Amsterdamse Blog

So technically this is supposed to be about triathlon, but my 2015 season can best be summed up as: raced some half iron distance races; did extraordinarily well for someone who had just spent a year out having hip surgery; was however never exactly going to set the world on fire at this stage.

Racing during what is still technically a rehab period (up to a year after the last of the major operations) was like rehab itself, tiring, stressful, and with nothing much to show for it immediately, though I know the benefits will be apparent in the years to come.

All in all, not particularly exciting to write about in detail, and even less to read!

During the off season, I’m now focusing on a huge core and strengthening programme, establishing some better sleeping habits, oh, and setting myself up to train in a new country…

The background here is that Ed started working in a new role in Amsterdam in June this year, we saw each other when we could but were both pretty miserable the rest of the time. Having been out to visit in the summer, I came round to the idea of moving out myself…

Beautiful city, beautiful weather, beautiful sunshine...

Beautiful city, beautiful weather, beautiful sunshine…

IMG_0131

…good food…

...and the famous cycle-friendly infrastructure

…and the famous cycle-friendly infrastructure

And so it was that one morning last week, four men and a huge lorry came to our house, packed everything away and disappeared again at the end of the day. Perhaps of note here that it took four person-days of specialists’ time to pack our “relatively small” amount of stuff (ah, how my parents would laugh),  so if you’re moving house yourself and feeling bad that the packing is taking ages… then don’t!

Having finished up some training admin in the UK, I left to join Ed in Amsterdam on Friday, eagerly awaiting the sunshine, cycling paradise, pancakes and relaxation I remembered from my trip in the summer.

Friday

Arrive at Schiphol. It is very cold here. It is raining. However, Ed is waiting for me at the airport with a large bunch of flowers – orange, of course – and an enormous grin. As we head off train-wards, he cheerfully informs me that, while he’s been standing there, several Dutch women have approached him and tried to appropriate the flowers – and, I can only presume, the Ed – for themselves. Hmmm.

A relatively short train and tram ride later, we reach the apartment that is now home. Even in the foggy drizzle, the city is still stunning – and stunningly quiet – compared to London. It’s also tiny, and getting around is fast and easy. Walking to most places is an option, as well as trams or the Dutch bike I will clearly need to get, with n+1 being what it is and s-1 tending to infinity in our household [see here, rule 12, for the uninitiated].

The apartment is beautiful: newly refurbished, high ceilings, tall, wide windows designed to let in as much light as possible, were there light to be let in. The internet doesn’t work, the heating keeps cutting out with a very loud ‘bang’ from the boiler, and there appears to be no washing machine, but these are all quickly and easily fixable…. right?

We head out for dinner. Again, Amsterdam wins hands down over London, with a wide selection of restaurants within easy staggering distance of our front door. We pick a tiny Italian, eat an excellent dinner, then hurry home and collapse into bed.

Saturday

It is raining. When I step outside, I can see my breath. Back inside, there are boxes everywhere. By the end of the day, there is a heap of empty boxes by the front door, but no discernible difference in the number of boxes still to be unpacked.

Sunday

It is raining. We stand in the rain to cheer on a couple of Ed’s colleagues, who are out running the Amsterdam Marathon. It feels very odd to be watching, rather than competing, and I immediately go home and investigate entries for next year’s event.

The house starts to look more like a home; that is, we have now removed enough of the boxes from the living room that the bikes are clearly visible at first glance.

IMG_0496

Monday

It is raining, but slightly less cold. Other than this, the day can perhaps be best summed up by an excerpt from an email I sent to a friend…

“Here is the list of things I / we have mistakenly bought thinking they were something else (and, I remind you, I have been here 4 days):

Buttermilk, instead of normal milk [obviously, the three types of milk in the supermarket here are full fat, semi and buttermilk, rather than full fat, semi and skimmed…]

Ready prepared potatoes, instead of gnocchi

A mango, because it somehow insinuated itself into my groceries between the conveyor belt thingy and the checkout and I couldn’t think of the Dutch for “errr, that’s not mine” quickly enough

Shark fillet, thinking (not unreasonably given the appearance) that it was cod”

Tuesday

It is raining, and Ed is in London for work. The irony of the latter after the last four months is not lost on me. The boiler, having been fixed yesterday, breaks again. I walk into town to try and buy a kettle, and nearly have a breakdown due to the number of people in the Bijenkorf, Amsterdam’s equivalent of John Lewis. Instead I find a bookshop round the corner and happily lose myself in the Languages section for a few minutes before wandering back home.

Wednesday

The rain continues. A man comes to fix the internet, but tells me he can’t. In the afternoon I meet Ed at Central Station as he returns from his trip. With supervision, I am able to successfully navigate the Bijenkorf.

We go to the shoe section in the admittedly wildly optimistic hope that as Dutch women are tall, Dutch shoes will go up to larger sizes. When I tell the assistant my size, her sharp inhalation and unsubtle glance down at my feet, presumably expecting to see clown shoes poking out from under my jeans, confirms otherwise.  We shuffle quietly away – or rather, Ed does; I have difficulty shuffling quietly due to my clown feet…

Thursday

We fly to Milan to go to a party. No, really.

Netflix have launched in Spain and Portugal earlier this week, and today, they are launching in Italy. Staff who worked on the deals in each country are invited to its launch party, along with their family, so Ed’s weeks of negotiating have earned us both a trip to Milan.

While I normally have little interest in parties, the facts are that (a) being invited to a Netflix launch party doesn’t seem like the sort of opportunity that would normally present itself very often, and (b) being invited to a Netflix launch party is almost always the sort of opportunity I would have to turn down because of being in heavy training.

So we go. The hotel has upgraded us to a suite that is very significantly larger than my first flat in London. We do a spot of shopping (be rude not to) and then head to the party. I actually enjoy it, so it must be a very good party! I even recognise some of the famous people. More importantly, it’s a good opportunity to meet Ed’s new colleagues, who are all very friendly and welcoming to me, which I greatly appreciate.

It turns out clothes do fit my strange body shape... it's just they are really really expensive clothes

It turns out clothes do fit my strange body shape… it’s just they are really really expensive clothes

Hands up who doesn't recognise us in normal people clothes, with washed hair

Hands up who doesn’t recognise us in normal people clothes, with washed hair

Netflix launch party

Netflix Italy launch party

Friday

The most important meal of the day. Brought to us in our ridiculous room, with a whole nother table...

The most important meal of the day. Brought to us in our ridiculous room, with a whole nother table…

Italian coffee is surprisingly disappointing. Italian driving is unsurprisingly terrifying. Our greatest achievements today are getting to the airport without dying in a car crash, and acquiring broadband internet at home once we’re back. And for the first day since I moved to Amsterdam, it didn’t rain. Things are definitely looking up!

Onwards

I didn’t know what to expect from my first week in a new country, but it’s been a lot of fun, as well as providing a fascinating set of new experiences and challenges to keep me from being bored while my body recovers from the battering I’ve given it in training this year.

I have lots to look forward to over the coming weeks and months… starting Dutch lessons next week, because sadly a language cannot be fully learned at home with a book, and does require interaction with other human beings… exploring the swimming, running and cycling possibilities in and around Amsterdam… and learning the ins and outs of a new city. Living in the same house as Ed again is working out pretty well, too 🙂

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