I met E’s sister-in-law at her wedding in Ardeche this August. She’s a super sweet girl and her husband (E’s brother) is also really great. We had a blast in Ardeche so when they invited me to come to The Hague to celebrate her 30th birthday in November I agreed. Even though I hardly knew the couple, I figured there would be a few other people at the party who I did know so it would be fun.
E, who lives in Paris, just signed on for a new film (she’s an Art Director) shooting in Amsterdam so she would be there; an old friend from college in New York happened to be in Amsterdam for a business trip and to celebrate his 28th birthday; I would get to see a bunch of friends who I haven’t seen since E’s wedding; I planned to take a train to Berlin afterwards to see a dear friend who’s been doing the music thing out there for the past 2 years; and I’d get to see another part of the Netherlands and visit my beloved Amsterdam again after a long 2-year absence.
In the end none of that worked out. The production on E’s film got pushed back so she wasn’t coming to Amsterdam after all. My friend in Berlin got a last-minute gig in Spain. A few of my Amsterdam friends were out of town or busy with work. My New York friend and I kept playing phone/email tag and didn’t end up meeting up. None of the people I knew ended up going to The Hague for the birthday party so it was just me with 40 semi-strangers. And it didn't help that by the time November rolled around I was broke from my train trip around Italy. Plus it was freezing cold and rainy every single day—which is such a pain in a biking city. It was just one of those trips. But when you travel you have to be prepared for everything to go wrong and just be determined to have a good time anyway. Not to say I didn’t have a great time—its impossible not to in Amsterdam—but if I hadn’t gone, things would have been much better on my wallet.
I arrived on Wednesday and my friend picked me up from the train station and took me back to her place to drop off my bags before she went back to work. The absolute first thing I wanted to do was go to the movies to see ‘This Is It’, the Michael Jackson documentary. Rome being Rome, they only have a handful of random English-language movies playing at any given time. Everything else is dubbed in Italian. And I desperately wanted to see the film before it left theatres (by the way if you haven’t seen it yet, go immediately. I cried like a baby the entire way through. Then again I’ve been a die-hard MJ fan my whole life).
My friend lent me her bike and I spent the entire week trying to be as much of an Amsterdammer as possible. I wanted to relax on this trip, to see just how lazy I could be. I spent long luxurious days in the brown cafes, rode up and down the canals just to admire the scenery, went vintage shopping on the Nine Streets (I bought a fabulous fur coat and a great army tote bag) and the Dam, ate anything Dutch I could get my hands on, hung out in various English bookshops, had lovely dinner parties with my Dutch friends, met friends for drinks, checked out a couple music venues at night and visited a few sites (including the Anne Frank house which was incredible).
(Hotchpotch at Moeders restaurant)I even became a local at Café Winkel—I went there so often that the waiters started saying “See you tomorrow!” when I left. They’re known for their delicious appeltaart and once I tasted it I kept going back for more. Plus its a super cute café in a great neighborhood—cozy and warm and I would stake out my favorite seat in the corner, order my pie and latte, read a book or write in my journal and watch the rain fall outside for hours. It was blissful.On Saturday I left for the birthday party in the Hague. I was a bit self-conscious since the party would be full of strangers and people I barely knew. But I was determined to make the best of it. I helped with the cooking and the setup.
I was prepared for a lousy time but it actually turned out to be really cool. Nothing to write home about but a nice atmosphere. I mingled with the guests and met lots of interesting people—among them a renowned physicist and a rock musician and a Dutch guy who entertained us with stories about his trip to Compton (LA).
On Sunday afternoon we took a tour of the Hague.
Stopping by the beach for pancakes, and the city center for raw haring, a Dutch quick snack speciality. I'll try it once but that was more than enough for me (note: it does not taste like any sort of sushi). I guess its an acquired taste.