Because life is full of surprises

On the flight to Amsterdam the young man next to me was quite insistent that we should go to the town of Naarden. He approved of Amsterdam and Haarlam, but felt that we would really be missing out if we didn’t get to Naarden, an historic fort. Our guidebook had nothing about the town, but the Internet always obliges – you can look here: . We took the train from Amsterdam and found ourselves in the not so bustling metropolis of Naarden-Bussom. Being a Saturday there was no info available, but we are resourceful. While we were studying the station map two guys went by printouts with a picture of the fort, so we followed them. Luckily for us they were in fact going to the fort area. 

The town turned out to be a lovely surprise. Within a huge star shaped moat there is a tiny little town – narrow streets with ancient brick houses, shops and restaurants and a Saturday market. We had stopped for a coffee when groups of people started streaming by – dressed in matching outfits. It turns out we were in town on the day of an amateur choral festival. 31 choirs, 1000 participants, 16 venues. They seemed to range from very serious classical music to young people doing ‘Glee’ type repertoires.
This is one of the old town gates – big moat on the other side, so you pretty much had to be invited in back in the day.
Beautiful old town hall – built during the 1500’s, with interior decorations from the 1700’s. And yes, after awhile you do stop seeing the bicycles that are parked everywhere – I hadn’t even noticed them until I saw this picture!
And while we were in town the sun actually came out!

It made our lunch of beer and croquettes by the canal that much more pleasant!

Those X’s may not mean what you think.

And then again, they may. In this picture, for instance:

The bench and the truck? See the X’s?
And here, on the city’s coat of arms:
(and yes, whole building is slumping to one side…)
These three crosses represent the cross of St. Andrew and are the official symbol of the city.
Of course, in Amsterdam another form of triple X comes to mind.

Forgive the blurry picture – they’re on the other side of the canal, second floor. But yes, the red light district it is. 
Early in the morning, late in the evening, the gals are there. Any shape or colour you can imagine. And they are dressed so that there is nothing left to the imagination. The Red Light District has been cleaned up a lot from the bad old days – one stretch of street like this has a day care centre sponsored by the Queen smack in the middle of the block. That’s not to say that the clean up has totally tamed this part of town. Between the theatres advertising live sex shows and the shops full of sex toys and the ‘interesting’ scents wafting from the ‘coffee houses’ all down the street it is clear that this town still likes to get it on and get high.

Cloudy with a chance of meatballs

And here we are in Amsterdam. And it looks just like the pictures – canals and bikes and bridges. 

Everyone we meet apologizes for the weather, but really – it is pretty much as we expected. Sure, hot and sunny would be nice, but cloudy and drizzly is kind of how it goes here.

We have rented an apartment not too far from the train station on the northern end of the Red Light District. We’re on a street of restaurants – pretty much any type of food you can think of. The not so sexy sexy part of town is a few blocks away.

Our street.

Our building (We’re the three windows of the third floor)
And here is the gateway that takes us to the side door entrance of our building. That’s an Argentinian steakhouse on the ground floor of the building next to ours.
Our landlady gave us a couple of suggestions for places to eat. One was a restaurant called Meatballs. And can I just say – Bless the organized Dutch. Streets with street names at every corner! Numbers identifying each business. We found Meatballs even in our stunned post flight state (unlike our restaurant hunting adventures in Japan). And then – they were open for dinner early. No waiting til 8 or 9 or 10 as in Southern Europe. 5:00 and we were sitting at the bar contemplating what kind of meatballs we wanted for dinner. As Henry Ford used to say you can have your car in any colour you want as long as you want black, here the message was you can have anything you want to eat, as long as it is meatballs. It was delicious, and came with delicious and interesting sides. We had the opportunity to try a rhubarb liqueur called Rubarbacello, which was surprisingly good. I’ll finish by showing you one of the side dishes from my meal:
Yes, that is mashed carrots and pine nuts, topped with popcorn. Unorthodox, but surprisingly good!