The journey over was smooth, for the most part.
We showed up early, went through security and lounged in the airport with time to spare. The domestic flight, however, left much to be desired – there was a wailing child who screamed every two minutes. We breathed a sigh of relief once the plane landed, but not for long, because this flight was 30 minutes late. Fortunately, we still had enough time built in to grab a smoothie and sandwiches, which I held onto as we got onto the plane to Amsterdam.
The international flight was fantastic. It was quiet, peaceful, and empty. We ended up taking 6 seats for ourselves. I was able to sleep in brief snatches as well.
Since I had a headache, I kept inquiring the flight attendants for more water. Eventually I became known as the Girl Who Wanted More Water. (“Oh, I was just looking for you!” The attendant said in the hallway, handing me a bottle.) This culminated in a mad dash to the bathroom during the final descent. The seatbelt button was on: the attendants were settled: but it was now or never. So I ran to the bathroom before anyone could say otherwise. A few seconds in, I felt the plane dip several hundred feet, jostling us all.
Diary, have you ever wondered if your final moments might be this, clutching the handle of an airplane lavatory? When I left – the flight attendant saying, “be careful, be very careful!” – I nearly flung into a wall before Spider-manning my way back to my seat, where I joined le beau, who was laughing very hard.
At the airport, we filled up on water (again) and stopped by the ATM. Since we had nowhere to go and no one to meet, we took our time, meandering around slowly until we reached the exit. Customs was a shoo-in, with no lines and few questions. After reading several signs, walking around the train station, and asking for directions, we boarded the train to Amsterdam Centraal. It was like a blast to the past during my 3ish years in Philadelphia. The main difference was that we were surrounded by all sorts of languages – French, Spanish, Dutch, English. Also, we were on another continent.
After settling into the hotel, we explored several nearby streets. We didn’t have anything planned, but still ended up at the main locations, like Dam Square and The Royal Palace, on accident. There, pigeons and children and Jack Sparrow and protestors gathered. Everyone wore big pants, and I felt sad that I had left mine at home. I noticed there were sex workers sashaying in shop windows, and I waved brightly at them. They waved back.
Amsterdam was a lot more metropolitan than I thought it would be. There were bikes and trams and cars. There was litter and graffiti and lights. There were crowds and construction and din. The streets smelt like cigarette smoke and marijuana: cigaruana. Their marketing campaign sold us clogs and windmills and cheese, but it was closer to New York City than the farms of France. Then again, I remembered that Manhattan, New York was once New Amsterdam, and Harlem was derived from Haarlem, and Brooklyn from Breukelen and Wall Street from Waal Straat. So it was in the first hour of walking that I detected the spirit of the Dutch in the form of two cities.
Since someone forgot their slippers are home, we sailed from one crowded shop to another looking for beach sandals. Because it was the thick of winter, nobody had them. “It’s winter,” one cashier said plainly. (The Dutch are known for their directness.) For dinner, we grabbed stir fry at Wok ‘n’ Walk and walked back to the hotel.