One of the great pleasures of traveling alone is no one to distract you.
Instead of chatting with a travel companion while strolling the streets or sitting in a cafe, the focus shifts to observation. I was reminded of this recently during a winter trip to Amsterdam, when I found myself with two, cold, January days to fill however I pleased. I walked a lot. Drank too much coffee. Read newspapers from cover to final page. And opened my eyes. I watched how people interacted, what they did, where they went, what they ate. The result was a firm impression of local daily life.
These are things I saw in Amsterdam.
A mother riding a bike with a baby in front and a toddler in the back — wearing heels.
A couple riding bikes along a quiet canal at the same pace, and holding hands.
The canals almost frozen solid, almost ready for ice skaters.
Cafes with tables full of newspapers and magazines — not a person fiddling with a device in sight.
Locals taking off their gloves to eat a hot bag of french fries.
Lone man at a bar with a small glass of jenever and a book.
People eating cheese for breakfast.
A couple having breakfast, comfortable enough to eat quietly while reading the paper.
Students stopping for a quick, cheap bite of stroopwafel, or two thin waffles stuffed with a cinnamon syrup.