Bread and Cheese

I haven’t explained so far that I am visiting my very old friend Lucy in Amsterdam. She and I first met when we were both living and working in Alice Springs, more years ago than I care to admit and we have been long distance friends ever since. I am accompanied by my brother-in-law, Dermot. Dermot was the husband of my sister who died and is mentioned in previous posts.
This is a healing trip for us both.

Yesterday was spent wandering around Amsterdam. Dermot and I explored the lanes and alleyways and walked past the small dark coffee shops and the sex museum and similar establishments. The weather was crisp, but no where near as cold as what I had expected. I think that wearing a hat and minimising heat loss through the scalp helped.

We were talking a lot and so didn’t really walk anywhere with a sense of purpose – just went where our feet lead us. The only thing that I needed to buy was a pair of snow boots and I found some cheap plastic fur-lined boots for E20.00. Although the suitcase is quite full, I should be able to squash these in somehow.

We walked past so many wonderful looking cheese shops, with the rounds of cheese stacked in pyramids, and surrounded by fridges of various cream and other cheeses. I absolutely love the cream cheese with ginger. The ginger is a tasty counter foil to the creaminess of the cheese. The visual assault on the senses was matched by the bread shops, that were stacked with so many different types of bread loaves, rolls and sticks and there there were the bins of pastries and other baked goods. Often there seemed to be a golden glow in these shops, so perhaps the lighting was chosen very carefully to make then seem warm and inviting.

Kamikaze bicycles presented a bit of a challenge. They came from every direction and wove all over the road and paths. They had an assumed right to be wherever they wanted to be, and the small scooters as well. We seemed to be continually jumping out of the way, with our confusion compounded by the fact that instinctively we looked in the wrong direction for oncoming traffic. There were lots of people on foot as well of course. Thinking about the bread and cheese shops, I wondered about the weight of the Dutch people, but they are no where near as fat as Australians have become. Perhaps it is because of all the walking and bike riding. Also I did not see a prevalence of sugar-filled soft drinks such as are increasingly consumed in Australia and I expect that this would also be a relevant factor.

Residential apartments are situated all through the city centre and people seem not to use blinds and curtains through the day. This gave us the opportunity to look in as we passed, observing the steep perilous stairs to upper levels, and their collections of furniture and memorabilia. It gave a fascinating snapshot as we passed. I revelled in the role of voyeur.

Dermot was not staying with Lucy and myself but was instead ensconced in a bed and breakfast on a barge moored on one of the canals. After walking and walking we retreated to the wheelhouse of his barge and sat there with a bottle of single malt smokey whiskey, watching the activity from both the boats on the canal and the other barge-dwellers who were moored around us. We marvelled at the expertise of the barge skippers who so neatly manoeuvred their vessels around corners and other craft. From time to time, the barge cat came to pear at us, not game to come any close but intrigued enough to watch us anyway.

In the evening, the three of us had dinner at Pont 13, a restaurant housed in a large barge that in a previous life was used as a ferry. To get there we had to walk some distance to the canal, catch a ferry and then walk again. This was just as well, as it was an enormous meal. Dermot and I started with antipasti vegetarian and seafood platters, and they would have served as a main meal by themselves. It was a refreshing change to some of the meals that we have recently been served in Australia, which have been all attitude and little substance – at great cost of course. Even the meal of Brussels Sprouts was delicious!

The different thing about the restaurant though was the big black dog that wandered between the tables, no doubt hoping for a tasty tidbit, and the black and white rabbit that was in a cage in a corner. (It was a pet, not the next evening’s meal.)

Dermot has departed for Oslo early this morning and I will follow tomorrow. Lucy and I have just had our breakfast of bread and cheese before getting ourselves organised before perhaps making a bike ride to a neighbouring village. We have yet to decide.

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