14 June 2011

Amsterdam in 24 Hours

My parents met on a plane to Paris 24 years ago. He was a Pilot, she was a Flight Attendent. They spent the day walking through Montmartre and falling in love. So here I am. Their jobs are pretty great. Getting paid to travel the world? Other than the long hours, the irritating customers, the upper management, not to mention heightened security over the past 10 years, making flying more of a burden than a luxury. Anyway, until I'm 23, I will be able to travel anywhere Delta goes, for free (when there's an open seat on the plane). During the summer, I like to take full advantage of my flight benefits. I mean, why not? My little sister, older brother and dad were all at Bonnaroo this weekend. So, I hopped on my mom's flight to Amsterdam. Free airfare, free hotel, easy decision.

We left the Atlanta Airport at about 1 PM on Friday. I think big airports are the some of the coolest places in the world. So much energy and excitement, anticipation, relief and so many people just passing by one another en route to another place. I feel sorry for people too afraid to travel by plane. I do some of my best thinking on planes. It's always easier to collect my thoughts when I know I have no where else to be, nothing else to be doing but sitting in this seat. The hard work's been done. So I'll just sit back and write, or read or watch movies or eat or chat with the person sitting next to me.

The sun was visible over the horizon because we were flying so far north.
Taken flying over Scotland.
Sleeping on the plane helps me get to my destination feeling rested and ready to explore. So I read the new issue of Glamour, ate a 4 course meal, watched Somewhere, Tangled & How I Met Your Mother, took a nap and a little while later, "Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Amsterdam!"

It was 6AM Sunday morning, and about 7:30 by the time we got to the hotel. Very posh boutique hotel. I was tired and my mom had worked all night, so we took a nap until about 12. A hotel bus took us to the Central Train Station in Amsterdam. Last summer, my family stayed in a townhouse about a ten minute walk from the Train Station and it was nice being somewhat familiar with the area.

We headed straight towards the Anne Frank House, the small house turned museum where the Frank family hid during Nazi Occupation to avoid concentration camps. Actually walking through the Secret Annex where she lived was so surreal. I read The Diary of A Young Girl when I was in middle school and it could be easy to pass it off as just another historical memoir, but standing in the rooms where she wrote those words hit me in a really deep place. Anne's words will never be forgotten

In 1941, Anne's older sister Margot wrote in a letter to a friend:
"Times change, people change, thoughts about good & evil change, about true & false. 
But what remains fast and steady is the affection that your friends feel for you,
those who always have your best interest at heart. Margot"

I stopped in this little cafe to get a coffee and managed to spend 15 minutes talking to the store owner, this short Indian man, probably in his sixties about America and Georgia. Conversation went something like this:

Sweet Old Man: You're from America?
Me: Yes, Atlanta. Where the Olympics were, in the south.
SOM: Oh yes, Atlanta! (said it like AUT-lanta) Georgia! Jimmy Carter! The peanut farmer! I love peanuts! You have good peanuts in Georgia! 
Me: Yes we do! It's a great city, I like it here too though.
SOM: Well peanuts are a great food you know. Peanuts were Elvis' favorite food too. Peanut butter & banana. He's from Georgia too, no?
Me: No, Elvis is actually from Mississippi, about 5 hours away from Atlanta.
SOM: Oh but that's still pretty close in American standards, I mean, it would take days to get to the other side of the country!

It's times like this, when I just smile and wonder what I did to deserve meeting awesome people, like this guy.

Mother & I wander the streets for the rest of the afternoon. I like the people here. I like their attitudes and that they ride bikes. Bikes have the right of way over pedestrians in Amsterdam. There are bike garages, bikes scattered throughout the sidewalks chained to something that won't move. It's fascinating.
I would bet the bike repair business is going strong in Amsterdam.
Chained on a Bridge.
Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum aaaand... more bikes.
Next stop, H&M. I know there are H&M's in America now, but still, it's just not as cool as in Europe. I bought a few necessary items for spring.. Pink shorts, a white jacket, a few tanktops. Then we went & ate Thai food on a canal. Fascinating how Thai food can vary from America to the Netherlands. It was really good food and the people watching was out of this world. So many cute little families, grungy couples, old tourists & chic friends.

It was almost 9PM but still completely light outside. Mom and I weren't ready to go back to the hotel just yet. We stopped at a street market and bought 2 watercolor paintings. The paintings were painted from the same place, one composed with straight lines and realistic, described as "before the coffeeshop". The second painting has brighter colors and whismical lines as the painter joked "This is what the street would look like after the coffeeshop." Oh, the humor.

My sweet new German friends. If only I could remember their names...
We decided to indulge in one more glass of Chardonnay before we headed to the bus and had a wonderful conversation with a young German couple, currently living in Amsterdam. The woman has visited Atlanta before for business her description of the city was on point. "It's such a nice city in some parts, but then you turn a corner and it's scary. I don't understand why you have to have it be that way, with all the good and all the bad scattered all over the city." Unfortunately not all cities can be Amsterdam. It's a shame.
Then back to the hotel, watch some Jersey Shore before going to bed around 11PM. Wake up call at 5:45. What a day.

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