Saturday, April 08, 2006

Rain, Rain, Go Away

The phone alarm was set for 9:00 am, but at 3 in the morning, the alert warning of an SMS pierced through the silence and my dreams. My immediate thought was that it could not be morning already, and it was not, just an SMS. It must have taken hours to reach me since it was from one of our booking agencies, yet they close at 11:00 pm. Delayed reaction in the phone service, I guess. In my sleep, I must have shut the alarm off in the process of reading the message, because it was off when I awoke at 10:15 this morning.

I felt like I was behind schedule, and then realized that I am on vacation and there is no schedule. I am alone and do not have to worry about anyone’s desires, but my own. Still I did not want to waste the day. I have this feeling that not being out in the city is a desecration of valuable time. The shower was uncooperative. There is a two dial system, one for water on and off, the other for hot water. The water went on fine, but there was no hot, just three degrees colder than iceberg. I could not force myself to the torture for more than two minutes, so my hair did not get washed.

Breakfast was similar to what we serve: coffee or tea, white and brown bread, three large slices of cheese, three of a lunch meat, peanut butter, and nutella. There were two Brits across from me, but they left shortly after I arrived, two women across and to the left of me, but they did not communicate except with each other. Two Americans wandered in and sat next to me, but were busy dishing two women they were traveling with, and one Brit single man on the end. Not much social intercourse happened outside of the established groups.

As circumstances would have it, rain was pouring down in buckets. The incentive for me to get out is to take pictures. However, when I have to consider juggling a camera and umbrella, my enthusiasm dwindles to nil. I took my time with breakfast, watched some news in my room, and headed out by 1:00. The sun was shining and it looked like it had never rained that morning.

Where to go, where to go, that was my decision for the morning. I had no idea. I decided to try the number 14 tram line, but started to get impatient waiting for it to arrive, so I walked the line instead. After walking about three tram stops, I decided it was not worth continuing. The outlook for something interesting was not promising. I turned back and went to Hard Rock Café to buy some pins. Walking the streets beyond the hotel, I found some interesting buildings. Since I love the architecture here, I was able to snap some shots.

I walked through the flower market and took some pics of the flowers for sale. This was insurance if I do not see what I hope at the tulip growing area. The water on the cellophane was either from the rain or they were freshly sprayed for freshness. Some of the colors are amazing.

From here it was on down to the Dam, where the Royal Palace is located toward the Central Station. As I approached the Dam, there was a demonstration in process. There was a woman giving a speech on two huge screens projecting her image from the stage. There were red and white balloons floating in the air, with words that escaped my understanding. As I was snapping pictures, a young man offered me a paper, but I said I could not read it. Then I questioned him about the purpose of what was happening. He explained it was a demonstration about illegal rent increases. When I responded that I thought it might have been something about the immigration issues, he smiled and said “Not this time.”

I walked to the Central Station and then was going to walk around it, but there is a highway there. I was in search of a coffee shop that my friend Earl and I found when he and I were here. I was turned around for a minute, but then realized where I needed to turn. It was about 45 minutes of walking that I found the coffee shop. It was filled with people and there was not a seat to be had. I kept walking for another 30 minutes before turning back to try again for a seat. When I returned, there were a few seats available. I had a picture of this coffee shop from the last time. They have one wall with built in containers of rainbow colors along the wall, each filled with coffee beans.

On the table, there was a flower arrangement. One of the lilies in the vase was just above my eye view, so the pollen falling out was obvious. It seemed like such an interesting shot to be called “Spilling the seed”. I took a couple of shots of it hoping one would turn out since it was such a close up. Then as I was looking up, I noticed the lily in bloom along side of a branch of a plant just getting ready to bud, seemed so significant that it needed to be photographed also.

From here I went to the Magna Shopping Center. The building looks like a royal building, so I am curious of its history. It is a splendid building and the last time I was in it was with Ron is 2001 when St. Nicholas was holding court for the children. Even without the Christmas décor, it is a magnificent building to spend some time in. A constant battle was playing out in my head. One side was saying well, you are not doing anything important, so why not go back to the hotel and read. The other side argued that the sun was shining, the air was clean, stay out and enjoy it. So, I walked, looked, and wandered down streets I had never explored, went into stores never ventured into, and checked out the urban shopping centers. It seems that you can learn much about a culture from their shopping centers. The architecture is usually unique, but also the stores that are housed in the center give the curious mind just how far globalization has spread. It pleased me that in these centers uncovered today, there were no stores that could be labeled American.

Thus far, my transportation pass has been more of an insurance policy than a useful tool. It has lived in my jacket pocket all day today, not once getting a chance to be displayed. For 9.30 Euros for 72 hours, it is not a great waste.

One discovery that was unexpected, especially for me was a church. Amongst the urban jungle of shops, full scale stores, and shopping centers, there is a Roman Catholic Church. I know I have passed by it dozens of times in past visits, not to mention the current one, but it has never called out to me before. Perhaps this is the first time the doors were open, I do not know, but I went in. As churches go, it is not outstandingly beautiful inside. It is rather plain and the statues look like cheap quality reproductions. The sign said that the renovations have just been completed, but the organ is still silenced, please donate to give it sound once again.

As I walked to the front, I found it curious that half of the church was filled with pews, while the rest has chairs toward the front. What really caught my eye was the stained glass on the left altar window. The colors sung out and I heard their call. Stained glass and mosaics always interest me. The altar was beautifully carved, but again there was nothing else to make this church distinguishable. Then I noticed a large board with note up toward the statues of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. The English explanation was that during the reformation, Holland followed and Catholicism was illegal. On the space where the church is currently, was a house where Catholics met clandestinely to worship. The only identifying fact was a street tile in front with a parrot on the tile. Hence, this church is named the Church of the Parrot and there is a parrot hanging in the back of the church.

On the way back to the hotel, the thought of fulfilling Ron’s wish of having an order of French fries with curry sauce, ran through my mind, so I went to my favorite place for them. Okay, check! That is done. Whew, what responsibilities are involved when traveling.

At 6:00, one side of me won the battle and returned all of me to the hotel for some reading and a nap. I conquered the hot water and had a long shower when I woke. Now it is 9:50 pm and I have yet to eat dinner. I was tempted to return to the Chinese all you can eat in one hour place that Ron and I ate at in 2001. It is still here and still you only get one hour to chow down, but at this late hour, they most likely are closed. There are a number of places with sandwiches and slices of pizza, so I will grab something. What has been interesting for me to observe about myself it that there are a number of places where normally I would love to stop to sample food, like the bagel shops. It seems that each time I come across one of these types of establishments, I question whether or not I am hungry, realize that I am not, and then move on. My only sampling today was an apple pastry in a cheese shop. Now I am hungry.

The plan for tomorrow is to find the tulips outside of Leiden.
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