We arrived in Amsterdam on Saturday, February 16. After taking a taxi from the airport (the first Tesla I’ve ever been in!) and getting settled into our place, right on Rembrandtpark, we made our way to the Mercatorplein, a square or plaza around the corner from our apartment where there are restaurants, shops, and a grocery store. One of the small delights I’ve found in visiting these different countries are the different words used for central areas. In Barcelona, it was Plaça, like the Jaume I Plaça and here they are Pleins as in Mercatorplein.
It’s the same with the streets, avenues, etc. Here in Amsterdam, the streets are Straat, for example Orteliusstraat. But, in Barcelona streets are named “Carrer” Our street in Barcelona was Carrer de la Seca. These small differences are so satisfying to know.
I probably wouldn’t notice these differences as much without Jonathan who is incredibly attuned to language. Traveling with a language-nerd is a real gift. I highly recommend it.
Once on the square, we found a super cozy restaurant, called Zurich. With a fire pit in the middle, candles on tables, low-lighting, it had everything I want for every restaurant I ever go to, to have. Almost every restaurant we’ve been to is like this. Why is there such an abundance of warm restaurants and open flames in Europe but not in the states? Why are Americans so afraid of candles?!
These cozy restaurants and bars are so abundant that there’s a word for them—Brown Cafes. These are traditional Dutch pubs named after their wood decor. It was in one of these, in 2015, where my love of the Belgian beer La Chouffe was established. I love hanging out with this little gnome!
It’s been a surprise to find that living here has been relaxing. While we’re still filling our days exploring and working out when we’re not working in the afternoons and evenings, life is calmer here than it is in Barcelona.
In Barcelona, there was so much happening all of the time. Festivals, parades, people everywhere, incredible tapas and wines to enjoy just steps from our apartment. There was a heightened sense of urgency to have all of the experiences, all of the time.
Here there is a different vibe. It’s just regular life. People get up, they go to work, they get home. We see them through their street-facing windows cooking dinner, watching TV, cleaning. So ordinary.
This could be due to the fact that we are staying just outside of the centrum in West Amsterdam. As we make our way into the Centrum it gets progressively more crowded and then once near Dam Square and the Central station it’s pure mayhem. This mayhem is the reason my clients keep asking me if I’m partying all of the time. Answer = no. I’m too old for that shit.
Our time spent here is in the quieter spots—the Jordaan, with its adorable shops and tiny streets, on the canals near our apartment among the gable-topped houses, in Rembrandtpark and Vondelpark, at the museumplein, and in the Noord.
Within a couple of days of arriving, we bought a couple of used bikes. Such freedom! You can get anywhere in this city on a bike in 15 minutes. It’s amazing. The first weekend we were here, we took our bikes all the way across the city, on to a ferry, and over into the Noord.
The Noord holds a special place in our hearts. In 2015, we made a trip to Europe, bookended by Amsterdam. Our first stay in the city, we stayed in an AirBnB that I had booked in Jordaan. The stay was mostly uneventful. We rented a room in an apartment and the most notable thing about the experience was that I think the host was going through a breakup and spent most of his time in a dimly-lit living room chainsmoking. But, other than that, it was lovely.
Our second stay, at the end of our trip, we stayed in an AirBnB in the Noord that Jonathan booked. Title of the location “Romantic Circus Wagon + 2 bikes” The minute Jonathan found it, he was smitten and it was booked. It turned out to be further from the center of town than we expected. To get there one had to take a car, or take a bike and then a ferry. The location itself was basically a trailer park. But at least we had the nicest trailer on the property — a romantic wagon!
The bathroom and showers were located through a community space. To shower, brush my teeth, use the restroom, I had to walk through a throng of baked 20somethings. I didn’t shower for three days. Thanks, wet wipes.
We had an hour-and-half long conversation with the host about lions and the interconnectedness of the universe. He was high. We were not.
We woke up New Years day freezing and without any power in our wagon.
The whole thing was insane and totally fantastic.
After landing back in this little country, we had to head back to the site of our 2015 experience. We made our way across the river, into the Noord, back near our circus wagon to tool around and visit a couple of breweries. We spent the day outside, in the sunshine, playing games and riding through the open streets of this warehouse-district of sorts.
For the first ten days of us being here, the weather was fantastic. Sun-shining, everyone outside in the park and on patios, temps in the 50s/60s (Fahrenheit) I didn’t learn until the weather was about to turn that Amsterdammers hadn’t seen the sun since December. In retrospect this makes sense why the spring-break-like energy was so palpable. While I write this, it’s steadily raining outside and while it was raining lightly enough that I could still get out for a run, I’m not sure I could handle weeks of this gloom.
Over the past couple of weeks we’ve done a good job of going full Dutch. We have tulips in our house, I’m eating lots of yogurt (did you know that it’s thought that the dutch are so tall because of their dairy intake?! Maybe it will help me out.), I've started to drink tea, we’re riding our bikes everywhere, we bought our museumkaarts so we can go visit all of the incredible museums.
The only thing that we haven’t hopped on board with is the language. Amsterdam is an incredibly diverse city with 176 nationalities represented, making it one of the most diverse cities in Europe. And, somehow almost everyone speaks English. Really good English. The dutch have such good English that some of them sound like they are from the US. So, learning dutch hasn’t really been a priority and also...it’s hard, man. There’s a letter that is made up of two letters—an I and a J—but in the dutch alphabet, it is one letter IJ and when put together it looks like a Y (if you really look closely and know how it’s pronounced). It’s used often in words like Brewery.
Even though we don’t speak their language and are clearly stupid Americans just hanging out in their city, the people we’ve encountered are really pleasant. We’ve met people at our gym, at a game meet up, our local coffee shop, and our co-working space. I would describe the dutch as trusting, direct, and pragmatic. They aren’t overly enthusiastic, but are kind and generous.
Last week, I worked out of a coffee shop for a few hours. I had ordered two coffees and when I went to pay, I found that they didn’t take Visa (this has been a surprise to me in a few places, even some grocery stores only take MasterCard) I only had enough cash to cover one of my coffees. As I was scrounging through my wallet counting out every last euro, the barista asked if I was coming back to the shop, when I answered “yes” he said “just pay next time.” Thanks, man.
All in all, Amsterdam is a delight.