Saturday, April 6, 2013

We Walked So Hard.

Have you ever been to Amsterdam? If you have, then you know that it's a magical place of wonder and joy.  Disney touts itself as the 'happiest place on earth'.  I beg to differ.  Disneyland/World has always sounded like a waking effing nightmare to me. Screaming children, giant lines and thanks.  Amsterdam, however... let me tell you a bit about this earthly utopia.  
One of the canals at night.

People are free to live, and everyone seems to be invested in doing so in a happy, healthy and peaceful way, thus creating a beautiful euphoric environment and living experience.  The city is nearly 750 years old and is more beautiful, clean and pristine than any other city I have ever seen.  Due to the extremely integrated biking culture, there is hardly any traffic and even the busiest part of the city is refreshingly quiet.  The air is clean, the water in the canals is replaced every three days, the street sweepers happily hum along, and there is just a general atmosphere of happiness and relaxation.  There are less than a million people in Amsterdam, yet they have 180 different ethnicities.  NYC only has 130 in a population of 8.5 million by comparison.  

Approaching the carnival that just happened to be in town.

While every city has its history and challenges, I have never been anywhere that felt so much as though everyone involved was on the same page - the government and its people working together to spend money where it matters, to create equality and to truly invest in an environment and the quality of life.  In visiting the various museums and researching, it is clear that much of this is the result of the legalization of soft drugs.  (You mean making marijuana a mainstream commodity just like caffeine? Yes. That is exactly what it means.) The economy is booming because of it, everyone is relaxed and happy, and the crime rate next to nothing.  What a concept! (If you can't sense my sarcasm here, it is dripping from these words.)  

Carnival at night!

Every moment of this trip was blissful.  It truly is indescribable how amazing it was.  It was like the stars were perfectly aligned for every single second of the day.  We expressed the need for an ATM, there it was! Coffee?  The most beautifully designed Starbucks on earth happens to be just up ahead!  My feet were like exploding sausages stuffed in my boots after walking so hard for 4 days... there are a pair of slippers that look like Ugg knockoffs for 13 Euro?... perfect!  I only realized on the last day that I truly was marching around Amsterdam in slippers, but it was totally worth feeling like I was walking on little clouds for those last couple of days.  There was not a cloud in the sky, even though it was frigidly cold, it didn't matter. Layers! 

The slippers at the end of the journey.

On the second night, I went to bed with my hair wet on a shitty cotton pillowcase and woke up looking like Bonnie Raitt.   Don't judge.  Hooray for hats.

Bonnie Raitt. Not me.

Nearly every man we saw was beautiful, and not one obese person did we see.  Crossing the bike lanes was scarier than running across a freeway at times.  Bike riders don't have much affection for tourists, and we witnessed them getting whacked on a few occasions.  They are seriously professionals, cruising around at high speeds chatting on the phone, doing their hair, texting, among other things, making dime turns into alleys that are barely visible to the naked eye.  It was impressive to say the least.  

Yes, this is a BIKE parking garage.

While the tulip fields weren't in bloom yet due to the ridiculously cold spring, the Keukenhof Gardens were absolutely mind-blowing, and brought Ashley and I both to tears at various times for various reasons.  So beautiful.  The experience solidified my desire to get a delicious gardeny half-sleeve as tribute to my grandparents. 

And of course, there was a happy little cheese cottage in the forest at the gardens as well.  Oh so much cheese in Holland! NOMNOMNOM! 

There were fountains, hedge mazes, swings, little benches, theme-designed gardens, marshmallow chairs, and of course a windmill, and a beautiful white thatched roof hut of love and amazingness nearly identical to the one that I sit in with my Papa when I talk to him in my dreams.  It was magic. 

We also managed to gain an Amster-ass during the trip, due to the massive amounts of incredible food that can be found around every corner.  The pancakes, the caramel waffles, the cheese, the pasta, the salmon... even the sandwich I had at the airport was epic.  We took a canal tour at night, which was of course incredibley beautiful.  It was so fun to see all the houseboats, and the way that people design the interiors of homes that are stacked sometimes 5 stories high and so narrow.  I am absolutely positive that I want to come back and rent a house boat for at least 3 weeks some summer.  Ashley nailed it when she said, "I would get punched in the face every day if that's what it took to wake up here."  I concur.

So we spend nearly a week skippity-bop-deet-deetely-shibbidy-doo-wopping around Amsterdam, and on our last night, we decided to try one of the countless Argentinian Steakhouses for dinner.  Lo and behold, there was live music, and the guy on guitar was skippity-bop-deet-deetely-shibbidy-doo-wopping our song! While we ate delicious steak and drank delicious Argentinian wine, and the entire rest of the restaurant was singing along and playing random instruments in what seemed to be the joyous culmination of the most amazing trip ever, to the city that has officially wasted all other cities that I have visited up to this point.  And I like to think that is a lot by now.

Amsterdam = happy place.  Already planning my return.

While it got slightly overshadowed by the epicness of Amsterdam, we also spent two days in Dublin beforehand.  It was as wonderful as I remember; we drank some Guinness and Jameson, ate some tasty food, drank some delicious brews, saw a lot of mullets, and got inappropriately stared down by a creeper at a pub while he simultaneously swirled his finger around in his belly button.  Entertainment left and right.   I also got approached by a rowdy woman in the pub bathroom who had heard me blowing my nose and assumed that I was doing lines off the back of the toilet or something so proceeded to ask me if I had any coke.  No, creepy eavesdropper lady, I do not.  But good luck with that. 

Next trip on the docket is a possible camping trip in Wales in July, the Dream Norwegian Fjord cruise in July/August, and then Fleetwood Mac with Kristin in Scotland in October! And then another trip to Amsterdam... yes.

With endless love and gratitude,