If two Dutch Uber drivers represent a valid statistical sample (and why wouldn’t they?) I can state with a fair amount of certainty that American TV shows and movies are still the world’s most popular form of entertainment.
Our driver this morning - Dennis - is particularly fond of 1970s soaps and crime drama.
“I love Dallas,” he says after he learns where we’re from. “J.R. Ewing!”
“And McCloud,” he continues, referring to the old cop show starring Dennis Weaver. “And Baretta.”
With that, he cranks up the theme song of the long-forgotten TV series on his smartphone and starts singing along with Sammy Davis, Jr. as we weave down the streets of Amsterdam.
“Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time…” he croons. He claps in time with the music, finishing it off with a flourish - “Keep youuuuurrr eye…. On the sparrow!”
And we thought we were just getting a ride to the Van Gogh Museum. Who would have ever thought an Uber trip came with a full floor show?
Such is life in the Netherlands at the moment. People are finding their joy after coming out of lockdown.
I have to say that the atmosphere here in the Netherlands resembles what we’ve experienced in Texas. Once the mask mandates are lifted, people are eager to embrace normality. It feels like everybody is out enjoying life at the cafes, shops and museums. Eyes are still on the Delta variant, but the vaccinated population is definitely out and about.
Knowing the uncertainty that comes with COVID, we had made advance reservations at the Van Gogh Museum, as they are limiting the number of visitors . They are also politely requesting - although not requiring - masks.
And what a museum it is - providing a wide view of Van Gogh’s greatness. Showing the evolution of his work and confronting his mental illness head-on. One can’t help but feel thrilled to witness his genius and still walk away incredibly sad knowing he took his own life at age 37. His painting career lasted just over a decade.
If you go, opt for the multimedia tour, which gives great insight into Van Gogh’s life, his relationships, his ever-changing work. You’ll walk away with a new appreciation of the man and his work.
After two hours in the museum, we’re ready for lunch. So we do a quick internet search and decide to have lunch at Georgette Cafe, which is a short walk from the museum.
As we make our way to the cafe, it’s clear we’re in the upscale part of town. The Hooftstraat is like a little Dutch Rodeo Drive, with the big designers all lined up next to each other - Gucchi, Jimmy Choo, Emporio Armani, Burberry, Prada.
The food was good but the people-watching was great. We sat outside at the sidewalk cafe eating our club sandwich and chicken soup watching impossibly beautiful people stroll by with their shopping bags full of the latest wares from their favorite designers.
I mean, haven’t these people heard of Saks Off Fifth or T.J. Maxx?
With lunch and people-watching behind us, we head back to the hotel for a quick rest since we have to go out for our COVID test so that we can get into Ireland on Wednesday. The Netherlands has an incredibly efficient system for booking test appointments online. Once your appointment is made, you walk in, scan your barcode, show your passport and get a test. You’re in and out in about 10 minutes. Results are delivered within 24 hours. Apparently the taxpayers foot the bill because nobody asked us for a penny. Thank you, Dutch taxpayers!
Our COVID test behind us, we walk down to Dam Square, which dates back to the 13th Century and is home to the Royal Palace and countless stores and restaurants. Grainne takes in a little shopping and I get a couple of nice photos of the square from the fifth floor of the H&M.
Dinner tonight is Italian at Casa di David, which has been consistently rated as one of the best restaurants in Amsterdam for the last 47 years. I’m not joking when I say that a half dozen people have recommended this restaurant since we arrived in Amsterdam.
I mention this to our waiter - Joaquin - who has worked for Casa di David for 32 years.
“Of course they recommend us,” he says loudly enough for the whole restaurant to hear. “We are the best!”
He’s not lying. We have prosciutto on fresh burrata for an appetizer. Grainne opts for spaghetti carbonara. I order the ravioli filled with ricotta in a sauce of fresh asparagus and Parma ham. Both dishes feature amazingly fresh pasta and delicious sauces. We split a tiramisu for dessert and then head back to our hotel.
Inside, we check our email and find that COVID test results are already back. And the news is good. We’re negative, so we’re all set to go to Ireland on Wednesday. Thanks again, Dutch taxpayers!
It’s another lovely night in Amsterdam, so I pop outside and snap a few photos of our hotel and the nearby canal. The lights are sparkling in the buildings and reflecting in the ripples of the quiet water. A few lovers walk down the quiet street holding hands. An old man sits alone with his thoughts, looking out over the canal while smoking his pipe. A young man sits on the bridge strumming his guitar.
This city is so seductive. And I’ve fallen head over heels.