Posted by & filed under Travel Country: The Netherlands.



Near Marnixstraat, AmsterdamI’ve been digging through my journals from the last few years but also the articles and stories I’ve kept a digital record of from a decade or more ago. I don’t read back over my journals often but since we turned a new decade this year, I thought it might be good to have a look back at my life from 2010 and that era in general. In 2013 I did a MatadorU Writing Course. MatadorU is an online education center for the advancement of travel writers, travel photographers, and filmmakers. There were a couple of narrative essays that we had to complete as part of this course that I thought I’d share with you. Here’s one that you might like:



As I finish locking my bike to the green-coloured railing on the Amstel river, I look up and take in the view before me. The lights of the Doelen Hotel on the other side of the river have just come on. Dusk is falling over Amsterdam and the evening light is slowly turning a deep shade of blue. The reflection of the orange street lamps in the water is blurred because the water is so choppy: a lot of tourist boats sail up and down this stretch of water. I don’t dwell here too long though as it’s cold and I want to get inside where it’s warm.

So I cross the busy street and push open the door of Mulligans Irish Bar. The heat of the place is the first thing that hits me. My face, the only part of me that’s not covered up, welcomes this blast of warm air. Two microphones hang from a wooden beam above the session table near the door. I walk up to the bar, taking off my black felt hat, big furry gloves, winter jacket, woolen scarf and fleece cardigan on the way. “Hi Martina” says Seán, the barman. “ I saw you walking past” he says, “an’ I said to meself ‘keep on walkin’” with a grin on his face. “Thanks for that Seán” I say with a smile, “nice to know I’m appreciated!”. Seán and I have been working together in Mulligans over the last fifteen years. Tonight though, I’m on the other side of the bar.

“What can I getcha dear?” he says, leaning his left elbow on the edge of the sink in front of us. “A baileys with green stuff please” I say, as I climb up onto a high stool at the bar. I’m just over five feet tall so it’s always a struggle for me to get up onto these tall chairs. Seán pours a Baileys liqueur into a glass with ice, takes down a bottle of the green Crème du Menthe liqueur from the shelf above us and tips a bit into the glass of Baileys. I hand him a ten euro note and he gives me back the change.“I forgot to write me hours for working last night Seán. Can I’ve a notebook and pen please?” I say. “There you go” says Seán, as he hands me a pen and small notebook from behind the bar.

By this stage, it’s 7pm and a few musicians start to arrive. They take off guitars, fiddles and bouzoukis that are strapped to their backs and sit around the session table for the weekly Sunday music session. Mulligans in Amsterdam, is the only Irish bar with regular live Irish music. The smoke stained walls are covered with sign posts and banners from different counties of Ireland, photos of staff and customers dressed up in Halloween costumes since 1988 and pictures of old men drinking pints of Guinness. The bar celebrates its twenty five year anniversary this August.

Alie, a friend of mine, who comes from Belfast, is sitting on the stool beside me, dressed in a white woolen outfit, with tassles on her skirt, kneeMulligans Irish Bar, Amsterdam high black boots and bright red lipstick. Her long curly grey hair is tied up in a bun at the back of her head. “Hey Martina, how’re ya doin’? she says in her strong Belfast accent. “Grand thanks Alie” I say. In the meantime, Dom, a stocky South African guitar player comes up to the bar and says “ Hi Seán, could I’ve a pint of Guinness, pint of beer and a cup of tea please?” His dog, Bubbles, a fawn coloured French bulldog, with a wrinkled face, is standing in front of him, butt wagging from side to side. Bubbles wanders in and out between customer’s legs, stopping to be petted every now and again. Seán gives Dom his drink, who wanders back to the session table. Bubbles disappears and all of a sudden, there’s an almighty stench of rotten eggs that wafts up from the ground. “Oh my Gawd” says Alie, “the dog has just farted”, as she waves her left hand back and forth across her nose. Seán lights a match behind the bar, trying to eliminate the smell but it doesn’t really help. Bubbles has a habit of doing that unfortunately. After about 20 minutes the air clears, the musicians are in full swing and things get back to normal in our favourite Irish music bar in Amsterdam.