Saturday, August 31, 2019

Amsterdam on a summer day

A morning view in Amsterdam.


It's hard to believe that it's the last day of August. Didn't summer lilies do their dance just a few days back? Weren't we only beginning our summer ritual of eating breakfast outside at the farmette? And here, in Europe, weren't we just planning beach outings and collecting seashells for sand castles?

It's a warm day here, in Amsterdam. Since this is a weekend, I expect many families will be out and about, enjoying the last hours of radiant, summer-like sunshine. Some kids here have already started school. Amsterdam, for example, began its school year on August 26th. (The Netherlands are divided into three regions and each one has a different school start date.) You can be sure that on a warm day like this one, they'll be looking to do something outdoorsy, likely active, perhaps in one of the city's parks.

That's our plan as well: outdoorsy, park-based, active.

Snowdrop, who is sleeping in my room, wakes up a tiny bit earlier than I would have wanted. I suppose she'll catch up on sleep when we return home. Here, her excitement gets her up and moving when her little form is still whispering -- more rest please!

One of the pleasant hings about staying at a hotel is that someone does a lot of stuff for you: clean up the room. Prepare you a breakfast to your liking. Wash up the dishes. Smiles pleasantly and wishes you a great day. It's not trivial: You're free to think where to go and what to accomplish and thus you're out the door a lot earlier than had you been doing it all on your own.


I have two ideas for outings: the flower market and Vondelpark (Amsterdam's most central large greenspace).

The flower market here is unique in that all the bulbs and flower paraphernalia (and not a few flower type souvenirs) are sold on boats permanently stationed on the Singel Canal -- just a handful of minutes away from our hotel.

A few pictures from our morning walk there:


(each merchant house is different...)





And now the park: it's your oasis calm, away from the noise of the crowded city. We walk the length of this green space, half looking for a playground for the kids. (Snowdrop has had to make do with cramming herself into the bag compartment of the stroller; in the alternative she can choose to walk, but the distances are not small; the airlines broke off a section of the stroller that attaches the second seat. We filed a claim and now the young couple is trying to decide if they should replace all or part of this rather monstrous buggy.)

(In the park, she walks.)


We spot something toward the end of the park. Oh, it's a rather large, rather shallow, pleasantly cool kids' wading pool! Dress comes off, Snowdrop plops right in.


She is all smiles the whole time she is there. I mean, it's just too perfect: splash all you want to, dear child, it's still summer, just for this one August day!


Sparrow, too, loves the coolness of the water.


He dangles his feet, splashes gleefully, chortling now and then at the ridiculousness of it all!


It's a lovely way to end August! Such a gift from this often rainy and windswept city!

(humanity, including the young family, in the park...)


(back on city streets, where bikes come out from all directions, seemingly with the goal of running you down... or, in this case, delivering a chair to someone who needs it...)


We eat lunch at a cafe-sandwich shop just around the corner (Singel 404). Toast and various cheeses and additional accoutrements.


And now it's time rest. But not just yet for me. I stroll over toward Dam Square -- a popular counterculture gathering place in the years when smoking weed was still a bit of a no-no here (today, you cannot walk through the city without smelling the stuff, wafting from one place or another).



This is a walk I did often in the years when I came to the city by train from the airport. I'll never forget how odd it seemed to be traveling to or from Warsaw -- a city that was, in those years, rather devoid of commercial glitz -- and to be entering this rather crazy section of town, where clothing stores trip over each other and people jostle to fill their bags with stuff. I can't say I ever liked that sudden onslaught of not necessarily pretty shop displays, but it was clear that the difference between Amsterdam and Warsaw was then immense.

Today, I quickly have my fill of all the shopping chaos as well. I do pick up an item or two for a grandchild, but otherwise, I am happy to be back by the hotel's canal -- a place that is far more serene and satisfying than the craziness of the commercial heart of this city. [Ironically, I repeat this path, chaos and all, with the young family in the late afternoon. The goal is to see Dam Square. Then to get out as quickly as possible.]

In the evening we first go to a store to look for a replacement stroller. And after, we go to dinner at an Indonesian Restaurant. Amsterdam is filled with them and even in my younger years, I found the experience of sitting down to a Rijsttafel (an Indonesian string of dishes that is always surprising, often delicious, and sometimes quite spicy) to be quite fun. We're not entirely sure that the kids will be equally thrilled, but of course, exposing them to new things is part of the adventure and so we cross our fingers and head to Sampurna.

It turns out to be a wonderful meal. We like our spicy foods. Snowdrop falls in love with one dish and eats all of it. Sparrow? Well, he gets hooked on shrimp bread.


(hey, I like it too!)


(leave some for me!)


The walk home: it had showered while we were eating. With that rain came a shift in temperatures.


Amsterdam is getting ready for September.