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Giro Di PEZ: Amsterdam Moments
Roadside Rest Day: I was asked a question by someone back home: Does it make sense to hold the opening stages of the Giro so far from La Belle Italia? Does it feel natural? It’s only been a few days, my first visit to this amazing city, but I have to confess it does all make sense in a peculiar Italo-Dutch way.

Four nights is barely enough to scratch the surface of this incredible city. We walked for miles, took trams and buses and saw a fraction of what Amsterdam has to offer. The Giro seemed to be everywhere. Pink t-shirts, pink paint, pink ties, pink balloons. Everyone had made an effort to celebrate the race.

Even though the ‘Corsa Oraanje’ didn’t have a lump of any note, the cheese sellers were paying tribute to the hellish final week to come – a mountain of Gavia anyone?

At the Villagio Partenza, Jarina Rombouts-den Heijer from the host city’s Tourism and Convention Board made a very professional and approachable source of information. She also posed some questions rather than just listing facts or handing me leaflets, meaning I asked myself what I expected of the experience.

Were the residents going to be pissed off about the disruption to local travel, like they almost certainly would be in the UK? I’m sure some were, but they seemed to make a real effort to embrace the Giro. Trams and buses were disrupted meaning our taxi driver on Saturday night was very happy … sure some roads were closed, but the sum is simple: more journalists + more fans = more cash.

To get the negative out of the way early, the streets were piled with refuse the first four days we were here. Sh!t, is it like this all the time? Nope, the refuse collectors were on strike, but things looked a lot tidier on the morning of stage three so a deal must have been done overnight.

The shops had made the effort to engage in a more aesthetic manner, including this antique shop which was selling off seventeenth-century tiles for just under Ђ200.

Some would say it’s a tourist clichй to try and see the work of Van Gogh, but why not? It’s not so that you can say you’ve been there. It’s to say you’ve seen it and tried to figure out if it’s for you … a bit like going to see the Giro start outside Italian borders.

Amsterdam offers everything you want, from the guide book to the more dodgy ‘classifieds’. If you want tulips, they’re here in abundance: tucked away right in the heart of the Amsterdam maelstrom, these adorn the gardens of a former nunnery, still a women-only residential quarter.

The picture above was taken in the same quarter with a wide-angle lens. It exaggerates a little, but some of the buildings don’t seem to be on the surest footing, unlike the national identity. Holland is proudly orange; which of course is strengthened by their willingness to embrace another country’s national institution.

For a long weekend, it was Giromania in the Netherlands, transposed from one ‘Venice’ to another.

In the north of Italy, one city has built itself, and then a reputation, on the canals. Here in Holland, the canals are also the arteries of the city.

Sometimes the arteries can get clogged – it’s hard for me to guess just how much alcohol and unhealthy fats were being consumed in this party boat as it floated woozily below us.

My own arteries could do with a bit of defurring as well – lots of waffles, lots of frites, lots of biefstek … not much fruit. Appropriately for someone from Scotland, I reckon I’ve now got a more than average chance of developing scurvy due to lack of fresh fruit!

The Dutch are a relaxed, pretty cerebral people on the whole. That much can be gleaned from their outdoor pursuits. These guys were passing a Sunday evening in a mellow team chess match just round the corner from the Rijksmuseum.

Literature and art are displayed, seemingly without any of the need to be embarrassed about cultural riches or dumbing down like we find in some of our institutions back home.

The young generation is making its own cultural statements, too, but whether any of this will resonate like Rembrandt does in 400 years is anyone’s guess right now.

Between 8th and 10th May, there was a major celebration of bikes on celluloid but neither riders nor journos had a chance to appreciate it.

Where the city isn’t pink, it’s purple. The wisteria climbs on some ancient buildings and adds a stunning European feel to a city that has its share of brand names and fast food outlets.

The street entertainment was very nice …

… the tourist traps were less alluring. If I wanted clogs though, I’d get proper wooden ones.

This is the sort of image that will live in the memory longer than the clogs.

The bike culture made this a wonderful host city for the Giro, even if the way the cycles themselves are treated makes me think of penguins and their chicks. There must be some innate way of remembering where you’d left your own ‘baby’.

Within minutes of the Giro rolling out of the flatlands of the north, normal life retook control of the tram tracks and streets. The Tour of Italy has gone but the memories will linger, just like they will for us.

We’re flying back home, and I get to see the finish in the hotel, Wouter Weylandt catipulting himself into the big league, before we go to Schipol Airport.

‘Ciao’, and ‘Tot ziens’ from Amsterdam.



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