Friday, August 30, 2019

to Amsterdam

How can it be hard to say goodbye to an ocean? Nothing more than a body of water, right? I do think though that there are two groups of people out there: those who live by the sea and those who do not. I belong to the latter category. My focus is on what grows in the earth, not what swims in the waters. And so it's been healthy to forget for a while about gardens and about growing things and to focus instead on cities (Paris) and now, in the last few days, on ocean waters.

These waters, reflecting the color of the sky, joining forces to create a beautiful tableau. (Sunrise...)

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But now it's time to move away.

We're not exactly returning home yet. We're traveling back, but stopping first at a city -- Amsterdam.

I have a slight nostalgia toward that place. The Netherlands was the first foreign country that I visited alone. I was 18 and traveling from Poland, on my way to my au paire job in New York. I had no money. I had to borrow some from my uncle for travel expenses. And I had to stop in Amsterdam, because my flights demanded an overnight there. I had an older copy of "Europe on $5 a day" with me (this was from the 60s, so it theoretically was possible to travel on $5 a day, though I think the book was overly optimistic about keeping it pleasant and at the same time cheap) and I looked up the hotels listed there. One of them was the Ambassade. [It was the last time the hotel appeared in that book. For many years after, the authors would lament  -- "the hotel Ambassade has sadly departed from our listings, though we still like it and wish that it was a little bit cheaper." A wistful longing for the impossible: to keep that special little place affordable to even the most frugal traveler.]

In all the years I returned to Amsterdam with my own young family, we'd stay at the Ambassade. And it was always very proper, and very nice, if somewhat climbing in price above the (single digit) dollar a day level.

And so it is no surprise that today, we're heading for the Ambassade.

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But first, a rush to clean up our AirBnB in Brittany, a quick trip to the bakery for breakfast treats (the kids keep me company!)...

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For a last breakfast in our beachfront apartment...

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... and then a cab ride to the Brest airport...

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... from where a plane takes us to Paris...

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... and then, from there to  Amsterdam.

It sounds so deceptively simple, doesn't it? Breakfast, good bye ocean, cab ride, one flight, next flight and boom! We're there. But as you know it's never linear with a young child. Snowdrop by now is easy to move through the travel steps. Sparrow is just one and therefore less predictable. There are the leaky diaper issues, the refusals to nap or even sit still. Hungry or, for no reason, not hungry at all, only to be hungry ten minutes later.  He's a sweet boy, if only people didn't keep strapping him to a seat for who knows how long. We all breathe a sigh of relief when he decides to close his eyes on the final leg of today's journey and snuggle into a lap, mommy's lap, and fall asleep.

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Amsterdam's temperatures are climbing again. This typically cooler city is going to be toasty tomorrow. How many waves of hot air are going to pass through Europe this year?

For now, things are pleasant. We arrive at our canal-facing hotel in the early evening to a delicate light of this northern city.

Snowdrop is sharing a room with me, while Sparrow is sleeping with his parents. Here's the view out my (more accurately, "our") window:


You can't see? Let's try again:


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How  would I describe Amsterdam... Hmm... I used to think of it as being chock full of canals, great art, and as a cherry on top -- it has a fabulous orchestra. (As a young person, I loved classical music concerts.) These days, I think of it as a place for young people. The crowds, the relaxed vibe -- it seems to define the city. It never quite lost its place in the free spirit line up. Acceptance appears to come easy for the people here. You can't be surprised that gay marriage was first made legal in the Netherlands.

We have only a few minutes at the hotel. Snowdrop is radiant -- the canals enchant her. The lovely rooms overlooking them are storybook material! But we must head out for dinner. The kids have not been sleeping enough. And we have a dinner reservation to pay attention to.

We eat at Eatmosfera. It struck me that while the grownups were looking for something exciting and unusual, the kids surely are wanting something comforting and easy.  Snowdrop loves her pasta, Sparrow loves his pizza and us big guys revel in our carpaccios and fishes and who knows what else. Eatmosfera I think satisfies both.


(mutual adoration...)


It wasn't a short meal and toward the end, I'm thinking that the kids might enjoy a break from being on good behavior and so I take them out for a short stroll to the nearby Rembrandt monument. I think even Snowdrop is a bit young for a museum visit to see the great Dutch masters, so consider this her (and Sparrow's!) introduction to the golden age of Dutch art.


Fountains help set the mood.


We walk back to our rooms at our hotel tired but deeply satisfied. And of course, there is that last view onto the canal, in the evening light.


What child, what grownup would not be enchanted!