What's it like, living in Amsterdam? Aside from the numerous descriptions from the past 10+ months, I can add another: Few places, aside from NYC perhaps, have you regularly feeling the razor-thin veneer between civility and hostility.

One second, you are charmed by the canals at night and happily send some wayward tourists in the right direction; literally three seconds later, a maniacal cabbie is barrelling around a corner giving you the finger and snarling like a deranged chimp because you waded near the intersection too early.

Wednesday, a bus driver scolds you like a 4-year-old in front of a bus full of passengers for stepping in using the wrong doors. Thursday, on the same route, a different driver is so pleasant and helpful (and badass in traffic) that you want to adopt her as your new favourite aunt.

Daily interactions like this (and there are dozens of examples on both sides of the ledger), with both the working and general public, often leave you conflicted. One second, you are tempted to whistle away on your bike and dance on the streets. The next, you kinda feel like driving someone's nose through the back of their head. So far I've managed to only indulge in the former.

Day 4 of the leaving-Netherlands-countdown saw some of the above as I made my way back to the main city, after a stopover in another great town about 30 minutes away called Amersfoort. There was terrible lighting for photo-taking (flat and grey) so there are just a few shots - je m'excuse.

Street name: Behind the Holy Ghost

Amersfoort has a ton of funky, modern cafes mixed with old-fashioned ones

Many of the canals have random chunks of modern art, especially interesting at night

Police station in Amersfoort



A moving day in many senses of the word, as I bid a sad farewell to my Amsterdam home and headed to stay with relatives in the Rotterdam suburb of Bleiswijk for a couple of days.

But is there a better place to recover from a potent mix of a head cold, moving blues and a bad haircut than your aunt and uncle's house in a great little town?

Bleiswijk (pronounced blayss-wake) is a 1.5 hour commute from Amsterdam, but it might as well be on the other side of the equator. The relaxed, familial pace of this small town stands in sharp contrast to the hectic pace of Holland's capital city.

Here its 10,000 citizens live mainly in quiet streets and a few hofs, small leafy sections of about 10-15 townhomes. There's no hassle in these hofs, however. Neighbours pitch in for upkeep of the area, and the nearby village is filled with locals greeting each other daily at the butcher shop or post office. The area is also home to large industrial-sized greenhouses and Elysium, one of Europe's most popular spa/health centers.

A stroll through the streets and parks brought us to the local tennis club, very typical of small Dutch towns, functioning as a sport and social club.

Here, for the very modest sum of 160 Euros per year, you can play for 12 months on some of the finest clay courts you'll see. Today saw a kids' tournament in full swing, with future Federers and nascent Nadals in action.

The canals fill up with tree stuff (I believe that is the technical term)

A backyard pond stocked with goldfish

Here you can hobnob while you watch Bob lob



Below, a brief tale of a farewell visit to the neighbourhood pasta and wine store and its perfetto proprietor, Pino.

Of course Edith Piaf is playing on the cd player, adding to the wistfulness of the moment... of course a fresh bottle of red is opened...of course tagliatelle boscaiola (con prosciutto e funghi) and some waiting slivers of pizza are complimentary...of course a gregarious Austrian tenor stops in and we become fast friends...

This is a little slice of heaven in Amsterdam. This is Amsterdam.

HEMA is an old-school general store found in every neighbourhood - food, toiletries, clothes, light bulbs, bedding, etc

Biking while phoning is even more common than its driving equivalent



One week left to go in Amsterdam. I will do my best to do a photo essay of sorts for each of the last 7 days - photos of the mundane, scenic, interesting, and possibly bizarre that make up daily life in this great city.

Many of the past 10 month's posts cover some of the more obvious photos, but this week's bloggage will show more of the obscure and the everyday.

"What am I doing in the parking lot of the Amsterdam Hilton?"

The bridge near the apartment