So it turns out I love Amsterdam. Really love it. I might even love it more than Rome, which is kind of saying something. In fact, Amsterdam is, among all the places I’ve visited over the past few years, the only one to have given me a real feeling that I could actually move there. And live, perfectly happily. See, there are all sorts of places where I’d like to think I could live. I’d like to think I could live in New York City, but in reality, it’s far too hot and crowded. I’d like to think I could live in San Francisco, but in reality it’s far too far away from the people I love most in the world. I’d like to think I could live in Florence, but in reality there’s not enough open green space for my liking.
Amsterdam, however, was different.
Amsterdam is pretty, but not in an ancient, crumbly way. Its beauty lies in its dynamism – the way the tall, thin canal houses sit perfectly alongside quirky up-and-coming vintage shops, or how the city’s centuries-old canal network is festooned with cute little bars, cafes and bakeries, not to mention all those pristinely manicured boathouses which I could barely drag my eyes from. And Amsterdammers are amazingly friendly, welcoming people with impeccable English and great big smiles (not to mention absurdly toned calf muscles). They seem to know their city affords them a pretty sweet deal, and they also seem more than happy to share a slice of that life with anyone who chooses to visit. The place has it all really: beauty, greenery, history, bakeries, plenty of bookshops, weather that will neither melt nor freeze me in my tracks. In short, most of the things I value in a living space I was able to find in Amsterdam. Plus, it’s only an hour’s flight from Edinburgh.
Above all else, however, it was the cycling that endeared me to the city. I know, I know, massive eye roll at my twittering on about this yet again, but I seriously could not get over it. There are 600,000 bikes in Amsterdam – 600,000 bikes for a population of less than 800,000 people. Outside the central train station there’s a multi-storey bicycle park (which threw a whole new spin on the phrase “park and ride”) for heaven’s sake! And the actual cycling itself is undertaken in the most nonchalant of fashions. All the bikes are crap for one thing – rusty, falling apart yet insanely beautiful and often decorated with flowers, baskets or even bits of ribbon. And there’s not a piece of lycra (or a helmet, which I’ll admit to finding slightly troublesome) in sight and, mercifully, none of that ridiculous “my bike is better than your bike” pomposity that often spoils my enjoyment of cycling at home. Needless to say, I was desperate to get in on the action. I hired a bike almost immediately and tore around the city with the locals, ringing my bell in excitement and grinning in glee like a complete moron the entire time. It was awesome.
And I was alone. Completely alone, for five whole days. I had been slightly nervous about holidaying solo in my newly-ish single state. I knew I was capable of travelling alone – I did it last year, and for a much longer stretch of time. But things are different this year, and my life over the past couple of months has been so full of people – wonderful, amazing, supportive people who have knocked me for six with all their loving kindness – that I had begun to experience a fear that I would crash and burn in a black hole as soon as I was left to my own devices.
I needn’t have worried. As it happened, I didn’t feel lonely in Amsterdam once. In fact, I felt pure, giddy happiness for pretty much the entire duration of the trip. It does strike me as quite difficult to feel alone in Amsterdam, it’s so busy and bustling and full of smiley people having fun. If anyone’s curiosity is piqued by the idea of solo travel, I’d highly recommend it as a jumping off point.
So. Amsterdam. There’s a thought. If I considered there in any way to be a need for my employer to establish an office there I’d probably be drafting a business case right now instead of this blog post. Perhaps somewhat sadly, I very much doubt that there is. On the flipside, as my plane swooped down over Edinburgh on Friday night and I cast my eyes over my beloved home town, my heart swelled up with a love I can’t even begin to explain. I’d been away for only five days. I’m pretty sure right here is still very much home for now.
Have you ever been to Amsterdam? Would you ever move abroad?