These past two days have been the perfect balance of the ambitious tourist, quietly enforcing each and every cultural stereotype of Netherlands, and the calm, placid native, taking the tram, going grocery shopping, sitting at a café on the canal while fretting tourists race by on yellow tour bikes, trying to squeeze every last second in to their trip.
After LB + I realized that the Dutch hipster company, G-Star, which happens to be our favorite clothes company in the whole world, was closed for renovation on the cheeky PC Hooftstraat, a two-block section of Amsterdam where the fashion giants basically line up their stores, one after another, like slices of white bread, we decided to replace vapid consumerism with schizophrenic art. In so many ways, they are practically the same thing. So, we went to the Van Gogh Museum, shelling 30 Euros. After the initial shock of paying forty dollars sunk in, we spent the next two hours looking at some of the finest—and in many cases, most famous—Van Gogh art the world has ever seen. Some highlights were: Sunflowers, Starry Night (which was on loan from the MOMA, where I saw it back in 1997), the Potato Eaters, Irises, two important self-portraits, the Bedroom in Arles, the Pink Peach Tree + Wheatfield under Thunderclouds. In short, the collection was fantastic + temporary
Later, LB + I decided to visit our first—and as it turned out, only—coffee shop in Amsterdam called originally enough, Smokey’s. I bought a fat joint that was mixed with organic herbs: it was light, smoother, soft, nothing too intense for either us. LB, it should be noted, was smoking weed for the first time, and I wanted it to be a positive experience. After we felt contet and light, we finished our too-sweet and too-cold smoothies, and walked home. Then we made love, ate a bunch of healthy snacks we’d bought at Biomarkt (organic paprika potato chips, organic dark chocolate, fruit cocktail juice), and got dressed. We walked for forty minutes to several Thai restaurants before finding one that was still open that late, and then we devoured our Pad Thai, and chatted with the friendly waitress for a half an hour. When LB + I told her we were originally from Chicago, she said, I love Chicago. I lived there for one year. Kuwait, + Amsterdam, she knew well, but Chicago she loved. Interestingly, LB + I felt the exact opposite. We were slowly falling in love with Amsterdam, wondered how much rent went for an apartment in Jordaan Plein, whether LB could find a job, all sorts of crazy counterfactual scenarios that spelled out love in make-believe.
Today, we relaxed. We took the Tram to Prinsengracht, walked around Jordaan Plein, drank orange juice + ate pesto Caprese sandwiches on tables bordering the Prinsengracht Canal, bought some snacks for our long train voyage tomorrow, then we sat on benches at Museumplein, nibbled on organic potato chips + drank agave and cola nut flavored soda that was fantastic, surprisingly, before making our way to Golden Temple, this vegetarian restaurant near Frederiks Plein. The food was light, delicious; the mango chutney was so hot it had burned away the fruit by the time it had made it to our mouths; the waitress was sweet + forgetful. Tomorrow we take the Thalys train back to Paris, and from there we take another high-speed train to . . .
Ultimately, it's not the big things that make us love Amsterdam so much, it's all of the little details, the miniature idiosyncracies of this city: Dauchsands sleeping in windows, the decoration on people's bikes (plaid vinyl book bags, flower bouquets--and sometimes, tiny girlfriends), all lovingly tied around the handlebars along with statues of Norse Female gods, used a battle rams, and wire + wooden baskets attached to the front, it's the colorful things like tiny apartments, clean air + safe sidewalks, it's smelling freesia growing around an apartment door, noticing dwarf figurines dancing on the sill, a button-down table cloth, eating Pad Thai next to a naked cherub light on the restaurant table, and it's all the other stories I've seen with my own eyes, a mother peddling furiously while her two kids hang from either side of the bike, a hundred crystalline canals, each one with a different name + personality, it's about seeing Hare Krishnas dancing near Rembrandt Plein, the lush, soft, earthy perfumed tones as you wisk through the Flower Market, the boat houses rocking back + forth as the streets wane, it's indelible oddities like the Marijuana, the Torture + the Sex Museum, and above all, it's the Dutch people: so kind + helpful, so considerate + friendly, so approachable + relaxed. Amsterdam is like a clean Venice; it's the racially and cultural diverse older sister of Portland (Oregon) without rain or heroin junkies. Amsterdam is everything I'd want a city to be: beautiful, clean, friendly, progressive, multicultural, rich historically, transit and bike-friendly, stylish without being pretentious, and above all else, so unbelieably charming.
Here is the last roll of Amsterdam:
LB + I Almost Cried We Loved This Place So Much: They Even Had Organic Dog Food
Our Consolation Prize after Walking down PC Hoofstraat Street Sans Goodies