Travels without Dad: Amsterdam

A close friend from high school days had moved to Amsterdam a couple of years before. This was the first time I visited her there.

March 22, 1991

It was worthwhile getting a window seat, because I got to see a lot of England – an impossible green divided by roads, hedges, rivers – the Channel, some of the Dutch coast, and Holland. Met by A., and we were both so happy to see each other that we held hands all the way to the train station.

Her house is close to the Central Station, and also in the heart of the red light district. It’s set on a dead-end side street, and once you are inside, all you can hear are students practicing at the music academy next door. The house dates from the 18th century, though the foundations are much older. Because of the height of Dutch houses and the narrowness of their staircases, each house has a tall, wide window in front with a hook for a pulley – to lift furniture into the house!

Amsterdam is like a toy town – narrow streets, sidewalks that are mere suggestions, tall, narrow building sleaning at odd angles, canals everywhere, charming (and shocking shops). Some of the famous ladies in the windows knit while awaiting clients – that Dutch thriftiness. No time to be wasted. And for an inveterate snoop like me, it’s great that folks leave their drapes open during the day, so I could see the inside of houses. They were all incredibly neat. A. says the idea is to show that the inhabitants have nothing to hide (though they do close the curtains at night).

We bought tulips, of course, at the famous floating flower market: 40 for about $8. We bought dinner ingredients and for the first time in our long friendship, made dinner together. After dinner, we drank and walked our way around the neighborhood – a real walk on the wild side!