It was nearly 7 in the morning when my plane landed in Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport. Looking out the window, however, you wouldn’t have known it. The sky was pitch black, and I found myself wondering if I somehow got the time wrong. Especially when I stepped outside the arrival gate and found no sign of my friend, K, who was meant to be picking me up. K eventually did turn up about one (panicky) hour later. Her old car froze during the night, and she had to thaw it out completely before she could drive.
Now, I fancied myself rather bundled up and ready to face winter for the first time when I arrived in Amsterdam. The moment we stepped out of Schiphol, however, I realized I probably could’ve used another layer or two. I thanked my lucky stars that K’s car was generously heated. It more than made up for my inadequate garb.
It was an uneventful drive towards Indische Buurt in east Amsterdam where K and her husband, B had a flat. I marveled at the orderliness of it all – the roads, the traffic, the Dutch townhouses. Everywhere I turned, I saw clean streets, pretty streets. I was definitely a long way from my Kansas—that is to say, the mess that is Cebu City. I knew then that I had already fallen quite hard for Europe.
I was lucky enough to have a row of seats all to myself in a half-empty flight, so I had an excellent night’s sleep on the plane. I was quite keen to start exploring, but of course, there was the business of my luggage. Thus far, I’ve managed to lug a huge 20-kilo suitcase, a smaller 10-kilo trolley case, a massive laptop/camera bag, and a sizable handbag halfway across the world, no big deal. That is, until I realized that K & B lived on the topmost floor of a typical Dutch townhouse – extremely narrow staircases, no lift, all that jazz. With B at work and K 4 months pregnant, I was pretty much on my own. How a small, 52-kilo chick such as myself managed to haul everything up 3 flights of stairs is still something that I marvel about, weeks later. But I did it; oh yes, I did it. And in less than half a day, too. (More like almost two hours.) By the time I finished, the desire to sightsee right there and then was but a distant memory.
And so it was that I spent my first day in Amsterdam lunching on Swedish meatballs in the nearby IKEA and shopping for a couple of pairs of thermal socks and new mittens.
B also took us out to Fook Sing, the neighborhood Chinese restaurant, for my welcome dinner. (I’m still reeling from the best wanton soup I have ever had the good fortune to taste.)
It was a lovely time with great food and even greater conversation. I was still getting used to the cold, but the warmth of friendship (and new socks) made it all the more bearable. I was happy to be where I was, and I couldn’t have been in better company.
Indeed, there would be time to explore Amsterdam later. But that first day, that was for old friends. And it was perfect.