Culture, Ritual, Soccer. And Coming Full Circle.

One day, two meals ten steps apart!
One day, two meals ten steps apart!

There are 2007 restaurants listed in Amsterdam on Tripadvisor. We didn’t eat at all of them but we did come full circle on our last two days.

We had a very specific agenda for those days. First order of business was having a traditional Dutch apple pancake breakfast on Monday. We found the top rated restaurant called Pancake Bakery in the Jordaan area enroute to our first cultural stop. It was perfect and we gorged on both pancakes and a veggie omelet and the really strong Dutch coffee.  Then we picked up another slice of the previously noted remarkable apple cake near the Noodermarkt and tucked it into Andy’s backpack (more on that cake later).

Then we headed to our assigned visitor time at the Anne Frank House. This isn’t really a museum but a 90 minute immersion into what it felt like to be hidden in the small “Secret Annexe” where Anne and her family and four others hid for two years before being found out and sent to concentration camps. Only her father Otto survived. And Anne’s diaries. Her writings revealed both her rich adolescent dreams and the resilient human spirit. I won’t attempt to be brilliant here. Anne’s words were the brilliant ones that captured her teenage angst while making real the horrors of this war through the writings of one gentle person.

We took the long walk back to our hotel deeply moved and rested up for our second cultural stop. A visit to the Van Gogh Museum.  Again, I won’t try to be brilliant but will share that we both were quite surprised and taken by Van Gogh’s Japanese period.  There are some astonishing works that evoke geishas and traditional Japanese scenic art in Van Gogh’s own extraordinary style. Pretty mind blowing. Unfortunately, they don’t allow pix at the museum so I don’t have one to share below.

World Cup Fever turns a city orange
World Cup Fever turns a city orange

After that, we, surprisingly, got caught up in soccer madness.  The plaza right outside the museum was transformed that day into a giant screen outdoor festival because the Netherlands were playing against Chile that afternoon. Hordes of people decked out in orange regalia were gathering there to party and we stayed for a bit before getting ready for dinner.

We watched the first half in our room and left at the break with a score of 0-0.  As we walked the long trek back to Jordaan area to a tapas restaurant, the first goal was scored by the Netherlands. How do I know this? Because the entire city burst out in an cacophanous  roar and orange confetti and tears streamed from a cafe on the corner! Everyone was watching all over the city! And our team won!  Those who know me will be surprised at my sudden sports conversion since I know nothing about soccer or any other sport involving chasing balls. But this was a national ritual that we were sharing with a whole orange laden city and it was magical.

Not so magical, however, was our arrival at the restaurant. We had neglected to make reservations. If we had, we would have known they were closed on Monday!  What to do? Andy consulted Google’s “ near me” feature on his phone  and found an open cafe just a short ways away.  We arrived at the address only to find that it was exactly next door to our breakfast restaurant! With 2007 possible restaurants to choose from in Amsterdam and after 10 hours and 16000 steps, we had come full circle. Yet, in keeping with our food luck, we had a lovely, perfectly cooked dinner of guinea hen for me and steak for my carnivore at Brasserie Vlaming.

Now back to that apple cake. We developed a special Amsterdam ritual of our own. Every day, we would pick up some lovely baked good for dessert. After our nightly big dinners, we’d walk the winding canal routes home. I’d put up a pot of water in our room, pull out a chamomile tea bag and bring out our treat. Then, we’d curl up in bed with our decadent sweets and blog, read or watch TV before heading off to exhausted sleep.

Beet soup with seafood strand at Tales & Spirits
Beet soup with seafood strand at Tales & Spirits

Our last day in Amsterdam was spent buying Dutch cheeses and other treats to savor at home. And our last meal Tuesday night before climbing back onto Royal Pain Airways (KLM–where I’m writing this as we slog back across the Atlantic) was at TA’s number 1 reviewed restaurant– Tales and Spirits. It was less a restaurant than a drinking establishment with creative cocktails and even more inventive small plates like spicy hummus “soil” in which chips and asparagus tempura were planted, all held together in a flowerpot. Inventive and delicious as were all the other dishes. On our last night, we didn’t walk back, however, we took the tram home!

This trip has been a long and mentally, physically and spiritually rich adventure.  And I will try to remember that richness when we wake up nightly at ungodly, jet-lagged hours for days after our return!

If you’ve enjoyed following this journey, please let me know.  And thanks to all who sent encouraging notes along the way.

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