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So much food. So many friends.

So. Much. Food.

I could end the blog there and perhaps just take a long nap. But, of course, I won’t.

Today began and ended with the most amazing assortment of food with a whole lot of fun stuffed in between. You know, like a perfect vacation sandwich.

Our package at Amsterdam’s Ambassade Hotel includes breakfast. Oddly enough, American friends, this does not mean a mini-box of stale cereal, orange juice made from concentrate and a pre-mix waffle (in the shape of Texas if you hail from those parts).

No. The Dutch apparently do things differently. A basket of fresh bread - including croissants - arrives at the table with real butter and jam. Slices of what I can only describe as the most delicious ham I’ve ever put in my mouth. Also servings of Dutch cheese and jars of fresh fruit.

Just a little starter for breakfast

And then our waitress asks us what we’d like for our main course.

Are you kidding me? OK, since you’re asking, I’ll take the scrambled eggs, bacon and mushrooms. Grainne opts for the crepes with Nutella. We down most of it with fresh coffee and tea, waddle out of the restaurant and then slowly climb the steep stairs up to our room.

Let’s just say we were not particularly productive the rest of the morning. We did, however, get a surprise message from a friend living in Rotterdam, who said she was coming down to see us for lunch.

Ellie, who is a cousin of our daughter-in-law Ghazal, drove over with her boyfriend. We had only met Ellie once at the wedding of our son Pierce and Ghazal. Here’s the thing - Ellie doesn’t speak much English but we really hit it off with her at the wedding. There was no problem communicating today because her boyfriend Alex speaks six languages and acted as our interpreter.

Besides, smiles and laughter can go quite a long way in establishing a friendship.

A lunch with friends from Rotterdam

We stroll down the street to an outdoor cafe and somehow manage yet another meal. A salad with goat cheese, sauteed peppers, tomatoes on a bed of arugula for me. Smoked salmon for Grainne.

Has anyone seen my stretchy pants anywhere?

Our friends give us a ride to our next destination - a 2 p.m. appointment for a boat ride through the canals with “Those Dam Boat Guys.”

This is not your standard boat tour of 200 people jammed in a vessel listening to a pre-recorded soundtrack or to a guide who drones on with a memorized script. No, our tour is on a small craft with just six people, led by Rob, an American comedian living in Amsterdam.

Cap'n Rob - an American comedian - keeps us smiling as he leads the boat tour

Rob keeps the laughs coming and still teaches us a few things about Amsterdam along the way. We get to know the other two couples on board while sipping on adult beverages.

As a bonus, the weather forecaster was once again wrong. The 100% chance of rain all day turned into a very warm sunny afternoon, making both the canal cruise and the beer even more enjoyable.

If you want to learn more about Those Dam Boat Guys, check out the TV show “Travel Man” hosted by brilliant British comedian Richard Ayaode. And when you’re here, give them your business! (This is not a paid promotion. Wait, can you get paid to promote these guys?)

The rest of the afternoon was spent vacationing on the couch, and catching up with the disappointing showing of Team USA’s loss to France in basketball at the Olympics.

Now, let’s cap this day off with ANOTHER GREAT MEAL. Grainne had made a reservation at Restaurant Jun, an Indonesian spot before we left home. I had great memories of eating Indonesian meals here 30 years ago and wanted to make sure Grainne got to sample the fare.

We were not disappointed. The restaurant was intimate, run by an extremely friendly family who provided amazing personal service.

We order enough food for a small village. Dumplings, chicken, beef, rice (of course), vegetables all cooked in amazing aromatic spices. For dessert, what I can only desribe as an Indonesian twist on Bananas Foster - fried bananas in a honey sauce. We cap it off with coffee for me and mint tea for Grainne.

A taste of Indonesia at Restaurant Jun

After we finish the meal, we spend 15 minutes chatting to the chef about his food, what business has been like during the pandemic, and his hopes about returning to a more normal business. Good people seem to be everywhere today.

The hotel is a 20 minute walk away, but we decide hoofing it home the only decent thing to do. We have to burn off at least a few of these 6 million calories we’ve consumed today.

The sun slowly sinks behind the collection of 17th Century homes overlooking the many canals. Many are askew from the slipping ground that has been reclaimed from the marshes and engineered to create this amazing city. Small yellow lights appear in the window, creating a dreamlike and romantic atmosphere.

Amsterdam's famous "Seven Swaying Sisters" stand askew

We walk hand-in-hand back to our hotel, relishing in the memories of our meals, the laughs and the friends old and new.

Goodnight Amsterdam.


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