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Lisbon & The Algarve, Portugal

Expectations are a funny thing. I’d heard so many good things about Lisbon that I expected to love it. It was almost a disaster. First, our flight from Amsterdam was scheduled for 7:50am, meaning we had to be at the airport around 6:15am, which is before the main public transport is running. Therefore, we had to take the night bus. We stayed up late the night before packing and cleaning, and went to sleep around 12:30am. The alarm was set for 4:45am. No big deal, I stumbled out of bed and got ready. We walked the 3 blocks to the bus stop, and got in. It was full, so we had to stand for the entire 45 minute ride to the airport. Then, our flight was delayed, as the cabin crew didn’t show up. Eventually, we made it to Lisbon, which was experiencing a cold and windy snap. Not the best start to the trip.

The apartment we rented from airbnb.com was nice, and in a decent neighborhood. We ended up walking around a bit, and taking the 28 tram around the city to see the sights. The internet wasn’t working on my phone, which was frustrating to me. We were dead tired, staring out the windows of the tram like zombies. After a quick nap, we tried to go to a nice neighborhood for dinner, but ended up getting lost. Not having internet on my phone just exacerbated the matter. Back at our apartment, we agreed that Lisbon was not living up to the hype.

Oh what a difference a day makes…

The next day, refreshed from a good night’s sleep, we set out once more. The sun was out, and we stopped at a bakery for a quick breakfast. From there, into the main part of the city, where we sat on the waterfront and soaked in the sunshine. Over the next 24 hours, I saw what all the fuss was about. Lisbon is a unique city. Some parts of it seem to be crumbling, like Venice, but other parts have beautiful buildings. The city is built on hills, and has many narrow windy streets, with barely enough space for the tram to take the corners, much less with the pedestrians scrambling to get out of the way. Some awards ceremony was happening, and we hundreds of people line up outside, the men in tuxedos and the women in every sort of dress you can imagine. Lots of fur coats. Meanwhile, beggars and homeless roamed the streets looking for handouts. All on the same street. Lisbon is a city of extremes.

Having now been there, I’m not sure if I want to go back. I would, but it wouldn’t be at the top of my list. After 2 nights, we hopped on board the train to Faro, and spent the rest of the trip laying on the beach enjoying the sun. Photos below.

The buildings of Lisbon

The buildings of Lisbon

Inside of Lisbon's old tram 28 as it crawls through the city.

Inside of Lisbon’s old tram 28 as it crawls through the city.

A large garden in the center of the city.

A large garden in the center of the city.

A tram rides by the Lisbon Cathedral in the evening.

A tram rides by the Lisbon Cathedral in the evening.

The walls of St. George's Castle at night.

The walls of St. George’s Castle at night.

A statue at night, with a monastery illuminated on the hill in the background.

A statue at night, with a monastery illuminated on the hill in the background.

A scenic overlook of the city.

A scenic overlook of the city.

The city beach in Lagos, Algarve.

The city beach in Lagos, Algarve.

The Lagos beach from another angle.

The Lagos beach from another angle.

An old fort on the Lagos waterfront.

An old fort on the Lagos waterfront.

The farmer's market in Loule.

The farmer’s market in Loule.

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2013 in Photo Posts, Travel

 

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Holland vs The Netherlands

Hi All,

The blog has emerged from the mothballs briefly to share a video that may be of interest. This video came out a few months ago, so many of you have probably already seen it, but I do still encounter people who don’t know where the Netherlands is, or the difference between the Netherlands and Holland. I’ve also run across people who lump it in with Denmark or Germany, but that’s besides the point. Enjoy, and I hope you learn something! I’ll try to post more again in the near future!

 

Autumn in Amsterdam

Today, while taking Churchill for one of his daily walks, I really noticed how much autumn has hit Amsterdam. The leaves are all changing colors and falling off the trees, giving Amsterdam an extra splash of color. I think Amsterdam is already a beautiful city, but the leaves just amplify things. I had to run some errands over lunch, taking me into the Jordaan district, which is one of the prettiest in the city. I took a few photos in Instagram, and here they are.

Bikes, benches, and leaves along the Amstel River in the Weesperzijde neighborhood.

Vines can have colors too.

A boat is sinking while leaves are falling.

A canal flows quietly in the middle of the busy city.

 
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Posted by on October 24, 2012 in Life in the Dam, Photo Posts

 

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Ik Neem Je Mee

It’s been 2 months since my last post. Sorry! I’ve been quite busy during that time. I have some posts I want to make, but I’ll save those for a later date when I have more time. Until then…

I’ve made fun of Dutch music a few times on this blog, so it’s only fair that I post about a Dutch song that I actually like. I’ve been going running lately, either along the Amstel River or in Oosterpark, and I listen to the radio while jogging. Most of the songs are American or British, but a few Dutch ones make it. I don’t quite understand all of the words in this song, but I understand enough to get the gist of it. Here are 2 videos: the actual music video for the song, and then one with the words.

The song is “Ik Neem Je Mee” by Gers Pardoel. “Ik Neem Je Mee” means “I’ll take you along”

Music Video:

GERS PARDOEL – ‘IK NEEM JE MEE’ (I’ll take you with me) from Job, Joris & Marieke on Vimeo.

Lyrics (aka “Songtekst” in Dutch):

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2012 in Life in the Dam, Spreek'ing Nederlands

 

Gay Pride 2012

I’ve attended several parades here in Amsterdam. They’re always fun because they’re done on the water via boats rather than on land-based vehicles like most other cities. Ever since seeing my first parade here, I’d hoped to one-day be on a float rather than on the sidelines watching.

There are plenty of parades here, including the winter parade. I’d always assumed that Koninginnedag, while technically not a parade, would be my best chance. As a straight man, imagine my surprise when the opportunity arose to be on Gay Pride Parade float.

Through meeting other Expats, I’ve come to befriend a number of folks who work for Google, and YouTube was sponsoring a float, so I was invited along. We were all requested to dress in red & white, so I hunted around town for a pair of red pants. This is not as hard as you might think, as red pants are a somewhat common item to see Dutch males wearing. I guess now I can fit in even more.

After a bit of a snafu regarding what time we needed to arrive to board the boat, we finally hopped on near Westerpark. We floated down to the holding area where the authorities all organize the boats into their proper order before the parade begins. Some light rain passed over us for a bit, but quickly dissipated, so we thought all might be well. Hah! Right as we began moving our boat towards the parade route, the skies opened and it absolutely POURED rain for about 10 minutes. We did stop under a bridge for a bit, but were forced to move along to keep up with the floats in front of us.

The pouring rain at the beginning

The crowd tries to stay dry under a bridge

After the rain stopped, the sun came out, and it turned into an absolutely beautiful day. It took us about 4 hours to traverse the entire parade route, with a DJ spinning tunes the entire way. We had plenty of alcohol, snacks, and cameras aboard the boat, though I had only my iPhone to document the experience.

The Westerkerk displays their pride.

Somewhere near the Westerkerk, our boat’s engine decided to stop, and we sat in the middle of the canal for about 15 minutes, with no way to get moving. The authorities tried pushing us a bit, but their boat was not powerful enough to move us fast enough. Finally, some spectators on the side of the canal started up their boat and offered to tow us the rest of the way. Probably 10 floats had passed us in the meantime, but we were once again under way.

After finishing the parade, we walked to the nearby houseboat of a friend and watched the last few floats go by. It was a fun day (even if I’m not really much of a dancer), and a very unique way to see Amsterdam.

Lots of folks dressed up in costume, even those not actually on a float.

Some costumes were a bit more revealing than others…

 
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Posted by on August 6, 2012 in Life in the Dam, Photo Posts

 

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Far East Movement in Amsterdam

Sorry for the lack of posts lately. Usual excuses. Right now, I’m enjoying the sun in Greece! The other day, while on the ferry from Athens to Santorini, I saw a music video that was set in Amsterdam. I haven’t actually heard the music yet (the TV was on mute), and even now, Roxy is asleep next to me, so if the music is horrible, my apologies. Anyway, without further delay, here it is:

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2012 in Life in the Dam, Misc, Travel

 

Oranjegekte

The Euro 2012 tournament begins soon, and you can definitely tell by just walking around Amsterdam. The tournament isn’t even being played here (it’s being hosted by Poland and Ukraine), but the color orange is everywhere. The country has been consumed with “Oranjegekte“, aka “Orange craze”. Orange streamers and decorations have gone up on many streets, including ours, and Albert Heijn has discovered that if you dye any food orange, the Dutch will pay twice as much for it.

Predictably, you can’t turn on the TV without seeing commercials revolving around the tournament. Here is a nice one, by Grolsch beer. The song being played is the Dutch national anthem:

2 years ago, during the World Cup, Bavaria beer made the news by releasing an orange dress for women. Many women wore them to matches, and pictures of them appeared in the media around the world. Well, Bavaria is back this year with a new V (for Victory) dress.

Supermarket chain Albert Heijn has launched a competition between men (“Mannen”) and women (“Vrouwen”). You can go online and make predictions. At the end of the tournament, the gender that did better wins!

McDonald’s has gotten into the act too, with their new “EK Burger” (Euro Cup Burger). Here, they take on the rivalry between the Netherlands and Germany:

ING Bank released a very nice commercial as well. The chorus of the song is “Wij zijn samen” which means “We are together”, and the tagline “Oranje zijn we allemaal” means “We are all Orange” – “Oranje” being the nickname for the Dutch football/soccer team.

Finally, if you want to listen to a bit of Dutch “music”, have a go at this one:

 
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Posted by on June 8, 2012 in Spreek'ing Nederlands

 

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