Remembrance Day 11 Nov.
Most of the shops are closed. It is a National Holiday.
We went to the train station in a slight drizzle and waited for our train to Amsterdam. People, people, people everywhere, whistles blowing, announcements blaring, click clack of the train schedule sign changing. Slow motion of the clocks turning, cold breeze flowing through the open doors of the station, lack of seating – or sitting on cold steel of barricades around pillars.
Click clack, then it happens, the platform number magically appears and off we go to our coach. On the way 3 undercover police, 2 women and 1 male, flash their badges to a couple of men and pull them aside under a sign, on the platform. Pickpockets? Thieves? Drugs? Innocents? We will never know, as we shuffle through the people to find our coach and seats. Ahhh our coach, tickets please. They are scrutinized by a pleasant French conductor. Entreé, we place our luggage and sit in our seats aboard Thalys railways.
Thalys gives you free wifi access on board their trains. Nice feature. We pull away from the station and almost immediately we are served food and drink. They seem to be in a rush- turns out they have no power to heat water for the coffee and are short handed. One fellow looking like he was called in quickly did not have a uniform on, but knew what he was doing, and was wearing his leather jacket.
Again more scenery, more empty buildings and factories – is the economy doing well here? Passing into Belgium the landscape changes, smaller homes, more industry- perhaps just along the rail lines.
The boys finally see windmills, the old style ones- not the electric wind generators, Jeeze we must be in Holland (Netherlands). Lots of greenhouses, miles of them it seems, littering the fields near the tracks. Then industry, more population, finally Amsterdam.
We got off the train and voilà standing on the platform was my sister and her son. We descended to the subway/metro and exited a few minutes later at Wiebautstraat???? Another light drizzly evening as we exited the station and walked to a nearby apartment overlooking the Amstel river. The house was a Kraak / squat from 30 years ago and the main tenant pays rent to the government. More like a rooming house and artist studio (a painter is the main tenant). We slept in a loft in the attic/ upper floor of the 3 story building.
Out into the on-again, off-again rain we followed the Amstel to a bridge and eventually caught a tram to downtown Amsterdam. We went into a department store that had The Black Petes climbing up and down ropes with Christmas gifts, in the atrium. The Dutch have Sinta Claus and The Black Petes. These Petes take away bad / naughty children and their gifts. Children also get chocolate initials of their names. (yummy)
On the way to dinner we heard a loud clap of thunder followed by lightning, then a torrential downpour. My little birdie had told me to bring umbrellas, which I did, and up they went. We still got soaked. The back of my legs were drenched when we got to the restaurant. The boys just wanted to play in the rain.
We visited the best Spanish restaurant in Amsterdam, according to my sister who had spent around 25 years in Amsterdam. Yes! The food was excellent, and filling. We took home a doggie bag for later. We had: calamari that were cripsy, tender, slightly spicy and not overcooked; garlic shrimp – tender and perfectly cooked; grilled shrimp; Spanish omellette that was massive, with chopped potato; seafood paella with large pieces of fish, potato, shrimp, squid rings, and more; and fried hake. A lot of food for the 5 of us.
After dinner we walked through the old parts of Amsterdam, found a small café and had tea and hot chocolate to warm up, before tramming and subwaying our way back to the apartment.