Sorry for the blog disappearance. I’ve had The Trance.
I know what you’re thinking. “Oh, she went to Amsterdam this weekend and, well, there were residual effects.”
But actually, that wasn’t it. Maybe a little. But mostly not.
I haven’t been “well” as they say here. Somewhere over the last week — in between walking the windy South Bank with my parents and waiting outside in the FREEZING temps for 2.5 hours to tour Anne Frank’s house with my best friend Amy, I, like Ellie, have come down with a very inconvenient illness.
All I’ve wanted to do is sleep, and watch the new season of Game of Thrones. (Oh Jon Snow, how I miss your curly locks and dark woods eyes.) But my best friend was here, and instead of being able to down bottles of wine in the pub, I had to order hot Pimms’ Cups and crawl into bed at 10p.m.
But, a small silver lining exists! I’ve been living like a local. Because when you’re in The Trance, you just go with what you know and what’s easy. Rather than exploring and touring beyond, which I still very much wanted to do (and am accustomed to doing, ahem, FOMO!), I’ve had to think within the box. I’ve had to live within the hazy realms of (gasp!) just being. Something that served me quite well when I first arrived.
Here’s how I did it…
In Amsterdam, we were staying in a flat, appropriately called “The Nest,” in the Jordaan district. While I was curious to see the unsexy ladies flaunt their unsexy stuff in the Red Light, all those lights hurt my eyes, as did all the cheesy, touristy spots surrounding them. I did rent a bike and roll around the city for the better part of the day on Sunday, and we did finally get into Anne Frank’s house, which was one of the most remarkable and moving experiences of my life.
But my favorite part of the trip — and I think Amy will agree — was our first day/night when we left it all up to chance and kept it (mostly) close to home.
We arrived around 5:30p.m. and had our first hiccup. I fear it’s a you-had-to-be-there moment, but it’s too good not to share. We had printed the directions for how to get from the airport to the flat because both of our phones didn’t have data or WiFi. It’d be fine. A challenge. We completed part one of the journey — the fast “sprinter” train — and arrived at the tram stop we were meant to get on: No. 17. “Oh look! Here it comes,” I said. “It’s all happening!” We lugged our bags over to the stop and Amy, who had the Euros, starts fussing with her fanny pack to get them out to pay for our tickets. I board the tram. Several people behind me board the tram. One of which I assumed was Amy. Until I realize she was on the other side of the doors when they slide shut and the tram trams away. No words were spoken. Just facial expressions of utter disbelief.
The people on the train were very helpful and felt so sorry for me. I had to explain to the driver that I couldn’t pay AND lost my friend. Thankfully, the Dutch speak and understand English very well. He suggested I get off at the next stop, which was only right down the road, and wait for the next train that she’d probably be on. I did that. Twice. No Amy. Then I realized she probably wouldn’t get on the tram and would be waiting for me to come back as I had the address and directions for The Nest. So I crossed the road and waited for the next No. 17 tram going back the other way. I had to explain, again, that I couldn’t pay and had been separated from my friend. Another kind tram driver let me off, and within minutes, I heard: “Sarrrrrrrrrraaaaaaaa!”
Thank. Freaking. God. And to think, we hadn’t even been inside a coffee shop or bar yet.
We arrived at the Nest without any more issues, but had to wait for the keys. We decided to do so directly across the street from the flat in a local cafe called Festina. It was packed with tall, blond Dutch folk drinking hoppy beer and starting the long holiday weekend off well and good. One tipple turned into 5 or 6 before we settled up, tossed our luggage upstairs and hit the town without a clue or a destination. We saw our first coffee shop, Dutch Tulip, not far from the flat, and it forever became the landmark for us being ‘close to home.’ Then we aimlessly walked into a bumping bar where the American tunes of “Come On Eileen” drove us a bit mad. After that, we met a few British boys desperate to determine the name of the US sitcom in which the main character is a therapist. (We thought we had it with Frasier, but alas, that was not it.) We ditched them and stumbled into a hipster lounge called Luxe, and fought our way toward the bar for another beer. Finally, by 1a.m. we found Chipsy Kings and ordered up two cones of chips, which we doused in BBQ sauce and cheese.
For the rest of the weekend, The Trance was at odds with The Force (that’s what I’ll call the normal me) who just wanted to look in the guidebook and see/do/organize. It succumbed a few times, much to Amy’s demise. (“I just came to be with you,” she’d say. “Let’s just roam.”) I had a serious case of the “They’s” as she calls them. (Who are “They”? you ask. You know, “They say rent bikes,” “They say see tulips.”)
“They’re talking to you again,” Amy would say, with a laugh. It’s so hard to ignore THEM, though! But sometimes no matter where you are, if you’re feeling funky, ignorance is bliss. Trance must preside over The Force; over the They.
Then we got back to London. There were neighborhoods to explore and monuments to photograph. We had an entire day together — holla bank holiday! — but the weather wasn’t any better. (I am not joking about this weather: It’s f—ing frigid. This coming from someone who LIVED in Syracuse, New York for four years.) Plus, the Circle and District lines weren’t running, which meant we were relegated to staying in East London, taking the bus or (gasp!) walking.
Not to mention there was The Trance and The They’s.
So, what to do? We had to live la vida local. My savvy knowledge of the tube allowed me to get us up towards Islington, an area of the city I had yet to explore. I took Amy to the Pig and the Butcher, the sister gastropub to one of my favorites in nearby Shoreditch. We arrived and got a lovely table by the window, where the sun shone on our faces, deceiving us into thinking the outside temps were something other than dreadful.
We had roasts: Amy had the pork and I got the beef; both came with Yorkshire puddings bigger than our heads.
By 4p.m., The Trance was fighting with The Force again: How could we be be struggling for where to go or what to do?? This is London! So much to see! And yet, the Trance was like, ‘Sara: Slow. The. F. Down.’ So we got on the overground to Shoreditch where I knew Amy would like the gritty street art and LES vibe.
Then, we happened upon a movie theater.
I couldn’t believe I was going to the movies — AGAIN — with a visitor. It seems like such a….local thing to do.
We came in from the cold, ordered a cuppa, and saw, appropriately, Trance. (Boo-ya! This is where it all comes back around.) It’s Danny Boyle’s new oddball (but awesome) film about hypnosis, art and psychosis, which neither of knew much about it before plunking down the shockingly reasonable 9-pound price for the warm seat and a ticket.
Aside from the fact that we just happened upon the theater, and it just happened to be on in about 20 minutes when we arrived and there just happened to be center seats, you know what I loved most about it?
It was shot in London — and watching it made me feel like a local! I knew the references! I knew where King’s Cross St. Pancras was when they mentioned it! I knew why they were frying up tomatoes and mushrooms for breakfast! I tried to guess the street corners they were on, as I do whenever a movie is shot in NYC!
So yeah, here I was on a day off, in a town I’m still learning with a best mate who’s never been and I was sitting in a movie theater, quite literally in “Trance.” But I was also IN Amsterdam; and am still here IN London…. experiencing it like a local.
May the Force not be with me all the time. Sometimes a little go-with-the-flow Trance is quite a nice way to just….be The They.