Many years ago, I was in love with the idea of living in Amsterdam. Who wouldn’t – the romantic canals, bridges, tulips, museums…
Around 18 years ago, a few friends from work and I planned a long weekend away – a night in Brussels followed by two nights in Amsterdam. I contacted a friend in Amsterdam whom I was still in touch from our course in Crete a few months before and told him of our plans. He suggested meeting up and showing us girls around.
We couldn’t have planned a more perfect trip. The weather was gloriously summery. Brussels was lovely and we took in many sights – the Mannekin Pis, The Grand Place, sampled artisanal chocolates and couldn’t leave without tucking into mussels and finishing up with Belgian waffles. The night was too short and after a few hours’ sleep, we dashed to catch our train to Amsterdam. I was excited to be reunited with Edwin!
Edwin met us at Amsterdam Central station with his friend – I can’t remember his name. They accompanied us to our hostel near one of the main squares – Leidensplein perhaps? Drinks soon followed at the square where we caught up on news and whiled the time away crowd-watching. The boys pointed out the outdoor toilets for the men which was a point of amusement! The glorious weather continued and I was entranced by the sight, sounds and general atmosphere. There was something decidedly familiar and enchanting about Amsterdam.
We explored around the city – the boys were very informative, absolute gentlemen and proud of their city. I remember thinking they were such lovely hosts. They walked us back to our hostel so that we could change for dinner – I can’t quite recall what we had that night, but we were all in fits of laughter. Amsterdam was so good for my soul. We bade them goodbye as they rushed to catch their last train home. Edwin and I kept in touch for a few years thereafter but we eventually lost touch. Sadly I never got to return the hospitality of showing him around Dublin!
The girls and I spent the next day sightseeing – we queued for Anne Frank’s house, which ticked a big box on my lifelong list of things to do. I felt immense sadness when I reflected on what Anne and her family must have gone through. We caught the last canal boat trip that evening and I toyed with the idea of moving to Amsterdam. We ended our stay on a high note (no pun intended), we were just giddy from being on a fabulous trip! I vowed to return for another visit.
Which I did several years later with my husband – twice actually and then another trip to Den Haag to visit a friend who had moved there. All our subsequent trip were equally exciting but by then I had lost the notion of living there. I had my heart set on Sydney by then!
During one of our trips to Amsterdam, we were desperate for the washroom and I suggested going to a pub to use their facilities. Whilst my husband headed to the gents, I ordered us both drinks but didn’t have anything smaller than a EUR50 note. The barman spoke to one of the other punters in a mocking tone whilst beckoning at me, and as soon as my husband returned that, I hissed under my breath that I was not going to be labelled a ‘bloody tourist just here to use the loo’. So I made him stay for three drinks and by then the barman had warmed up to us. He used to play semi-professional football and we asked him about the photos which he had on display behind the bar. He made us try a liquor ‘Pisang Embun’ upon learning my association with Indonesia. I have a photo of us behind the bar and we parted as friends that evening.
It has been 11 years since our last visit to Amsterdam. It will always hold a special place in my heart. The Eurostar now runs direct to Amsterdam so watch this space!