Monday, 1 June 2009

Return to Amsterdam

Just back from Amsterdam, where we lived from 1999 to 2007. We hadn't returned since, and it was strange to revisit somewhere we know so well. Funnily enough 'keren' in Dutch means 'to return'.
In a way it was like meeting an ex-boyfriend - still attractive, in some ways very desirable and very easy to fantasise about what life would be like...because you've lived that life, you know what it's like. You have to keep on reminding yourself of the times when things weren't so great. Amsterdam's great-looking, very chilled, fun and - for me as an expat- ultimately shallow. London's messed-up, depressed and a bit depressing, not so great looking and not very fit - but intellectually stimulating and a deeper experience. OK, maybe I've opted for the more dysfunctional relationship.
I went and checked out the teenage section of the big bookshop in the Koningsplein - the brilliantly named Selesxyz and Scheltema - and counted four books with covers featuring boys in hoodies . Which either means that Joe will be just what they're looking for or that they'll be really over hoodie boys.
Best experience was hiring bikes and riding round the Vondelpark just like old times. The Noordermarkt was also fun and it was great to see old friends and sit and drink koffie verkeerd (the 'wrong' coffee - that's what the Dutch call a latte). Nice to go to a city where I've seen all the sights and know all the best cafes and can just walk around with no pressure to do anything.
The hotel was fine - just down the road from our old flat. But then Laurence overheard another guest complaining about seeing a 'long black animal' in her room. Her room opposite ours. Urgh. We made sure all our suitcases were shut. And then the next day, just around midnight, there he was. A little mouse, scampering around my shoes.
It was too late to do anything, so we mentioned it to the manager the next day. "Oh well," he said, "You've lived in Amsterdam. You know how it is." And true, we had a constant flow of rodents in both our Amsterdam flats, plus we spotted mice in the bar at the Hilton and the cafeteria at Ikea. One local cafe was forever known to us as the Rat Cafe because of the very wet large rat we saw cleaning its whiskers on its doorstep one day. So the manager was right - we pretty much took it for granted that a nice hotel in Amsterdam will have mice running around its bedrooms.
Back to London to find our alarm had gone off and the police had come round with sniffer dogs to check there was no intruder lurking inside. Then they broke down the front door to make absolutely sure. We came back to find a massive padlock on the door and the lock jammed so our neghbour had to break in for us. I think I'm impressed by the police's enthusiasm...and I'm hoping for a nice replacement door.

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