By the time we finally left to find frietjes (the Dutch word for fries), it was after 9 at night. I expected the same dark sky I had seen in Tucson the night before our trip. However, the dim twilight still cast its pale light across the Dutch landscape. We chose to walk instead of taking the tram because it helped us to better see the city. We headed down Prinsengracht toward Dam Square, stopping every few feet to look in the shop windows. We saw a balloon specialty shop, souvenir stores, Delft figurines, a shop dedicated solely to Rubber Duckies, orange t-shirts in honor of the King’s upcoming 50th birthday celebration known as King’s Day (more on that later) and so much more. By the time we finally reached Dam Square, the clock towers around the city began to ring. It was 10 p.m. and the sky had just turned dark. The smell of sugar and funnel cakes wafted through the air, luring us to walk through a carnival in Dam Square, despite the fact a few booths had already started to close for the night.
We watched in amazed horror as a few brave souls screamed from a neon-lighted contraption above us. A giant metal arm lifted their protective cage as high as the Royal Palace, then plummeted them to the earth, stopping just moments before impact. A ferris wheel directly in front of us slowly rotated, appearing to encircle the terror device behind it.
Although it appeared fun, the open seats combined with the icy wind did not encourage me to try it. We wandered through rows of carnival games, each with their own twinkling, brightly colored lights. Once we reached the end of the festivities, we began to head for Muntplein, an area where we previously stayed and knew to have awesome fries.
As we walked down Damrak, we reminisced on past experiences – Koh-i-Noor (our favorite Indian restaurant), the Amsterdam Dungeon and familiar canals. Couples both young and old, groups of friends as well as individuals walked up and down the street dressed in black (Europe’s most popular color for clothing, apparently). How many of these people were citizens accustomed to the always bustling streets of late-night Amsterdam? To how many of these unknown faces did the dazzling lights and glittering canals seem a commonplace, everyday scene?
When we finally reached Chipsy King, we wanted more to eat than fries. Luckily, a Maoz falafel restaurant stood next door, brightly lit and very inviting. Two empty stools surprisingly seemed to wait for us by the window in this restaurant that typically had so many customers, dining in meant standing room only. I quickly sat down as Kurt ordered for us. He brought our Cokes and waters to the table and waited for our order of falafel balls to finish frying. Within a few moments he returned, holding two foil-wrapped pitas filled with steamy goodness in his hands. We ate in silence, watching people outside ride or walk past the window. The warm crunchiness of the falafels, fresh condiments and tasty tahini sauce all combined in an explosion of amazing flavors. Once we finished, Kurt asked if I still wanted fries and we both laughed. Not this time, but soon the following evening, we would accomplish our quest for fries. We stepped from the small, warm doorway and back onto the chilly street. Heading back to our apartment, we planned our adventures for the following day.