24 February 2006

Forget Paris

This is my new Favorite City to visit. I'm staying in the midst of a book fair (complete with Beethoven-playing xylophonist), cafes of all varieties, stores galore, and art galleries everywhere. Instead of staring at cars and roundabouts while sipping coffee, it's canals, people on bicycles, and curliques on the tops of brick buildings. This evening I ate at one of those places that are Just Right (thanks Carmen- you were right about the pie!) with all the right atmosphere and friendliness so you don't feel odd and lonely eating by yourself.

It's on a corner next to a humped bridge, probably the only uphill in town, so the bikers passing by came into view working hard to make it over the cobblestones. The tables there are slightly chipped and the chairs don't quite match, but every table has its own (Peugeot) pepper grinder and smooth white candles in mismatched candle holders. There was just the right level of chatter and music, and the menu was a simple two page spread.

I chose the soup and ravioli, and both dishes were full of fresh vegetables cooked just enough to be a beautiful color, served with thick chunks of brown bread with olive oil for dipping. As I ate, the dusk started to fall above the frilly tops of the 17th century canal houses. I could see the TV on in a third-floor room across the way, and bicycle headlamps wove their way along the canal next to me. The cafe crowded in with people-students from the nearby university, friends, and a few pairs on dates. A leather-trouser-clad man's pipe smoke wafted gently from the corner, mixing with the smell of the toasted sage on my pasta.

I walked home in the dark along the other side of the canal, crossing the humped bridge as a boat glided under, leaving a fizz of wake behind. The spokes of the bikes parked in ranks in the racks glinted in the streetlamps as people wandered by, and the lights of the cafes and restaurants I passed poured onto the red bricks of the bikeway. Now I'm back in my cozy Art Deco room, listening to the sounds of the city, a comforting mix of trams, bikes rattling and whirring, and murmered Dutch voices rising from the street.


JB said...


carmen said...

wow, thanks for taking me on that romantic trip to amsterdam!

(p.s. i'm glad the villa seesicht did not disappoint!)