Last July, my team at work had a week-long meetup in Amsterdam. We stayed in a place called the Monk Apartments, which was just on the edge of the red light district – a bit awkward with your coworkers. It was also right in the middle of things, which was fantastic. Most everything we did was walking distance. I had never been to Amsterdam before, and I was surprised at how picturesque it is – I had not anticipated it to be so charming and lovely! I had also not anticipated it being so very cold and rainy in July.
The first day, we were nearly all jetlagged. I had also shared a flight with my coworker, Deborah, and we’d talked the entire way instead of sleeping. Everyone said the only way to get over the jet lag was to stay awake until bedtime, and the only way to do that was to keep moving, so I remember my first day in Amsterdam as a never-ending forced march through quaint cobblestone street after quaint cobblestone street, over bridges and across canals, past busy cafes full of well-dressed people, through roundabouts thick with bicyclists, to the river. And then back again through it all, over and over and over. This was the first time I’d met my coworkers in real life (we work remotely), so I tried very hard to be vivacious and attentive, but I think I probably sounded manic. I was bleary-eyed and so tired I was nauseous. It was sunny that day and everything sparkled, but I didn’t take any pictures, figuring I’d do it when I’d rested. Then the rest of the week was overcast and rainy, so all of my pictures are bad, but Amsterdam is beautiful, really.
The first morning we were there, I woke early to go with a group to the Anne Frank House. We’d decided to walk and we got about a block before it started pissing buckets. We arrived at the Anne Frank House looking like we’d swum there, but it seemed appropriate somehow. My main impression of the Anne Frank house was just how incredibly tiny their living quarters were. When I read the book, I’d pictured something altogether different. Also, while I was upstairs, someone’s small child pitched an absolute screaming fit about something or other, and his mother was horrified. She sort of gathered him up and tried to scrunch him into a ball to muffle him, and then she ran down those tiny stairs as fast as she could.
We were ostensibly in Amsterdam to work on some projects, so we spent a lot of that week in the Monk Apartments, which were very cold. We sat around wrapped in our duvets drinking endless cups of coffee, working as long as the wireless held, and showing each other YouTube videos. I think the housekeeper did not know what to make of us – there we were in the middle of Amsterdam’s party district and every time she needed to clean the place, we were all sitting around on our computers.
We also had a lot of nice lunches and dinners, visited the Van Gogh museum, and spent a great deal of time walking all around the city, which is my favorite thing to do when I travel, although I think for the others, it might have been less of a plan than the result of indecision. My coworkers turned out to be just as witty and smart and easy to get along with in real life as they are online, and it was so much fun to hang out with them that I slept probably a grand total of 12 hours the whole week. This was partly because my particular apartment established itself as the late night party spot, and served up a regular midnight buffet of gin and guacamole.
On the last day in Amsterdam, everyone was pretty tired and I think we were a bit worn out on each other. We split into a lot of small groups. I’d been wanting to walk around the Vondelpark, so my team lead, Andrew, and I walked around the park for awhile and I took a lot of pictures trying to make up for not having taken many the rest of the week. Luckily, the rain held off for the afternoon (although it threatened). We spent some time watching this guy try to get his lab to retrieve a tennis ball he’d thrown in the water. The dog kept going into the creek, swimming up to the ball, and then turning around in confusion. So, finally, the guy threw a stick so that it landed right next to the tennis ball. And the dog brought the stick back. There were a lot of people out with their dogs, grandparents taking their grandkids out for a walk, and groups of teenagers playing football or frisbee. It was a nice way to spend my last afternoon there.
What a delight to read about your visit to my favorite capital of the world, Amsterdam. I love other capitols too, in fact there I many I love (Oslo, London, Rome, Bamako), but as a Dutch woman my heart is set on Amsterdam. I now live in Austin, TX, and even though I visit the Netherlands every 6/7 months I haven’t been in Amsterdam for years. Your story gets me excited to return the next time I visit family and friends.
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