A warm, sultry day, two tired people, a parched throat, and a rumbling tummy. No, this is not the title of my next film, but the condition I am in now. In the middle of the Dutch capital, at the peak of the tourist season, on a Friday.
While planning my trip to Amsterdam, it had been really hard for me to find a hotel in the city, and so I had rented an apartment in closeby Harlem. This meant two things: 1) That I had a quiet place to spent the last two days of my vacation. 2) I had to be out all day in Amsterdam with no place to go other than some cafe’s.
In a way, perhaps, it was not that bad a situation: you arrive at the crowded Amsterdam, quickly do some touristy things, and leave for a quite refuge in Harlem. But it turned out to be a tad more tricky than that.
When you have not been to a place, you see it from other’s point of view. All my friends who had been to Amsterdam had told me how small it was and that I could walk everywhere. I took their advice seriously. And since morning I had only been walking in the toasty sun, even as tram after tram passed from in front of me.
By now I was hungry, tired, and very angry. I had expected Amsterdam to be a quaint place, where one would walk by the canal, grab a snack at some cafe, walk again and make friends with the quiet, take some lovely pictures and generally just be. But it has turned out to be a riot with thousands of people on the streets, in the boats, at the bridges. All I want to do now is escape the chaos. But by the time I realized that, I was deep inside the town and had to walk, yet again, to the Station, past the crowded squares and streets. Needless to add I am hungry too.
What do you do if you are in the town of beer and haring and you do not eat/drink either? You wait for the first Febo that you can spot, pick some fried snack and walk again in search of the next one. By now I have had my share of Febo; I need something more familiar.
That is when I spot this cafe with an ice cream counter. The best thing, it is cheap (you are usually broke by the end of your holiday, aren’t you?). So in I go, husband in tow, famished, tired, and finally excited about something (no the Cannabis lollypops did not excite me at all). The lady at the counter is lovely but busy. There is a large family next to us eating sundaes, and groups of tourists that are walking in demanding flavour after flavour: vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, raspberry, coffee, citron, lime, yogurt, the list is long, and she has only two hands.
Gauging the delicacy of the situation, I quietly order my Vanilla (I have to have it everywhere I go), and stand quietly in queue. Husband turns out to be a little more demanding — as always — and asks for a few flavours for taste.
“Can I taste citron, raspberry, and chocolate?” he says enthusiastically.
“We don’t do tastes?” snaps the lady.
“Oh!” He is taken aback for a minute.
In the next few seconds, I see his expression change: from “I am never going to come to this place again”, to “I might as well eat something.” Perhaps his body needs food more than his ego needs a boost. But what I am sure of is that I am not going to get to sample the other things from the cafe — beautiful cakes, tarts, doughnut, pastries, meringue, macrons, and of course coffee and sandwiches.
The next thing I know is that I have been asked to click a picture of the cones by my instagrammer husband (if you buy it you might as well Instagram it?). I am, however, totally disinterested in the picture, eagerly waiting to bite into my mound of vanilla. The evidence is in the shape of t he the shaken picture (yeah that’s her).
In a way I am happy that I have this picture to remind me of the warm afternoon, on a summer day, in a busy capital.
P.S. My vanilla turned out to be so much more creamier, sweeter, and satisfying than his citron. I think he wanted to buy it too but his ego got the better of him. His loss.