Goodbye. Tot ziens. Auf Wiedersehen. Do widzenia. Arrivederci. Au revoir.

Last words as the last day closes. It’s been grand. It’s been as good as could be.

The weather turned as they said it would. I’ve spent the evening relaxing in the room. This is the final post. Tomorrow, home.

We end with a thunderstorm, forks of lightning.

Tomorrow life begins again. All the talk of life. All the thoughts of the future faced head on. Pretty words, and tomorrow, action. Remembering what we promised remember, trying not to forget what we promised to forget. Hopeful for the future.

Fiends and devils in the gardens
Take their fill and leave me scarred
But I still have my secret weapon
This, my brave and hopeful heart.

~ Sarah Slean (it’s her birthday today too)

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Home, where my thought’s escaping

About an hour ago my body decided it wanted to be home. After all these miles, I can’t imagine how many miles, on a warm afternoon in the Voldelkpark, suddenly it was time. Headed back to the hotel, and here I’ll remain for the afternoon. It’s my birthday, I’ve had the best three weeks of my life, I’ve got my little deck here, I’ve got some wine. A few well-earned hours to put my feet up and watch the city go by.

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Took in a few final sights today. Didn’t end up renting a bike, but that’s okay. Another church, another museum, a nice lunch on the square, a walk in the park. Anne Frank House tonight, a little diner somewhere. And then we’re up early tomorrow for the airport and the long journey home.

Some Sarah Brightman lines:

The journey home is never too long
Your heart arrives before the train
The journey home is never too long
Some yesterdays always remain

I’m going back to where my heart was light
When my pillow was a ship, I sailed through the night

Notes from today – the last day of my twenties (it was a good one)

Some quick notes. It’s 12:26, getting late and I’m tired (I’m thirty now after all – can’t just stay up for days at a time anymore…)

A wonderful day in Amsterdam today. Perfect weather, which I never had the first time around. Back in my beautiful Hotel Nadia, the same room, a perfect circle for these three weeks.

Checked in, unpacked, and then off. First thing was up the tower of the church across the canal – it has a name, but I always forget it and just call it Anne’s church. And from the top of the bell tower, what you can’t see from the street – the secret annex, the roof and the attic window.

After that, a long walk through the city. I love it here, I really do. Just wandered, north south east west. The canals, the main square, the ‘view’ in the red light district…

Oh! And I answered my own question – about what happens to the abandoned bike carcasses. Strolling along a canal, a barge goes by loaded with mangled bikes cut from the bridges and bike racks.

A long hunt for dinner – as usual, I wanted to find the perfect pace. And I did – Restaurant Haesje Claes. This might be considered my birthday dinner. It was fantastic – this local gin to start, a goat cheese salad, rack of lamb, a beer from a local brewery – everything was local in fact, and all very good. And the restaurant was cool, an ancient little place, all dark and bricks and old wood panelling. I walked for ages and just stumbled upon it, so no idea where I was.

Amsterdam is my favorite by the way. I’ve been trying to decide, and it hit me this afternoon. I just feel so comfortable here. Everyone is so friendly and relaxed and polite. If I had to choose which of the cities to live in, it would be this one in a heartbeat.

Some notes made during , dinner:
– I’ll be thirty in four hours.
– I’m going to stay up till midnight and watch it happen
– Farewell twenties, it’s been nice
– Dorothy Parker was right. And I shall stay the way I am, because I do not give a damn.
– I came to Europe to hide from tomorrow. Part of me sort of wishes I was spending it with my friends. But I don’t want any fuss (from here on in – perhaps this will be a tradition – if a birthday happens in Europe and nobody sees it, does it make me any older?).

After dinner, a long walk through Amsterdam at night. All the bridges over the canals are lit up at night.

A final observation – Romance in Amsterdam: holding heads while riding bikes side by side along the canal at sunset.

I’m tired. Going to bed in a few minutes. It’s been a long day.

The bells of the church rang out midnight, it’s here, the thirty. No more running. Time, it marches. I’ll face it.

Birthday-eve, and on (back) to Amsterdam, and life…

10:20 – Well, on the train, another fairly luxurious one. Looking forward to a some coffee and maybe something to eat. The rest of this trip should be nothing but relaxing – save perhaps the airport at the end, but by then I’m done, so it doesn’t really matter.

Right, we’re off in moments.

Life.

What I was not particularly satisfied with before this journey began:
– Work (top of the list)

– the next one is hard. I suppose life has been fairly monotonous. I get up at the same time, the same schedule every morning, off to work, spend the day there, and then come home. I have my little evenings, alone, but that’s how it is. I imagine other lives. I like to think of myself as a creator of lives, and it gives me great pleasure to do so. My characters, my stories. I put myself into them as deeply as I can, and in them I live many lives – good and bad, happy endings, bad endings, good endings.

I’m a third of the way through, if I’m lucky. Less if I’m realistic. Halfway through the good part – the part where I can take off to Europe with a fifty pound bag on my back and walk miles and miles each day without getting tired. Those days won’t last.

So what do I do? Go on creating my lives? The ones I’m working on right now, creating something wholly new after ten years spent with the extended family and friends of Miranda Morelli. I’m enjoying it. Is that enough?

What’s the saying – a zebra can’t change his stripes, or a leopard his spots? I’m not going to be able to effect some radical metamorphosis within my own life. I am who I am…

But I can make little changes. I can make the life I have more pleasurable. I can try to stop worrying all the time. I can at least take it easy, take it as it comes. Because like I said before, after Auschwitz. Nothing really matters.

It’s going to be a process.

I think the key will be to just let go a little more often, care a little bit less, shed some excess baggage. If it’s not making me happy, if its making me miserable, then why bother? But if it makes me happy, moments of pleasure, then maybe the consequences don’t matter all that much.

Maybe I can live without thinking quite so much, just like Henry said. I think about everything so much, all the possible scenarios running through my head all the time. And in the end it’s usually fine, or it is what it is anyway, and all the thinking in the world can’t change that – if only there were no other people in the world…

We’ll see, we’ll keep thinking about this over the next couple of days, and see what comes of it. For now, a peaceful journey to a peaceful city. We travel north through France, through Belgium, to the coast, and to Amsterdam. I probably won’t write as much during this journey, just watch it go by.

I realize I haven’t addressed my chief complain yet. Ultimately, I take the path of least resistance. I always do this, I’ve always done it, even if it’s not the right choice in the long run. I think the key will be to just stop worrying all the time. I think that will be the key to quite a lot.

They’re bringing the coffee around. All for now.

11:22 – They have “undercover” police posing as tourists – the bulge at the hip not quite covered by the American university shirts is a bit of a giveaway. They wandered the aisles a bit and then brought around a dog – sniffing for drugs, presumably, though I wouldn’t think drugs coming into Amsterdam would be the issue…

I’ll have the rabbit!

Notes from dinner yesterday…
– Salade Nicoise, rabbit, wine
– At the Wepler on the Place de Clinchy
– Swanky place, white linen table cloth, hopping with French (doesn’t seem to be a tourist place)
– Kind of pricy, but what the hell, seems nice. Sort of an Art Deco atmosphere. Big elaborate industrial looking chandeliers, big mural on the wall, old art deco mirrors. I’ll pretend I’m Dorothy Parker – though she never dined alone. Shall I talk about loneliness?
– Its difficult dining alone in some of these cities. You don’t just want a burger, but you also don’t want a candlelit, roses on the table sort of place. Then there’s the language. If you’re not careful, you end up ordering two pasta dishes…
– Never had rabbit before – up there with veal, duck and venison. Most curious. But this is France…
– Just saw the most amazing looking seafood platter go by – crab, clams, prawns, mussels, the works.
– The waiters are all in crisp black suits.
– This salad is amazing. Want to take a picture, but don’t want to look too much like a tourist.
– Someone ordered fish, the waiter brought out the whole fish, then cut off the head, deboned it, and served it right there and then. Impressive!
– The waiters are run off their feet here. Most impressed in general – they never stop moving.
– Tuna in the salad and some other fish-like substance – eel? Plus egg, potato, lettuce, olives, tomato, simple but delicious dressing (not on the side)
– I feel underdressed, but I see others in polo shirts. Others dressed pretty fancy. Seems like a popular businessman after work sort of place.
– I can see KFC, McDonald’s, and Starbucks out the window. This is better. Looking forward to my rabbit.
– Ah rabbit, leg, thigh, and other bits, and pasta on the side with a mustard sauce. Looks good.
– Extremely good.

Paris, adieu.

6:00 – The rain they forecasted has started. But it held off all day, and it was really quite sunny and warm for most of it. So no complaints there.

Well. Another full day in Paris. Considerably more relaxed and less crowded than yesterday (though I did wait 45 minutes in line to get into a museum – it was worth it – and I did climb a few hundred steps to the top of a dome – also worth it). Getting myself ready to go, a brief rest before heading out in search of dinner (you can’t eat before 7 in this country – and even 7 seems to be considered early…)

So, after breakfast, I took the Metro (becoming quite the metro expert – transfers and all!) to the Place de la Concorde on the Champs Élysées. Crossed the Seine and sent a nice couple hours wandering around the older part of town there. Found a little cafe for an espresso.

Made my way to the Musee d’Orsay. This place is completely fabulous – a huge old train station converted into a museum highlighting French art – Monet, Manet, Degas, Gauguin, a host of others. Mostly painting, but also sculpture and a fascinating display of opera set models. Truly grand. I think I enjoyed it more than the Louvre. The scale was a little easier to handle, and the crowds were less (though there was still that 45 minute wait to get in…). Lingered there a good few hours, able to actually appreciate the art without the hoards of hoi polloi elbowing their way in.

Lunchtime by now, and a hunt through the sixth arrondissement for a suitable cafe. Rejected many before finding a delightful little place on Rue Jacob, Le Pre Aux Clercs. A French meal (sort of – French beer, French burger, and French fries, but all really quite good, an honest to goodness Frenchman at the next table ordered the same thing, and it was all local ingredients, homemade this and that).

After that it was a random wander – found some real gems. The Jardin du Luxembourg (the grounds of the Palais du Luxembourg. A real treat in the middle of the city – be-statued fountains, lawns, gardens, benches full of people everywhere. It’s a student area – there’s a beautiful old university just down the road, so it was full of students.

Some ancient churches along the way, including what’s left of Cluny (closed alas – tip: museums in Paris are all closed on either Monday or Tuesday – fortunately I hit the Louvre and the d’Orsay on the right days!)

The Pantheon was my last real stop, spent quite some time there. A perfectly grand basilica built in 1755 by Louis XV with the goal of outdoing Saint Peter’s in Rome. The building itself is beautiful, all white neoclassical, and the crypt was really something – saw the tombs of, among others, Voltaire, Rousseau, Marie Currie, and Victor Hugo. Then there were the steps up to the dome for some more fantastic views of the city.

After that it was purely practical matters – figuring out and timing my route to the train station (I’m leaving from a different station than I arrived). Seems easy enough. Train isn’t until 10:25 tomorrow, so my morning won’t be overly rushed. Should have time for a proper breakfast in the hotel for once.

And then we’re off. Paris has been quite an experience. Such a big city, makes even Berlin feel small. A little overwhelming at times, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Now all we have to worry about is dinner tonight.

Looking forward to being back (home – it sort of feels that way, same hotel, and it was so pleasant the first time) in Amsterdam. I arrive in the early afternoon, so I’ve really got a good day and a half there. Some nice low key days, strolling the canals, searching out some good food, maybe a museum or a gallery if the weather’s no good. If its sunny, I’m going to rent a bike and see the city like a local. Perhaps I’ll visit the Anne Frank house again. She was really the initial motivation for this trip. I was writing, I think it was “Too like the lightning”, or maybe the next one, and my character was thinking that maybe one day she’d see it, and I thought – well why the devil don’t I go and see it. And thus the seeds of this adventure were planted.

And it’s been a grand adventure.

All for now. Getting hungry. Let’s see if we can’t have as much luck with dinner as we did with lunch. I’ll write a final adieu later on tonight.