Today I decided to take advantage of a free walking tour of Amsterdam. All over Europe you can find free walking tours. You just pay a tip at the end based on what you think the tour is worth. I signed up online for the 2:15 tour. Before that, knowing tomorrow will be a really long day, I stayed in bed a little late and hung around the apartment until it was time to check in for my flight. I am flying KLM home and unless you pay for it you cannot select your seat until you check in. I do not want a middle seat, so I wanted to make sure I checked in at the first possible second. Once I took care of that, I went to the train station to catch the train to Amsterdam Centraal Station.
The tour was to start in Dam Square, so I headed that way and stopped at a sandwich shop for lunch. I got one of my European favorites: tuna and sweet corn. I also looked at a few souvenir shops along the way and bought a couple of things. Then I met my tour group at 2:15. The tour was about 2.5 hours long and went all over the center of the city. We briefly walked through the red light district. It was very odd (that isn't the right word but I don't know what the right word is) to see women wearing only underwear standing in little rooms about the size of a phone booth one right after the other along the street. The booths are right at street level so it is much like if you were window shopping at a department store. It is interesting to hear how they regulate prostitution, and I think that is good. But I cannot for the life of me imagine why someone would choose this profession.
We also learned about "coffee shops" and cannabis use. Technically it is still illegal but they haven't arrested anyone for it since the mid-70s. The funny thing is in order to run a coffee shop you have to get a license. So basically they are applying to the government to get a license to do an illegal thing. But they just ignore it is better to work with the people who want to use it rather than against them. The guide even pointed out a "good" coffee shop to go to if anyone is interested. I was not interested.
Beyond those two unusual topics, we saw the Dutch East India Company building, learned about the canals, and saw a number of sites around the city.
After the tour was over, I asked the guide if he had a recommendation for a good Indonesian restaurant. One of the things I really wanted to do while here was go to one and I never got around to it. There was one in The Hague I wanted to go to but I couldn't get a table that night and didn't have a chance any of the other nights. I had a tasting menu that was the special for the night. The waiter said it was the most authentic option, so I tried it. There was coconut chicken, rice, a salad, picked cucumbers, and fried potato and corn cake, and chips of some kind (I don't remember what). For dessert I had a fried banana with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream. It was a ton of food and very good. The picture below is dark but it kind of gives you an idea. I would definitely go there if I am ever in Amsterdam again.
After dinner I walked back to the train station and came back to my apartment to get packed to go home tomorrow. This has been a very worthwhile trip. I am honored that I was able to get a grant to pay for it. when I get back I have to put together a report to submit along with my expenses, showing what I gained from the experience and how I will put the things I learned to use. One thing I learned is that I think we will stay in The Hague the whole time we are in the Netherlands rather than spend a couple of nights in Amsterdam. There is so much I want to do in The Hague with students, and they can take a day trip to Amsterdam on their free day if they want to do that. I also was able to get a sense of what things are most appropriate for students to do in The Hague, and found some housing options that I will have to consider. We are going to have a great study abroad trip in January 2018.
I also hope to incorporate a collaborative exchange into at least one of my classes in coming year or two. I learned so much at the conference and am excited to put those things into practice.
Tomorrow I just fly from Amsterdam to Chicago and then drive home. That isn't particularly exciting so I will end the blog here. My next blog will be my two-week study abroad trip to Barcelona the first two weeks of January. So be on the lookout for that one, which will be at barcelona2017.travellerspoint.com. Thanks for traveling along with me this last week!