Thursday, August 23, 2012

Day 6: A Chicken Sandwich at the Gate, or How to Get by in Amsterdam Without Spending $200/day

So Wednesday was our first full day in Amsterdam!  After settling in to our place, we headed out to Centraal to explore the district.  Thankfully it's only a 20 minute metro ride straight there, and we can grab trams that go EVERYWHERE.  Most of the central canal ring is just awful (McDonalds, KFC, and Burger Kings ABOUND here), and even when you get a little further out, its STILL awful - tourist shops, insanely expensive restaurants, roving bands of frat boys/girls, etc.

Frat boys/girls not pictured
To be fair, it's not unexpected, but my inner New Yorker avoids all that like the plague, so willingly putting oneself in the middle of it as an actual tourist feels like soul suicide.  Still, I'm rocking my multi-map holding/turning/looking confused skills, much to Baz's chagrin, and taking it all in stride, while trying to be responsible and economically conscious, which (like I said) is no easy task here.  Thirty euros for a meal? Seven to ten euros for a hamburger?  Uh, no thanks.  Maybe this is okay if you're only staying for a city break (2-3 days max), but it's not feasible for a week.  Personally, I've spent about 80 euros in the seven days, and that's including most of my transport (I say most, since Baz has been very nice), and I'd like to keep that record.  Not realistic if you're spending a "regular" amount of money in the main canal area, which seems like it would be about 50-60€ a day in food.  Eurgh!

Anyhow, so Baz and I have gotten really good at eating sandwiches on the go.  We took a random tram (#25) down to an area south of the belt called De Pijp , ending at President Kennedylaan (cute).  Mostly a residential area, has kind of cute and small town feel to it (for Amsterdam, anyhow) and we came across an Albert Heijn, which is their main grocery store here.  We heard it was expensive and went in expecting Whole Foods prices...surprisingly it wasn't all that shocking! Somethings were expensive because it's just Europe (meats, some veggies, etc), but we stocked up on bread and cold cuts and some rose cakes (roze koken), which were muy tasty!

This is how we ended up standing randomly next to a giant wooden and iron door affixed to the side of Centraal Station, loading up Tiger Bread with loosies of kipfilet while fellow tourists stared at us.  Do you want a piece of my sandwich or something, lady?!  I get confrontational when I achieve quasi-homeless status.

Headed back home to regroup, then went to the area by us (Bijlmer Station ArenA), just one metro stop up, and found it was a huge bustling shopping center divided into two areas, one was a newer center which, oddly enough, had a bizarre mall made entirely of stores you'd visit to furnish your $5,000/month loft apartment in SoHo, which is strange because this place is a stones throw from the ghetto.  Still, beautiful inside.

Note the two-story escalators

Also, in the Netherlands, apparently you can just go ahead and name your store Sani-Dump if you sell toilets.  Not even a joke.  Remember, high class mall with furniture in the 1000€ and up bracket.

Thank god my dumps will be sanitary
After this spectacle, we headed over to the other side of the train station to see what lay beyond the bizarre giant office-park buildings.  Oddly enough, it was a huge open low-scale mall with tons of stores, including Lidl, a super low-priced supermarket.  Like, a quart of milk is 50 cents.  Like, giant sausages the length of my arm are a fucking euro.  Like, you can buy an entire dinners worth of groceries for a family for less than 5€.  Thank GOD.  We stocked ourselves silly, headed home, then headed back out to explore Amsterdam after dark.

Amsterdam after-hours is INSANE.   It's loud, there's bicycles whizzing by everywhere, pot smoke in clouds (technically illegal, from a general point of view and a "smoking in the street" point of view!), people with beers and cigarettes packed into cramped sidewalk cafes, just....everything.  We walked and walked and walked, the rounded canals and streets make it so disorienting!  Walked through the Red Light district, which is more gaudy than sensual (think blacklights and neon bikinis to go with the red lights), and with many of the booths surrounding an old church, I found this to be quite comical.

I didn't realie until after that this was part of the Red Light District (taking pics in the district is pretty verboten)
Eventually, darkness fully descended and all the douches came out.  Sidewalks were PACKED, everyone gawking and sidewalk parking to get a good look at the entertainment and "sex shows"....its funny, seeing sex shops that sell simple toys and outfits seems just plain boring after seeing a woman in a bikini eating chicken nuggets out of a happy meal box getting propositioned by an old german man through a pane of glass.  Baz and I decided to call it a night soon after that.

A fun, yet exhausting first day!

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