mother and daughter team riding along Leidse-Straat. 4:00 PM.
Claridge’s for London Heathrow at
8:30 AM. Departed Heathrow via British Midlands to
Amsterdam. Short flight;
less than an hour and a half.
It was a day of walking walking walking. The airports are far-flung.
It was a hike from BMI to the KLM area where we checked out bags
early (our flight to New York was schedule to depart at at 19:25
— we’re in Europe), so we could go off to visit Amsterdam
for a few hours, and then another hike to the lockers where we could
store our carry-ons until flight time.
view of London from the sitting room in our suite at Claridge's.
6:00 AM Tuesday morning.
us farewell as we hop in our taxi headed for London Heathrow for
our quick flight to Amsterdam, and eventually onto home
I’d never been to Amsterdam. JH
had, at least once. We took the train from the airport into
the city — about a twenty minute ride through very clean
neatlooking industrial sites and parks and, as we drew closer
to the city, apartment buildings and parks. Holland is very
neat, if you didn’t know. And flat. With lots and lots
of canals, wide and narrow.
On first sight, the city was what I had expected, old and quaint with those narrow
brick houses lining the canals — although far different from Maastricht
from which we had departed just one week ago to go to Paris. Most of the streets
are narrow, the roadways bricked or cobbled (I’m not sure what the proper
term is) and the city fans out circuitously, every two or four blocks divided
by the canals that encircle the city.
the rest of Europe we had visited (including London — which
I know is not Europe), its architecture goes back centuries
and a large majority of its buildings are no higher than
four or five stories, maybe six at the most. With exceptions
course, including the 20th century skyscrapers that can be
found on the outskirts of the central part of Amsterdam.
Therefore there is a lot of sky and light and a calmer sense
The Dutch seem to be very organized, and neat, but in no hurry. There seemed
to be relatively few cars on the main boulevard leading away from the railroad
station, but long narrow trains of blue and white streetcars instead. All rendering
the city quieter.
Having little time to waste, after walking several blocks, we hailed
a cab — a
very comfortable and sumptuous black BMW with a very casually but smartly dressed
and handsome Moroccan looking man who spoke English with a Dutch accent at the
wheel. We asked him to take us to the area where the Van Gogh museum is, thinking
that even if we couldn’t spend time there we’d find a comfortable
place to have something good to eat.
walk from Centraal Station (above) down Damrak through
the streets of Amsterdam.
dropped us off on P.C. Hooftstraat, advising that there
were several good restaurants nearby. As we walked along the
narrow street of two story buildings with cars lining either
curb and one lane for drivers, we passed many of the stores
we’d seen on Bond Street, on the Avenue Montaigne and
those on Fifth and Madison Avenues — Chanel, Dolce and
Gabbana, Hermes, Tods, Montblanc, Cartier, Ermengildo Zegna,
Armani, etc. Then at a small intersection we spotted what looked
like a small, chic lunch place called Patou. We went in and
found what we had been looking for. Soup and sandwich — but
very elegantly prepared and presented.
lunch, time was marching on and there was little left before
we had to return to the airport, so we used it to walk back
toward the station. The thoroughfares were very busy with
pedestrians and bicyclists; but again everyone moving at a
including the streetcars whooshing by every few minutes.
It was cold out, but sunny and it seemed as if many of the
were out for leisurely walks on this Tuesday afternoon, the
first day of Spring.
Unlike New York, or London, or Paris, this
world famous city seemed more like an extended
village, stress-free, no hurry,
organized and co-operative. Although the main boulevard leading
to the station has one wide lane completely fenced off and
is inhabited by several construction cranes
along the way. Asked
what was going on, we were told that a subway was being built;
a subway that the citizens had not wanted, that they had voted
against, but was nevertheless being built. It is supposed to
be ready in 2012. it was originally supposed to be ready in
2011 but expenses had increased by millions
and the date of opening
had been pushed back. Why then, I asked, was it going forward.
Because the politicians at city hall wanted it, was the answer
I got. “And there’s money being made for somebody.”
So Amsterdam has to endure some of the same vagaries that afflict
our lives and livelihood, thanks to some “duty-bound” politicians.
north along Damrak
helps out a pair of tourists with his photography skills
down P.C. Hooftstraat which was lined with the most exclusive
shops in Amsterdam
sightseeing boat floats along one of the canals
through the streets of Amsterdam we came across HIRSCHPASSAGE
Centrum (above), an ode to JH.
that I forgot to include in the past week:
The beds at Claridge’s. The first time the late King
Hassan of Morocco
visited, he brought his own mattress. However, his back was bothering him so,
he decided to try the hotel’s mattress So impressed with it, he bought
thirty of them to take back home. Claridge’s mattress is a wonder: it looks
old fashioned — thick, hard, and yet soft as feathers to sleep on. I’d
Walking tour of Paris. When we visited the Karl
Lagerfeld bookstore on the rue
de Lille, we were told that JH couldn’t take pictures inside because that
is Mr. Lagerfeld’s domain, being a part time photographer, himself. Also:
Mr. Lagerfeld’s companion these days is the reed-thin Dior designer Hedi (sounds like Eddy) Slimane. Both gents are reed-thin (except for M. Lagerfeld’s
recidivist potbelly and it is said Mr. Slimane dietary secret is strictly babyfood.
The last day we were in Paris there was an enormous protest of mainly university
students about the changing employment laws the government is enacting. A million
and a half people protested across the country and in Paris, there were riots
which the papers were likening to the Riots of 1968 and fires in the streets.
They want guaranteed jobs and to make it harder for an employer to fire a worker.
Don’t we all. This riot however was so big and vocal as to fascinate and
confound the citizens. And yet to us, over in the 8th arrondissement in one of
the most luxurious hotels in the world, there wasn’t a word said about
it, and very possibly there were few who were even aware of it, as if it didn’t
same in London: the first Saturday we were there, there was a
huge anti-Iraqi War rally beginning at Trafalgar Square and extending
Buckingham Palace. Yet in the streets of Mayfair, it was business as usual,
raising the inevitable question: what is reality?
Paris: at Raul Suarez’ dinner party
at Mathys, most of the guests were French, or Swiss. On my right was Betty
husband Francois is one of the most successful interior
designer in the world, and whose
best friend is the legendary Yves St Laurent, for whom
she was his muse. Coincidentally she looks a little like him. “I
why men ever go with women,” she said to me at one point in the conversation,
adding, “they’re so awful.” Although, on the other side
of me was a well-known interior designer named Stephanie Choisoux and
the two women are good friends and get along like a house-afire. So there
exceptions, like with everything else.
The scandal in London which is owning front page headlines of all the papers
is about Prime Minister Tony Blair’s political slush fund created
with huge “loans” or donations, and unbeknownst to most members
of Blair’s Labour Party. Almost 20 million and no one seems too know
where it went. Here today gone tomorrow. The press is expressing the widely
held belief that Mr. Blair helped himself to it. Everywhere we went in
London, no one had a good word for Mr. Blair. He is now considered a crook
who lines his pockets. His days are numbered.