a unique perspective on this crazy world

finding my tribe


sorry, I am still playing catch up so pretend it’s May 5th 🙂

I am hiding in a pub that apparently has 70 different beers on offer, partly to avoid Heineken, but mostly to escape from the cold.  Apparently it is still winter in Amsterdam and my suitcase is packed for Egypt!

This has made my usual habit of wandering the canals late at night in a short skirt and heels sound like a lot less fun than normal so I am going to spend a much less decadent Saturday night than originally planned.

That’s not to say no fun is being had.  It really pays to read the airline in flight magazine.  That’s how I knew May 5th was special in Amsterdam and I should be on the lookout for “Go Back to the Zoo”.

This morning was a write-off – cause last night turned out to be a lot more fun than expected.  Since this is my fifth trip to Amsterdam, I decided to be a bit adventurous and stay at a hotel called CitizenM.  In this case, the M is for mobile.  The hotel is very modern and highly entertaining.  For example, on my room key – citizenM says: travel light but carry a big smile.  My travel motto summed up!

The interior design is both functional and witty.  Wi-fi is free everywhere and simple to use.  There is a 24 hr canteen/bar and hotel staff are called “global ambassadors”.  The price is good (<C$200).  The only drawback – I am living in the ‘burbs.  But the goal this trip was to try and see Amsterdam like a local rather than a tourist.  (The other drawback – people keep chatting to me while I try to type my blog posts in the canteen – why it is taking so long!)

And apparently one can have fun in the ‘burbs 🙂  Last night I was freezing and a little under-dressed (less than in the afternoon when I left the hotel dressed for spring and was worried I’d end up with frostbite!) so went over to the train station but saw a lively bar so thought I would start there and see where things went.

Travel always offers the opportunity for memorable moments.  Just after I arrived, everything got very quiet and serious.  All the talking was in Dutch so the “why” was unclear but just stood quiet and still like everyone else.  Based on today’s research re: May 5th I think it was the two minutes of silence for Remembrance.  May 4, 1945 was the day the Germans surrendered and Holland was liberated.  So May 4th is the Day of Remembrance.  In the evening there are two minutes of silence and then the “Liberation Party” begins and lasts through May 5th.

So yet again I stumbled into a great day to arrive in a foreign city!  Had the weather cooperated I would be partying in Dam Square until 11pm but my Egyptian wardrobe just can’t cut it.

It hasn’t been as exciting as normal.  Next time I’ll be staying on the canals.  But last night provided enough excitement for two days.  I figured if I got bored I would sort out how to take the train into the city…  But boredom and Amsterdam just don’t seem to be a mix… Fortified by an excellent chicken satay in the lounge area (these people did colonise Indonesia after all :)), I wandered into the bar proper.

There was a DJ and the music was really great.  He even played “Walk Like an Egyptian”.  I had to smile.  And smiling in bars can change the course of the night.

The first change not so great.  I am pretty sure he was Polish because he kept including Poland in all his references… not sure if he is representative but he definitely needs to work on his bar skills.  It was loud and he was yelling into my ear so much that it literally began to hurt so I had to end it as politely as I could manage.

The adventures with Dutch guys were far more pleasant.  I revived the tradition of tipping Dutch bartenders.  (Apparently the Dutch are very cheap so the equivalent of C$1 will have the bartender blowing you kisses).

Going to the bathroom can also prove entertaining.  Not my first bathroom story 🙂  Generally the toilets in Amsterdam are always at the top of a narrow, wildly steep staircase (a deterrent to drunkenness I think 😉 When I was heading down from the bathroom last night, I saw two guys coming up hugging both stair rails so waiting at the top seemed a good plan.

The first guy was hauled up the final steps by the attendant.  His friend seemed more sober – until he kissed me!  I don’t really know the details as his explanation was in Dutch but being kissed unexpectedly by a cute Dutchman definitely a bit of an ego boost 🙂

I was happy to just listen to music and dance a little in my own space but some very tall Dutch guy decided I was lonely and that I needed to be dancing and brought me into the circle with his friends.  At one point we decided I wasn’t tall enough so he picked me up off the floor to put me on the same level with Dutch people.  A tad disconcerting but does make for a lively night.  The night ended with me trying to get out the door and encountering problems.  The cute Dutch guy on the other side just taunted me.  I finally got out and he showed me the easier exit.  But I was laughing and smiling through it all so he told me he loved me and gave me a thumbs up.

One would think that would be enough.  But then I went down to the canteen to try and put my blog on-line and met Altin, an articulate and entertaining guy from Nepal… and somehow it was 3am before I got to my room.

Between jetlag and such a late night, my body wasn’t sure this morning whether to be asleep or awake.  Nevertheless, I managed to get the train to Centraal Station – and the Amsterdam I know.  Centraal Station and the Hotel Prinz Hendrik a big part of Amsterdam 2011…

Found my way to Dam Square without a map, just in time for “Go Back to the Zoo”.  Would have loved to spend the whole day watching bands for free but it’s just too cold.

It’s now official – the Dutch are my favourite national group 🙂 It’s like they are a mix of the best from the Germans, the Scandinavians and the Latins.  They are efficient and get stuff done.  They are a small country so don’t take themselves too seriously and have a sense of humour.  They are oozing with charm and love to drink and party into the wee hours.

And only in Amsterdam do you see a group sporting gold glitter cowboy hats, some random witches and a parade of girls all dressed in bizarre gear making their way through Dam Square – the vixen with the stuffed leopard got my attention 😉

Amsterdam is a special place.  Unique like the Dutch.  The French might have coined “joie de vivre” but the Dutch teach you what it means…

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