Saturday, November 21, 2009

Amsterdam again

I couldn't move on to matters nearer home without mentioning a few of the things which particularly struck me as interesting in the city.
Bikes of course - it's a very flat city with the biggest hills being the occasional speed bump, so cycling is a sensible and relatively easy way to get around quickly. Dedicated cycle ways on most roads, dedicated traffic lights at busy junctions, very expensive car parking and congestion problem is almost solved - thousands of people on bikes! And these aren't mountain bikes or flash racing bikes. They're workaday objects, many quite rusty, many with interesting boxes and other contraptions for carrying loads including children and apparently without gears.
Prices - the conversion rate of the pound to the euro is so bad now compared to a few years ago that it makes shopping in the euro zone quite expensive for us. Another good reason to have joined the euro several years ago.
The number of restaurants serving food from the four corners of the globe - for a relatively small city it's very cosmopolitan. Greek, Indonesian, Thai, Italian, Argentinian, French, Chinese, Brazilian and Dutch all in one small area and then more as we moved further afield.
The flower market - bulbs of all kinds on sale at very reasonable prices. Tulips of course were very popular but we could have had anything from tiny snowdrops to huge amaryllis. It was fascinating to see them. And alongside them were the hemp seeds. Now I happen to think that hemp is a very attractive plant and the fibres make lovely soft fabrics, but sadly the leaves also make an illegal substance so I thought I'd better not bring any seeds back with me.
I also wanted to visit the Anne Frank house and so we spent a morning there. Suffice to say that it was as interesting as I'd expected and reinforced the feelings which I'd had when reading the book many years ago.
Something rather different was a visit to a well known spirits company, complete with the opportunity to try smelling the different ingredients for numerous liqueurs and to sample a cocktail at the end. I'd always thought that Genever and Gin were almost the same thing but I learned the differences on this tour. Not that I like either of them, but it's always good to learn. I also discovered that it's possible to enrol in a course to learn how to mix cocktails with the necessary dramatic touches which apparently convert it into an art form. You're never too old to learn!
And of course no visit anywhere is complete without my spotting something to do with Fairtrade. I was surprised and delighted to see the Fairtrade Cookbook translated into Dutch and taking pride of place in a little bookshop window. It has a special place in my heart as one of the recipes originated in the kitchens of the Newtown Resource Centre right here in Stockton,


Adrian Fox said...

"Another good reason to have joined the euro several years ago."
As an ex-pat living in France,couldn't agree more, as we see our standard of living fall little by little with each plunge of the failing pound!
Found your blog through a Google alert for 'pound/euro' which keeps us up to date with the rate and likely changes.
But was very interested to see you were a YL back in the 1960s! I was a YL in Putney Young Liberals (in the Peter Hain days) and later in Bath Young Liberals in the mid 1970s. We might even have met if you went to NLYL conferences. More recently was an LD councillor in West Wilts for 12 years in the good days when we had control.
Good luck with your work in Stockton. Hope it's not too wet up there. The sun's shining in France!

Arjen Koopman said...

Quite right to say that Amsterdam is best explored by (rental) bike. In fact, often taking the bike is faster than public transportation (let alone cars), at least in the small city center (where most interesting sights are). And I don't want to promote cannabis, but I believe many countries allow the importing of cannabis seeds. At least (contrary to cannabis itself) the Dutch authorities allow the export, and the international sale through online shops, of cannabis seeds.