Thursday, August 19, 2010

Serendipity Rules

“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” —Lao Tzu

Living Area @ 4 Groenmarktkade
According to Wikipedia, serendipity is “a propensity for making fortunate discoveries while looking for something unrelated.”

Hans (L) and Patrick
Voted one of the 10 hardest-to-translate English words by a British translation company, the word was allegedly coined in the mid-18th century by Horace Walpole, who was inspired by a Persian fairytale, "The Three Princes of Serendip." In the tale, the heroes "were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of."

And so it was with my Amsterdam apartment. After my agent, Hans, showed me a ho-hum place in the same building, we bumped into Patrick, a KLM pilot and climbing buddy of Hans, outside the elevator. Patrick tells us he’s selling his place soon—he’s moving to France to climb the Pyrenees—but waiting until after tourist season to put it on the market. Would we like to see it? Of course we’d like to see it.

Clubbing, sultan-style
Fast forward a month and the deed’s been signed. Move-in is September 8. South of the Border Birthday Bash with Mexican beach-themed aromavisuals by my friend Andy Versteeg, aka Dr. Perfume, the aroma jockey behind Circle of Senses—is September 15.

Andy has titillated audiences around the world with his sensual artform, collaborating with some of the planet’s best video jockeys. If you can afford a trip to Amsterdam, you get free lodging, VIP party treatment and all the city tours and kvelling about the Netherland's capital you can handle. Or not. Find party details on the invite.

Supperclub Burlesque
I was Andy’s guest at Amsterdam’s swanky Supperclub last Saturday. Lounging on sultans’ cushions, we savored an evening of gastronomy, music and art in a sultry nightclub where the bathroom doubles as the smoking room.

There are seductive Toilettes Noires for gays and a heterosexual one where pissers mingle with potheads. Between five courses, we chatted with fellow guests in the marijuana clouds, all gushing about the wonder of it all. Check out photos in this album.

Floating down
The Gay Jewish Contingent
The week before, A’dam celebrated personal freedom with the Gay Pride Fest, a long weekend of parades, parties and dancing in the streets. Gays from around the world pranced about in outrageous costumes, reveling in their right to be and love whomever they wish. Hallelujah! Check out more pics in this album.

Today, SAIL 2010 begins, launching 5 days of nautical festivities with the arrival of some 500 tall ships and heritage vessels from around the world. I'm sure I'll hear many languages when I join crowds lining the harborfront near Central Station, where the sail-in parade on the Ij River happens this afternoon.

Amsterdam’s wealth and glory
stems from the Golden Age of sail.
In addition to influencing real estate exchanges, serendipity can introduce whimsy into travel plans. Operating on what my daughter Brooke calls “Melissa Time,” I’ve postponed my return to SoCal until early January. After hearing from friends how special the holiday season is here, I want to brave my first real winter—a rite of passage if you're going to live in Holland amongst true Dutchies.

So…I’ll be decorating my apartment, transforming it into a Bed and Breakfast, staying put in the Netherlands until early 2011 and welcoming guests to Amsterdam soon. The home page of the Bij Melissa website is up. Special friends get a special rate. Will that include you?