Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Amsterdam on Queen's Day

Queen’s Day. We were really not sure what to expect out of this day. We (Ethan) are not big crowd people, so I knew there was a chance that we would not overly enjoy this day. As it turns out, we were pleasantly surprised and had a great time.

As we stepped out from our hotel, it was instantly noticeable that things were not the same. There were tables set up along all the sidewalks, selling everything from T shirts to plastic crowns to DVDs and model cars. Traffic had been banned, including most bicycles. Pedestrians took over all of the streets, and music could be heard coming from all of the restaurants and bars.

We wandered around, seeking out the crowds and music, then went to the Leidesplein area and had lunch at a Brazilian restaurant. As the day went on, the crowds got bigger and bigger and the music louder and louder. We spent time at several canal intersections, watching the elaborate dance of overfull boats of orange decked out partygoers passing one another. Lots of controlled chaos.

We were impressed with the combination of extensive alcohol presence, thousands upon thousands of people, and all the orange. No fighting or boorish behaviors; no stupid drunkenness or obscenities. Families everywhere with babies in strollers; the old and the young all celebrating this national holiday together. Dutch and American music blaring from boats and bars alike, and everyone getting along. Certainly not like anything I have ever seen in the US. Sort of a combination of Seafair in Seattle, a massive carnival, street market, yard sale and pub crawl all in one. And on every street and square in Amsterdam--not just in certain parts. The most extensive party ever.

I am sure we ate dinner somewhere, but I don’t really remember where. We wandered around the city until evening, and really took in the spirit of the day. After a late return to our room, we packed up our things and went to bed, prepared to catch our train to Paris the next morning. As we checked out Saturday morning, I gave the proprietor of the hotel a handful of postcards to mail back to the US for me. We left Amsterdam with a great interest in returning and further exploring this laid-back city.

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