Don’t you just love going on vacation? You clean the fridge, pack your bags and lock the door behind you. You get on a plane — to Amsterdam, let’s say — and you forget about your house. After all, what can go wrong?
Have you ever been to Amsterdam? It’s a fabulous town, but then I’m prejudiced since I am Dutch.
It’s July and my man and I are enjoying our vacation in my native Holland while far away in Moldova secret things are going on in our empty expat house. Nobody knows, nobody sees.
We do what we always do when we’re in Amsterdam – we cruise the streets of the old centrum and reminisce. I used to live here as a child, and I met my American prince here while we both were students. We sit on terraces and drink wonderful strong coffee and watch the people go by. I love Dutch coffee and I love people watching.
Although I’m a bit of a food snob, I must confess that on occasion I actually crave Dutch junk food, because, well, it’s part of my cultural heritage and I hope you’ll forgive me. So one afternoon in a small restaurant I order a broodje kroket, which is two slices of bread and two meat croquettes. Please do notice I request whole grain bread, or at least what is called “brown” bread here.
Unfortunately I have trouble placing my order because the waiter, a handsome kid with soulful dark eyes, doesn’t speak Dutch. He’s from Portugal, speaks Portuguese, Spanish, English and some French. No Dutch. I’m a bit miffed. I mean, I cannot speak my own language in my own country ordering my own national junk food? Sheesh!
But the sun shines (now) and I decide not to let it ruin my day. We enjoy wandering around in the narrow streets with their fun shops, art studios, and interesting galleries. And yes, the “coffee” shops, where in front cannabis smokers are sitting blissfully in the sunshine. I don’t notice them at first, until the daughters, who have arrived from America to join us, point one out as we pass it. “Don’t you smell it?” Daughter Number Two asks, amazed at my ignorant oblivion. Well, no, I guess not. I take a deep breath. After all, it’s free.
We’re happy to be together, the four of us. And it’s just as well that my prince and I are unaware of what’s going on in our house in Moldova. Because nobody knows. Nobody sees.
I love the canal houses and I want to live in one of them. A straight one. Some are sagging, but I’d like to see you when you’re 400 hundred years old.
These aren’t as crooked as they look on the photo; something to do with where I’m standing and holding the camera.
Should I buy one of these places? I think not. For the price of one of these houses you can buy your own private island in the Caribbean and the weather is better there if you want to overlook hurricanes.
So what about a houseboat bobbing on a canal? Romantic you say? Sadly I’m not that romantic. The coziness of physical closeness is overrated. I like my space. No houseboat for me.
Even houseboats are expensive
To be honest – and I know you won’t believe this — much as I love Amsterdam on a sunny day, I’d rather live in Italy or the south of France where sunny is more normal. Holland is a waterlogged country. Very green, yes, but damp and rainy a lot of the time. Here’s a picture of our first day, sitting inside a Leidseplein restaurant with a cup of coffee and a piece of appeltaart (apple cake), looking out into the rain. It’s July and we’re wearing sweaters. (Fortunately, the rest of our stay is almost rain free. It happens.)
A summer day in Amsterdam
A few years ago, I sat on the terrace of this very restaurant with Daughter Number Two. Maybe even on the same chairs you see outside the window. I noticed her scanning the many bicycles parked along the canal with a look of disdain. “What a bunch of crap,” she announced.
Well, yes. These are transport vehicles, not high-tech mountain bikes. And if you have a trendy sport bike, it might get stolen. Bike-stealing is a national pastime here. So I felt it was my duty to enlighten her about this situation, since this is part of her heritage and she should not make harsh judgments about Dutch bikes. Fancy or not, they’re green transportation and people love them. Some even decorate them. Probably give them names.
Pretty in the rain
Although now and then during our time here I indulge in Dutch junk food to keep in touch with my roots, we mostly eat wonderful food. One night in the center of Amsterdam we dine royally in an upscale restaurant where all the other diners speak Dutch. Imagine that! Not a foreign tongue among them! One street over, the many eateries are filled with tourists consuming mediocre food. So how did we find this place? What can I tell you, I have connections. Such as an Amsterdam cousin, who is a chef. And as we sit there, sipping wine and eating lobster and other deliciousness, secret things are still going on in our expat house in Moldova. Nobody knows, nobody sees.
Days later, as we drive out of Amsterdam to venture into the countryside, my mate’s BlackBerry rings. And that’s when we hear what’s secretly been going on in our empty expat house in Moldova. But that’s another story.
PS: Stay tuned.
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Have you ever been to Amsterdam? What do you like to do when you go back to your home country? Tell me a story!