I left my wonderful friends in the Dolomites (who I met on last year’s Shirleyfest Vienna) and flew to Amsterdam on Saturday. Much to my surprise, my friends Nick and Ivan ( who I met on Shirleyfest Berlin) met me at the airport with flowers and T-shirt’s they had made for Shirleyfest month. We quickly arrived at my apartment and as is typical of traditional Dutch homes there was a steep set of stairs that led to my beautiful apartment. Anna and Robert, the owners, met me warmly and I was delighted with what I found. Not only was the apartment in a great neighborhood, they had stocked the fridge, left flowers everywhere and a bottle of wine was a chilling on the table.
My friends left me to unpack, but promised to be back at 6pm with a surprise. And what a great surprise! Amsterdam is a city of canals and the waterways are something to be seen. I was picked up by Nick who led me to the canal near my apartment where I found a gang of fun loving people to help launch Shirleyfest with champagne, local cheeses, fabulous homemade quiches and the finest from Amsterdam’s bakeries. And off we went under bridges, around corners and absolutely all over Amsterdam.
It was magical as we cruised by homes, the opera house, museums, and the hundreds of bicyclists who rode along both sides of the canal. Finally I decided I needed a turn at driving…. maybe I have a new calling.
And that was the first day!
The next morning I had to get my bike. I always have a bike on my Shirleyfest but here it was essential. Amsterdam is built on a swamp so it is quite flat. Everybody bikes. I really think bikes are the religion of Amsterdam. The bikes have priority over people and cars. If there is an accident the bicyclist is never at fault. It is truly one of those if you can’t beat them join them and I felt much safer on my bike than walking. So off I went to Frederic’ s bike shop where Arthur fixed me up with a bike, saddle bags and a heavy duty lock. Locking up your bike is essential as bike theft is a problem. I heard that if someone cries out, ” Hey, that’s my bike”, 6 people jump off their bikes and run.
Having gotten my bike, there is nothing to do but go for a long bike ride with friends past the outskirts of town and pass 2 windmills and then bike some more until we got to a small village and home to a wonderful restaurant that has the best Indonesian Rijsttafel ( rice table) in Amsterdam.
Twelve different dishes and two kinds of rice and two kinds of desserts, all incredibly flavorful. We sat outside along the Amstel river as it flows east of Amsterdam and it was a perfect day. Of course then we had a long bike ride home but it was totally worth the ride.
The next morning. I did a walking tour of Amsterdam which was good to learn a bit more of the history and to get my bearings. I saw the headquarters of the Dutch East India Company founded in 1602. As a corporate lawyer of course it was fascinating to me as this was the beginning of stock companies in the world.
Also got to pass many many “coffeehouse.” No not our kind of coffee houses– those are called cafes here. Coffeehouse are where you sit down and get a menu of weed and other concoctions that don’t require cream or sugar.
That afternoon I spent at the playground—no not a playground in my enhanced mind, a real playground. My Shirleyfest Montréal friends introduced me to a documentary film editor and she was taking her 2 year old to the park so we met there. Interestingly at this park there were lots of toys and play cars and scooters but it was all provided by the park– the parents didn’t have to lug it there or listen to their kid scream “mine”as another 2 year old jumped on their fire trucks. Brilliant really.
Tonight I want to check out the food scene in Amsterdam. I had heard of Cafe de Krepel so I headed there first for a glass of wine. Beautiful tiny restaurant and as I’m sitting there I met Vanessa who has a fashion shop nearby. She is also enjoying a French wine and she says she is avoiding her children’s texts to go to the grocery store. I like this lady. She writes down some of her local favorite places for me to try another day and I promise to stop by her shop soon.
I have in mind a Spanish place nearby so off I go and find a seat at the bar. The restaurant is Olivia Pintxos y Vinos The bartender Cleo helps me pick out some delicious tapas.
Again I start talking to my fellow dining patrons and have a great conversation with a couple from Paris. I turn to my right and ask a woman how she liked her tapas and what she is doing in Amsterdam. “I work for Netflix so I’m here in business.” Are you from California. I ask? ” San Francisco”she says–oh where in San Francisco? “Laguna and Broadway”. She lives one block from me! Ok it is time to walk back to my apartment.
Three days in Amsterdam and it already feels like home.
#amsterdam #solotravel #shirleyfest #ArtApartment