City breaks have often disappointed me. I watch films like Midnight in Paris and the dozen or so Audrey Hepburn films set in the same town and think “Oh Dahling, it will be simply DIVINE! Let’s pop on a little plane and go and visit the famous (and terribly chic) City of Love!” Christopher dutifully follows suit and while I get excited about outfits he does all the boring things like book the flights (we have a great team work thing going on in the CooperKelly household). So we get to Paris in a cloud of excitement and romance and look for all the places we’ve seen in the movies only to find that actually there are about 3 or 4 picturesque places in Paris, all of which are hard to locate and take at least a 15 minute journey on the sweaty, smelly Metro to find and all of which a rammed with other similarly excited but strangely disappointed tourists. I don’t react very well to crowds at all, I think the best way to describe my reaction is probably Rain Man – if the sweaty transport and crowds didn’t kill the romance already, Rain Man definitely will.
It turns out that Paris is just another city, full of lovely old buildings, over-priced restaurants and expensive shops – like every other city really (except Milton Keynes), and when producers make movies they choose all the best parts of Paris, close them to tourists, sweep the tramps off the street and pretend the whole of Paris looks just as peaceful and well-lit as this one perfectly organised corner. Disappointing.
So when Chris mentioned we organise another city break I was a wee bit sceptical; I reminded him of the crowds, the sore feet, the 7 Euro glass of orange juice, Rain Man, but he would persist saying that Amsterdam would be a much better city to visit, in which we would have a much better time (plus after three years together he has learned that all it takes to combat Rain Man is the swift removal of my rocking body from the stressful crowd and its quick deposit in the nearest bar furnished with the ability to produce Prosecco and/or gin in less that 2 minutes). And wouldn’t you know it the boy was completely right (I’m as surprised as you are)!
We’ve just arrived home from Amsterdam and I can honestly say I’ve completely fallen in love with the place. This time I was careful not to watch any films set in the Dutch capital to ward off Three Streets Syndrome but it turns out that pretty much every street does indeed look like it could be the setting for a very well-lit love scene in a charming film full of very chic costumes! One night we went to a concert in the Botanical Gardens, we found ourselves sat in a beautiful 1912 green house filled with Palm Trees, holding a very generous glass of red wine and listening to a lovely dutch man try to play some pieces of quite famous orchestral work with the use of one rather out of tune piano. Okay so it turns out Beethoven’s 7th really is so much better with the use of a full orchestra (as was intended) but the effort was most ardent and the setting was truly magical. After the concert a lovely lady announced that there was an Edwardian Lily in the lily pond that only ever opens for two nights out of the entire year and that she suspected that tonight might be one of those very special occasions. So after the enthusiastic applause Chris and I scuttled off to the pond with the rest of the retired masses of Amsterdam (we always seem to bring the average age of the places we frequent down – by around 32 years) and lo and behold this lazy little lily had indeed opened its beautiful petals to the summer night. It was a quite remarkable experience.
We went to a handbag museum (I nearly wee’d myself with excitement), had an amazing night drinking cocktails at the most superb cocktail bar (it was meant to be a pre-dinner drink and we left at 1am), saw beautiful and historic paintings, went on a boat cruise, drank fizz on our hotel balcony (and at every other possible opportunity), nearly got run over by bicycles, walked through flea markets and flower markets, I found out that Chris completely loves butterflies (a fact he has hidden from me for three years), and generally fell in love with the city and its citizens.
I would highly recommend you go there with anyone you love, or would like to love – a trip to this marvelous place will surely ensure that the wonderful feeling soon presents itself!
P.S. If you have any questions about Amsterdam please don’t hesitate to get in touch either on here or via my Twitter, @MillyCooper.