After the dark Toronto winter, I want light. There’ll be 18 hours of it in Amsterdam on June 20. That’s where I’ll be. I’m longing to see the Rijksmuseum open after ten years of renovating. Then to Antwerp to explore Axel Vervoordt Design, and to Bruges because it’s beautiful. (Follow Heather’s adventures in the Destinations category of this website.)
June 11: Plodding to Pearson, charter terminal 3, security line at least 150 people, shuffling forward on auto-pilot, surprise: “Would you like to follow me?” asks a uniformed airport attendant, pushing a wheelchair. “Absolutely,” I say, imagining Carlos Castenada’s guide is now a redhead in a blue skirt. Excuse me, excuse me, EXCUSE ME,” she says, going to the head of the line to the security area. She looks right and left at the crowd. “You’d be sleeping here if you stayed in that line,” she says. I say nothing. I don’t want to break the spell. At the last barrier before the X-ray: “Follow me,” she says, those bypassed say nothing.
On the plane my seat companion asks a question I’ve never been asked in my life: “Do you speak Dutch?” I give the uber-cool answer: “Not yet.” He puts on his headphones.
June 12: Amsterdam airport has many signs saying train to central station, track 2. I get on the train on track 2. Nobody else has luggage. “Is this the track for the train to central station?” “Yes, all the trains on this track go to central station except this one.” Lucky so many Dutch speak English. Off the train, wait for the next one, repeat the question, this time the train does go to central station.
I drop my bag at the hotel and race to the contemporary art museum before it closes. A Canadian, Jeff, exhibits huge photographs. Much more fun is Marcel Wanders, dean of modern Dutch design, co-founder of Mooi.
June 13: Georgina arrives from Prague. Off to the Rijksmuseum. It’s the most famous museum in the Netherlands, full of Old Masters such as Rembrandt and Hals. Only a couple of Van Goghs, though. He’s got his own museum around the corner, with even longer waits to get in. We do not wait because we bought museum passes.
At noon we meet our landlord. We rented an apartment through Air B&B. It faces a canal which was filled in and surfaced with rubber to make a kids playground. On the opposite is a primary school. The tram to the south goes directly to the famous museums; the tram to the west goes to the not-so-famous. We go west, to the Jewish Historical Museum and the Portuguese Synagogue. When built, in the 1600s, it was the largest synagogue in the world.
Today is the first World Cup game for the Netherlands. A temporary 8,000 seat stadium is set up on the field in front of the Rijksmuseum with four huge television screens. We are warned not to want a taxi – or anything at all – during the game. Nobody will be working.
We go to the botanical garden. We see a couple, arm in arm. Her hat matches his jacket. They are getting married in 10 minutes. We take their photo. They look so happy. Later we see three guests on a bench. They nabbed two bottles of wine and cut the ceremony preferring to smoke, laugh and drink before the reception begins.