Thursday, June 30, 2011

'Might've been all those tulips and the canals, or ...'

– ‘Dusseldorf’, Regina Spektor

There are some things that even I, usually so obliviously candid, don’t want published online for the world to see, some of those being events that transpired during mine and Tilly’s trip to Amsterdam to meet up with Gilly and Elisa. Accordingly, strategic omissions have been made to this blog post, for which you will have to forgive me.

We stayed once again at the hotel-like Van Gogh Hostel, the four of us sharing one room with a rotation of four strangers. Like I said in my last Amsterdam post, the Van Gogh is lavish by hostel standards, the biggest issue being dismounting the absurdly high top bunks with ladder rungs spaced for the ergonomic ease of giants, which gave Gilly especially some trouble before she got the hang of it:

If I had to, in one word, describe the pervading theme of our Amsterdam trip, that word would be silliness. There was, for example, a kids’ playground outside our hostel, so ...

That was the first night, before Elisa arrived, and we did eventually get past the playground and our initial immaturity in order to go for a sophisticated dinner and drinks session, where we discussed solemn and grave issues such as the plot of Gilly’s children’s novel. But seriously, we spent hours going through it all, and watch that space because it’s gonna be big, folks.

The next day set the tone for the rest of the trip – wandering around eating and drinking and talking and not doing much at all. We spent probably twenty minutes in a massive hammock shop we came across and never wanted to leave. That night we went to an Irish pub for dinner and, of all things, a Dragons vs Titans game was on. Imagine our surprise.

Every morning we went to Broodje Bert, the INCREDIBLY cheap, generous and delicious café Til and I discovered on our previous visit. We didn’t leave the hostel most mornings until 11:30 or 12, so we were always starving, but it was worth the extra twenty-minute walk to enjoy some Broodje Bert.

Once Elisa arrived and the ratio became three girls to one guy, a lot more time was spent shopping as well. No, not shopping, but browsing (shudder). Nah, it wasn’t that bad. I’m used to it. I mostly amused myself by playing the ‘the DSLR makes everything look cool’ game.

Not that kind of shopping ... 

Elisa and Gilly with their classy finds.

We also paid a visit to Gilly’s old apartment. To get there we went through Vondelpark, and were, as you would imagine, surprised to see a bicycle parade of nudists whizz past us shouting slogans and turning heads everywhere.

Once we finally got there, though, we teased Gilly with imaginings of a ‘for sale’ sign appearing in the window just as we arrived.

Her nostalgia piqued, Gilly then lead us on a pleasant stroll to what used to be her favourite bar, a pretty little place with a view of Vondelpark that gets afternoon sun until it sets. Amsterdam was putting on its best face, too, so I took about a thousand pictures on the way:

The bar had changed owners and décor since Gilly moved away, but nevertheless, we settled in and started drinking.

 Head-size comparisons ...

Pretty soon we were mightily bungalowed. I love that you can actually see the progression towards and well into inebriation in the photos as well. I think it happens right about here:

And then there's these:

I got a bit paparazzi on Elisa

Check out the drunk eyes!

For dinner we decided on a picnic in Vondelpark with even MORE alcohol, which didn’t end well as you might imagine. I’ve only ever seen vomit so white twice in my life: that night when it was speeding out of my mouth in a great torrent, and the next morning when I discovered the splashback on my shoes and jeans (TMI, sorry).

The next day was Elisa’s birthday, but we were kind of partied out. We’d planned to ride out of town to Edam that day, because it was the only one forecast for sunshine, but the girls outvoted me in a characteristic fit of mutability. The two other contenders for one-word major theme of the trip would have to be this mutability, as well as indifference. In everything we did we were both volatile and undecided. Should we sit here or there? I don’t mind. Let’s sit there. Do you guys wanna move outside into the sun? I don’t mind. Do you have a preference? Not really. Okay let’s do it, if you want. It’s getting cloudy. Maybe we should go back in. I don’t mind either way. Whatever. I wish we could get a booth. Oh look, one’s free. Haha!

By the end of the trip we had banned the words ‘I don’t mind’ and instituted a series of rules to help us make decisions, such as that if it began raining we had to go into the nearest bar or café and have a drink, or else we would just end up standing there in the rain for twenty minutes deciding whether to go in or not. I blame it on the male-female ratio. Four men would’ve never dithered in such a way, and they would’ve set a plan and stuck to it!

Instead of the bike ride, we went to the World Press Photo exhibition, which was absolutely stunning. SUCH a good collection. It’s a collation of the best photographs from the press around the world from last year and there were so many shocking, disturbing, heartbreaking images there. I had to buy the book, even though it was like twenty-four euro plus whatever its weight cost to send home. I can’t recommend it enough; I imagine the exhibition is on around the world, although it might be finished now.

The exhibition was making me feel photographic, so I took this picture of the chandelier in the church where it was taking place.

We found a beautiful little cafe in an alley for drinks after that, and hung out there probably for a few hours.


That night after the BEST MASSAMAN CURRY OF OUR LIVES we took Elisa into the red light district because she hadn’t been before, which is always an experience. We went into a sex shop at one point for a laugh and spent a while pointing out hilarious porn films to one another. Somewhat disturbing was the title displayed below. In the centre of a wall of gaudily coloured cases sat this plain white, DIY-looking film starring someone who looks scarily like Michael Jackson. Some people have the weirdest fetishes.


Emerging from the Red Light District.

When we got back to the room that night there was a shabbily and fully dressed, luggageless old man snoring in the bed below mine, which belonged, I knew, to a young American guy. He’d stolen my pillow and was sleep-talking loudly in an unknown language. We think he was a homeless guy who just snuck past reception and got someone to let him into the room because first thing in the morning he got up and left. Can’t blame him for trying ... and succeeding ...

Next morning, our last in Amsterdam, was too rainy for bikeriding, so we decided instead to have a day of gross indulgence, starting with pancakes for breakfast at this cool little demountable restaurant that Gilly said she’d always meant to eat at.

We basically slothed from café to bar the whole day, gourmandising chips and chocolates and coffees and beer. Elisa’s birthday present from the three of us was box seats in the beautiful old-style movie theatre I mentioned in my last post about Amsterdam, the Tuschinsky. Last time we’d made the mistake of seeing a movie that had come out ages ago, and were shunted into one of the small, regular cinemas, but we made sure this time to buy tickets for the biggest movie so we would be in the grand old cinema. We thought this would be one of the new, artistic films like Tree of Life or Never Let Me Go or even Water for Elephants, but I suppose it’s a sign of the times that the most popular film of the moment was The Hangover 2. It was mildly amusing, but pretty dumb. Luckily the experience of the box seats made up for it, with the champers flowing and a plate of assorted goodies to go with.

We finished up with one last drink at a bar on the way home, entertained as we drank by an extremely high local in the background who walked around talking to himself for about an hour and a half before getting on his bicycle and shakily riding off into the night (visible below on the right).

We had to leave the next morning, but the trip had firmly cemented Amsterdam in the position of the number one destination of our entire exchange journey!

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