Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Roadtrip to France: West to Amsterdam

Langeland to AmsterdamWe had a very early start from Julian’s place this morning so that I could forge across Western Europe before the worst afternoon traffic set in. I’d set my alarm for 6 but was awake before then, and went to take Munson from the car where he’d been sleeping overnight. Unfortunately he’d been a little sick in the backseat and had removed himself to the front of the car. I have two layers of plastic protectors over the back seat anyway so it was very easy to clean everything up and return the car to a relatively fresh state.
Hunde-BarFrom there we had the four hour slog through Denmark/Jutland to Hamburg – roughly the halfway mark - and then turned southwest past Bremen and Osnabrück. Long stretches of road were quite slow going as single lane roads had been converted to two narrow lanes. The hours drained away while I was entertained by various BBC radio podcasts of comedy shows and documentaries. I noted that while we crossed two national borders I never saw any marking to that effect, it was just the subtle changes in road livery and naming conventions that alerted one to a new system. We stopped once or twice for refreshments, including Munson’s opportunity to sample the wunderbar Hunde-Bar at one of the German roadside stops. It’s so nice being able to go inside these places, then sit down at an inside table and the staff come out with bowls of water and treats.

Back on the road it was dull but smooth going until I reached the busier fringes of Amsterdam after which traffic crawled for the few kilometres to my ring-road exit. Once we checked into our Park+Ride station, we were given free public transport passes (one for me, one for Munson) to get to and from the station. The daily parking rate is a fraction of the regular commercial rate further in so it’s a very attractive package to entice people to give up their cars before entering central Amsterdam.
Munson woos the tram ticket seller  Munson on his first tram
Once we boarded our tram, we found that there was a little ticket-selling booth inside, with a lady very keen to make Munson’s acquaintance. Munson was pretty comfortable with the drill this time after so many bus and train journeys in Sweden. Our tram took us to within two blocks of our destination where there was a colourful daily street market in progress. It’s now 4.30pm and I’m very ready to put my feet up for the rest of the day.

Street Market

We’re staying for two days with my Australian friend Martin and his husband Arno. I haven’t seen Martin in about twenty years – the time he’s been living in the Netherlands, although it’s likely our paths have almost crossed several times in Sydney in that period. Thus we spent several hours trying to re-synchronise our time lines over those years, and to figure out where mutual friends have come and gone over that time. The world being such a small place, Arno knows the only other Amsterdammer I know (and who I’ll be catching up with tomorrow).

Munson works on getting some fresh endive from Martin

Martin and Arno are fortunate to live on one of the leafier little streets of Amsterdam, with small front and back courtyards. The rear courtyard is shared with neighbouring houses, including a passing parade of cats. Munson spotted one of these cats, it fled, he gave chase and cleared the next neighbour’s rather low wall. When I looked over the fence, I could see Munson’s head rather comically sticking through the cat door into the neighbour’s lounge area. They were quite cool about it as they could see Munson was not a ravening beast. Nonetheless I decided to err on the side of prudence by leashing him to an outdoor bench when feeding him outside that evening.

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