Friday night started with a wonderful dinner in Amsterdam. I didn't even know where we'd be eating, it was all being arranged by a friend of a co-worker. The restaurant turned out to be an Afghan restaurant in the Jordaan that was simple, but looked classy, and was owned by a lovely Afghan family. Everything came out in these little dishes that we served ourselves from. After some simple salad-y starters, there was some filled pasta, which gives the restaurant its name, Mantoe. They were delicious, filled with spiced meat and covered in tomato and yogurt sauces. Then for the main course we were brought a mountain of wonderfully fragrant rice, chicken legs and potatoes, grilled eggplant and zucchini with tomato sauce and onions, a delicious kidney bean dish, and grilled lamb. The potatoes were some of the most flavorful I've ever had, they weren't just hunks of starch. Dessert was cardamom pudding with a lemon granita on top. I wanted another one, heh. I definitely want to go back there sometime... My evening ended with a stroll through the Jordaan back to the station, all the terraces were full and people spilling onto the sidewalks on a still, relatively warm night.
Saturday morning was beautiful and warm. I zipped around Leiden doing errands while also trying to take photos with my film SLR. I went up to the top of the Burcht for only the second time ever and hopefully got some good photos from there. For lunch I got a sandwich and was eating it alongside a canal. A pair of ducks swam over because they spotted my bread loot, so I tossed them a couple of nibbles (and damn, female ducks are pushy. This is twice now I've seen them totally plow over the male to get at food). The female duck then jumped up onto the canal side and came right up to me, eyeing my sandwich. I was afraid she was going to attack me for it. She was not shy at all, she only went away when I shook a paper bag at her, but then she'd come right back.
Saturday evening I convinced myself to go to my upstairs neighbours' housewarming party. They are a French couple and the guy has now lived on each floor of the house. I was rather tired and not really in the mood for going to a party where I'd hardly know anyone, so actually the thing that pushed me to go was that I'd never seen the top-floor apartment that they now live in and I really wanted to check it out. It is lovely, I am quite jealous. It has two bedrooms (one they use as an office), a large back balcony that both bedrooms open onto, a large kitchen, and a huge, light bathroom with a tub under windows cut into the sloped roof. Despite my worrying about not knowing people there, I met a few awesome people, including an English guy who had also lived in Melbourne, so I was chatting about it with him; an older Dutch guy who I had written off when I saw him, but he turned out to be actually rather non-typically Dutch and quite interesting; and the cutest Spanish couple ever, the guy in particular didn't look very Spanish, but he was cool, and the girl was so sweet and so cute. There was also further evidence of the small world that is Leiden: the boyfriend of a friend from work showed up; he happens to be teaching jujitsu to my neighbour.
On Sunday there was another surprise dinner of sorts; this time I knew what the restaurant would be at least, a Mediterranean restaurant in Leiden, but our group would be having a 4-course verrassingsmenu. I was rather disapponted with the dinner; it was tasty, but a bit small, and certainly not worth the price we paid, which was a full 10 euros more than the Afghan dinner had been. Fortunately we had a good group there and I met this sweet Norwegian girl who has lived in the Northwest, in Seattle. It's good to know there are so many cool people living in my town.