Thursday, 2 December 2010

Last-Year Travels: Amsterdam

As an attempt to celebrate Mr S's birthday and to banish the winter blues, earlier in the week we hopped on the Eurostar to Amsterdam. The city was very much in winter's grip but looked absolutely stunning. This view across the museum area, taken from inside the Van Gogh museum, reminds me of a Bruegel painting - I half expect to see a deer bounding across the picture. Instead, cyclists on their determined paths.

As the cold wind whipped round us, the vistas down the canals were literally breathtaking. My favourite moment was after it had got dark, and we wandered past the huge lit up-windows of the apartments while clutching a paper cup of mulled wine for warmth. Inside were cosy and inviting scenes of city residents, reading, sitting back and cooking.

We walked through a perilously icy Vondelpark to the 1930s cafe in the centre. Black pendant lights hung from the ceiling, while a chunky transport-style clock was set off by the chic gray walls. The wooden tables were decorated with tea lights and meadow flowers. Simple but warm and welcoming, it seemed to sum up the Dutch style perfectly. We sat clutching our coffee glasses, looking out at the whitewashed park as the cool staff played the xx.

On Tuesday evening, we ventured to a tiny jazz club to see Gruff Rhys playing a gig. Sat on plastic stacking chairs and enjoying a Dutch lager, the audience was filled with thrilled ex-pats and fashionable Netherlanders in excellent knitwear. Gruff was as charming and whimsical as ever and, playing solo, he used a metronome to replace drums and records of bird songs to accompany his own guitar and vocals. The tiny space hung on his anecdotes and sublime vocals and it felt really rather special to be there.

All too soon we had to return to Britain and to big chunky layers of snow and public transport failure. Thoughts of Amsterdam are lingering on though, in more than my chapped lips. I look forward to wandering its streets again.

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