Okay, I admit I'm a little jealous of all my friends that are off traveling the world or relaxing on a beach on a Greek Island during August. Like many other European countries, the Netherlands is only half-operational in August and many people choose to take their vacations now. However, there is good news for those of us who can't afford the time to travel - a ton of great stuff is happening in Amsterdam during the next few weeks. I'm most excited for the Open Air Film Festival, which started last night (7 August) and runs through the 23rd of August. The screenings start once it gets dark (9:30-10pm), there's 500 free beach chairs for anyone to claim, all the films are in English or English subtitled, and it's entirely free. And of course, there's a bar, places to buy food, and the location sounds perfectly ideal (on the Westerdoksdijk, right on the IJ!).
Another really great festival is one of Classical music - the Grachten Festival, running 16-24 of August. The highlight (for me, anyway) sounds like the Prinsengracht concert, which is completely free and takes place literally in the Prinsengracht canal - people listen to the concert from the quays or from the water (in their own boats).
There's also something nice, I have to say, about not making any elaborate travel plans for the summer. Last night I rode from my place to Bos en Lommer, a neighborhood on the other side of the city. It had rained really hard all day long (with thunder and lightening!), but cleared up to be a beautiful evening just when I was getting ready to leave work (good timing). The city had completely come alive, and as I rode southwest through Amsterdam I enjoyed an absolutely beautiful sunset. My route took me over the Amstel, through the Museumplein, around all the tiny streets in the Oud West, and along the Baarsjesweg. By the time I was ready to go home it had gotten dark, and as I rode through Vondelpark while listening to music on my ipod, I remembered the exact moment when I thought to myself "this is where I belong." It was in October 2007, when I was visiting Europe (just Paris and Amsterdam) from Brooklyn, trying to figure out if moving back to Europe was really what I wanted to do. One bike ride through Vondelpark at 2am was enough to convince me that yes, Amsterdam is where I belong. I am still so unbelievably in love with this city. I remember in early June, I rode a (borrowed) bike around 4.30am, right as the sun was starting to come up (and the city was just starting to close down for the night). I thought, wow, this is the best time of day to see the city, it's just perfect. But then last night, during sunset - on a warm summer night after it had rained all day - I thought, no wait, this is the best time to be out. But what about all the middle-of-the-night bike rides I did when I first got here? That was pretty great too.
The minor inconveniences of not getting internet service as fast as I want it, the abundance of mosquitoes (it is a humid city that is at or below sea level), the fact that all the stores close so damn early - none of that stuff has taken me out of my Honeymoon phase, which is now approaching the 4th month. There's still nowhere else I would rather live than right here.