October 13, 2008

Ten days in Amsterdam

I had a good friend in town for the past ten days, so I took a bit of a break from blogging (and everything else) to enjoy my time with her. It was her first time in Amsterdam, third or fourth time in Europe, and I was (obviously) hoping to show her a good time. When I said goodbye to her this morning, she said everything had been perfect, so mission accomplished! She was originally planning to do some day trips to other nearby cities, but ended having such a good time just hanging around Amsterdam - and we still didn't do tons of things that we talked about. Here's a brief-as-possible rundown of her trip, in case you're wondering what someone does with ten days in this city.

Day One, Saturday: picked her up at the airport and encouraged her to nap (the time difference from NY to Amsterdam is rough!) while I ran some errands during the day - she didn't protest. When she woke up we took a walk around my neighborhood, I showed her where the bio supermarket is, and we started catching up on the past five months of our lives. Once it got dark, I put her on the back of my bike at night and cycled us over to Cinema Paradiso for a lovely Italian meal - we spent at least 3 or 4 hours in the restaurant and had ample time to catch up, one on one. Went out for drinks with some friends at a bar on the same street, then rode back to my house around 1am and stayed up late with whiskey and good conversation.

Day Two, Sunday: dinner party at home! What better way to introduce her to what my life is like in Amsterdam? I put out the word and got about 12 people in my apartment for a really nice little party. The day was spent food shopping (me) and jogging (her).

Day Three-Six, Monday-Thursday: I had to work these days, so she was on her own to explore. She took a yoga class, went to the Van Gogh museum, read a book in Vondelpark, ate lots of appelflaps and stoopwafels, and rode around the city on her rental bike. We went to the movies at De Niewe Anita (Monday), and enjoyed a long dinner at my place with some friends on Wednesday. On Thursday night, we stopped in a coffeeshop where a friend works, dropped by Da Portare Via (Leliegracht 34) for a pizza, and ended the night with big glasses of German beer at the Soundgarden.

Day Seven, Friday: I took the day off from work and we took the ferry over to Amsterdam Nord with our bikes. We spent several hours riding around, and I did my best to recall the bike ride I went on back in early June, when my old roommate took me to a really great cafe with tables on the water. I couldn't believe it, but I found the cafe, it was a beautiful day, and Ayelet got the full Amsterdam Nord experience - farms, windmills, water, big open spaces. When we got back to the city, we went to the Ij Brewery (aka: "the windmill bar") and had a glass of beer on the patio. We intended to go out that night but found ourselves quite content with wine, food, and good conversation.

Day Eight, Saturday: started the day by wandering around the Jordaan market, where I convinced myself I needed just about everything that was being sold but only walked away with a bag of lentils, a big hunk of feta cheese, and some olives. I wanted her to experience a piece of apple pie at de Winkel (on the corner of the Westerstraat), but so did everyone else in Amsterdam - the line was insane! So we stopped in a nearby bakery, got some pastries, and took everything over to Vondelpark. After a breakfast of ... well, basically sugar, we stopped at a really amazing chocolate shop for dessert. We bought our chocolates over to the museumplein, sat on the grass, and people-watched before going out for an early evening drink at a pretty basic Dutch "brown bar." Basically the entire day was spent riding around the city, eating, and drinking. On Saturday night we went to a screening at the Kriterion for the Balkan Film Festival and then out to a few clubs and bars that night.

Day Nine, Sunday: We split up for most of the day - she went to return her rental bike, visit one of the English-language bookshops, and do some souvenir shopping while I went rock climbing. When we caught up later that evening, she wanted to go out to dinner, someplace that was open late, nothing fancy, preferably with good meat or fish. I asked some friends for advice and ended up at Cafe De Ponteneur - open until 1am Sunday-Thursday, and until 2am on Fridays and Saturdays. The food and atmosphere were great, and it is one of the only places in Amsterdam I've been without an English menu! I liked that - I used my limited Dutch vocabulary to get through the list of food (and asked the waitress for a few translations).

And day ten, Monday... she left! It seemed so quick - we never made it to Nemo, the Rijksmuseum, and I never gave her a proper tour of the red light district. The weather was too beautiful to be inside museums, and since both of us love food and movies - it makes perfect sense that her trip to Amsterdam was built mainly around food, cinema, and of course cycling. For someone who had not been on a bicycle in a really long time, she took to riding around on the back of mine like a pro, and instantly took to the whole cycling culture in Amsterdam. I can't emphasize this enough: she is not a bike person. I've known her almost my entire life, and she's never been interested in cycling, either as exercise or just as a form of transportation. But by the time she was leaving Amsterdam she said that returning her rental bike felt like "losing a limb" and she was already realizing how much easier life could be in Brooklyn if she had her own bicycle.

My friend said her favorite part of the trip was the bike ride around Amsterdam Nord. My favorite part of the trip was just simply having her around. I mentioned this to someone this morning, but I felt like most of her trip was just doing all the normal stuff (eating, drinking, hanging out with friends) - it's just that all the normal stuff was a million times better because she was around.


Janice said...

Delightful. I enjoy reading about Amsterdam. I am traveling there with Talk Cinema next month for the Amsterdam International Documentary Festival. The trip is from November 20-25. If anyone is interested in joining us, they are such wonderful people to travel with, you can get some info at their website.

Another American Expat said...

Janice - I've been looking forward to the IDF for months! what a great reason to plan a trip to Amsterdam. :)