Saturday, May 25, 2013

Walking Amsterdam...

What an absolutely great city for those of us who like to walk! Leaving our B&B at 8:30 this morning, we finally stopped for lunch at 1:00p.m., after walking around the Jordaan area, visiting an incredible outdoor market, seeing lovely canal houses and houseboats, and being surprised and delighted by several courtyard gardens in the center of apartment complexes composed of houses built in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The Dutch, you see, are a thrifty people, valuing the preservation of buildings whose only "fault" is being old. They remodel and update the interiors, while retaining the character and integrity of the original structure, resulting in extremely livable habitations which have a character all their own. Lovely, truly lovely. 

Today was absolutely gorgeous, in spite of the fact the it began with a temperature of 37 degrees- that's Fahrenheit, not Celsius, understand. The first hour or so of our walk made me glad for scarf and gloves, but by mid-morning, people were beginning to frequent the outdoor tables at corner cafes (they are on virtually every other corner) and by noon, it appeared that half of Amsterdam was biking, walking, shopping, or coffee-ing somewhere outdoors. 

This is definitely a city where people like and embrace being outside. And why shouldn't they? Totally bike-friendly, there is a bike lane next to every sidewalk; public transport is readily available and very dependable and includes both buses and trams; many of the streets are tree-lined; there are small parks and playgrounds in abundance; and virtually every available square foot of dirt is planted with some sort of greenery and flowers. No wonder the residents are so friendly and hospitable. Their spirits are being fed by the beautiful surroundings and the fresh air- and all the exercise!

Oh, and did I mention the food? Never have I seen- or eaten- such bread! Bakeries abound, as do cheese shops. At the outdoor market, I saw varieties of
mushrooms I have never seen before; cheeses in quantities unheard of in American markets; beautifully fresh produce; and, again, the bread! And muffins. And pastries. And...is your mouth watering yet? Mine surely was and it was hard to restrain myself from buying vast quantities...which would pose a real problem when traveling. By the time we finally did eat, we were hungry... really, truly hungry, since breakfast calories had long since been burned away. 

And what a delicious lunch at a lovely little Italian place which had been recommended by our host. We shared a foccacio which, unlike the ones usually served at home, was a delectable, thin crust topped by fresh Mozzarella, tomatoes (also fresh), and pesto, with a drizzling of olive oil. The sharing left sufficient room for a shared dessert: the best tiramisu I have ever tasted, hands down. Ever. Tasted. Anywhere. Ever. 

it's three-thirty and with an evening concert at the Concertgebouw ahead, I'm stretched out on the bed, resting, simply reveling in the ambiance of this city and its people and being thankfully delighted that I am here. 

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