Thursday, November 29, 2001

Dragging the Bum Out the Door

Dragging the Bum Out the Door

The day’s title doesn’t refer to anyone, but rather the British term for butt. We had a difficult time dragging our bums out the door this morning for breakfast. It is raining heavily and it feels cold out there. What a lovely day to curl up in bed and read, if they would only deliver our coffee, roll, croissant, and cheese. We had debated leaving town today and going to Gouda or some other town, but with the weather being so poor, it seemed like a waste of time.

We have extended our stay in Amsterdam until Monday, December 3rd. From here we will go to Cologne for three days and then head to Budapest. However, it is more difficult finding a budget hotel in Cologne than it was in Amsterdam. Only some of the hotels have responded to our e-mails for rates and availability. The ones that have responded are quoting over $90.00 a night plus 16% tax. Tsk, tsk, I think not! With a calling card in hand, we started calling the budget places I gleaned from the Internet. Whoops! The numbers are not good numbers, so back to the Internet café for more sources.

Checking the online banking is the thing that I hate most. It gives me knots in my stomach to check the balance and guess what it may be. There was a pleasant surprise. Bank of America has upgraded their online software, which will be a great boon for me. Almost all of our bills are now available through an e-statement. I was able to sign up all of our credit cards and most of our other bills to send an electronic statement to the bank with only our balance due and the minimum payment due. Bank of America then e-mails me that this has come in and with one click, I can pay the bill automatically. This saves my friend Daphnee from e-mailing me every time a bill comes in and saves me from checking my payments due from American Express, Diners Club and Visa. This could very well make me sign on without taking a tranquillizer first. Hooray!

With the nasty necessities out of the way, we stalled long enough. Time to play tourist again, or like I have said in the past, back to work. Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum had a discount coupon in our Amsterdam passbook so what the hell? Ron had never been to one of these museums and it had been years for me. As we entered we had a choice of having our picture taken with Tina Turner or Robert Moore as 007, so naturally we chose Tina since it was no obligation photo op.

An elevator takes you up to the beginning of the show, which is another lesson in Dutch history. A giant comes down from the ceiling with windmills, cows, wooden shoes, and other Dutch looking items on his clothes and starts us out with typical daily life in 17th century Holland. Walking from display to display, the characters move and tell their story about their life. The next section is of course Vermeer painting some of his most famous paintings and the models are in pose for him to do so. Many of the figures are so life like it is astonishing. There was one of a guard sitting on a stool with a magazine and I was waiting for her to tell me I could not take pictures.

Jumping to the more current era, there was an astronaut in a space capsule that moved quite a bit. He was the first and only Dutch astronaut to have circumvented the earth in a space shuttle. Part of the display was taped footage of the actual astronaut in space.

The celebrities were remarkable in that some were so life-like, it was difficult to tell that they were not. Others were impressionist of the real thing. Bill Clinton was very real looking and so was the Dali Lama. Being Holland, there were a number of Dutch television, radio, and sports figures that did not mean a lot to us.

Madame Tussaud started her career in 1835 making wax copies of heads of people who lost theirs from the strike of the guillotine. It was a fashion of the time for the well to do to have this glorious artwork. All of the models are still created in using Madame’s specifications which included over two hundred measurements and today over one hundred photos. It takes over six months to complete a figure and each costs close to forty-one thousand dollars. Each city’s museum is unique to that area.

After the Sinter Klaas parade over a week ago, we had stopped into the restaurant of a department store for our free coffee that we had a coupon for and saw an ocean of desserts that could tempt even those without a sweet tooth. We decided we would come back again and after Madame Tussaud’s this seemed like the perfect time. After all the weather was damp and misty, the sky was getting dark. Only the beauty of the canals lit in lights and the fabulous architecture of Amsterdam was keeping us motivated to stay away from the hotel, but a sweet treat and tea would make it all that much nicer.

The restaurant in this department store is part of the Le Marche chain. There is a extraordinary assortment of foods waiting to be eaten and it is all self-service except the coffee and tea. People swarm the warming dishes and fill their plates like it was free and they had not eaten for a week. It is definitely not close to free and is really on the pricey side, but it doesn’t seem to matter. They do a grand business. Ron had chosen a nut pie similar to pecan, but with assorted nuts that included pistachio and macadamia. The layer of nuts went deep down into the gooey, yummy part. I decided to have an apple pie that was visually appealing. I think they use the peels, the cores, and just dump the seeds. Parts that tasted like the slices of the core were still tough enough to use as a flossing material.

Ron decided to spend his first chuck of quality time e-mailing, so I went looking in the stores. We met up again to go to the Holland Experience; yet another item in our Amsterdam passbook, where we were offered a substantial discount. It was billed as a thirty minute movie that will show you all of the glory that Holland has to offer using the latest three dimensional effects, the stage moves, and it is a multi-sensory feast. Upon entering you are given a set of 3D glasses to wear. The seats are airline seats with more legroom than on United so they were very comfortable. The lights go out and it is black in the theater. The seats are mounted on a moving platform, so you go rolling around and the picture is shown on various parts of this round room. At various times, the platform will vibrate, shake, rattle, and roll to be in conjunction with what is on the screen. When the movie had fields of flowers, the auditorium filled with flower perfumes. There were also ocean scents when ‘we’ were sailing on the sea. It was enjoyable and clever. The sights, sounds, and kinesthetic sensations were very interesting and Ron flinched a few times from the 3D action. With my permanent double vision, I cannot see 3D, so I did not experience that part of the exploits.

Tomorrow, we move again. We are staying in Amsterdam until the 3rd of December, but our hotel did not have any vacancies when we inquired on arrival and nothing has changed. We found an inexpensive generic hotel for three nights in one of the well-heeled parts of Amsterdam. It is surprising that this hotel is in this section of town, but it is still convenient for walking or taking the trams to where we want to go.

One last check at the Internet café, we found that our pregnant hostess in Delft on Monday gave birth this morning to a healthy baby boy, seven pounds. After a quick bite to eat, it was time to get home to pack again.

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