Today (in Amsterdam).

Here I am, standing in front of a beautiful building, in a beautiful city, on a beautiful day.  I’m taking in the lovely weather (which is not typical), lively atmosphere, and being generally happy.

Today I made a short bike tour within the city, cycling to Oud Zuid, onto the Overtoom, to the Nassau Kade, turning right onto Prinsengracht and finally ending at the Westergasfabriek.  I love being in the West of Amsterdam, as it feels completely different from where I reside, across from the Scheepvaart Museum, just 15 minutes east of Centraal Station.  At the Westergasfabriek, there was a Buddhist convention, complete with drummers, lots of yoga mats, and colorful flags.  This sudden diversity in the middle of what used to be an old gas factory reminds me of how unique the people and places of Amsterdam are.  I have been so lucky to reside in this city, which boasts a very Dutch identity, yet at the same time, always feels a bit exotic.

Later in the afternoon I had a drink with a Dutch girlfriend at Orloff Cafe, which is an extremely cozy and delightful place just steps away from my home.  On Queensnight (the craziest Dutch holiday) there was a fantastic local party there.  Dutchies in funky clothing were dancing to Justin Timberlake and Michael Jackson, drinking small glasses of beer, and being as silly as ever.  It was one of my most fun memories, biking past the place on my way home, and then stopping, turning around, and deciding to join the fun.

Dinner tonight was at Cafe-Restaurant Walem on the Keizersgracht.  My German companions ordered smartly.  They received tender steaks, with delicate gnocchi and robust garlic sauce.  We shared a tomato soup, and delicious bread.  I opted for a salad, as I decided today would be the day to start eating healthier.  What a mistake.  I should have followed the advice of my beloved Grandmother.. “The Diet Starts Tomorrow!”  My salad was completely tasteless.  The duck meat was dry and cold, without flavor.  The lettuce was watery, and the radishes unappealing.  “How Dutch,” I said to myself.  Some things come thoughtfully with elegance, and all the trimmings.  Others come completely plain and abrupt, without apology or a second glance.

Now, as I’m about to get ready to go out on the town, I’m hearing our Dutch neighbors, who are only watching football (soccer), but sound as if they’d like to reach the next solar system.  This is pretty typical.  For good and for bad, (I finally realize), I really like this city. The Dutch, the expats, the cafes, the parks, the music, the history, it’s all there.  Just give a bit of yourself, and you’ll get a lot in return. xx Helen Anne

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