I checked myself into an emergency room at a hospital in Brussels. No I wasn't bleeding, thank God, but I did have a condition that called for antibiotics. The doctor and the nurses were all gracious and helpful. Two hours (I went shopping while waiting for the lab results), €80, and one dose later, I felt better immediately, and could finally embrace the very much anticipated trip.

No idea how Brussels could call itself the Heart of Europe. Sure, it was NICE, with the Grand Place, the museums, the mussels, and the chocolate (what a pity I had to skip the beer due to the antibiotics). But after two full round trips on the red sightseeing bus in two days (of course I hopped off at all the interesting places), it quickly became apparent that I was running out of reasons to stay.

So off I went to the train station to map out my next stop. Should I visit the town of Brusche (sp.?), or Amsterdam? The guy behind the counter did that very European thing of curved-down lips plus a shrug at the mention of Brusche, but Amsterdam got a big smile and a twinkle in the eye. OK.... I could take a hint. Off I go, to the Netherlands.

Boy was he right!

First of all, the canals. They remind me of Venice, but wider and cleaner. Then there's the bikes. Locals haul everything on their bikes - groceries, flowers, even little kids. I saw this cutest maybe 2-year-old boy sitting in front of his mother on a bike, just zooming by, his soft blonde locks dancing in the wind, and his young eyes filled with wonder.

The Dam Square, Van Gogh Museum, and the Nine Streets with the little boutiques. Shopping has become so.... global. Every metrololis has a Zara, H & M, and Apple. McDonalds has always been ever-present, but now add to that list Ben & Jerry's, and Haaggendaz (rolling my eyes).

Tourist shopping makes me sick. For starters, I simply don't need more STUFF. Remember George Carlin's monologue about how when we go on trips we realize we only need a small portion of the stuff we own? Exactly. I only brought a North Face backpack for the 2-week trip. We want a lot more than we ever need. And we need a lot less than we actually own - for most of us living in non-third-world countries anyway.

To save myself from future trips to Good Will, I'm limiting my shopping to small souvenuirs like fridge magnets (I collect one from each city I visit). What I don't limit myself on is how much I eat, and what - with all this walking, it will for sure burn off.

Yesterday I wandered into a random coffee shop on a main street for some hot chocolate. The chalk menu read: "coffee, orange juice.... 5 joints, mixed, 10 joints, mixed, 5 joints, pure, 10 joints, pure". Huh? I did a double....take. A double take, not a double joint! What were YOU thinking? ; )

That's Amsterdam for ya.... Full of surprises. More later, and I'll post some photos when I get home (MMS messages cost extra, emails don't). For now I'm sitting down to desert, if you get the drift. ; )


Sent Wirelessly from My CrackBerry.

Update on August 7th: That's me on the train to Amsterdam in the photo. The backpack is all I had for two weeks. The sweatshirt says "Australia" (got it in Sydney last year), but never mind that. :)

1 comment:

Mrs. Shanton said...

I'm with ya on that. Even my kids get it. All tourist crap is made in China in a big factory that pastes the name of whatever town on it that you buy it in. My kids never ask for tacky tee-shirts or key chains, or...whatever. It's the memories that are important, and your camera takes the best souveniers, anyway. They're personal. My Auntie was so disappointed to find that in Switzerland, most of the clocks were imported from China. She could've just picked one up on Amazon. Nobody can take your memories from you... Life is so much better without a bunch of crap. Clothing, on the other hand... "Oh, where'd you get that cute jacket?"
"Oh, a little shop in Amsterdam..."