You would like Amsterdam. It’s not just weed and hookers (though the pot haze that hangs over certain parts of the city at night is certainly part of its charm). Amsterdam has a certain glow about it that no other city, not even Paris, can emulate. It’s the sun glinting off the water, the trees that rustle at the slightest breeze, the constant brrring ding of bicycle bells. Even the seedier habits of the city seem to elicit little more than a shrug and a smile.
Amsterdam has concentric rings of canals which are intersected by straight canals branching out from the city center, not unlike a spider’s web. You can walk from one end of the city to the other in about an hour, but it’s faster and more pleasant to bike. It seems like every lamp-post, bridge, and fence is covered in chained bikes, and it makes me regret never learning to ride.
We were lucky to arrive just as the weather was turning. It was mid-70s and sunny all weekend, and it felt like everyone in town was out and about, biking, eating, smoking, and boating.
Our friend Dan put us up in his tiny attic guest room. What a good man. We stayed in his guest room at his apartment in Jordaan, the most charming neighborhood in the city. We woke up to chimes from the Westerkerk carillon every morning and went downstairs to a huge studio-like space with soft light coming in from huge windows on both sides. It made me feel like I could live and be happy here, despite the dearth of fresh baguettes in Holland
On Saturday, we met up with friends to take a boat out onto the canals. It was the perfect way to spend a couple of hours — drinking cold beers, snacking on cheese and meat, watching the quaint old buildings and bridges pass by. Simple and beautiful.
That evening, after a stroll through the red light district, where the prostitutes winked and flirted with the crowd, we headed to a bar that one of our new friends had heard of — Hiding in Plain Sight. The sign was blank. The barman/owner was a bespectacled, be-suspendered, be-plaid-shirted friendly hipster type who made us comfortable on the deck, though Tim and I were eyeing the library inside with cushy leather seating, and, as it turned out, a piano. Someone was playing the theme from Amelie in there. (“Yes, one of our neighbors comes over sometimes and boy can she play the piano. What are we going to say, no?”) We got a first round of delicious expensive cocktails, followed by a second round of something called The Walking Dead, which were served in skull glasses with grapefruit slices for brains, then lit on fire.
Why yes, I did have a good holiday weekend, thanks.
Music to travel by: High and Dry [Radiohead // The Bends]