We met Cherie and Kaitlin for dinner last night. We arranged to meet them in Leidesplein, but it took us forever to find a tram that went there from our neighborhood (it didn't help that I was fading in and out of rational consciousness due to jet lag). We finally got there and called them.
"Where are you?" Cherie asked.
"We're in Leidesplein," we answered.
"By the Bulldog Cafe and near the Burdger King."
"We're just across the street." Click.
Five minutss later, we see them round a corner into the square. Not sure where they really were.
After much hugging and kissing, we were off to find one of the vegetarian or cool restaurants I had found for Amsterdam.
Unfortunately, the first, "Eat at Jo's," was closed for remodeling, and the second, "Balthazar's Keuken," was just closed (on Mondays and Tuesdays). We ended up at a very nice Thai place just up the road. It was a little more expensive, but not much more so (about 23 Euros/person). The tables all had ties under the glass top (ties - thai, get it?) and each table had a unique, Amsterdam-style lamp shaped like a naked man, with a small on/off switch in the groin.
We had vegetable tempura and then Annie had the steamed fish, while I had the chicken red curry. Nice and spicy, the way I like it. Over Cherie's and Kaitlin's objections, I ordered bottles of water for the table.
After dinner, I basically crashed. We went back to Andy's and finally met with him. He's flight had been delayed and he just got in from Izbiza. His apartment is drop-dead gorgeous. In a renovated section of Amsterdam called the Jordaan. He's on the top floor with views of the city skyline. He was so generous, he gave Annie his guest bed and me his own bed, while he insisted on sleeping on the couch.
Today we got up and Cherie checked out of her hostel and into Andy's apartment. We went and got her a bike and then we went to the train station to go to Arnhem. Annie's friend had recommended a major impressionist collection in a national park outside of Arnhem, so we took our bikes on the train. An hour later, we reached Arnhem, in rural Netherlands. The weather was wonderful: mostly sunny and warm.
We cycled out of the city in the direction of the Hoge Voluwe National Park. One terribly steep hill later we were drenched in sweat and out of breath. After 45 minutes and some 10 kilometers we reached the entrance of the park. From there it was another 10 kilometers over mostly level ground through a variety of wonderful terrains, including scrub brush, forests, and sand dunes. Just as our strength was petering out we reached the Koeller-Mueller Museum.
This museum has the finest and largest collection of Van Goghs outside of the Van Gogh museum. We only had an hour before the museum closed, but we all needed coffee to enliven ourselves. I felt rushed, but very much enjoyed the intense paintings. It was also a treat to discover some Dutch painters I hadn't seen before, like Leo Gerstel and Charley Toproot (or something like that, I can't remember his name, I'll look it up later).
At 5 pm, when we left the weather looked threatening. There was no way we could cycle the 20 km back to Arnhem, so the staff recommended we make to Otterlo (10km away) and catch the bus to Ede. There was no guarantee, however, that the bus would take our bikes.
Just as we reached Otterlo, the heavens opened up. We found a bus shelter and cowered against the wall to stay dry. Luckily the bus driver took us all and we got a train back to Amsterdam.
We returned to find a wonderful dinner prepared for us by Andy, including fabulous Dutch cheeses, a great South African red wine, and a main course of baked salmon over stir fry peppers. A dense apple cake for dessert. Now it's time for bed.