Amsterdam Journal Day 5: Napoleon, New Shirts and Nutella

I write now with what’s left of my energy after six hours of walking and only four hours of sleep.

Jet lag hit hard last night again and I didn’t get any sleep until around 4 am. Unwise as it is, once I’d had breakfast with Nick (A hopelessly burned pancake. They apologized but didn’t offer to take it off the bill.) and seen him off to work, I crashed out again – or tried to – until 12:45. Housekeeping here at the hard-boiled hotel sounds like an eight-limbed one man band, which doesn’t make for great sleep.

Despite the noise, I could have slept all day, but forced myself up and out and through the steady, chilling drizzle to the Royal Palace. It was modest as royal palaces go, a squarish building with a ring of tourable rooms.

Absolutely miniscule by the usual palace standards.

What I learned there was that Amsterdam was built up and controlled by merchants until Napoleon’s brother, Louis Napoleon (What must that be like, being the brother of the conqueror of the free world? Probably like being Donnie Wahlberg.) was planted on the throne as a puppet king with a penchant for Empire furnishings.

One day he'll be a REAL boy.

Along with learning how Louis Napoleon magically transformed a civic hall into his own private beach house, the Palace’s main takeaway right now is an exhibit of official portraits, among which were these awful paintings of pin-headed women.

The nobles weren't a very good-looking bunch.

The Royal Palace thoroughly explored, I took a quick eclair break (and found these HUGE tubs of Nutella. Why don’t we have those in the ‘States?)

11 pounds of Nutella. Sounds about right.

…and then went to H&M to fill out the gaps in my travel wardrobe. Somehow, I managed to under pack and set myself up for going two days without a clean shirt. The only solution? Wasting valuable tourist time shopping for something cheap and comfortable.

H&M are certainly cheap, hence why I chose them. The problem was, everything they had that looked remotely like something I’d wear only came in small and extra small. Clearly all the other fat Americans beat this fat American to the punch. I finally dug up a couple of things I hope fit me. I also sprang for an umbrella. One of those lame cheapie ones you get from a tschotchke shop. Hope it lasts one more day.

Shopping left me with little more than an hour to see the Amsterdam Museum so I hustled up the road and bought me a ticket to four floors of fairly interesting Amsterdam trivia. The most interesting factoid I brought with me was that the city’s built on hundreds—nay, thousands—of pilings. That would explain the bendy architecture I suppose? The most interesting artifact I saw was this:

The Red Light district would no doubt find a secondary use for it.

No, it’s not a sex aid. Maids used it to spray water so they could clean high-reaching windows.

Walking around both the Royal Palace and the Amsterdam Museum, I couldn’t help thinking how the Dutch are still so relaxed, even in this era of International terrorism. In neither place were bags searched or people made to relinquish them. And unlike the U.S., there were no metal detectors or any other kind of obvious security measures. Clearly, despite what happened recently in Brussels, they’re retaining their social optimism. Maybe it’s the elephants?

Five pm signaled the end of the day for me and the start of the dinner search. By then my legs were complaining and my back was being a total asshole so I should have just grabbed the nearest thing and had done with it. Instead, I walked up and down and all around, still looking for the perfect gem. I never found it.

As anti-tapas as I am, I got stuck at a tapas place around the corner from the hotel. It was called Joselito, named after the winsome Andalucian film and singing star-turned drug and gun runner.

From before his smuggling days.

I ordered bread with tomato, endive salad and meatballs. The salad and meatballs were unremarkable but edible; the bread weirdly enough, was nothing but wet raw tomatoes smashed onto untoasted brown bread.

It was a soggy and bland as it sounds.

Now I’m in for the night and listening to some weirdo screaming his head off a couple of doors down. Wtf?? Sounds like a cross between someone who’s had too many magic mushrooms and a hysterical sports fan.

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