October 2019, Amsterdam
The party spilled out of the taxi and onto the manicured streets of Amsterdam's central Prinsengracht canal. Giggles and jests coloured the pauses in our conversations, pauses where we stole glances at the toy-like Dutch architecture lining the city's watery arteries. Being buzzed from a few celebratory glasses of champagne for the special birthday girl, we arrive at the Amsterdam Andaz with equal amounts of relief and excitement, trying to hide our bleary eyes from a crack of dawn flight from Luton.
Entering the atrium, any tiredness lingering in our limbs was transformed into glee. Chandeliers, ensconced by giant bells, suspended above our heads. Stretch-backed crimson chairs punctuated the meeting space. Hypnotic light installations seemingly floated mid-ceiling. It was an illustration from a Lewis Carroll novel, a psychedelic dream broken only by the impeccably dressed and warm bellboy, conjuring up platters of fluffy cake and tea, ready to show us to our dens.
We parted off momentarily in twos, pausing the party for a few winks, but any hope of rest was soon abandoned when we saw the rooms. The Andaz certainly carried a grand sense of humour with the absurdist concept of the sleeping areas. Giant mackerel cut outs sewn onto silver spoons with the iconic triple red X occupied the main wall. A generous marble and concrete vanity table and sink bridged the space between the shower and the bedroom, offering a more communal way of living.
We pretended to catch some rest, before regrouping to get out and enjoy the offerings of Netherland's Capital. This was our second trip to Amsterdam - and we hoped for a (slightly more) mature sequel to a University trip featuring too much Heineken. We'd planned our weekend around two superb restaurants, The Duchess at the W, and Cecconi's at Soho House, which were excellent, but left our days to wander and soak in the culture.
Overcast clouds and spittle didn't stop us meandering the lanes of the canals. Hours happily passed trying on vintage sportswear, buying 19th Century erotic postcards and snacking on vegan food. Only momentarily did we traipse the red light district, stopping only to witness a window worker telling off a tourist for pointing and laughing, stopping at a cafe to indulge in a few thick clouds of marijuana before returning to the Andaz.
We made it back for 'Wine Time' - a glorious hour every evening put on by the hotel, during which the very palatable house red and white were available open pour. We communed around raw-finished oak dining tables; mountains of cheese, crackers and scones demolished between us.
The next day, before heading out to brunch to soothe our well-earned hangovers, we decided to explore the Art at the hotel. An intriguing gold-plated framed walkway adjoined the hotel lobby to the main residential building - exposing you to Amsterdam's changing weather underneath an atrium affixed with neon signs, sculptures fashioned out of trash and floral designs made of coloured lightbulbs. The Garden was a whimsical topiary - again bringing to mind Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: the sea of green accented by blooms in purple pastels.
After a heavy and tequila-laced dinner at Cecconi's on our last night, we chanced upon a Brazilian dance event at one of the clubs in Centraal. MCs took it in turns to dominate the stage, locals and foreigners in various states of dress and undress, shimmied, sambaed and seduced each other on the electric dancefloor. In our giddy state in the morning hours, we got lost on our way back to the rooms, ending up in one of the Hotel's corridors that steadily shrunk in size as you ambled through it. On hands and knees we finally gave up and burst into fits of laughter, before retiring for the night between sugar-white sheets.
The morning of our departure came - as we knew it had to - and though we may not be refreshed or restored, I'd felt cleansed - and satisfied, that we'd left no stone in Amsterdam unturned. Like we'd jammed our fingers into a Dutch electric socket. Taken the city at our own pace yet allowed Amsterdam, and the Andaz, to have it's way with us. And with the call of taxis back to the airport - an unmistakable gratitude landed on our gang. The gratitude that friends about to embark on the journey of their thirties were still able to do this. To Play. To Dance. To Escape from careers, pregnancies, London tubes. Perhaps the Andaz showed us we were still young.