We continue our way of exploring cities by finding cafés that serve the best coffee and find one in the Japanese district within Paris. We both order flat whites and entertain Isla as we watch passersby through the traditional Parisian windows. We walk, for hours, exploring areas of the city we’ve never experienced before and places that are very familiar. We stop in parks so that Isla can stretch her legs in a playground and she smiles at us, completely happy to be with us. We walk by the Louvre, Pompidou, Hotel de Ville, Notre Dam, then spend a few moments in the Luxembourg Gardens before heading back to the apartment.
When we arrive we bath her in the kitchen sink and she soaks the counters and the floors. It’s such a sight, her pink naked body next to the white porcelain…her face completely lit up in happiness.
Our goal the next day is the Eiffel Tower and by the afternoon we are ready to go. We walk the whole way there with Isla cooing at us from her pram. When we arrive we throw down a white blanket and play with her on the grass with the tower directly in front of us. This is what dreams are made of, but this is more than a dream, it is our reality. We walk along the Seine taking in the beautiful slate rooftop houses as the canal cruises go by. We spend the night talking with our hosts till late in the night, them even later than myself.
We leave the next day on the train to Amsterdam and when the train manager comes over the speakers to welcome the guests and begins speaking in Dutch Adam and I look at each other, laughing. The language, not beautiful or eloquent by any means, but so familiar. The train shoots down the track at such speed that before we know it we arrive in Amsterdam and everything comes flooding back. The sound of the tram, the walking signal, the smell of fries with mayo, the flower market, the endless canals, the way the house smells when you turn the radiator on, how the dryer has to be emptied of water after each cycle, and the sound and weight of euros in my wallet.
It almost feels like we never left.
We walk the streets of Amsterdam, hardly ever using a map as everything is so familiar. Yet we still find streets we have yet to discover and enjoy the new sights and wares through the windows. As all the boutiques are closed on Mondays we stop into a new cafe, opened recently by Kiwi expats and are welcomed with smiles. Two flat whites in white cardboard take away cups. When we wander into Hema and the V&D I recall why I loved the stores so much, everything is sleek and has such beautiful aesthetics, but without the expensive price tags of North America. As we stroll towards one of our favourite cafes for lunch we run into a friend and laugh at the odds. We catch up quickly before scheduling a time to meet up later in the week, and before we kiss three times on the cheek in farewell, she directs us to a different cafe with delicious sandwiches and amazing red velvet cake.
We stop in the famous Vondel Park where the sun beats down on us and Isla enjoys the freedom from her pram. She crawls all over me before standing, using the pram as her support, then explores the grass some more. Always talking and smiling, no matter what she does.
Once she has been put to bed we put the last pieces of dinner together before settling into the leather couches. Having space to ourselves is exactly what we needed after more than a week of being hosted in different homes. We are forever grateful for those who offer their space, but we realize that after 10 days of sleeping in other people’s beds and using other’s kitchens that there is no place like home – no matter where that home is. When dinner is finished we watch the season premiere of The Good Wife and I think that how lovely that we are exploring familiar cities but seeing it through new eyes, but filling tiny moments with pieces of regular life as well.
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