I landed on schedule at Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, after an evening flight from Minneapolis. In the week prior to leaving, I saw a record number of clients, went to the dentist, sent in the first ten pages of my baby manuscript (incorrectly, of course) for someone to read, remembered to call my credit card company, went to a professional dinner, and even, through a teeth rattling fluke, had to get my hair colored and cut the day of my departure. But I’d made it without mishap, and as I crammed my sleep blanket and eye mask down into my overstuffed purse, now all I had to do was get through customs, get to the hotel, and manage to keep my jet lagged body awake until a normal bedtime.
Oh, the indescribable crankiness I feel when, after three hours of fitful airplane sleep, someone flips on the lights in order to serve me a frozen banana! Oh, the cotton woolish roar in my ears while standing at the currency exchange, reading the words, but the words make no sense! Oh, the rising tears of self pity as I have to relinquish my luggage cart to go through passport control! Sorry, I just had to add that little lament!
I suppose I was either overly jet lagged or overly task focused, for not until I was on the tram did I remember: AMSTERDAM WAS HAVING A HOLIDAY THAT DAY!!!!!!!
It was the Netherlands’ First King’s Day, formerly Queen’s Day, a national holiday which some have compared to being in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, only a whole lot better. Yeeees, it dawned on me as I registered the un accustomed crowd on the tram, and the fact that every single person sported the color orange somewhere on their person. They were all on their way to the city to make merry until the wee hours of the morning.
Right then and there I decided this would be MY holiday. Since Holland no longer had a queen, and I felt deserving of a reward, I could be the Queen of King’s Day and avoid jet lag at the same time!
After that bit of fast thinking, the tram deposited us all at Central Station. We wagged our selves and our luggage out to the front to discover… oops, no trams would be running that day. So down the main drag we went, my husband’s bag bump, bump, bumping along the cobblestones, my back just slightly bent with the weight of my backpack. ( We do not check luggage.) The long slow trek to the Marriott at Vondelpark gave us a good opportunity to appraise the cultural expectations of this national celebration. In particular, I needed to see what queenly behaviors I might need to exhibit, regardless of whether others were aware of my regal status.
After much observation we concluded that there were two major expectations, to whit: wear orange, and go wild. I took stock of myself. Orange hair? Check. Orange sunglasses? Check, and double check, because mine are prescription Chanel, not the plastic kiddie glasses for sale on the street. But orange apparel I did not bring, nor did my consort.
So first we had to
fInd orange shirts drink beer, mainly just to have a place to sit and gather ourselves. We could see already that any available place to sit was not to be taken for granted. In time, we made our way almost all the way back to the train station, mingling and looking for the “right” shirts.
After finding our shirts we could proudly turn around and return triumphant to the Leidesplein. And the party rolled on! We made it back to the hotel and hid out for a few minutes in the executive lounge before plunging back out among my subjects.
For some reason we thought we would be able to eat dinner at a restaurant, perhaps because for lunch we ordered the first thing we saw on the menu, fearful that our overworked waitress may not return for hours. The first thing on the menu was something fried in batter. No more information was available.
So we plunged down streets looking for some place to eat, I clutching my bag and camera close to my person and my consort hanging on to me lest we get separated. Life can be challenging for a queen. We came to one spot outside a club that was blaring out something like “I Feel Love.” The dancing crowd was like one giant gyrating creature. But we needed to get through. There was only one thing to do. That’s right baby; I DANCED my way through that sucker!!! And I am pleased to report that I was accepted by the crowd in just the regal fashion worthy of me. I’m not so sure about my consort’s experience.
A civilized dinner in one of our regular Amsterdam haunts was not to be, but after watching all the festivities we could handle, we were grateful for a vacant sofa in front of a window at our hotel bar, where we could continue to observe all manner of goings on just beyond us. A burger and a grilled chicken sandwich, along with a couple of cold beers, seemed just the right refreshments.
As I rested, sated and drowsy, on the couch, pillow behind my head and feet propped up on the edge of a chair, I vowed not to forget the little people. As my husband signed our check I remarked to our waitress that I was sorry she’d had to work on the holiday. Her professional demeanor softened, and she replied in a most sincere tone, “Thank you. Thank you very much.” After all, compassion toward one’s subjects is the truest sign of royalty.