The distance from Antwerp to Amsterdam is just over 100 miles but it takes only 75 minutes, with a stop in Skipold airport, by high-speed rail. We were served a meal and beer (included in the fare).The walk from the station to the boat was directly along the water—about 10 minutes.
Our ship was busy, but the attention, quick and friendly. After unpacking, we set out towards he city, quickly finding ourselves in the red light district. This was promising, as vice follows vice. Nearby, we soon found the neighboring “coffee shops,” gay bars, and Chinatown, which—once beyond the loose women—are important byways of my life. (“Loose” cannot be right, but “tight” is outside probability.)
At the first coffee shop, a no-nonsense barkeep explained the menu on a scale from strong to mild, most expensive to least. These afternoon stops offer a famously Dutch refuge from reality. I chose a middle-of-the-road Lebanese blonde blend, having scrambled in my eagerness the “s”s and “b.”s. I could describe the product as a ball massage with longish fingernails. I mean of course, those rolling ball things that Sharper Image…well, never mind. You either know Amsterdam or you miss the point of this paragraph.
This little pick me up, up, and up some more, I sampled at the bar before wandering into the sunlit, busy streets of Amsterdam where smiling faces and laughter assured us that this was the start of something wonderful. We took a long, leisurely stroll along familiar streets and open plazas, called “pleins.” The auspices—the entrails of my eviserated psyche—were promising.
I took special note of the “San Francisco Nightpub,” though it was not open, yet. The Amsterdam residents are wary of Americans, who are typically critical of The Netherlands’ permissiveness, but warm to anyone who can say with a smile, I’m from San Francisco. And who cannot say that with a smile?