Our man [formally] of Amsterdam

On arrival
August 23, 2009, 18:25
Filed under: Amsterdam

Herengracht, or Keizersgracht, or is it Prinsengracht? Whatever, it's a canal in the Jordaan district.

Hotel Sint Nicholaas. The reception is more like a cocktail bar. Dark tiles, black plush lounges, high ceilings with brown wood panelling. Sideboards and thick window frames the colour of Cadbury’s Old Gold. Tiny bulbous chrome pendants dangled over low tables. A street sweeper brushes by outside.

With little sleep in the last 24  hours, I felt like ordering a stiff drink instead of a room.  The choice is made even more difficult because the same person dispenses both. But the latter would take another 5 hours. So I wandered. And wandered …

And eventually took a seat on a church pew on the pavement of an early opener cafe. An elderly lady in a night dress directly across the street opened the full-length windows of her first floor loft and pruned the overflowing geraniums in her planter boxes while gesturing on a portable phone. She then moved to a bookshelf and straightened some books. Something on the floor needed attention because she dipped out of view momentarily only to bob up, seemingly oblivious to anything in the outside world and the whole time gesturing on the phone. After that she was gone.

The median strip that separates the lady in the nightie and me has more tables and benches that belong to the cafe. It soon becomes pram city. One young family is forced to dine inside when a bee bothers their boy.

The very attractive 20-something waitress has a star-shaped tattoo between her shoulder blades and is about the size of  a Big Mac bun. I hear her speak in at least 4 tongues, probably because Cafe Thijssen occupies prime real estate on the corner of Brouwersgracht (the brewer’s district) and Lindengracht, a popular tourist walking trail that winds it’s way around the Western Canal ring.

I sit for almost 2 hours reading some brochures picked up from the bar, sorry lobby, of the hotel and only 1 car passes. The 2 dubbele espressos cost 5.60 euros. Last weeks Herald Tribunes were free as was the snippet of conversation snatched from the table beside me:

Every new day is a gift; that’s why it’s called the ‘present’

I pay the bill, empty my bowels and go and check out my prospective neighbourhood in the Western Docks.


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