Amsterdam–August 3

August 2 turned out to be a welcome transition day after the intensity of the two previous ones.  We had planned to spend it in nearby Metz with a person whom we’d last seen 37 years ago, the best friend of our son in grade 4 while we lived in Claremont CA.  After reading a recent autobiography by his mom, we’d connected by email and learned that he’d moved to France and lived on an off-grid organic farm with his wife and two children.  We were eager to see each other, but shortly before the planned visit an unfortunate circumstance required its cancellation.

After a slow morning we arrived  by train in Metz stayed in the least expensive hotel near the railroad station we could find, and next day continued on  getting a taste of local transport by switching trains in Luxemborg and Brussels.

We arrived late in the afternoon at our destination, another vast nineteenth century monument to the railroad, Amsterdam Central Station.


Crossing the bridge over the wide canal crowded with boat traffic that fronted it, we found the hotel that Jan had selected online, a small-scale tribute to the rail transportation system that continued to thrill me.


The amiable manager at the front desk seemed to appreciate my recognition of  Duke Ellington’s classic song “Take the A-Train.” But the cross cultural allusion was limited.  I mentioned that the A Train was the subway line I rode as an adolescent from my  home in the Bronx downtown to Manhattan and that Ellington referenced it as leading to the jazz clubs in New York’s Harlem, but that didnt ring a bell.

The track mosaic embedded in the hotel’s flooring led to a narrow lobby and breakfast room lovingly outfitted as an international railway museum.



The slanted roof supports in our tiny room showed signs of the building’s centuries-old origin, confirmed by the portrait on the wall.  We learned later that what accounts for the tall narrow profile of the old City’s buildings is the fact that they were taxed by the width of street frontage.

In search for dinner we walked along the narrow sidewalk crowded with tourists like us intimidated by the speed and volume of bicycle traffic claiming the right of way on the adjoining lane.


Afterwards we wandered in the neighborhood and came across one of the “coffee houses,” the only location in the city where cannabis products were legally sold and publically enjoyed.


The cordial bud tender advised that given my age and relative lack of tolerance I should purchase the mildest of joints, which I toked in the bar across the street while Jan stuck to a glass of wine.  With her leading the way, we had a hard time finding the way back to the hotel, and got sidetracked through the notorious red-light district.

The incident recalled our previous stay in the city while backpacking through Europe in 1969, before cannabis was legal either there or in California.  A bicycle ice cream vendor by a canal opened his freezer and offered us a range of similar products to enjoy.

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