I am sitting in bed under the eaves in a studio apartment in Amsterdam. There is a window directly overhead which sometimes looks like this
but currently is framing a much, much greyer sky. When I arrived yesterday it was colder than Scotland and it did rain lightly and then with quite a lot of enthusiasm. Frankly, I'm not that keen to relive it. The great thing about mesh sneakers is that they're very light to pack; the lousy thing is that if it rains, you find yourself with wet socks almost instantly. It's hard to be at the top of your Appreciating International Wonders game in wet socks. Armed with this knowledge and--for once--not completely exhausted, I thought this might be a good moment to try to catch up around here. [Seriously, I planned to write every day, but mornings I've got to go forth and Look at Things and nights I'm too tired to string together a coherent sentence. However, it has just officially started raining, which is good for us.]
I arrived yesterday after taking a train, a ship, another train, and a tram and already felt pretty accomplished by the time I rang the bell. My hostess Anita, a lovely woman with bright eyes and high cheekbones, extended her hand for a firm shake and invited me in for a cup of tea and a chat. She and her husband are freelance radio journalists. She tells me that all local radio stations are located about thirty miles out of town because the first man to start one in the twenties had been divorced and felt enough of a social pariah in Amsterdam that he moved away. Rather than regarding that as an anomaly and establishing newer stations in the city, other media types were drawn to his location and his divorce outpost became a media hub that endures to this day. After discussing this, Brexit, and, inevitably, Donald Trump, Anita provided me with a map and sent me out for a bit while the apartment was cleaned.
When I came back, I was introduced to the stairs. I knew there would be a lot of them, but I didn't quite imagine them to be so steep. Like photographing the side of a mountain, it is difficult to capture steepness in a picture, but when I leave, I may have to lower my suitcase down on some kind of pulley or risk death.
This morning I heard someone gallop down the stairs as though there was room for one's entire foot on them. It was most impressive.
This is the first place I've been on this trip that I am not sharing accommodation with other people which means, most importantly, that when I have to pee, I can get up clad only in my knickers and walk a mere two steps to the bathroom, rather than making myself presentable and heading down the corridor. I am giddy with freedom. I may drink three or four glasses of water before I go to bed every night, just because. Plus, bonus fact: the tap water here is delicious. I'll bet no one in Amsterdam has ever had a kidney stone.
Amsterdam is not quite as unwilling as Scotland to admit that night exists, but neither does it like to go rushing into it. Last night's sunset was around 10:30. I don't know whether people are unwilling to eat dinner before it's dark or whether they just don't eat at all, but when I made my shameful, postprandial way home at 9:30 last night, everyone else seemed to be having post-work drinks. Tonight I will try to do better, but I'm just telling you now: there will be dinner and it will not be later than 9pm.
By the way, if the fine people of Amsterdam actually never eat, they're missing out. The meal I devoured at Simpel last night was delicious and beautiful (I mostly can't bring myself to photograph my food before I eat it, so you'll have to trust me.) Having lived (quite happily) for days on fried things and cake in the UK, grilled steak bruschetta, seared tuna with soy ginger sauce, a simple green salad with my first ripe tomatoes of the summer, and a glass of rosé made me want to embrace the chefs, the waitress, the other diners (of whom there were few, but, in fairness, it was Monday night) and maybe even a few passersby. Holy moly, it was good. Afterwards, when I passed everyone else in town having beer and cigarettes at first I thought, "I'm doing it wrong" and then I thought "suckers!" and had an ice cream cone.
The sun has come out. My map and I are going for a walk. Just as soon as we get down the stairs.