First Day in Amsterdam
A car quietly arrived outside our house at 5:30am this morning. We quietly gathered our bags and tip-toed out to meet the driver - worrying over everything the children might need, might forget, or might have to deal with in our absence.
There comes a time when you need to trust and let go.
An hour later the car pulled up outside St. Pancras Station in London, and we set off through the various hurdles required to leave the United Kingdom, and enter mainland Europe. A good humoured passport officer considered my concern on approach to him the highlight of the morning, and didn't mind telling me.
While waiting for the mighty Eurostar to arrive in the departure hall, an old man sat down next to me - huffing, puffing, and doing all he could to attract the attention of anybody that he might make conversation with. Just as I was about to cave and ask where he was headed, the PA system crackled into life and announced our train in three different languages.
After departing London the train whistled across the countryside, and breakfasts were delivered by smiling crew members. After re-surfacing at several hundred miles an hour in the French countryside, a second round of crew began offering wine to the passengers. The conversation with a lady behind us made me smile:
"Would you like a glass of wine madam?"
"It's only 11 in the morning!?"
... the waiter shrugged
"We are on the continent now madam"
(she accepted the wine)
Following stops in Brussels and Rotterdam, we arrived in Amsterdam just before lunchtime - or just after, after correcting our wristwatches. Rather than try out the trams that rumble endlessly around the city like automatons, we decided to walk to our hotel - a twenty minute stroll through the city centre.
The weather was kind. Blue skies lit the streets and canals as we took in the bustling city around us - teaming with boats, trams, and bicycles. So many bicycles. I can't remember seeing any cars. Hugely refreshing.
Before we knew it, we found our hotel near the Opera House, checked in, emptied our bags, and went off in search of something to eat. After randomly wandering through the city streets with Google Maps as a safety net, we spotted a small cafe on a street corner near a canal bridge. Approaching an empty table in the sunshine, a little black cat stretched from a seat at the table and quietly escaped into the cafe.
The food was wonderful. The little black cat was both enigmatic, elsive, and quite wonderful too. While eating, I wondered where he might be hiding, and squinted into the dark of the cafe interior. As my eyes adjusted to the dark, they met two little green eyes gazing out at me. I rubbed my fingers together under the table, and he quietly approached for a fuss - and the hope of a few scraps no doubt.
After lunch - while wondering what we might do next - we happened to walk past the entry gangway for a boat tour.
Moments later I had bought two tickets, and we were seated at the back of a long river barge - which set off on a slow tour of the spider web of canals that surround the city. We will return along the route tomorrow on foot and explore the various places we saw - the museums, buildings, squares, and quarters.
This evening we visited the hotel bar for the first time, and tried the local wheat beer. We also grabbed something quick to eat from Wagamama - that backs onto the hotel.
A long day. An eventful day. A tiring day. It's surprisingly tiring - doing nothing.
Tomorrow we will steel ourselves for Anne Frank's house. I'm still not sure how I'm going to get through it. Might have to buy some tissues.
Wish me luck.
p.s. the various photos I have shared so far can be found at Instagram.