Never say never

It is impossible to count the number of times I was on Amsterdam airport, a transit hub for travelers coming from North America or different parts of the world to Europe on the way to their final destination. Only once had I decided to stay an extra day and visit the city. It was in 2015. Every time I travel, the “theme” of the journey somehow emerges without my preparation. That year was the year of museums and galleries and Amsterdam was a perfect place to get lost in art and culture. As I had only a day at my disposal. I didn’t want to simply check the box, so I managed to see only two of many wonderful places. I picked the famous Rijksmuseum, where I could barely breathe in front of Vermeer’s Milkmaid and that dance of light and shadows. The second one was Van Gogh Museum, learning about his life, seeing his struggles and drive to create. Exhausted, I returned to my room in one of the nicest affordable hotels I ever stayed in, CitizenM. Needless to say, I had no time to look for authentic restaurants or dishes.

I would like to go back to Netherlands and not only for the cuisine, tulips, windmills and clogs. I would like to see Elfstedentocht, the world’s largest speed skating competition and leisure skating tour on the canals that connect 11 cities, at almost 200 km. It is held in the province of Friesland, in the northern part of Netherlands. This race only happens when the entire course is at least 15cm thick and I am not sure if I am already too late. Because of the climate change and the rise of temperatures, the last Elfstedentocht was in 1997. I wonder if it would be possible to do the same tour by bike instead. Never say never.

At the beginning of Fall, we always crave for something earthy and simple. Lots of Dutch dishes that I found were with a sausage, so we tried two of them (although with different sausages). The first one was a traditional soup with lots of vegetables and split pea, which provides thickness and would have probably been filling on its own. The second dish, Stamppot, was a combination of mashed potatoes and something green. We went with kale, but it could be spinach or chard. What I liked the most were the almond butter cookies. They are good at any time of the day and go well with a cup of tea or coffee.

Nature patience

Weeding around bulbs,
on a ring-shaped flowerbed,
like on a pedestal bordered by shrubs,
my father waits for yellow tulips to lift their heads,
tiny yellow suns on the green stem.

When the bravest are out,
the red ones will follow, adding splash of colour
on the Spring canvas.
Finally, the royal purple, almost black
will show up, to stay the longest and close the season.

Year after year,
that plate of joy
until the knees became hard to bend,
the sheers too heavy for shaky hands to trim.
Like snails under attack,
they slowly moved their heads inward, hiding.

It was hard to see the bare island in the yard.

Then suddenly,
they found their way through,
almost like drunken boys
jumping over the hedge,
and started populating the long pathways
through the abandoned vegetable garden.

I came to visit one other Spring
and they waited for me,
not the island any more,
but a sea of tulips singing in the breeze,
caressing my palms as I stroll,
walking on water.