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Monday, September 19, 2005

Amsterdam - Day 1

Leaving the train, I head straight for the taxi rank. However, on this trip, there’s always an impression to be made at the station. This time, it’s a man screaming - as I move towards the taxi’s, the screaming gets louder. Other people are pausing in their tracks and looking - it seems a taxi driver is having a screaming fit with what looks like a traffic officer. Even the waiting taxi drivers have stopped to listen. Eventually, they get back to their task, ripping off the tourists. I’m ushered to a taxi, showing him the address, he looks at it, then says the name out loud, nodding, giving the impression that he knows exactly where it is. Needless to say, I’m not left feeling very confident. At least this driver does set his meter (at least the taxi has a meter) - he sets it at €4.80 - which is the highest rate. I know this because the taxi helpfully lists the 3 rates - however it fails to tell you when these rates actually apply.

My initial feeling of unease is heightened when at the first set of lights the driver pulls out the street directory. He might as well just drive while he finds out where exactly he is going. Doesn’t matter that he could be going the wrong way, the meter is running.

I’m deposited, eventually at the b&b - €17.20 later.

Sam welcomes me to the B&B and shows me to my room. It’s down a narrow and severely angled flight of stairs but after Brussels this is child’s play. The room is very light and airy.

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There’s a huge en-suite (probably 4 times the size of the one in brussels). I’ve got a set of double doors that go out into the courtyard. Breakfast will be served at 9am tomorrow and having been given the keys I’m left to my own devices.

A quick check of the map, I decide to go for a little walk and take a look at the Albert Cuypstraat Market. Airing on the side of caution, I only take with me the cameraphone - there's just too many warnings about pick-pockets.

Just five houses away to the end of the street, are the banks of the Amstel.
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It’s not a bad position - but it’s probably a little too out of the way.

One of the first things I saw on arriving at the Albert Cuypstraat Market was this...and would you believe it - I just kept walking.
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The market is a jack of all trades - it sells...

flowers
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furniture
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fish
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spices
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fabrics and furs
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chocolates
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fruits and vegetables
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there are also stalls that sell clothing, luggage, cosmetics, hardware - just about everything you'd need.

You'll also see these signs posted around the market as well
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It's probably a good idea to heed the warning.

On the way back from the market I decide to take a stroll around the block - making note of the location of the tram, restaurants and supermarket. I even do my mandatory visit of the supermarket to take a note of the produce on offer and their prices and also to get some bottles of water. On one of the streets I feel decidedly uncomfortable - perhaps too much of my face is showing - there's little in the street to make me return.

Arriving back at the B&B I meet the house cat - a friendly little thing called Lukka who eventually strikes a pose for the camera.
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Dinner - La Strada Restaurant

I decide to try out the Italian influenced restaurant at the end of the street.

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Upon ordering, a basket of bread with olives and garlic butter is placed on the table. The bread is very soft - the olives, resemble rubber balls. They are those injected under-ripe things that dodgy pizza places love to use. They bear no relation to a real olive. The garlic butter is raw garlic mixed with butter. A bit overpowering in flavour.

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First course is a "Carpaccio of Salmon"
Looks very nice but not what I expected - it's smoked salmon, served with lemon pieces, cucumber slices and a sprinkle of rocket - olive oil and vinegar (red wine) is placed on the table to serve yourself
It's an extremely generous serving of very lightly smoked salmon - the olive oil was sweet and fruity

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Main course was "Ravioli Parmigiana"
It's a mix of plain and spinach, spinach filled ravioli. It's served in a tomato and spinach sauce, dotted with diced mozzarella and a sprinkle of parmesan - parmesan is also placed on the table to serve yourself.
It's a hearty dish, the pasta is correctly cooked, perhaps a bit of overkill on the use of spinach but overall, it's tasty.


If you'd like to see more photos from today just click on the link Amsterdam Set

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