Updated: May 29, 2020
While in The Hague, I downloaded Tinder to check out the inventory in Holland. Honestly ... truly... **Joanne the Scammer voice** I wasn’t expecting to find anything that resembled my type but after 15 minutes of endless left swipes, I came across a deep brown man with good teeth and eyes that pierced straight through to my soul (dramatic I know).
A barrage of skeptical questions flooded my mind like did he speak English? Is he a creep in person? Is this a spam account? How TF do Black people end up in Holland? Anyway, I swiped right because I had to and to my absolute delight it was a match. I still wasn’t expecting much while we messaged back and forth trying to find time to meet for dinner. My last night in The Hague I ended up going out with my team and it got too late to meet a stranger anywhere. I thought that was it a dub until he asked if he could meet me in Amsterdam over the weekend. I agreed, still not actually considering that it would actually happen.
I arrived in Amsterdam on Friday night and met up with a high school friend who had moved to Hilversum. We went to her home where she cooked and we sat out in her beautiful garden around the fire pit. I thoroughly enjoyed her hospitality and I felt overwhelmed with gratitude that I was able to get off the tourist beat as I literally ran 5 blocks to catch the last train back to my hotel.
The next morning, I went down to the lobby for breakfast and came back up to a message from “Kofi” (y’all know I changed his name) asking to make plans for the day. I was pleasantly surprised and asked him to meet me at the Van Gogh museum. I threw on some black distressed jeans, a lace up body suit, a leather peplum jacket, and black boots. After overcoming complications with the train and weak cell reception, we finally linked. He came down the escalators and he looked even better in person. His energy was strong but laid back; it was a quiet confidence that put me at ease but captured my full attention. He hugged me, we did the awkward “I’ve met you online but your black ass is still a stranger” introduction common after a Tinder match.
We headed to the first exhibit and ran smack into my co-worker. I was so embarrassed. It was like getting caught doing the walk of shame after the company Christmas party. We moved, mostly in silence, through each exhibit, just taking everything in. We stayed until the museum closed then took a long stroll through the park and P.C. Hooftstraat. It was a gorgeous day, 60 degrees with a slight breeze and the streets were adorned by storefronts of major design houses. We stopped for drinks on the patio of a cute restaurant. We got to know each other and I got some of my questions answered. He was from West Africa but his family immigrated to Europe. He spoke quite a few languages. He was studying abroad (UNDERGRAD) in Holland and at that moment, I realized I was robbing his cradle … I also realized I didn’t care. Judge your mother.
We talked about police brutality, being Black in America vs Stockholm, J. Cole, shell toe Adidas, blue colors. I suddenly understood Jill Scott lyrics. The sun set over us but we decided to keep the night going and grab dinner. We chatted with some locals who recommended finding an Argentinian steakhouse and bars in De Pijp.
European customer service is umm… quite hands off … and after 30 minutes of waiting I paid the waitress on my way back from the bathroom. Kofi politely told me that was not his preference and I told him he could make it up to me at dinner. After winding through the narrow, crowded streets of De Pijp, we found one of the steakhouses and the only thing more delicious than the food was the conversation. After a while, we were both getting tired, he wasn’t super flirty and I still wasn’t sure he was attracted to me like I was to him. I told him I wanted to try a "coffee shop" and we found one of the many in Amsterdam. Once we got inside, it was packed and overwhelming. The menu was in Dutch, I had no idea what to order, and the last straw was when I got to the front of the line and they only accepted cash. I didn’t have Euros because I was leaving for the UK in the morning. I looked at him with the please get me out of here face and we strolled over the many bridges and waterways that make up Amsterdam.
At this point, I had been wearing heels all day and my feet were screaming. We went to The Skybar near my hotel which was in a super random part of town so it was the last stop. He couldn’t get in because of the dress code so we ended the night across the street in my hotel room. We tried to watch a movie but it turned into the travelers version of Netflix and Chill. I think we all know what happened at this juncture so I’ll spare you the details lol
We caught our breath, took a shower, and slept well. It was the first night in the week I'd been in Europe that I slept through the night. In the morning, we caught an Uber downtown, said an unceremonious goodbye then parted ways. We still text or video chat sparingly but I doubt I’ll ever see him again. Either way, the memory of the beautiful day I spent with a stranger is my favorite souvenir from Amsterdam.
Best of the City
Where to Stay
Museum Quarter is best of you want to be central to all the main attractions but is not cheap and you'll need to plan ahead. Haarlem, about 20 minutes outside of Amsterdam, is a more affordable option with it's own attractions like the Windmills, tulip fields, and shopping. Holland in general is known for having very little violent crime so you don't have to worry about being secure, it's mostly finding a good balance between being the the mix and staying within budget.
Where to Eat
... food in the Netherlands was uninspired and unseasoned. I had a brief stay and I'm sure there are good restaurants somewhere but the best meal I had was at the Argentinian steakhouse.
What to Do
Amsterdam is a beautiful, historic city. I HIGHLY recommend the Black Heritage Tour which takes you through the Red Light District, some museums, and the canals. The Heineken factory was cool and has beautiful rooftop views of the city. I didn't get a chance to visit the Anne Frank House but the Van Gogh museum was gorgeous as is the park it sits in. If you want, visit a "coffee house," where they sell legal "reefer" as the elders call it. Biking or walking this city is a MUST; take your time and take it all in.
Honestly, I thought De Wallen (aka the Red District) was disturbing at best and would not go there at night to party. I went during early in the day and several women were already "working the windows." Human trafficking is a huge problem there and I'm not interested in being one of the drunk tourist supporting what some call commercialized rape. Knowing what I learned on the Black Heritage Tour ... I just couldn't participate. If you do decide to go though, keep in mind that you absolutely cannot take pictures and blue lights indicate a trans-gendered sex worker behind the window. There is also a sex museum on Oudekerksplein in the heart of the Red Light District if you opt for history instead.