Friday, February 23rd, was the day I was to leave Amsterdam. I just knew I had to search for THE bench to complete this trip. So, I woke up early and decided to do one last roam before I make my way to Schiphol for my 2pm flight to Dubai.
I still had my 24-hr tram ticket I purchased the day before with about 4 hours credit left to it. I was already inside the tram a little over 7am. I knew the bench was located at the Leidsegracht canal district, and that I had to be dropped off Prinsengracht area, take a 2-minute walk and it should be there. I was worried abit though, as I have been reading from some articles that the bench had been removed due to alot of tourists vandalizing it, but I kept my hopes up.
Dropping off of Prinsengracht, I walked, made my way through a couple of streets, saw some Heineken logos along the way, but can’t seem to see signs pointing me to Leidsegracht. I saw the American Hotel, which the film used to replace Hotel de Filosoof in the novel, and thought “Oh it should be near here!” but still was unlucky.
Passed by folks busy sipping their cups of coffee, hurriedly making their way to their workplaces, I hesitated to ask questions. The Dutch and their blond hair, tall stature, and their bright, beautiful faces have intimidated me so much, a realization that dawned over me the past 6 days, but I thought I needed help.
Finally, a young woman who showed abit of smile when I passed by her, opened an opportunity for me. I asked her where Leidsegracht canal is…
What? (dammit, she may not speak English?)
I repeated the question and before I was even able to complete..
“Oh Layd-zegrakt!” I said Leed-zegrakt at first. 😑
Apparently, I was treading the wrong street and should have turned right the moment I stepped out of the tram.
I thanked the woman and she gave me the sweetest smile and the kindest “goodluck!” I’ve heard my entire stay.
I took the directions she gave me and what I realized is that Leidsegracht is not just 1 canal but a series of three! I had to go through the first two, inspect them with the TFIOS photo in my phone and got frustrated that I cannot see that arrow sign right next to the door that’s indicative that I am in the right place. Just when I was about to lose all faith, I headed my way to the third canal and saw this bench right there! – gloriously tied up with love locks, lovingly marked with notes and mementos – silently a witness of the greatness of love between Augustus and Hazel Grace and the pains they had to endure.
I have always considered John Green as that literary aspiration of my 30s as JK Rowling is of my 20s. I sat there, breathing in and out the cold Amsterdam air, recounting the events of Gus’ and Hazel’s last moments and thought to myself how thankful I am for the infinities that I enjoy – with a loving wife, wonderful kids, a caring family, a rewarding and a fulfilling job – all in all, a great life.