Disneyland for Grown-ups

We arrived in Amsterdam very early on a Sunday morning, so early that when we got to our hotel, they didn't have rooms for us. The previous occupants were all still sleeping in them. So we dumped our luggage and went out into the street.

The city was silent and empty. About the only people we saw in that first hour or so were other tourists, here for the same reason. And that's when I first realized that Amsterdam is like an amusement park. It was as if we had gotten in early, before the park had really opened.

We made our way over to the Bluebird, a coffeeshop that we had heard opened at 9:30, earlier than any of the other coffeeshops, to have our first smoke. We started making friends, and spent a giddy hour enjoying the experience of smoking pot with complete legality. And afterwards, when we emerged, the streets were full of people! The rides had opened and the amusement park was filled with visitors.

This analogy came up over and over again during our stay. In a city as magical and entertaining, and clean and beautiful as Amsterdam, it was hard for it not to. As the week progressed, we heard people say it over and over again: "This place is like Disneyland for grown-ups!"

The comparison became so entrenched that I started thinking of the city in those terms. Each morning was like a new day in the park, and everybody walked everywhere, except occasionally when you felt like going on the streetcar ride. It made me wonder just how the size of this little city compares with that of the larger theme parks. I even started referring to the Royal Palace, located in the center of town, as Cinderella's castle.

Of course, like all amusement park trips, we eventually had to come home.

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