A jumble of snow-covered bicycles, Monday night, Amsterdam.
David and I have been in the Netherlands, searching for a place to live. We looked at properties as big as Amsterdam canal houses: strange mazes of odd-shaped rooms spread over three floors, accessed by narrow twisting stairways. These curious abodes would hold all our furniture, with an abundance of empty space remaining. We viewed a city loft-type space, with too many large windows overlooking neighbours' windows and backyards. We saw exposed timber beams painted over by clueless developers.
We viewed an apartment with original stained glass windows, but basic modern design and tiny box-like rooms. Its main attraction was its sprawling rooftop terrace. We spent two hours with Samira - our wonderful estate agent - in a massive traffic jam in evening snow, in what should have been a ten-minute drive. In the estate agents' office, we drank tea and laughed ourselves silly over amusing translations from Dutch to English.
The third place we visited was a charming maisonette, in a beautiful location. It had huge windows, with splendid views of a church. It featured fantastic architectural elements that meant probably a third of our furniture would have to remain in France. But I found myself wistfully gazing out those wide windows at the snow falling and passersby laughing - and just for a moment, daring to wish the magic could last.
Spiced mulled wine and Christmas lights, Amsterdam.
Bikes along a canal.
"It's f*cking freezing outside!" The boutique's statement says it all, Tuesday morning, Utrecht. Alas, we left our hats and gloves in Paris.
Christmas carol shop window display with a profusion of French horns, Utrecht.