Wednesday, 21 May 2014


I love Amsterdam.  It's just so charming and sweet, with an added dose of crazytown.

I've been a handful of times, and it's always a place I'm happy to return to at any opportunity.  It's only a 45 minute flight from Gatwick, plus the three hours of delays that Sleazyjet makes you endure with every single flight I'v ever taken with them.

So we arrived in Amsterdam much, much later than expected, and in a full-on monsoon which barely let up the 5 days I was there.  It was cold and wet and windy every single day.  My camera barely left the indoors as I was terrified of bringing it outside.  Umbrellas proved useless against the deluge, and I very sadly had to abandoned plans that involved me riding my bike through tulip fields while nibbling on a Gouda rind.

Happily, we were staying in a nice place found via AirB&B, which I constantly announce that I've had it with that site and then find someplace lovely, with super nice generous people.

 A centuries-old warehouse converted into lofty light-filled canalside flats, with unique features like a hammock that you can string across the living room.  I found this to be a perfect place to listen to the rain beat without break against the skylights while nibbling on spacecakes for hours on end.  The woman who owned the place was a sweet, eccentric Dutch lady who popped the cork on a bottle of bubbly the moment  our feet hit the doormat, and laughed in her throaty, pack-a-day laugh that she had poisoned all the candy in pretty glass jars in the house.

What to do?  Ironically, I had planned to go to Waterland in the North to bike around, but I could barely keep myself upright on slippery cobblestones, and the lines for all the museums looked like the place where suckers go to stand in the driving rain for three hours.

I did more than my fair share of consuming because of this.  Food, drink, you name it.  Ingested.  I made some really grand discoveries- a tiny, centuries-old distillery called Wynand Focknick in the red light district that had probably the best tasting room I've ever been to.   They serve delicious, fruit-infused liqueurs in large, flared shot glasses.  The chatty bartenders recommend something based on your unhurried conversation with them, and then they fill the little glass past the meniscus point, and force you to "nose" the glass to sip up the extra so you can carry it to your table.  They will shame you if you try to carry it off without sipping the top bit of it first.  It was a jolly place, with locals along with tourist.  I met a fantastic local prankster dressed as a tourist who was hiding from her bride-to-be friend on a sort of scavenger hunt, who showed up and spotted her instantly.  The fun was not ruined.      

I had a lot of mediocre Indonesian food, so I headed back to dependably excellent Tempo Doeloe for more incredibly spicy fare.  I had the best pizza outside of NYC and Naples at YamYam, and discovered a rather awesome Brown Cafe nearby at Cafe 't Smalle- despite it being a Saturday night after 10 pm, it was filled with casual locals, having quiet conversations, and it was old and lovely to boot.

There was one day that was a little sunnier.  I hit the newly-opened Rijksmuseum.  It didn't disappoint.  It's enormous and grand, but what I loved the most was someone put witty alternative commentaries on giant post-it notes all around the galleries.

Renting a bike in Amsterdam is a must, as long as you can keep a clear-enough head to peddle and steer.  The city can be a bit frenetic on bike, as the locals really zoom along.  You see people walking their dogs on their bikes, transporting their kids and dogs on bikes with carts attached, people eating and smoking on bikes, people holding hands on dates on bikes.  They will even hold an umbrella up when it starts to rain.  I am hesitant to scratch my nose while I'm riding.

The cold sun came out and I headed to Vondelpark for a much less stressful ride.

Despite it being cold and windy, I'm glad I went, as it was the last time things were dry while I was there.

I spent the next three days dodging hail and rain and thunderstorms.  I saw a great deal of coffeeshops and bars from the inside, and had a very chill few days.

I love my downtime, but when I travel, I feel the need to go-go-go all the time.  Any moment you aren't on your feet seeing and doing something is a wasted moment when I travel.  Happily, this trip changed all that and I was pleasantly relaxed and chill at them end of the weekend, having really had nothing to do but slow down and indulge.

I've been to Amsterdam enough to have seen quite a bit of it, so I didn't feel the pressure to really get myself too rain-drenched.  All things considered, it's a pretty good place to curl up in your living room hammock and doze off, with only hunger pains to motivate you to get out of the house.

The Dutch are quirky, fun people, and while they get annoyed (like everyone would) at apeish behaviour, I've never had someone be unkind to me here despite the fact I barely speak three words of Dutch- Hallo!  Welkom!  Dank u!  The food is excellent as long as you stay clear of the mess of frites and kebaparies in the red light district.  The prowling gangs of hen and stag parties can be a little much, but they usually don't venture out of one section of the city.  More amusing are the busloads of tourist who come here to gape at the perceived sinfulness of it all.

Maybe I should move here.

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