Thursday, September 27, 2007

18. September - Amsterdam

We arrived in the Amsterdam airport in the late morning after the long night flight from JFK (departing the 17th). The airport itself is a crash course reintroduction to the fact that the rest of the planet still lights the frequent cigarette and everywhere: though it claims to be smoke-free, the airport allows smoking in its many groovy modern open-air style bars and restaurants. The result is zero fresh air for the flight-induced sleep & air deprived. So, fresh as daisies we’re not, exactly, but we do have an eight hour layover and decide to make the best of it.

We very easily catch a frequent train into the city for a walkabout and a coffee. Amsterdam has a lovely & comfortably familiar Cambridge-meets-Northampton quality - with a healthy dash of seediness in the “red” and “green” districts, as it were. (And, for the nautically minded, that does not mean port and starboard.) All very tidy with no hi-rises, litter or beeping and public transport and bikes aplenty that makes for streets well-trafficked, but not by cars. Bikes are serious business - there are bike taxis, wheelbarrow-like “truck” fronted bikes, multi-kid seat family bikes, cargo bikes.... Chocolates - also serious - denke vel! (“donkey-vell” - thankyou)

After our chocolates(!), we find a little pub for lunch and more coffee, and then on for more meandering along the canals which seemed to be used only for the heavily-windowed tourist boats/busses and as parking for some fantastic boathomes. We did also stroll past the Anne Frank House, at Maddie’s request - a noticeably contemporary-fronted museum swathed in lines of guests in which we didn’t have the luxury of time to wait. We’re all rather underdressed for a blustery, chilly autumn day in the city, and so head back to the train - whereupon everyone promptly falls asleep on the 15 minute ride back to the airport!

With plenty of time before takeoff to Cairo at 8pm, we nap, dine & change into culturally-appropriate clothing - which for Maddie & me means covered elbows, knees, and head - to err on the side of conservative for our arrival in Egypt.

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