Down the rabbit hole: 24 hours in Amsterdam

From 12 May 2013:

“When you realize how perfect everything is, you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky.”

I suppose I’m laughing with the sky as I write this 10,000 feet somewhere above the Atlantic Ocean. Comfortably sedated on a cocktail of champagne, French wine, and coffee with Bailey’s, I pull my down comforter up around my shoulders and lean my chair back exhausting this Business class experience to the fullest. Reflecting back on these past 24 hours is a storm of contradicting emotions. Excitement at the current stroke of good luck (buddy pass traveling + open seats in business = a very happy Lauren and Clarissa!), something like depression contemplating the end of a wonderful week, panic at the prospect of going back, and unblemished joy as images of Paris and Amsterdam flash across my mind like electrocardioverted shocks!

Clear! Taxi cab driver hits a local pedestrian. Clear! Omelette du fromage. Clear! It’s 9pm and the Tour Eiffel ignites, demanding the attention of the city. Clear! Painted and defeated-looking, women leer down from every window as we walk, eyes cast down through the red light district. Clear! Pancakes and Heineken for dinner? Clear! Clarissa? Lauren? Welcome to business class, glass of Champagne?

Arriving from Paris via train, we scurried as quickly as possible to our hotel, threw our bags in our room and took off for downtown Amsterdam. I’m going to be honest, I was quite impressed with our navigational competency in this city. The Dutch language is baffling (gorgeous, but far from simple). It looks like their method of language development was the product of extensive games of “10 letter grab bag,” and “letter roulette.” The running joke became, “Welcome to Amsterdam, a hinga dinga dernga.”

The city was all manner of loveliness. Cobblestone bridge-banded canals with little boats floating happily along break up the iconic rows of 4 story houses. Cafes, stores, and galleries house smiling faces, faces that soften even more as we amuse them in our attempts to communicate. But we have perfected that universal language of smiling and nodding our heads.

We took the tram to the Van Gogh museum, and much to my dismay entry was more than a two hour wait! With only 6 or 7 hours left to explore, that was precious time that could not be spent idly. Instead we opted for a nice “stroll” around the city. The goal was to eventually find the flower market and just stop anywhere along the way that caught our fancy.

The flower market was everything I hoped it would be. Our eyes fell upon tulips, among numerous other flowers, packed into brightly colored stalls with beaming farmers and townsfolk peaking out at you and offering a happy “guten Morgen!” I laughed heartily at the irony of the flower market abiding in the sedated heart of the marijuana district. It is important to understand the different meanings of “coffee house” when wandering ignorantly around a new city. Everything is so different and strange I have to remind myself that this is still planet earth, and I’m not dreaming.

And after a slight detour into Amsterdam’s red light district we managed to experience every strangely fascinating and stereotypical Amsterdam attraction (but hey, what else are you supposed to do when you have 6-7 hours to explore a major city?). We settled into a seemingly forgotten cafe for a “traditional” meal of Dutch apple pancakes and a pint of Heineken.

And now, sitting on this lovely ten hour flight back to Portland, I simply cannot remove the smile from my face. I’m in the business of making my dreams a reality, and step by step each is accomplished (high five to self!). I don’t even have to be sad about approaching reality, for a fabulous reality it is and always will be! It’s time to start planning the next trip, but first I think I’ll recline a bit more, perhaps tuck into another class of Bordeaux, and toast to making the most of my one week of vacation this summer.

To hope and madness, Lauren.

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