I’m sorry for the lack of updates lately, but we’ve had a really busy, difficult week and a half. I’m going to sandwich the bad news in between the good so that we can start and finish with good!
First of all, we had our much-anticipated trip to Amsterdam weekend before last. We had planned this trip with the Triefenbach's months ago, just before or after Christmas. The girls (dogs) stayed with a nice family in Brixton, and I flew solo to Amsterdam Friday afternoon, as the Trief's had left early that morning. Andrew met me at the hotel; we were staying at the Marriott, where Andrew stays most weeks he’s there. The Trief's, along with our ultra-cool single-guy friend Kevin and some of his high school buddies who were visiting, stayed at another hotel about a five-minute walk away. The Marriott is very nice, and I was happy to see that Andrew has a comfortable “home away from home” while he’s in Amsterdam.
Friday night we met up with the Trief’s and Kevin and company for dinner. We ended up wandering around, looking for something upon which all eight of us could agree. We finally fell into a Mexican restaurant called Agabi Santa Maria, where we all enjoyed nachos and tacos...
...after which we wandered into a pub for a drink before heading off to see the red light district. You probably think I’m kidding, but I’m not! Seeing the red light district is just something you have to do while in Amsterdam.
In case you don’t know, according to Wikipedia, “[The red light district] is a network of alleys containing several hundred tiny one-room apartments rented by female prostitutes (and some ‘ladyboys’) who offer their services from behind a window. [The red light district] is located in the heart of the oldest part of Amsterdam, covering several blocks south of the church Oude Kerk and crossed by several canals. The red light district has existed since the 14th century and formerly contained many distilleries, mainly catering to sailors.
“The Oude Kerk ("Old Church") is Amsterdam’s oldest parish church, consecrated in 1306 by the bishop of Utrecht. Rembrandt was a frequent visitor to the church and his children were all christened here.
“The church covers an area of some 3,300 square meters. The foundations were set on an artificial mound, thought to be the most solid ground of the settlement in this marshy province.
“The roof of the Oude Kerk is the largest medieval wooden vault in Europe. The Estonian planks date back to 1390 and boast some of the best acoustics in Europe. Many concerts are performed here, including the BBC Singers and the Academy of Saint Martin in the Fields.
“The floor consists entirely of gravestones. The reason for this is that the church was built on a cemetery. Local citizens continued to be buried on the site within the confines of the church until 1865. There are 2500 graves in the Oude Kerk, under which are buried 10,000 Amsterdam citizens, including Dutch figureheads, the naval hero Jacob van Heemskerck and Dutch West India Company board member Kiliaen van Rensselaer, one of the founders of New Amsterdam on Manhattan, known today as New York.”
It was so strange to see all this smut surrounding this gorgeous old church, but the red light district was not really as scary and dangerous as it’s made out to be on TV. You really couldn’t walk five feet without seeing a cop keeping everyone in order. Although I have to admit, the crazies come out at night in Amsterdam! We didn’t stay in the red light district very long, just long enough to take a look and get out of there. Some of the women were quite attractive, while others were not so much. (Of course, no one is allowed to take photos anywhere in the red light district, so don’t look for them here.) A lot of the girls would knock on the windows to get the attention of the potential clients and “gawkers” (including us) walking past. It was kind of like watching fish in an aquarium. However, when looking at an aquarium, it’s usually the people who knock on the glass, so were the prostitutes on exhibit, or were we?
The next morning we got up and met the Trief’s for lunch. We went to a cafeteria-style place so that everyone could get whatever they wanted. It was a great idea, but all the descriptions of the food were in Dutch! We had no idea what was what. Andrew ended up with pizza, and I had a tomato and mozzarella sandwich (the only think I could translate). The food was very good, once you figured out what it was!
Afterward, we went to the Anne Frank House. Although we had to stand in line for quite some time, it was worth it. The tour takes you through the actual building where Anne Frank, her family, and four other Jews hid during the Nazi invasions. It was really amazing to see the photos and magazine cutting that Anne actually pasted to the wall in the tiny bedroom she shared with an older gentleman for nearly two years.
When we left the Anne Frank House, we all went back to our hotels to change and nap before dinner, and Andrew and I met Jodi (another Birmingham PwC employee who works in Brussels) for pre-dinner drinks at six. Later, the Trief’s met up with us, and it was obvious that Katy, who had been sick with bronchitis a couple of weeks ago, was beginning to relapse. We went and had dinner at an Indian restaurant recommended to Andrew by Imran, his “driver” while he stays in Amsterdam. Called Radèn Mas, the restaurant was very sophisticated and frou-frou, and also very good. On top of that (pun intended), the restaurant is on the lower level of the Tommy Hilfiger building, where Andrew spends his work days during the week!
When we finished dinner, Katy and Jeremy went back to their hotel so that Katy could get some rest, and Jodi, Andrew, and I tried to get into the most popular club in Amsterdam, where all the celebrities go, Jimmy Woo. While in line, we met some of Jodi’s friends, and eventually realized that we were never getting in to the club. You had to have a “membership,” which you couldn’t buy (we asked), or be on the list (by making reservations in advance or knowing someone), so we went to a cute little place across the street and had a great time. Funny enough, after we’d been there only about 30 minutes, we saw about 10 girls who had been admitted into Jimmy Woo’s come into and stay at the “Reject Bar,” as we were calling it. I guess Jimmy Woo’s wasn’t as great as its reputation claimed!
The next morning Andrew and I had lunch in the park and then visited the Van Gogh Museum. The Van Gogh Museum was an excellent art museum, despite the fact that it didn’t have several of my favorite Van Gogh paintings. I liked the fact that it told stories about Van Gogh in addition to showing the paintings. Unlike most art museums, where you just see the painting themselves, we actually learned about Van Gogh’s background, history, family, friends, and peers.
After the Van Gogh Museum, Andrew and I wandered around the city, enjoying the sites. Amsterdam is a really beautiful city, with meandering canals and centuries-old buildings that tilt from the strain put on them over the years. There stores selling wooden clogs everywhere, and Katy bought some that were fluffy house slippers! (I'm so jealous!)
Everyone in the city of Amsterdam rides bicycles. It's insane! I think there are more bicycle lanes than actual streets, and if you accidentally step into one, get ready to be run over! They might ring their little bells at you, but they're not going slow down or swerve to miss you!
When you're not being almost hit by a bicycle, you've got to beware of the trams in Amsterdam, too! They cruise the city at high speeds, and I actually had to jerk Andrew out of the path of one; it nearly hit him!
The emblem of Amsterdam is a post with three vertical crosses, which comes from Amsterdam's coat of arms.
The three vertical crosses symbolize heroism, resoluteness, and mercy. The posts are all around the city.
We wanted to go on a canal tour, but it was really cold, and we just didn’t have enough time before I had to meet the Trief’s to head to the airport. We decided instead that I would come back to Amsterdam another weekend while Andrew is still working over there so that we can take a canal tour, see the tulip fields (which hadn’t opened, yet, the weekend we were there), and visit the Rembrandt House and the Rijksmuseum (another art museum), and the Heineken Brewery. Following are some photos that we took around the city...
Oh, and here's a funny photo of Katy goofing off in the airport on the way home.
Now for the bad news… On Monday, I waited until the end of the day and called my agent about the Nestlé job. He told me that the woman who had interviewed me had called in sick that day, so he had no news as to whether or not they chose me. Tuesday rolls around and I call again. She was back at the office, and, unfortunately, they chose the other candidate. My agent said that my feedback was all very positive, and that the only reason they gave for choosing someone else was that my writing style was “too commercialized,” whatever that means. I was, as you can imagine, very disappointed. Back to the drawing board again. I got online and applied for about 10 more jobs late that night, and the next day set up an interview with another agency who had contacted me in response to one of my applications. Ironically, it’s the very first agency I visited months ago, and they had turned me down back then. I didn’t tell the agent that, though!
Also on Wednesday, Andrew called me about a new flat he wanted me to see. It had just come on the market, and there weren’t even any photos of it, yet. I called the agent and set up a viewing for 1:00, but I wasn’t very hopeful about it. When the estate agent and I arrived at the property, it turned out she didn’t even have a key, yet, as the property was so newly on the market. We met the landlady there, and she showed us around. I about died; it’s the perfect flat for us. Here is a link to the estate agent's Web site showing the flat. Hopefully the link won't be active too much longer because it's already been let by us!
When you walk in, you’re in a hallway and when you walk straight through you get to a nicely-sized den. It has a working gas fireplace with a mantle and bookshelves built into the wall on either side. There are large glass doors opening into the backyard, which makes the room nice and bright. When you walk out the doors, you’re on a platform, and there are stair leading down to the all-gravel backyard. Andrew and I plan to move around some of the gravel and plant grass back there for the girls.
When you leave the den and go back into the hall way from which you came, there are stairs leading to the lower level. Down there is a large closet and a bathroom with a tub and separate stand-up shower (and lots of cabinet storage space). Then there’s another large walk-in closet, also known as the second bedroom. It really is tiny and barely fits the single bed that’s in there. Then you move on to the master bedroom, which is nice and big. Like the den, there are large glass doors leading out to a patio in the backyard, which has stairs that lead up to the gravel yard.
Back upstairs, at the end of the hall, is my favorite part—the kitchen. It is absolutely gorgeous, adorable, and perfect. It’s pale blue and has three large, bright windows that open up to the front of the house where the street it. In front of the windows is the kitchen table and chairs; there are two stoves, a large “American-sized” refrigerator, and a gas-operated stove. It’s all so beautiful!
Also, there’s a security system already installed, with panic buttons in the master bedroom and den! The only down side to the flat is that it is currently decorated like an old woman lives there, with very old Chinese prints handing on the walls in all the upstairs rooms. The decorations downstairs are fine, at least.
Before we even left the flat, I told the estate agent that we wanted to immediately place an offer. Those of you who know me know that I do not make decisions very well. I made this one without even consulting Andrew, so that tells you how perfect this flat is. I talked to Andrew on the way to the estate agent’s office to discuss what our offer would be, etc., and filled out the necessary paperwork. After some negotiations by Andrew, we the landlady accepted our offer.
The next day, all heck broke loose on Andrew. Apparently, another estate agency had shown the flat after our offer was place and accepted, and the people who viewed it placed an offer, as well. The landlady then rejected our previously-accepted offer because the new people could move in immediately, whereas we weren’t going to be able to until April 13th, when our current lease was up. Andrew did some more negotiating and scrabbling around trying to the get all the initial deposits (which were going to have a month to arrange) immediately, and it was decided that we would slightly up our offer and move in the following week. The landlady accepted and claimed she would accept no more offers. Understand that while he was making all these negotiations and haggling and going so crazy that he actually had to leave the office and walk around the block several times, Andrew was still in Amsterdam and hadn’t even seen pictures of the flat! If I ever had any doubts that he trusted me, I wouldn’t any more!
Thursday night Andrew got home, and we arranged for the two of us to meet the estate agent at the property so that Andrew could finally see the new home he’d been stressing to obtain all week. We viewed it at lunchtime on Friday, and, thankfully, he loved it. What a relief! Both the estate agent and I had begun to get very, very nervous that he would for some reason hate it. Later Friday night, we met the Nori’s and the Trief’s for dinner at Napulé, an Italian restaurant in Fulham, just down the road from our potential new flat. It was quite good, and the company was even better!
The next day, Saint Patrick’s Day, Andrew and I went to Fulham to sign our contract at the estate agency. We asked some questions, which were answered to our liking, signed the contract, and felt slightly better about having that done. There was still a part of us that was worried sick that something would go wrong to prevent us from getting that apartment. After dealing with the agent, we went for lunch at pub just down the street from our potential new flat—The Fulham Mitre.
It’s a great old-fashioned English pub with a fabulous backyard garden for eating and visiting with friends.
The pub was full of Chelsea fans in Fulham for the upcoming football game and Ireland fans watching the rugby match. The high-energy crowd made the atmosphere for our Saint Patty’s day lunch very fun.
Later Saturday night we met the Trief’s down in their area, Wimbledon, at an Irish pub for a Guinness, and then we went to dinner at nearby restaurant. We always have such a great time with the Trief's, as you can see! We may look three sheets to the wind, but I promise we're not; we were just being silly!
On Sunday, Andrew and I enjoyed a nice lazy day because it was freezing outside, and we went down to Chinatown for dinner at our favorite Chinese restaurant, Super Star.
On Wednesday, I'm supposed to meet with our new landlady to take inventory of the contents of the flat, and so that she can show me how all the appliances and security system work. Hopefully, our deposits will have been transferred by then, and she'll be able to give me the keys then, too, so that I can start moving stuff in on Thursday! How exciting!