Let me just say: I didn't expect to fall in love with Amsterdam. Don't get me wrong, I thought I would enjoy it based on things my friends had said who'd been. But it was hard and fast, and those cobblestone streets aren't very forgiving. Alas, it was a short affair, since I came in on a Sunday and left the immediate Tuesday. Never have I experienced a city that held such closeness, even for as big and "cold-culture" as it may be. The lovely, tall Escher-esque look of the buildings, the intricacy of the winding canals and alleyways. The packed-in-ness of the bicycles, the warmth of cafés and the unique and surprisingly cohesive feel of the culture, both in appearance and vibe. Such great design, such well connected transport... I could go on, but let me save you from my obvious infatuation.
Upon my arrival, I navigated Pattie's directions to her place a little outside the center of the city. Only one hiccup: I didn't know to press the "off" button on the tram until after I'd passed the stop and then got my exercise walking along a highway back to her stop. I did, however, manage to not look like a tourist at the train station when I first got on the tram. Check.
After some tea at her place, we headed to her favorite little dive restaurant/café in town, Prins Heerlijk. I ordered the Chicken Special and it was the best cheddar-y thing I've ever eaten. Amsterdam at night was filled to the brim, I noticed how obviously young the city was. Everyone seemed to be in their 30's or younger. Also we spent our first night watching the latest Star Wars movie. No better way to chill out after a travel day, I'd say.
In the morning we were greeted with a not-too-cold day, so we leisurely made our way back into the thick of the city, stopping for some caffeine and pastries and quiche (hey, it's vacation) at De Laatste Kruimel, a beautiful and homey café that is obviously well loved by locals. We talked about the book Pattie is writing and brainstormed ridiculous plot twists.
If you've never met Pattie, the first thing you'll need to know is her passionate love of everything book- and reading-related. I can't count the number of bookstores we stopped into during our travels together, but I know that my favorites were the three story ones, the first of which was in Amsterdam, the American Book Center.
The highlight of the day for me was the time we spent inside the Stedelijk Museum. My little geeky designer print-obsessed mind was having an absolute field day, and if Pattie hadn't had other things for us to do, I could have spent all day in there, debating with myself about the purpose of this art, this design, perfectionistly poring over lithographs and trying to figure out if a piece was screenprinted or not, it was just that perfectly done. There was so much modern furniture, ridiculous exhibits using trash is ways I'd never even imagined, and loads of installments that I can't begin to describe if I tried. Just go. That is all.
Bagel sandwiches are pretty high up on my long long list of heaven in an object. Especially the ones at Bagels & Beans, an amazing Dutch chain of beautiful Panera-esque cafés. You just try to look at that Brie bagel and not want one. Even though my shot of Pattie's BLT bagel is obviously more top-notch.
Pattie humored me and took me to a place called De Negen Straatjes, or "The Nine Streets," a little shopping neighborhood with lovely things like cheese shops (real, not rubbery cheese!), trinket boutiques and design bookstores. Every large city has their version of this area, but this was unlike anything I'd seen before. I'm so glad I had't brought much money with me, or I'd have been a goner.
To call it a night we continued our theme of walking around town while accompanying crowds for the Amsterdam Festival of Light. There were interactive light exhibits as well as ones simply for viewing, and it was some of the most unreal stuff I've seen people create, only the interactive ones were somewhat hard to "get" considering the amount of people.
After satisfying a Chipotle craving I'd had for over a year with Salsa Shop (so close), I finally had a "real" stroopwafel and a picture to prove it. The next morning was too soon to leave, but the full day was truly all I could have wanted in a city.