I feel stupid admitting I did not recognize it as a kickback scheme, but when we checked into our hotel in Amsterdam, waiting for us was a personal invitation to visit a diamond cutting
place in the city. Many of the world’s uncut diamonds go through Amsterdam for finishing, and we were excited (and naive) over the prospect of seeing this procedure.
We called to confirm arrangements. I suppose we should have guessed what was coming when they sent a chauffeured limousine to pick us up, but we were young and obviously one of us was swayed by the
attention. As per their plan, I felt like some big shot by the time we reached the diamond place.
We went through the “factory”, and when we reached the end of the tour, surprise! surprise! There was a shop selling all sorts of diamond baubles,
from a fraction of a carat earrings to hundred carat necklaces.
When it finally dawned on me that we were expected to buy something in return for their “graciousness” and hospitality, I felt like a schmo to have to admit to my wife, Nancy that I wasn’t nearly as big a shot as I thought,
especially since we really couldn’t afford anything I would have wanted her to own.
Humiliated, I decided to walk back to the hotel with Nancy instead of taking their limo. This meant pushing the wheelchair over a distance of five or six miles.
Fortunately, Amsterdam, a city of many canals, is made for bicycle riders. The bridges over the canals are all easily crossed, unlike the canals in Venice, where nearly every bridge involves climbing up stairs on one side, and going
down stairs on the other.
It was an especially lovely day. It was pleasantly warm; there was no humidity, and the sky was the kind of blue that artists swoon over. As we walked along, Nancy, who can read me like a book, knew I was upset with myself, first, for
having gotten so full of myself. She also knew I was upset because I was forced to face the reality of not yet being able to buy her the expensive gifts every husband, rightly or wrongly, feels his wife wants.
In ways only a loving wife can, she soothed my wounded manly pride, and after a mile or two, I was once again in a good mood, and really began enjoying just being together with her in a city as laid back as Amsterdam.
We came upon an open air market where clothing of all sorts is sold. As we sauntered up and down the endless lanes of clothing, I spotted a rack of suede leather jackets. To make a long story short, I found an absolutely magnificent
jacket. I tried it on and it fit like it was made for me.
I negotiated the price for this one-of-a-kind garment, and walked away with it for about $15.00. Yeah, some big spender I am. Learn how I bargained for this 'custom made' jacket at Disabled Travelers Guide to the World."
Along the way back to the hotel, we passed the famous "Red Light District", tawdry enough in the daylight, even worse at night. Most everyone we know has at least heard of this place, a sort of Sex Amusement Park, and whatever you have heard is not only true, but more shocking in person that you would expect. It took us quite a few minutes to get used to seeing naked women in windows of the houses- but after awhile, you can at least look up from the sidewalk.
Interestingly enough, once you get over what for us was revulsion, you find yourself in a lovely neighborhood, centuries- old houses, and rather charming.
On another visit to the Netherlands, we timed our trip to Holland to see the Floriade a special show of flowers put on every 10 years. Next Floriade will be held in 2012.
For details on planning a multi-country adventure across Europe, click here on The Disabled Travelers Guide to the World.