Thursday, July 29, 2010

Crime? What Crime?

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." 
                                                                                              —Fitzhugh Mullan
I’ve done the deed. It’s over, fini! There was no violence this time, no visible bloodshed. That came in earlier chapters of My ’Dam Affair, Confessions of a Second Childhood, played out in that insane summer of 2008 when I romped around Europe with a charismatic con man, chasing fantasies of apartments, French villas and rich uncles. That manuscript is resting comfortably on my hard drive (and various other drives) but needs a rewrite with a new point of view.

Great Room
Unlike Raskolnikov, I have no mental angst about this deed. It’s the deed for a 2-bedroom apartment on Groenmarktkade, a street in Amsterdam overlooking Nassaukade Canal in the historic Jordaan, where Rozengracht and Marnixstraat intersect.

Roof Terrace
The Anne Frank House, A’dam’s most popular tourist attraction, is 4 blocks away on Prinsengracht canal. It’s 1K (about half a mile) to both Dam Square & Leidseplein, A’dam’s entertainment hubs. De Wallen, the city’s infamous Red Light District is across from the Dam.

View of Nassaukade Canal
and Rozengracht
The apartment is in a complex built in 1994. It has an elevator and a bike shed. It’s on the 5th and top floor, overlooking the canal and city below. I take ownership on Sept. 1 and will rent it out for the winter until I return next spring.

Entry Hall
Of course, this is a dream come true for me—one that began in 2007 when a visit to Amsterdam sparked my desire to move here. Certainly, there have been hurdles along the way. After all, emptying a 3-bedroom home crammed with belongings is no cakewalk. And “melba toasting” faux-painted, stenciled walls for renters is not fun. Thankfully, my tenants from NY have been there since 2008 and are happy, far as I know, to have escaped East Coast winters. Best clue: I see their Audi convertible parked in the Clay St. driveway whenever I ride by.

Dining Area
Other hitches included a medical catastrophe (now resolved) and (unrelated) social media/cultural differences-related A’dam drama that got me banned from my favorite bar. Returning earlier than planned from that 2008 misadventure, I broke my arm tripping over a suitcase, then got my heart broken.

The day after returning from Europe last spring, I totaled my RAV4, made the GR8 COPY license plate a wall decoration and vowed to move to A’dam for good. Again, romance got in the way. All these hurdles have taught me an important lesson: S*#% happens. Deal with it.

I return to SoCal Sept. 6. I’ll use the next 6 months to wrap things up in Sunset Beach before returning to Amsterdam in spring 2011.

Master Bedroom
Master Bath
This is good news for you. My new apartment has a guest bedroom and I love hosting guests. Nice combination if you’re a good friend who likes to travel and wants to visit a world-class European destination.

If you’re still wondering why I fell in love with Amsterdam, I hope you’ll tune in to my new channel on YouTube. Another video is too long to post on that site, but can be viewed from THIS site. If you like Alice in Wonderland, this one’s for you. It’s about 14 min. long, so settle in with a koffie before scrolling down and make sure your speakers are turned on before clicking play. View full screen for the best experience—nicer than a tiny moving box.

Me and Marlene, 2008
I hope all of you will have the courage to follow your own dreams wherever they might lead, even if they feel impossible, uncomfortable and obstacles get in the way. Don’t let fear of the unknown stop you from exploring paths leading to new experiences. It’s all worth it in the end. Trust me.

If you don't trust me, trust Frank Herbert, author of sci-fi favorite DUNE:
"Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps. The sleeper must awaken."

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Melissa's Adventures in Wonderland

“Without travel I would have wound up a little ignorant white Southern female, which was not my idea of a good life."     —Lauren Hutton

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What Do Live Sex Shows and European Futbol Have in Common?

“A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it."  —John Steinbeck
OK, let’s not keep you guessing. I’m only crazy about one.

Me & Erin in my apartment
After nearly 2 months of writing and decompressing in Amsterdam, I’ve concluded I want to make the city my home. Since 2007, I’ve been spending extended periods  in the world’s capital of tolerance and still wake up feeling like the universe is giving me a gift every day I open my eyes here.

Adventurewoman Agustina
Londoner Kathleen
Since the end of May, I’ve welcomed 3 visitors who’ve flown to Holland to experience the culture and ambiance of one of Europe's most international cities: Erin, my Sunset Beach, CA neighbor; Kathleen, a teacher from London I met at VaughanTown in Spain's remote mountains and Agustina, my host in the Italian Alps, who came with her fiancé, Nick. Charlie, a Dutchie from Rotterdam I met at Momo Hostel in Tel Aviv, will visit soon.

Highlights from these stopovers included a stroll through Amsterdam’s infamous Red Light District on which Erin and I peered at scantily clad ladies in windows, passing peep shows, brothels, adult toy shops, the Erotic Museum and the Hash, Marijuana Museum on Oudezijds Achterburgwal.

Casa Rossais the facade with the pink elephant.
On this lively street, sailors sought female companionship as far back as the 14th century. They’ve been replaced by curious tourists, lovers hooked arm-in-arm and roving bands of tipsy bachelors and bachelorettes including one about to lose his or her freedom. While all are enticed by the historic area’s carnal pleasures, no one can help but notice it's one of A’dam’s prettiest, with 300-year-old gabled buildings (if only they could talk!) hovering over silvery, tree-lined canals.

We couldn’t pass up a visit to Casa Rossa, one of 3 infamous live sex show parlors in de Wallen. Yes folks, only in A’dam can you see live couples having sexual intercourse on stage (some more artistically than others), as well as dancers performing parlor tricks with bananas, ribbons, dildos, vibrators and other paraphernalia. It’s more funny than erotic, especially with a little drunken audience participation.

Being a nice girl from Pennsylvania, Erin wasn’t up for the notorious Bananenbar, home of girls in barely there lingerie, who show off their penmanship and other skills, writing postcards without using their hands! Walking home in the moonlit night (we’d missed the last tram), Erin gave me her lollipop souvenir from Casa Rossa. If you can’t visualize what it looks like, you don’t have much imagination!

The ultimate drink 'n' drive machine
So what if we lost?
When Kathleen came to town, Holland was in the World Cup FIFA finals. The town was awash in Oranje fever, everyone running around in insane costumes, blowing on vuvuzelas, roaring with anticipation. Having spent significant time in Spain, my guest was rooting for España while I was clearly hoping for an historic Netherlands victory.

Some of those Spaniards were cute!

Spanish fans in Vondelpark
With their gold & red t-shirts, it was easy to spot Spanish fans. Kathleen embraced them all! Although Holland lost the 2010 World Cup, the town went wild when Team Oranje returned from Jo’burg for a festive parade down Herengracht canal and a celebration at Museumplein. Now passionate about European futbol, I look forward to Euro Cup 2012 and World Cup 2014. Anyone want to join me in Brazil? You’ve got 4 years to save!

Victory parade down Herengracht canal
As I’ve been penning and pitching stories about my travels, I’ve discovered Trazzler, a great site for sharing experiences. No matter what your life is like, you’ve surely had some peak ones—devouring that delectable pastrami-on-rye at Factor’s, snuggling with a sweetie in a romantic B&B, going on safari in Africa (or San Diego Wild Animal Park), discovering a scenic bike route, swimming with sharks in Hawaii, rafting a river (any river!) or just hanging out at your favorite hometown diner.

Snap a photo, write less than 160 words about your fav weekend getaway, boutique hotel, adrenaline rush, music venue, food market, museum, urban oddity…ok, you get the idea. There are more than 3 dozen categories for posts and it’s fun to share pics and stories.

Crazy Dutchies
I’ve posted 4 Trazzler trips to date, focusing on recent experiences on Eagle Island, Egypt, the Dolomites and window shopping Amsterdam-style.

And what about that nasty ref?
If you like my stories, I hope you’ll “save” them and vote for those entered in Trazzler contests. I encourage you to become a friend on the site and to submit your own stories about cool places you’ve visited and experiences you’ve had.

My doors on Da Costakade canal are still open to anyone who may want to visit Amsterdam this summer. I’ll be back in California in early September and hope to return to A’dam in spring 2011.

Love & peace to all!