We had no trouble driving from Brussels to Amsterdam, except for that one time the police roared their bright yellow motorcycles around our car frantically waving at us. I thought they were pulling us over, but they were simply indicating to Victor that if he planned to continue driving like an old fart, he had to move out of the faster lanes. Victor said not to worry. Our license plate was French. Anyone who objected to our driving just assumed the French were bad drivers.
Then we arrived in Amsterdam.
Please go get a pencil and a blank piece of paper.
Now do the following:
Close your eyes.
Draw a spiral on the paper.
Then draw lots of Xs through the spiral.
(Keep your eyes closed, now!)
Crumple the paper up, flatten it out again and turn it 90°.
Now draw several happy faces.
Now open your eyes.
You just drew the actual map of Amsterdam!
When we entered Amsterdam we were immediately trapped in a maze. Canals randomly intersected the roads and swarms of speeding bikes appeared from nowhere. The street signs were small and illegible, however, they could have been enormous and it would not have helped us at all. The names of the streets were impossibly long. Most of the vowels were doubled up and the consonants were huddled together like little bouquets.
Eventually, we found our hotel. (It took about the same length of time as it took us to drive from Brussels to Amsterdam.) We bumped our bags up the stairs to our hotel lobby and Victor got instructions to the garage.
Our room was not yet available, so I sat in the lobby with the bags and read my book. I read and I read and I read. An hour passed and Victor still wasn’t back. The room was finally ready, so I bumped all the bags down a flight and up a flight and then to the elevator in a different building. I settled our bags in the room and unpacked.
An hour and a half after Victor drove away from the hotel, he returned. The “parking surcharge” listed in the hotel information turned out not to be for a hotel garage, but actually for a public parking garage, which was a considerable distance from the hotel. It took him a while to find it.
Victor walked in and explained all this. I asked him if he remembered my broodje which I had forgotten in the pocket of the door. (A broodje is a Flemish or Dutch sub, or hoagie, or po’boy, or hero, understand?)
Well, was Victor annoyed! We had to walk all the way back to the garage to retrieve my broodje, so the car wouldn’t smell like rotten meat after six days parked in Amsterdam. When we got there, I noticed a sign that said that you must retrieve your car after four days. We were staying six days. Aha! That was something Victor didn’t notice when he parked. In order to enter the garage to collect your car, (or your broodje, as the case may be,) you need to scan your parking card. Unfortunately,Victor had left the parking card in the car. We were stymied. So we illegally walked down the driving ramp to the car.
I told Victor that we should ask the guy in the booth whether we could leave the car for the six days we were staying in Amsterdam, or we actually had to take it out, pay, and park it again on the fourth day. He thought it was ridiculous, but we asked. The guy in the booth said we did indeed have to unpark and repark our car before four days were up or we would be charged a great deal of money when we finally took the car out of the garage.
Then he handed us tram tickets. The guy in the booth said that each of us had to take the tram twice or we would have to pay more to park the car. We had to use the tram chip cards and make sure that they dinged both getting on and off the tram. If the chips did not record that we used the tram twice, all bets were off.
We found a tram stop and waited. One came quite quickly and we got on, making sure both our cards dinged. The cards said “One Hour” on them. Since the rest of the card was in Dutch, Victor asked the driver if we had to actually stay on the tram for one hour. The driver said we did. We sat down and wondered where the tram would take us in an hour’s time. We looked at our watches. (Um, okay, 4 o’clock, we have to ride until 5.) Then a young woman interrupted our thoughts to tell us that we didn’t actually have to stay on the tram for an hour, we just had the option of doing so. We thanked her and got off the tram at the next stop and wound our way back to the hotel on foot.
Victor thanked me for forgetting my broodje. Parking ended up costing us 8 € per day. If I had not forgotten my broodje, we would have paid 50 € per day times six days, plus a few hours more, (which would count as an extra day,) equals 350 € which translates to about $490…just for parking!
Victor was very happy with me for being forgetful, which was a nice change of pace for me, since being forgetful usually gets me in Dutch, so to speak.