Near the end of every vacation that I take, a panic begins to rise within me. Have I done all the things I intended? Have I seen enough? Have I purchased enough souvenirs? Even if the answer to most of these questions is yes, I still want to make the most of the last day of my vacation. I have come to expect this panic from myself, as has my husband, but on the evening of Day 9, I realized that my traveling companions might neither share nor be familiar with the particular quirk of mine. “Let’s try to get going early tomorrow,” I said, as casually as I could manage.
“How early? Why?” said C.
“Oh, not the crack of dawn or anything…just a little early. It’s our last day, and I want to do as much as we can.”
My mom and C looked at me somewhat quizzically. I hadn’t said anything terribly strange. Did I look nervous? Was I fidgeting too much? I rested my hand on my thigh and made a conscious effort to stop it from bouncing. “I panic at the end of vacations, OK? I want to do as much as possible and go on a ridiculous souvenir-buying spree.”
Mom and C looked at one another and shrugged.
We began Day 10 with a revised search for the seeming disappearing souvenir shop. This time C was with us, and she insisted it was exactly where my mom said it had been. We walked past the spot but saw no shop. There was construction in the area, and we checked around scaffolding and other temporary structures. No shop. “Wait,” said C, “What’s that tiny window over there.” We looked. Indeed, there was a small window in an otherwise blank security door near the end of the block. C walked up to it and peered through. “It’s here!” she shouted, waving her walking stick in the air to get our attention. “When do you open?” she shouted through the tiny window. “Five minutes?” she paused. “How about now?” Within about a minute, the security door was rolled up, and we were inside the shop, enjoying a renewed sense of security in our memories and in object permanence. The shop tender seemed slightly grumpy at first, but she cheered up when she made several sales within the first ten minutes of opening.
Next, we headed for the Nine Streets, an area known for unique shops and cafes and named for the nine side streets that connect the canals. Perhaps the oddest among the shops I visited was De Witte Tandenwinkel, a store that sold only toothbrushes and other dental hygiene products. Other highlights of the Nine Streets included Cortina Paper (stationery Nirvana), The Otherist (a quirk little store of everything from books to accessories to framed insect specimens), Puccini Bomboni (delicious chocolates), and another store, the name of which is unfortunately escapes me. I may still have the bag around somewhere, so I will update this if I find it. Anyhow, it was a lovely little store of hats, gloves and other accessories. I bought a fabulous hat, by Dutch Designer Mirjam Nuvar, which can be worn in a variety of different ways. I had not heard of Nuvar before, but now that I have seen her website (which I will say is badly in need of updating but still shows several of her designs, which are quite beautiful) and own one of her hats, she’s on my list milliners I admire. What’s that you say? Not everyone has a list of admired milliners? Ah, this must be why my mom dubbed me the Crazy Hat Lady.
When we were finished with the Nine Streets, we stopped for some french fries. I skipped the mayonnaise (blech) and opted for curry sauce. They were good fries, but just about everyone I talked to about Dutch french fries told me they would be the best fries I’d ever had. Eh. Good, but not best ever. Oh well.
On our the canal tour a few nights earlier, we learned that there is a cat museum in Amsterdam. So, of course, we had to go there. The museum was started in 1990 by William Meijer, who wanted to preserve the memory of his cat, Tom (aka, J.P. Morgan). It is in an interesting old house (the owner still lives there, so some parts of it are private) and contains a variety of artwork involving cats, along with 4 actual cats that reside there. It’s definitely not an all-day kind of museum, but it was a fun stop. It was there that I encountered this adorable ad for Zwicky yarn. Alas, the gift shop was sold out of the posters, and I can’t seem to find any copies for sale online.
When we were done at the Cat Cabinet, we headed back to the Albert Cuyp Market. My mom liked the hat I bought there a couple of days earlier and decided that she wanted to buy one for herself. As we entered the market, we did so with the assumption that the vendors would be in the same location as they had been the other day. Not so! Some were, some weren’t. Again, we began to doubt our memories and object permanence, but we eventually found the hat vendor, and along the way, we enjoyed a chocolate and cherry waffle from Wally’s Waffles, one of the booths at the market. Wally’s waffles were quite delicious, and the area pigeons apparently had gotten whiff of this. Wally had to keep kicking at them to shoo them away as he cooked. Plus, we all know that french fries and waffles make for a very nutritious lunch. Eh, calories don’t count on vacation, right?
We perused the market and some of the nearby shops for a bit longer and then stopped for a beer. The day was waning, so it was time to head back to the apartment to rest a bit and then freshen up for dinner. For dinner, we decided on Mashua, a Peruvian fusion restaurant that was recommended by my brother. According to Google maps, the restaurant was just a short walk from a tram stop. I planned our route, and we were on our way. We got off the tram and had a little trouble orienting ourselves at first. After three or four tries, we found a non-tourist who was able to point us in the direction of Prinsengracht. The restaurant address was Prinsengracht 703, so I was somewhat confused to see numbers in the 400s when arriving at Prinsengracht. It appeared Google maps had lied to me and it was going to be a longer walk than I had anticipated. We walked about half a mile, at which point we were in the 600s and decided to cross the canal at the next bridge since we knew from the numbering that the restaurant would be on the other side of the street. To our surprise, the numbers on the other side of the street were in the 900s! So we trekked back to almost the spot were we’d started on Prinsengracht (but on the other side of the street) and found our restaurant. It had not occurred to me that numbers across the street from one another would have a 300-400 numerical difference, but when you consider the layout of Amsterdam and they way the streets arc around Central Station, it makes a certain degree of sense. Anyhow, Mashua was delicious and worth the walk! Another fine end to a fine day!
After dinner, I headed home with a slightly heavy heat to pack–partially because I was sad to be leaving but also because I had to get up at 4:00 the next morning! On the other hand, I had been gone for a while, and it was going to be very good to be home, see Ian and the cats, and sleep in my own bed!