Loving What Is in Amsterdam

Loving What Is In Amsterdam

April 6, 2014

It never ceases to amaze me when I look at things in retrospect how life always gives you exactly what you need exactly when you need it, even if you had no idea you needed it. I see this truth being demonstrated to me more and more these days in the simplest of ways as we continue on this crazy adventure we are currently living.

Several weeks ago I mentioned to Richard that I was missing my  Byron Katie  work and thought that it was perhaps time to immerse myself in it once again now that I had made my way through the initial period of adjusting to life abroad.

Fast forward a few weeks to 24 hours before our trip to Amsterdam ... something I had been really looking forward to for quite awhile. Bags packed. Check. Rental car arranged. Check. Cool apartment right on the water in the Jordaan. Check. Or wait maybe not.

We’ve been using airbnb for our travel accommodations very successfully for the last several years so it was our “go to” site when we began planning this trip. We found a great apartment – 2 bedrooms with a full kitchen overlooking the canals and all the character you could possibly imagine. I thought we were set to go and had images of what I thought would be a very romantic few days dancing in my head.

I’m sure you can see by now where exactly this is headed. Yep. Less than 24 hours before we were scheduled to leave I received an email from airbnb letting us know that our host had cancelled our reservation. We spent many hours right up until 10pm the night before our trip looking for a new apartment to no avail. Even traditional hotels were challenging because as always, we’d be traveling with our dog Lulu. 

We ended up finding a small room in a quaint hotel in the museum district. It was cute, but no bigger than a postage stamp. You had to climb across the bed to get from one side of the room to the other and I think I’ve seen bigger bathrooms in some of the RV’s we’ve looked at! We did have a view though. It was of the courtyard behind another hotel and was what appeared to be the designated employee smoking area. And all of this was ours for twice what we would have paid for the apartment + 40 Euros a night for Lulu. 

So what does all this have to do with Byron Katie you say? I merely mentioned that I missed doing the work and bam … I suddenly had more opportunity to practice “Loving What Is” than I knew what to do with! It became our mantra for the next 5 days and was exactly what I needed. It was an opportunity for both of us to practice noticing our thoughts and then noticing how they were reflected back to us in our experience. Richard and I are definitely learning to go with the flow as they say and travel together more harmoniously — all of which is infinitely more valuable to me than 3 days in a romantic apartment overlooking the canals!

(If you are unfamiliar with the work of Byron Katie and want to know more you can visit her website here: The Work)

We ended up having a wonderful time in Amsterdam in spite of less than ideal circumstances. Here we are taking our obligatory “I Amsterdam” photos with all the other tourists that were out and about that day.

And one of the canals ... it's obligatory too I think.

Amsterdam is a crazy busy city. It is a city of bicycles, motor scooters, and fast moving trains all of which need to be negotiated at the same time. I’ve spent some time in cities like Bangkok, the land of tuk-tuks and motor bikes, but somehow Amsterdam beats even that. Or is that I’m just 15 years older now? I dunno. But what I do know is that I can’t count how many times Richard shouted “watch out!” or “you’re in the bike lane again!” That guy … always watching out for me. Gotta love’em!

But seriously. The streets have both bike and motor bike lanes which each have their own independent traffic lights in addition to the trains running down the middle of the road which there are NO traffic lights for. Each time you cross the road you have to account for all of this and kind of make a mad dash in good faith that it will all work out. And the truth is it does. Everyone seems to know what they are doing and they are having a good time doing it. There are an estimated 881,000 bikes in Amsterdam and they come in all sizes, shapes and colors. Decorating your bike in even the smallest way is the practically required. Here are a few of my favs ...

 
 
 
 
 
 

One of my favorite areas of the city was Negen Straatjes neighborhood, which is Dutch for “nine little streets”. Many of the photos you’ve seen of Amsterdam have most likely come from this area. It is the area where three major canals divide the central canal district into nine little streets – all filled with a ton of personality. Most of the construction in this area dates back to the first half of the 17th century. I could have easily spent several days with my camera in this area alone, but here are some fun things that did catch my eye while I was there.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

And a few from the marketplace …

 
 
 
 

Spending a lot of time in museums is rarely a huge priority for either one of us when we travel but there two on this trip that were important to me. 

The first was the Van Gough Museum . We went separately so we could each go at our own pace and take as much time as we wanted. All I can say is it’s amazing. Interestingly enough we were both drawn to the same works, The Sower, a metaphor for the creation of new life, growth and decline, and an Asian series of work that I had never seen before. The Courtesan was particularly beautiful.

Here are links to more about both of these works  

The Sower

The Courtesan

The other was The Anne Frank Museum. I also went to this by myself and spent several hours there. It bought up quite a bit of emotion for me, particularly as I headed up that steep staircase to the hiding place and I realized that my hands were touching the very same railing that the real life people who had lived and hidden there for over 2 years had used. Once inside the attic I felt close to having a panic attack after being in the darkened rooms for only a short while. I walked back to the hotel being very thankful for my freedom and the everyday things I take for granted. No pictures were allowed here either but this is the memorial statue for Anne Frank that stands outside the little house on Prinsengracht Street.

 
 

Our last day in Amsterdam we drove outside the city a bit and went to Keukenhof Gardens, which was recommended to us by my friend Karen. Thanks to an early spring in Holland this year we are able to see some lovely tulips in bloom. It was an enjoyable and relaxing day … and we even came out of it with a picture of the 3 of us in a wooden shoe. Can’t get more Dutch than that.

 
 
 
 
 
 

The following day we headed to a small town near the German border called Oude Pekala, which is where my high school friend Karen has lived for the last 34 years with her husband Dries. It was our first visit in 30 years and we thoroughly enjoyed reminiscing about days gone by over yummy Chinese food together that evening. 

 
 

Early the next morning we attended a Tai Chi class with them and then after a short visit with some of their friends we headed to the Bjoeks Climbing Center in Gronigen, home to world’s tallest climbing wall. No climbing for me thanks to a torn meniscus in my right knee but Richard had fun climbing with the rest of the group. I particularly like the photo of this unknown woman on the climbing wall. If you look closely you will notice that her hands are in a prayer position!

 
 
 
 
 
 

All in all it was a great trip with a photo opportunity on every corner

Until next time ....

XOXO, from me and lu