We picked our trip itinerary based on seeing family in the south of Holland, and some friends in Barcelona, so it made sense for us to start in Amsterdam.
We booked a flat through AirBnB and stayed in De Pijp section of the city, in a canal house. I feel totally justified eating nothing but pannekoek, stroopwaffel, spek, wurst and gouda for a week after lugging myself, my luggage, the kid and his stuff up and down two flights of those stairs multiple times a day!
We did a lot of the typical things one does when being a tourist in Amsterdam:
And we also rented bicycles, went through the Anne Frank House museum and toured the Red Light district – none of which we have pictures of, since using the camera was either impractical (while cycling through the city) or frowned-upon (Anne Frank House & Red Light District).
Now that I’ve been to Amsterdam, I can kindof see how people might call Vancouver “Van-sterdam” or say we should try to emulate the old city. And to that I say “HAH” and also “You are adorable in your wishful thinking.” For all the pot-smoking, bike-loving, laid-back attitude, Vancouver, there is just no way you could ever “be like Amsterdam.”
First off, people would have to admit that personal responsibility plays a huge role in everyone getting along and getting by. All the liberties that people really want (like being able to smoke pot freely and ride bikes everywhere) comes with a great deal of “not being an idiot” that I don’t have much faith Vancouverites could manage.
None of the cyclists blow through lights or weave through traffic. Burnouts don’t tend to bother anyone (at least that I noticed) and the coffeeshops never seemed to be dens of iniquity, centers for crime or excuses for behaving badly in public. And pedestrians are at the bottom of the totem pole. You have the ability to look both ways before crossing, and acknowledge that nobody really wants to hit you (even if they do cut that corner pretty close), so people overall walk with a lot more awareness than anywhere I’ve seen in North America.
Also, the trams are FANTASTIC, and I think Vancouverites would (wrongly) rise up and revolt against the traffic lane/parking elimination that would have to happen to adopt the
bike lane | car lane | tram/bus lane | car lane | bike lane
structure of the roads. But it seems like a perfect solution for the Broadway corridor.
One of the neatest things we did was a walking tour of the Red Light District (offered by the Prostitution Information Center on Saturday nights), where we learned such interesting tidbits like how the prostitutes play a huge role in keeping crime down in the area. Bottom line: a dodgy area with shady characters is bad for business. Window prostitution is a volume business, and the more people are comfortable visiting the windows, the better off everyone is.
It’s this overall attitude that the crime, not the vices, are the problem, that makes Amsterdam unique, and ultimately a very safe place.
Not to say Vancouver shouldn’t try to be like Amsterdam, but it would take a considerable shift in public attitudes, and pulling the collective sticks out of everyone’s arses over what people should and shouldn’t do, and whether or not certain activities are criminal.
One good start, though, would be to abandon the damn goretex. It rains just as much in Amsterdam as Vancouver, and nobody dressed as if they were on a wilderness hike. Buy a damn trenchcoat and a nice umbrella. Dress like you have a bit of a sense of style and some personal pride in your appearance. You’ll feel better, I promise. And from there it’s just a small step to being less angry at the cyclists and potheads.