First things first, some photos. I took around 400 photos while I was there, and about 1 in 10 are decent as-is. I might be able to save another 1 in 20 with some judicious photoshopping. I really need to learn how to be a better photographer. My excuse is that I was almost incessantly on the run when taking photos, so conditions were not optimal. Also: I really do need a better than point-and-shoot camera. The Nikon 5700 is a great camera, but if you put a filter on the damned thing, it starts vignetting like a mofo. No good.
My future camera will be a Nikon D70 or D70s or whatever the next proper Nikon DSLR turns out to be. I really, really want a proper DSLR. The time will come eventually.
Amsterdam. Tons of fun, met lots of great people, had a ton of good food, walked more in a week than I probably have in the past two months combined. Gorgeous weather, great hotel (facilities, at least…the staff was a bit off, but more on that in a moment), utterly phenomenal coffee.
Europeans seriously know how to make good coffee.
On service: I’m not sure whether it was just a bad week or something, but the staff at hotels and restaurants we frequented during our stay in Amsterdam was pretty universally sub-par. I’m not sure why this is, but we just got generally lousy service every where we went. Some folks were ok, and everyone was generally friendly, but, really, servers at decent-or-better restaurants in Canada are, on average, just much better at what they do. In one Amsterdamian restaurant our waiter was so in-your-face that I found it distinctly uncomfortable.
Whatever happened to Zen Waiters? The basic premise I work under is this: the less I notice the service I’m receiving, the happier I am. If a waiter spills wine on me (yes, this happened), or if I have to flag a waiter down for a second round of drinks (this also happened, multiple times), or if I have to physically back away from a waiter because he’s a total close-talker (also happened), or if I wait for my food long enough that I check my watch (happened), or if I have to physically walk around looking for someone to give me my bill (slight exaggeration, but close to truth)…guess what? The waiter sucks.
The best waiter I’ve ever had was at Acton’s Cafe in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. Quiet, efficient, unassuming, brilliantly experienced, and extraordinarily talented waiter. We sat and ate several courses happily, never once having to ask for anything (water, wine, food, dessert, coffee, bill, whatever). My soup, as I recall, simply showed up like it fell through a tiny hole in space-time. I never once noticed the waiter until we were finished and I realized, all at once, that I never once noticed the waiter. I love service like that. I also, I’ll have you know, tip extraordinarily well for service like that.
If I ever end up walking away from this whole interweb thing and go back into food service, I think I’ll make it my life’s work to be that good a waiter. Really talented waiters who take their vocation seriously can make extremely good money. The problem, I think, is that most waiters think that they’re too good for what they’re doing — most high end waiters probably fancy themselves as a maitre d’, or perhaps as an underemployed sommelier. My god, the in-your-face guy was just unreal. He put me off so badly in the first five minutes we were sitting at the table that I simply didn’t want to talk to him again, and avoided it as best I could. What a piece of work.
Um…anyhow, that rant aside. I had a great time in Amsterdam, waiters bedamned. Oh, and the bartender at the hotel. I mean, seriously dude, if someone asks you “what scotches do you have?”, it’s not an invitation to play 20 questions. WTF?
Unrelated, here are some more photos, but not of Amsterdam.