International Writers Magazine: Europa
Adventures in Amsterdam and Belgium
year, I planned to take my vacation in Amsterdam/Belgium and now
that time has arrived. To get me started for this elaborate vacation,
I was invited to the Menchaca's double birthday party in Stockton.
They had make-your-own burrito buffet set out, they had a live
mariachi band and they had an Elvis Presley impersonator. When
the Elvis impersonator left the building, then they started playing
good dancing music and one of the songs was "Let's Get it
Started" by the Black Eyed Peas. When this song played, I
knew I was ready for Amsterdam! Everyone at the party did a 'soul
train' and I had visions of Amsterdam in my mind!
The day has finally
arrived! Here I go again. Another vacation to a new land. The
day is November 21, 2006 and I head off to the Sacramento International
Airport. I still have not figured out why they call it the Sacramento
International Airport, when there is no direct flights from Sacramento
to any international country. In fact my flight on United Airlines will
take me to Denver, Colorado's airport and from there I will get a layover
at Chicago Ohare's International Airport and finally fly over to Amsterdam.
This is my 2006 Adventure to Amsterdam - Hoofddorp, Netherlands; South
& North Holland; Berlin, Germany; Mechelen/Antwerpen, Belgium. I
park at Daily B - 9B area of the Sacramento International Airport. I
always dread paying those parking fares when I return from any international
trip. On United Airlines, I was greeted by a very friendly stewardess
named Maria, that made me feel very comfortable for this long enduring
flight. United Airlines provided a variety of movies from The Devil
Wears Prada to Lady in the Water to You, Me and Dupree
and finally Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.
I managed to watch a lot of each movie, including the TV Show The Office.
After my long flight, I finally land in Schiphol (Amsterdam's International
Airport) and get shuttled off to my hotel near the airport which is
Best Western Bastion Deluxe Hotel. My room number is 3339. A very nice
room and this hotel provides a hot breakfast buffet. Eugenia Choo, my
travel agent for Unique Travel has provided me with another great hotel,
I must find a way to thank her when I return home.
What I like about my hotel is it is also surrounded by a canal and there
are rabbits all around the complex. On this first evening, I head over
to Amsterdam by train. A very easy smooth ride. In Amsterdam, I meet
a local named Slatka, she assists me with helpful information in my
navigation of Amsterdam. I stop over for some Dutch beer at Hotel dd
Quarter and I am greeted by Michele and Saslva who work at the bar.
Hotel dd Quarter has a very friendly atmosphere. They play good music
such as Party Train by the Gap Band, Rock the Casbah by Clash and All
Night Long by Lionel Richie. It really gets me into the mood for Amsterdam.
Michelle tells me a fascinating Holland Christmas story. She says that
the children of Holland believe in Sunterclaas (the brother of Santa
Claus). In fact he lives in Spain, rides a horse and has a black elf
helper named Zwarte Piet. Like his brother he slips down chimneys to
give presents to all of the children of Holland. Sunterclaas was born
on the 5th of December.
Michelle says that she knew right off I was American from the way I
speak. She described an American's accent, because we speak through
our nasal cavities, she started imitating on how Americans talk, she
was quite a funny girl. We discussed the culture of Holland and Saslva
who is originally from Moscow, Russia says that Americans have no culture.
I looked at Saslva and said...'hey, we have Hollywood!" Michele
& Saslva both laughed as Saslva went into a dancing routine to Rock
the Casbah by Clash.
I can't believe how many canals are in the Netherlands, I would think
I landed on Mars. You know, Mars is known for it's canals. In Amsterdam,
you can buy every illegal drug. I was propositioned with drugs I never
heard of. Hash and marijuana is smoked in pubs and on the streets. When
I first saw someone smoking some hash on the streets, I went to the
police and said.."did you see that? That guy is smoking hash!"
The policeman looked at me with a queer quizzical look and smiled and
said it was legal. So much for being a good citizen.
There are many sex shops and even sex museums in Amsterdam. If you are
still wondering if I went up to that policeman, the answer is no, I
know hash is legal. Just pulling the reader's leg. While in Amsterdam,
there is so much to see. There is so much history. While on the canal
boat tour I was able to see Weeper's Bridge, Sea Palace (a Chinese restaurant
that floats in the canal), Maritime Museum formerly a Navy stockyard,
World Famous Botanical Garden, Skinny Bridge (oldest bridge in Amsterdam),
Prince's Canal, Gentleman's Canal, the drunken houses (homes built crooked,
because of the settling of the ground), Mint Tower built in the 15th
century, Amsterdam City Hall - once known as the Court of Princes, Victoria
Hotel that is known by the Guinness Book of World Records, because one
man refused to sell his home, when they were purchasing the property
and the hotel built itself around the house, it's a comical sight to
I left the canal boat tour, Erica of Equador who I befriended showed
me some more sights in Amsterdam. I love Amsterdam, everyone seems
to speak English, they are friendly and they are willing to assist
a tourist in providing directions. In fact English is the 2nd language
for most Dutch people. When they speak Dutch, I understand them
fairly well, because I am able to comprehend German which is similar.
Erica explains to me that fisherman were the first settlers of Amsterdam.
I enjoyed Erica's company immensely, seeing her jet black flowing
long hair and radiant smile as she explains what she considers simple
things to me. She tells me that once a week a car falls into the
canals. I can understand this, since some of the roads are so narrow.
The next day in
Amsterdam I hung out with an West African man named Suoton Dambo from
my hotel and we went souvenir shopping in Amsterdam. While we shopped,
I noticed in the day sky that there was an unusual contrail with donut
rolls in the sky. I thought to myself could this be the mysterious Aurora
plane that our military denies? I never saw an unusual contrail such
as this. But, while this mystified me, I continued my shopping with
an enthusiastic Suoton Dambo. He tells me about his family and West
Africa. Suoton now lives in Queensland, Australia with his family and
he is shopping for clothes for his wife and children.
of the shuttle drivers for my hotel, gives me a great history lesson.
Dutch is derived from the German word "Deutch", meaning
German. He tells me about the provinces of North and South Holland
and how Netherlands means lower lands. He believes that Dutch people
are mainly of French and German nationalities. He is also very concerned
about global warming and said that in 50 years, the Netherlands
may be taken back by the ocean, especially when Greenland melts.
traveling, you meet so many people. When you are confused about something,
you ask someone to assist you and people are willing and ready to assist.
I found this with Jean-Pierre Braun, the CEO of Crocus Technology in
Sunnyvale, California. Jean-Pierre was born in France and now lives
in California. We both lost our way on the train and Jean-Pierre boldly
started asking for directions from anyone and everyone. Jean-Pierre
and I traded travel stories and we laughed when we discovered we haven't
seen common places in the USA like Yosemite National Park, Grand Canyon,
but yet we have seen things all around the world. Jean-Pierre says...'what's
wrong with us?" Jean-Pierre and I are both very well traveled world
travelers, but yet we don't see all of the things that the USA or even
California has to offer, but we both admitted we have both seen Disneyland.
A great place to visit is Boudisque Amsterdam, a place where I left
material about my website Jazma Online! www.jazmaonline.com
I am promoting my upcoming movie of my 1996 comic book The Legendary
Dark Silhouette and this place, which sells all kinds of assorted
items of tourist interest, welcomed my material. If you want something
different to purchase, I highly suggest the Boudisque Amsterdam, for
more information, email them at: email@example.com
Another young lady by the name of Cindy, who is a local of Amsterdam
was very helpful in my travels and explained to me that there is a Dutch
influence in New York. Harlem and Brooklyn are names derived from Holland
and Holland has their own Harlem and Brooklyn. While I was in the Netherlands,
they were going through their own election period and there was a lot
of news on TV about this. If you want to go to a fun spot, check out
a bar called the Excalibur. There is wild fun, dancing and great
music....and yes, they have every kind of alcohol available! A great
The streets of Amsterdam have a carnival atmosphere, sort of like Mardi
Gras. I had a "Family Guy" flashback as I thought about my
1983 experience in New Orleans Mardi Gras and compared it to the streets
of Amsterdam. I saw a man dressed as The Mask, another man dressed up
as a gorilla, another man dressed up at King Neptune and even a man
walking around with a live plant on top of his head. I went into a seedy
part of Amsterdam, in which I felt saddened, because the women could
not afford curtains and men peered through the windows. The women if
they had a book, had to read under glaring red lights. As I walked past
these windows, my school boy charm was still at full swing, because
the women started tapping on the window and summoning me towards their
doors. I smiled and kept walking. Perhaps I thought to myself they recognize
me from my days as a movie extra in movies like Rollerboogie
and Skatetown USA during the 70s and they merely want my autograph.
Some people who asked me for pocket change seemed to follow me, could
it be, that I am gathering an entourage because of this recognition?
Even as I walked past some Asian tourists, the cameras clicked and flashed...I
thought to myself...'ahh, the paparazzi!'
When I explained my experience to the hotel receptionist...she said..."I
think Paul, what you are describing is the red...." She never finished
her sentence, as I saw my African friend Suoton Dambo in the lobby.
All of the employees of the Best Western Bastion Deluxe Hotel are quite
friendly and I had a sense of deja vu, since I recently stayed at a
Best Western in Susanville, Lassen County in California on business,
but the one here in Hoofddorp is much classier, they say it's a 4 star
hotel, but it seems like a 5 star. Thursday morning, I got up early
to prepare myself for a train ride from Schiphol (Amsterdam International
Airport) to Antwerpen/Mechelen - Belgium.
To let you know Schiphol means 'docking of ships'. Schiphol like most
of Amsterdam is below sea level. The train ride to Antwerpen/Mechelen,
Belgium was fantastic, the scenery is so gorgeous and both cities have
historical buildings with complicated designs.
In Mechelen, I ate at the Ying Bin Fine Eastern Restaurant at Hendrik
Consciencestraat 38, 2800 Mechelen, Belgium. The Chinese food was incredible.
I also stopped at a local store and ate some of Belgium's finest chocolates,
before taking the train back to Schiphol. In one of the my train transfers
I met Rocio Marcos Gonzalez and we discussed her travels and my travels.
I mentioned Spain and how I thought the people were rude to me in Madrid.
She became defensive on this comment. I asked her what her nationality
was, she said Spanish. Talk about putting my foot in my mouth. She was
still quite friendly and provided me with all kinds of interesting information
about Belgium and other sights I should one day see. Interesting fun
facts of Schiphol is that there are women janitors that clean the men's
bathrooms and there is a fly sketched in the inside of each urinal.
For what reason I am not sure.
Another Netherlands native by the name of Yameh assisted me in locating
a comic book store called Go Joker Strips and Comics, another
place in which I promoted my upcoming movie The Legendary Dark Silhouette.
I met Krissio Baker who was visiting Amsterdam, she was an American
girl staying at a hostel. She explained to me that in her hostel, 12
men and women sleep in the same room and use one bathroom. Everyone
in the room become quick friends and that everyone parties together.
She told me that one day I should experience a hostel. Sounds like fun,
but I like my privacy, I will stick to the Best Western Bastion Hotel.
Another American I met was Stephan Egeberg Hausen from Ohio, he was
from Iowa and has family he was visiting in Germany and Denmark. Stephan
was in Amsterdam to have a bit of fun. Stephan enjoyed telling me about
his travels and experiences. If you, the reader, ever stop in Amsterdam,
make sure to take a city tour. Yes, the canal boat ride was a blast,
but a city tour will give you a lot of history about Amsterdam. My city
tour, I saw where Rembrandt walked, where Rembrandt lived for 24 years
of his life, where the 1928 Olympic Games were held at (in fact Johnny
Weissmuller who played Tarzan gained his fame at these games, this is
where he won many of his medals), Concertgeboew (where you will find
famous classical musicians playing at), Museum Square/Van Gogh Museum
that have Van Gogh paintings, etchings and sketches. I learned that
the prostitutes of Amsterdam were once known as Dutch widows, sort of
a joke amongst the people of Holland. The prostitutes have to report
their income taxes to the government and sometimes this is hard to do,
since they receive cash.
I learned that Amsterdam has the longest number of bridges in the world.
You will see the gorgeous 17th century architect on the buildings of
Amsterdam. You will see the many house boats that have a lot of character
and to keep those boats in the canal, the residents of the boats must
pay a water tax. In the canals, there are a variety of fish, including
herring. The canals can lead you to the south part of France, that is
how extensive they are. The canals also go out as far as the North Sea.
A lot of this information, I gained from my tour guide Ger Frank, who
took me on the Amsterdam City Tour in his shuttle. Ger Frank works as
an operator for Holland Specialty Tours. During my tour I met Dr. Hideki
Kobayashi and his wife. They are from Japan and on their honeymoon.
What a honeymoon this is for them, to see the beauty of Amsterdam. More
on the city tour, you will see hoisting hooks hooked on some of the
homes near the canal, the River Amstel (in which the name Amsterdam
derives from), Dutch Royal Palace, WWII Memorial (for Dutch soldiers
that lost their lives during this war), Dam Square, Anne Frank home
and museum, gorgeous gables on Amsterdam homes, city gate, Jewish district.
Ger Frank gave his passengers a history lesson on how Dutch ships brought
African slaves to America. On how North and South Holland are provinces
within the country of Amsterdam. He told us how the Netherlands once
had 30,000 windmills and now only has 1100 left. How 2/3rds of Amsterdam
is under sea level, including Schiphol International Airport. There
was a discussion of the legend of the Flying Dutchman. On the final
stop of this incredible tour, we stopped at the Ratterman, a place where
they make wooden shoes. I bought some souvenirs at this quaint building
of historical significance. I was so impressed with Ger Frank, I had
to give him a 10 Euro tip for his wealth of information and his patience
in taking my questions.
On my last day in Amsterdam, I just walked around and saw more of the
sights. It was a lovely warm day, crystal blue skies. I had a delicious
Mexican dinner with margaritas at Guadalupe Mexicaans (that's how they
spell it) Restaurant. I had Skye Anita from Holland show me around,
she thought I was lost for some reason and she had nothing to do, so
she showed me some of her favorite areas. I didn't want to break her
heart, but I had already seen the places that she was pointing out to
me. Skye Anita is 35 years old and had an adventurous life, where she
worked on a ship outside of Thailand for a while, now she is back in
Holland with her family. I also met Jessica Maria from Barcelona, Spain
who now lives in Amsterdam and we had a great discussion about Madrid
and Barcelona. After she described Barcelona to me, I was very disappointed
that I never visited Barcelona and had stayed in Madrid. Well, maybe
next time.... The last person I met on my travels back home was
Carol Anne Carroll of Writing and Beyond, who talked about her
travels and of all things, her writing. Yes, she is a writer and
has recently started writing fiction. Bless United Airlines, they
provided me with some more movies, movies I haven't seen like: American
Gun, Cars, Monster House, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, The Fast and the Furious:
Tokyo Drift, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Over the Hedge.
The food on United Airlines is great and the provide you with lots of
fluids and snacks! You won't go hungry on United Airlines! Now
let me tell you why I love traveling. To see a different country,
to be exposed to a new culture, to meet new and interesting people,
to feel and enjoy life. This is what traveling is all about! Until
my next adventure!
Paul Dale Roberts,
President Jazma Online!
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