HMMM. WHERE COULD I BE THIS TIME?
Well, I’ll give you three hints. Bikes. Weed. Red Lights.
Hope you guessed Amsterdam because that’s where we spent five days celebrating that 1979 was a good year. We all turn 40 this year. I loved Amsterdam. I loved it so much, I would move there permanently. But why would I love this city with Old School Medieval charm where it’s cold and rains a lot? You must be thinking that I don’t ride bikes, the weed cant be that good (wink wink) and I certainly would not pay for sex?
And what do Black people even do there? Let’s dive in........
Amsterdam is overpopulated with museums. We only went to one though. Tell you about that one later. They ride bikes EVERYWHERE. But the bikes are for transportation and not a leisurely ride. They ride in the rain. And they use proper hand signals to stop and make turns. They play no games on these bikes. So did we rent a bike to join in with the locals? Nope. It would be like only experiencing driving a car in a neighborhood and all of a sudden you are put on a four lane highway. Would you make it to your next destination? Maybe. But would you be scared out of your mind to now be driving 75 mph with people switching lanes all around you? Hell yeah. We walked miles or took taxis/ubers everywhere. I almost got hit at least once a day by a bike because the bike lanes are adjacent to the sidewalk, not the street. And the bike traffic signals are not the same as car traffic signals. So stepping into the bike lane was a common occurrence for me. I probably was cursed out on a few occasions in Dutch but came home with all my bones in tact.
They have plenty of ethnicities of food. You can find just about anything you would want to eat. Pizza, Thai, Chinese, Italian, Sushi, Nigerian, Ramen, Caribbean, etc. However, American fast food chains are not plentiful. Not surprising. We definitely ate outside the box. Saturday was our “Power to the People Day”. We concentrated on supporting all black owned businesses. We started with breakfast at Water & Brood. The chicken and waffles was a chicken thigh. I can’t get with a fried chicken thigh. But I did try a soup called Saoto. It was pretty good.
We went on the Black Heritage Boat Tour which took us around the city and highlighted the black presence and knowledge of the Suriname (from South America) and the Moors (Africa) in Amsterdam history. After finishing the Black Heritage Boat Tour (highly recommend), we went to The Pom Bar. It’s Creole Surinamese food. Food was delicious. Then we had drinks at Labyrinth, which is a black owned restaurant and bar. After that was the African Black Star Coffee Shop. Pause. Coffee shops don’t sell coffee drinks (use google), although they do have a coffee shop atmosphere. You order based on your preference and then you enjoy while having small talk and relaxing. Not that I personally experienced any of the “coffee”. They also don’t sell any alcohol. I don’t recommend that particular coffee shop but I was happy to see what it was all about.
How would I explain the Red Light District?? We agreed that it’s equivalent to Bourbon Street on Ecstasy. You know how Bourbon Street is dead during the day but comes alive around midnight. That’s what happens. We walked through early in the day by mistake and it was underwhelming. So we went back at night to observe the goings on. We were doing a research project. The women are dressed like strippers and are showcased behind a glass door like a Barbie Doll in packaging sitting on a shelf. I thought that the women were just displays. And that you go into a main door and talk to someone about who you want to participate with. Like a store with mannequins on display. You like the outfit on the mannequin but you go inside to see what else you can find on the racks. Nope. What you see is what you get.
You pick who you want from the glass showcase and you go right in that very room. In the street accessible room, it’s a twin size platform bed, toilet, sink, sheets and towels and a bunch of smell good lotions and soaps. The men open the door, chat a bit to the prostitute and then they go in or keep walking. If they go in, the lady of the night quickly closes a curtain. Because we were so intrigued by these shenanigans, we stood on a bridge over a canal to see how long the men are actually in these tiny rooms. One guy was in for seven minutes. The other guy was in for 10 mins. Once they come out looking happy and walking fast to get to their next destination, the sex worker flings open the curtain as if she is letting the sunlight in at nighttime. This means she is open for business again. The red light district is divided by race. We walked through the black area which happened to be next to a fried chicken spot. How appropriate. Side eye.
And then, get this, there is a blue light area. That’s for the transsexual sex workers. We didn’t come cross any blue lights though. Maybe next time. The Red Lights Secrets Museum explains a lot about the business of prostitution. And it is a legit business becoming fully legal in 2000. I won’t spill all the tea from the museum but 120 clients a day, for no more than 15 mins per client, at 50 Euros minimum is a good come up.
Honorable mention is the four times we went to Cannibale Royale to eat. Their food is American, the drinks are really good and they only play rap and 90s R&B. We sang along every time we went. Actually, all the restaurants played black music. It was surprising how much they love our music. We did a cocktail making class at House of Bols, which made the first alcohol ever called Genever (Gin). They didn’t convince me to like Gin but it was a fun experience. And the Heineken Experience was a tour through one of the first Heineken breweries complete with three beers to drink along the tour. I tasted one but I don’t like beer and tap Heineken beer didn’t change my mind either. Dutch Cheese is really good, especially when paired with wine. And if the cheese is aged more than one year, the lactose dissipates. Give me all the 13 month old goat cheese. Yum.
The European massage had me peeping through one eye to make sure dude still had his pants on. He was a bit touchy feely and I was scantily clad. Actually, I was totally naked face up on the table and he didn’t cover me up with a towel. Not sure if this is how Europeans do it or he was breaking the rules. I was in so much pain but he kept telling me to breathe through it in this low porn star whisper. Never again. Lastly, I will be making my mint tea how they made it everywhere we went. Fresh mint leaves and hot water. That was good to my soul every time I drank it, especially since it was cold, raining and I was convinced to leave my Northface at home.