On our last trip to Amsterdam we happened upon a Rembrandt Square and it took me back to 1997 when we were in Amsterdam for the first time for pleasure. Like this trip, we stayed at the Radisson SAS in Rusland, if I remember correctly it was a bonus point trip. Hubby traveled for work 180 days that year and we had tons of points to use up. I will tell you about another bonus trip, our poorly timed mid-winter trip to Helsinki, later.
The hotel concierge had sent us off to Rembrandt square for some exotic food. After I moved to Norway the only kind of food I want to eat when I am out of the country is Indian, Asian or Middle Eastern. There are way too few immigrants from these countries, well come to think of it; we don’t have decent Italian, French, Mexican, Spanish, American restaurants either. OK, there are too few immigrants with a cooking background in Norway and more specifically on the west coast, period.
So, when we are traveling I want Moo Goo Gy Pan or Moo Shu Pork or Egg Foo Yong or a burrito, basically anything without salmon. Such was the case on our first leisure trip to Amsterdam. Indonesian was recommended and we wandered willingly into the square looking for the restaurant. This was our first experiences with Indonesian and I think we were bolder than we should have been. I remember sweating and a lot of water drinking, maybe a little too spicy food. The food was delicious and we ate until we were ready to burst and then wandered into the square and the fresh air.
There was street theater and music and lots of people and we were not ready to go back to our hotel. The Central Cafe looked inviting and we found two empty chairs at a table occupied by two elderly gentlemen. They were happy for the company and while we were drinking our first beer, they decided that we needed to taste Jenever, Holland’s national drink. I am not a fan of hard liquor and less so after this incident but we politely accepted and they kept buying the rounds and toasting.
One of the gentlemen, in his late 60s, had been sent to a work camp in Norway and he bought rounds for my husband because of the wonderful hospitality he had received from Norwegians he had met while at the work camp in Trondheim. The other bought my rounds because he appreciated so deeply what American Soldiers had done for him during the war. He would not tell us the story but we understood that he carried a deep debt that was not soon repaid with shots of hard liquor, no matter how many he bought.
Rembrandt Square had changed a little. The street performers were chased away by Mounted Police and instead of shots, we ordered a coffee and chocolate fondue, and watched the square bustle with activity. I guess both Amsterdam and I grew up.