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This past Saturday, we headed to our old digs of Amsterdam to go on a walkabout and  meet up with friends. As we left Central Train station and headed into the city, I excitedly pointed out old landmarks: “There’s the street I would take to bike to Dam Square,” or “this is the canal that has that little vegetarian restaurant I liked so much.” Although I only lived in Amsterdam for 6 months so many years ago, I felt an urge to claim the city as my own. I couldn’t imagine how my husband must have felt. He spent 18 years in this beautiful city–met all of his college buddies here, had too many experiences to recount during our short visit.

It was a blustery day in the true sense of the word. Every time we were in an open area near the main canals, gusts of wind would push against us, our bodies instinctively pulling inward. Two days earlier, the wind was so forceful that it blew me sideways on my bike, and if it hadn’t been for a railing along the canal where I was cycling, I might have taken an urban polar bear swim. It was the type of wind that inspires authors to create tales of children rising skyward, grasping onto the thick white string of a helium balloon.  

 It was decidedly time to take refuge from the elements so we headed to Noordermarkt for Appel gebaak met slagroom (apple pie with whipped cream). We tried to go to Winkel van Sinkel, one of Arie Jan’s favorite restaurants in the  Noordermarkt, but it was jam packed, even more people milling around the entrance. The whole waiting list thing is out of the question when you are cruising around a crowded city with a four year old. No tolerance for waiting. No tolerance for crowds.  

We headed to Proust, a restaurant on the Noordermarkt second best only to Winkel van Sinkel for it’s Appel gebaak.  One thing my husband likes about Proust is the beautiful, modern lamp made of a thin, yellowing paper, which hangs over the bar. I remembered the lamp well, as his appreciation for it, and it’s diffused, yellow light, had further endeared him to me back in our days of dating. The lamp had been there for years, long before IKEA started popping out hip little paper lamps for the modern home and office. However, when we arrived, his first expression was one of disappointment: “The Lamp is gone,” he noted.  Suspended above the bar in its stead was a rhinstone style beaded lamp in the shape of a pistol. Ezra loved it.

We ate delicious spinach raviolis while Ezra settled for a stale peanut butter sandwich in my backpack. Appel Gebaak arrived next and suddenly Ezra took interest. It seemed the restaurant was under new management, as the famous Appel Gebaak was not of the same quality we remembered, but still delicious.

It was exciting to be in the city, to dine in a crowded restaurant with so many Dutch conversations streaming around us. Amsterdam is a young city in comparison to Den Haag. Not young as in how long the city has been standing there, but rather, young in its population. There’s an energy there that asks for your participation, asks you to think outside the confines of daily life–do something, whatever it is, and make sure it is exciting. Dare to be unique. Piss in the canal late at night. Create a spectacle. Even Ezra could feel it, as he took refuge in his daddy’s lap. Not yet, not yet, he seemed to be saying. But soon enough . . . .

Noordermarkt: The Noordermarkt is a stone laden square in front of an ancient protestant church called the Noorderkerk. Quaint and modern shops and restaurants flank two sides, with the other  side open to a cobblestone street facing a canal. On Saturdays, the Noordermarkt is home to a farmer’s market.  White tents and large farm trucks create a sheltered, pop up market where you can purchase everything from cheese, honey, meats and nuts to clothing, jewelry, hats and craft items. It was very charming to be there.

Up next: Visiting Friends and Playing in Sandstorm

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