Monday, March 21, 2005

My Gay Weekend in Amsterdam

So I'm back from Amsterdam for a day before heading out to Edinburgh tomorrow. (Ok, ok, get it out of your system, everyone all at once "Karla you suck!". Yes, I know...)

Karen and I had a great time in Amsterdam. After she got there Friday morning, we wandered off and hit the Rijksmuseum and the Leidseplein and took a canal boat tour. We had reservations for the evening's Randy Roy's Red Light Walking Tour. I had done it in June, but had so much fun I thought it was worth it for Karen to experience it as well. Kimberly, the guide, remembered me! And let me just say, this second go round was just as good as the first.

We went thru the red light district again, this time I was a little braver because there were five of us on the tour. So I actually looked at the hookers and waved and we all went into a peep show, which was kinda icky but kinda funny. All these faces peering thru these little windows at one very bored dancing girl, about half the "peepers" were curious women like me and Karen, the rest were guys who looked kind of forlorn.

Kimberly then took us to this little bar in the gay district called De Barderij. It was so nice. (See pictures below.) An old building with this little windowed alcove off the back, it was so cosy and friendly there. I could have stayed all night. We just had one beer there, but the bartender invited us to come back later for the drag show. We said we would.

Karen and I were hungry, so we went and had Vietnamese food at a restaurant up the road. It was EXCELLENT, some of the best I have ever had. I am a sucker for Vietnamese food. Yum. We walked around for a bit, then went back to the Barderij.

They were SO NICE there. It was an older crowd, kind of like if your favorite uncle was gay, and this was where he went with all his friends. They welcomed us and took us under their wings, it was lovely. One guy (we found out he is the brother of the performer) translated all the songs they sang. The WHOLE bar sang songs and joked and laughed and we linked arms and sang with them. (Luckily one song's lyrics constisted of a bunch of "la la's" so that one we could do, the rest were in Dutch!) The performer's brother bought us a beer. The bartender checked up on us to make sure we had a good view of the show and were happy. It was, simply, amazing. I got teary eyed at one point, at how friendly these total strangers were to us. It truly was a wonderful example of how good and kind people can be. One guy (who had already complemented me on my "fabulous" glasses) kissed my cheeks three times, the Dutch way, when we were leaving and told me that he could tell I was a very nice woman, no really, a VERY NICE woman. I felt the love, I really did.)

The whole weekend, pretty much, was centered around the gay lifestyle. I'm pretty sure our hotel was a gay establishment, though they did not have a rainbow flag. Probably 65% of the patrons were gay. I felt very safe there. The bars we went to, gay. The people we met, gay. I loved every second of it. As a traveling woman, I think there are few safer places to hang out than a gay bar. No pressure from horny guys hitting on you, you can just sit back and be a human being with everyone and be yourself. It's great.

On Saturday night Karen and I saw the show at Boom Chicago. That was fun. Then later that night I introduced her to the coffeeshop culture. Not that I am an expert, it was only my second time, but she had never been to one and never even smoked, so I big sistered her thru it. It was fun watching her face as she tried it. Her eyes were huge, I could tell she was nervous but she rapidly calmed down, and later we shared a milkshake. We went to the Amnesia Coffeeshop (great name!) which was comfortable, sophisticated and on the Herrengracht in a very nice neighborhood. Karen picked it, and a good choice it was. She turned 38 while we sat smoking. I doubt she will forget that birthday!

We slept well that night, very well.

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