Friday, May 20, 2016

A tale of three cities. Friends, football, and a beautiful girl. The Netherlands.

Shameless travel selfie with my son Dan.
Finally we seem to have left the shadow of winter behind. It has felt like a long time since I felt the sleepy caress of a warm breeze on my face. Here in the UK we seem to have skipped a season this year and lurched from winter to summer in the blink of an eye. From the grip of cold Siberian northerlies to an overnight heatwave. And it is very welcome.
It must have felt even longer for most than I. I spent most of the dreary late autumn and early winter riding dusty singletrack in Nepal, returning only in time for the Christmas festivities; and enjoyed a winter break in Israel, in the fine company of my friend Yoram Hen, doing much the same.

And it all came just in the nick of time. Wilco had secured tickets for "ArminOnly - Embrace" at The Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam for Danny and I. Amsterdam in the spring sunshine, oh yeah.
It has been a year and half since I last travelled with Danny; our bicycle tour in Sri Lanka in November 2014. I love to travel with my son, he has an infectious joy about him whenever we are heading somewhere new (the apple never falls far from the tree), It's invigorating. (says the old fella).

It also seems like a long time since I saw my friend. The bittersweet experience of surviving the devastating earthquake in Nepal was the last time we said our fond farewells. I think it's fair to say I was looking forward to this trip.
We emerged from the bustle of Amsterdam Centraal and out in to the the weekend hoards in a blaze of glorious sunshine, and we had all afternoon to enjoy it.
I love Amsterdam, it has that intoxicating atmosphere of any vibrant international city, but its canals and low rise buildings give it a uniquely spacious feel, like strolling through a park.
Strolling through a park in the sunshine. Life is good.

You see all kinds of things in Amsterdam.

We dossed around the city all afternoon, taking in the sites, and generally enjoying ourselves. A prolonged detour to meet up with a friend of Dan's helped us kill a couple of amusing hours (long story) and before we knew it we were boarding the metro, bound for our all night extravaganza and the company of Wilco, Sylvia, Brigitte, Hank, and 16000 other revellers.

Me and Dan before the gig.
Armin van Buuren, confirming his status as one of the best known DJ's in the world, pulled out all the showstoppers, amazing lighting, tune after massive tune, soulful guests, and finished off with an hour of old school classics spun on vinyl. Great stuff.
We emerged bleary eyed in the not-so-small hours of Sunday morning for the drive to Zwolle an hour and half east of Amsterdam. And then went to sleep.

Wilco, Dan, and I mid-gig.

Armin spinning the vinyl.
We arose in a timely fashion at the crack of midday. Wilco had tickets for Zwolle's final match of the season against PSV Eindhoven and we were going along with a group of kids that he supports with his Empower Foundation.
Daniel isn't much of a football fan and was delighted to discover the stadium had free wifi. Snapchat proved more entertaining to him than the watching PSV secure the Dutch Championships from under the (very disjointed) noses of Ajax Amsterdam. Apparently Ajax were expected to coast in, unfortunately for them a draw away from home to the relegated De Graafschap handed the title on a plate to PSV.
PSV Eindhoven players celebrating winning the Championship at Zwolle.
Monday was a day that I'd been looking forward to for a long time. We were going to Den Haag to meet a girl.
A beguiling young beauty that I'd only ever admired from afar. She would be easy to recognise, great big eyes, plump red lips, and adorned with a single glistening pearl earring.
Johannes Vermeer's masterpiece is housed in the Mauritshuis Art Museum, adjacent to the Binnenhof Gothic Castle, in an architecturally stunning part of the city.
And beguiled I was. Daniel however was far from impressed, indifferent even to majestic beauty of one of the worlds great works of art, and took his now customary delight in the discovery of free wifi. Snapchat proving infinitely more entertaining once again.
Vermeer's "Girl with a Pearl Earring" is flawless, truly a masterpiece in every sense of the word. One day I will visit it again, it was worth the wait.

You meet all sorts of folk in The Netherlands.

The beautiful girl.
On our final morning in Zwolle we popped along to see our friend Eddie Sevink at Run2Day and I had the weird experience of seeing myself plastered across the wall of his running store. I never thought of myself as a model before! :D
And then we flew home. And it rained.

Wilco (top) and me (bottom) during our brief modelling career..

All it took was a very short walk from the plane to the terminal to get a soaking.

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