What we’ve been up to…

January is normally a slow, lazy month for us. The short days are grey and uninspiring, and our instinct is to cozy up in our apartment, watch too much television, and (in the evenings) work our way through the international liquor collection we built up from last year’s travels.

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Mid-day, mid-January, from the north side of the IJ River

We did manage to drag ourselves out a few times last month, twice to the annual Amsterdam Light Festival. This is one of my favorite local events. Last year we did the walking route and this year we managed to also do the boat route.

Having experienced both, I have to admit I like the walking route better, in spite of the cold. You go at your own pace, get closer to the art, and have the chance to stop along the way to warm up with some gluhwein. What could be better?

The glass-topped boat tours are a staple of the Amsterdam tourist scene, and we’ve done enough of them to last us a lifetime. When friends come to visit and the weather is good, we opt instead for the Friendship cruises, which offer smaller, open-air boat and on-board cocktails.

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BUT, for the Light Festival we made an exception and boarded our evening cruise with 50-some tourists and locals. We put on the headphones and listened to the guide, and even laughed at some of the jokes made by our “Captain”. Many of the installations I had already seen, at least from a canal-side view. One of the best things about the Light Festival is the first day or two, when the art work is being installed but I don’t know exactly what or where they are. I’ll be on my bike and turn a corner and suddenly there’s a giant bunch of tulips in the canal, changing color and lighting up the water.

img_2819As for the boat cruise, it was nice to see the light installations from the water, as several are meant to be seen, but I think we could have lived without the tourists taking selfies out every window, and the humid, greenhouse-like environment of a glass boat in January. Lesson learned.

We’ve not been great about using our Museumkaarts this year, so in an effort to remedy that, we headed to the Nieuwe Kerk last weekend to see an exhibit about Marilyn Monroe, who would have been 90 years old this year. Neither of us are big fans of Ms. Monroe; we both admitted that we’ve never seen one of her movies from start to finish.

The exhibit was an odd one. I’ve seen a few other exhibits in the Nieuwe Kerk and it’s not my favorite setting. The “new” church was built in the 15th century and it is cold and cavernous. There were costumes from Monroe’s films – the famous dress from the “The Seven Year Itch” making its Netherlands debut – and many of her personal items, including some that I found strange to have kept for so long. (An eyeliner pencil from 1956?)

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The juxtaposition of this sombre space with the sex appeal of Marilyn Monroe didn’t quite work for me. The exhibit seemed to whitewash her difficulties with substance abuse and mental health issues. Still, it was interesting to learn more about her early life and about the many ways she tried to control her own career and image – not an easy thing for a woman of that time to do, especially in Hollywood.

The other thing we’ve been up to is finding a new apartment! Just after we returned from our Christmas holidays, the owners of our current rental confirmed that they planned to sell the apartment this year. So…on the move again! The good news is that we’ve become experts in the Amsterdam expat rental market, and were able to find a new place in about a week. We have already gotten the keys and will be moving over the next few weeks. The new place does have a guest room, of course, and visitors are welcome!

The end of the month brought the launch of my company’s new website, a project I was working on for a long time (you can check it out at http://www.idafoundation.org), and the booking of our first weekend getaway in 2017: Sicily!

As the days get longer, we’ll be settling in to our new neighborhood and looking forward to the brightening spring that can’t be far off…

 

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Dear Amsterdam summer,

Look, I’ll be honest: I didn’t move here for the weather. I knew about the endless rain, the wind, the short winter days when the sun never seems to rise. And this is not our first time through the cycle of Dutch seasons. We’ve learned to deal with the 5-minute hailstorms and dramatic swings in temperature. We bought rain suits at Hema for cycling in bad weather. I leave the house every day with my umbrella and my sunglasses. Just in case.

But c’mon…it’s July 2nd. Yesterday I was wearing boots and a fleece jacket under my raincoat. Today the sun is shining but the temperature is only supposed to rise to 16. (That’s about 61 for you Fahrenheit folks.) More rain is scheduled for tomorrow.We’ve got visitors in town, and we want to show our guests how lovely you can be, summer. We want to take a boat around the canals and sit and have a beer in the sun at a sidewalk cafe.

So apologies if this sounds rude, but in the spirit of Dutch directness, I have to ask: where the hell are you? Are you ever going to show up? We had some great days in early June, strolling around in skirts and sandals, eating ice cream in the park. Will we ever have that again? Or are you gone for good, leaving us with this mash-up of late-Spring-early-Fall, where we hold our breath and hope for just a light misty rain instead of a downpour?

Maybe all of my complaining and whining will come to nothing in the end, and I should learn to do as the Dutch do. They deal with the weather, put on a raincoat or a scarf, and get on with it. They enjoy the sunny, warm days as fully as they can, moving their couch out onto the street and soaking up every last bit of daylight. And when they want to see you, summer, they head to the south of France.