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Category Archives: Places in Amsterdam

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!

 

Celebration: 100 posts, & Koninginnedag

This is my 100th post to this blog. Wow, that feels like a lot for someone who isn’t a writer, and doesn’t post that often. Anyway, on with the blog….

Yesterday was Koninginnedag in the Netherlands. Every blog about living in the Netherlands covers it, and indeed I posted about it last year. Thus, I’ll save you the re-hash, and just get right to it.

We met up with some friends, and started the day with pannenkoeken. From there, we just randomly walked around. This year, all big outdoor celebrations were banned from within the city-limits, so all of the DJs and big parties went outside of the city. That opened up some of the outdoor spaces, such as Marie Heinekenplein, Museumplein, and Leidseplein, for people to just walk through. Lots of people took blankets to Museumplein and just laid out in the sun.

Oh yes, the sun. The weather had been nothing but cold and rainy for weeks now, but yesterday it was absolutely glorious. The Queen could not have ordered better weather. It was 70 degrees F and sunny all day long, with nary a cloud in the sky. It’s back to being rainy today, but I’m happy we got 1 good day.

We visited Vondelpark, but it was overwhelmed with families, so we headed elsewhere. Upon leaving the park and going towards the Overtoom, we saw some creative decorations:

Legs

We stopped for a quick snack at Cafe Toom, and then headed towards the Jordaan district. As we turned onto the Prinsengracht canal, it was madness. Orange people everywhere, and boats floating by pumping out music.

Koninginnedag 1

We had some friends who were having a party, and they happened to have a roof deck right on Prinsengracht. Score! We stopped in, and watched the craziness from above.

Koninginnedag 2

Eventually, a drunk Dutchman came up onto the roof and started shoving people around, accusing us of pouring beer onto his baby down on the street. Nobody did, but he got us all off the roof and into the apartment. Still not a bad view, and a great way to wind down the day. We then biked home, and Roxy passed out on the bed while I grabbed a pizza from the Italian restaurant next door. The day was pretty much perfect.

This last picture has nothing to do with Queen’s Day, but I’ll share it anyway. It’s a variety of different Heineken bottles you can buy at the Heineken store between Waterlooplein and Rembrantplein.
Until next year!

Heineken Bottles

 

Not So Lazy Saturday

Most of the boxes are unpacked, and the apartment is finally looking like people live here. Except, of course, that the kitchen was torn out Friday in anticipation of the new one being installed on Tuesday.

One of the biggest reasons we moved was a desire to be closer to things. Since our new apartment is just across the Amstel from De Pijp, we decided to finally take advantage, and took Churchill to Sarphatipark for a walk. One corner of the park is reserved for dogs, and yesterday did not disappoint, as there were at least 7-10 dogs playing happily in the mud. Churchill joined the fray, and made lots of new friends. He also almost pooped on another dogs head. The joys of dog ownership.

On the way home, we stopped for a coffee, and then noticed that some sort of crew competition was taking place on the Amstel river. There is a crew club just up the street from us, so it wasn’t a total surprise to see them out on the river.

Crew on the Amstel

There must have been 20-30 boats out on the river, with people shouting instructions over loudspeakers. It was quite the scene.

We returned home, and I continued the work to finish setting up furniture and unpacking clothes. We finished off the night by dining at Sa Saeda, an Italian “ristorante” just up the street from us. One of the waitresses had waved at Churchill earlier as we walked by, and they were unsurprisingly very friendly as we dined there (sans dog). Later that night, as we took Churchill for his final walk, our waiter was outside unchaining his bike to go home. He recognized us immediately, and asked us if we enjoyed our pizza, then wished us a good night. We walked down a few streets we hadn’t been to yet, and found a few more restaurants to try. It’s nice to have a selection of nearby restaurants, and they will keep us busy until our new kitchen is installed.

Sunday, we’ll hopefully bike down to Gamma (a home-improvement store), and then we’re meeting a few new friends to see Hugo in 3D. This is exactly the sort of weekend I had in mind when I found this apartment.

 
 

Happiness is…

…A ‘shoarma lams met alles” (Lamb Shoarma with Everything) from the Dappermarkt on a cold day.

…Noticing that it looks like it’s going to rain, and popping into Coffee Company in Javaplein just as the rain begins to fall.

…Enjoying a cinnamon latte and discovering an English magazine, Lost & Found, with great photos and interesting articles.

…Finishing the coffee and magazine just as the rain stops, and cycling back home as the sun begins to peak out.

…Having our Thanksgiving meal with friends tomorrow, then heading to Hamburg, Germany for some work and then lots of beer and Christmas Markets.

I’m thankful to be right where I am, right at this point in time.

 
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Posted by on November 25, 2011 in Life in the Dam, Places in Amsterdam

 

C-Taste Amsterdam

On the last night Roxy’s parents were in town, we made reservations for C-Taste. In case you’re not familiar with it, it’s a “dining in the dark” restaurant. It was a place that my wife and I had wanted to try for a while, and her parents seemed intrigued.

When you arrive, you are asked to put your coats, cell-phones, and any other light-emitting devices into a locker. From there, the maitre d’ sits you down in a dimly lit lounge and explains how the restaurant works. The waiters are all visually impaired, so they are used to working where they cannot see. There is no menu, but you can tell the maitre d’ if you’d prefer no fish, no meat, or have any allergies. I choose no fish, and Roxy specified that she couldn’t have strawberries.

The waiter came out, and instructed me to put my hand on his shoulder. He led us through several layers of curtains, and around a corner, into complete darkness. Once we arrived at our table, he took each of us by the hand and directed us where to sit. The experience was somewhat surreal. I felt the table in front of me and found my silverware and napkin. Nothing else was on the table.

The meal is 3 courses, plus we were given 2 additional small plates with a few bites of food. You are not told what the food is, and not everybody gets the same thing. When the waiter brings the small plates, he holds them over your shoulder, and you must reach up and get them. The first time I did this, I put my fingers right into the food. It was cold and slimy like applesauce. It turned out to be some sort of gourd/squash that had been pureed. A bottle of water was brought to our table with glasses. Pouring water is difficult when you can’t see, so we stuck our fingers into the top of the glass, and poured until we could feel the water. Somehow, we managed to not spill anything. The same couldn’t be said for the table next to us, who evidently knocked over at least 1 glass of beer.

My first course was a cold steak. It proved to be impossible to cut with a fork and knife, so I just stabbed it with my fork and took bites out of it that way. So much for table manners when nobody can see you!

Overall, the food proved to be pretty good, and the experience was different. Your fingers will get dirty. There isn’t really a good way to tell when you have finished your plate, so I resorted to feeling around with my fingers sometimes. Then I’d discover an extra green bean or bit of ice cream still on my plate.

Being in pitch black for over an hour was a little unsettling. We had visited De Zotte, a Belgian beer bar, the night before, and I had enjoyed a fair number of high-alcohol beers. My chair in the restaurant had one leg slightly shorter than the other, so it kept rocking back and forth. That, plus the darkness, plus my hangover from the night before made me a little queasy. I had to close my eyes and sit still to avoid feeling nautious.

Overall, it was definitely an experience I won’t soon forget. The food was good, but not great. I would go back if somebody else wanted to go, but I can’t say it would be my first choice for dining out again.

 
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Posted by on October 21, 2011 in Places in Amsterdam

 

1 Year

Exactly 1 year ago today, my parents drove us to the airport and we said our goodbyes, as Roxy, the cat and I boarded our flight, and moved to Amsterdam. Due to the time zones and flying time, our 1 year anniversary of arriving in Amsterdam isn’t until tomorrow, but this is close enough.

In some ways, it doesn’t feel like we’ve lived here for a whole year. That sounds like such a long time. Of course, in that time, we have: spent 2 weeks back in the US, almost a whole week in the UK, 5 days in Rome, 4 days in Budapest, and 3 days in Brussels, plus visited Nijmegen, Den Helder, Maastricht, Rotterdam, Utrecht, and Haarlem, as well as drank beer at a monastery and visited a castle.

I’ve consumed countless Heinekens (it really does taste better here than it does in the US), developed a fondness for Trappist style beers, tried gluhwine, mixed Guinness with hard apple cider, and broken at least 2 glasses at bars.

I’ve pedaled my bike through the snow and the rain, as well as the occasional sunny day. I’ve almost been blown over by the gale-force winds that blow through the island we live on. We’ve BBQ’d in the park, consumed chocolate and waffles in Brussels, and wandered through several red light districts.

We’ve had our favorite Italian restaurant close, but we’ve discovered a place for great hamburgers, and one for authentic Mexican. I’ve strapped a small Christmas tree to the back of my bicycle, and eaten my fill of warm olieballen and stroopwaffles. I’ve also discovered the joy that is pannekoeken.

I feel like we’ve just barely scraped the surface of Amsterdam and Europe. We’re looking into buying a flat here, and plan on spending at least 4-5 more years here. If that time goes as fast as the past year has, we’ll be back in the US before we know it.

 
 

Wrap Ups & Hair Cuts

Nothing of particular interest in this blog post, just some quick updates to previous blog entries, in case any of you out in the blogosphere are wondering “Hmm, where did that Nether Regions guy get his hair cut?” I joke, but there is some element of truth to this. One of the most popular search terms that leads people to my blog is “Netherlands hair cuts”.

So, for your follicle curiosity, here’s the info: The first place I got my hair cut was nothing special. I’m not going back. The 2nd place happened to be open and available when I walked by on a public holiday. It’s run by a nice Italian man (favorite thing he told me: “People only trust Italians for 2 things: food and fashion.” I pointed out that they can make a pretty kick-ass car too, but I digress), and located in De Pijp. It’s called Alessio Hairways, at Van Woustraat 113, or call him at 020 676 1081. This is not a paid advertisement, just a happy customer.

A few months back I also posted about a bicycle-parking feud. The dude continued to move our bikes for a few weeks after that post. One day, Roxy and I came home to find a bakfiets parked in our spot. We ended up parking inside our storage closet in the back of the garage, and have been parking there ever since. It’s slightly annoying to have to unlock/lock the door to our closet to get our bikes out, but at least they’re safe in there. I’m still contemplating purchasing a ski-mask and doing a sneak attack on his door at 3am after moving out, but we’ll see what happens.

Finally, I met with a makelaar (real estate agent) today, and met with a mortgage guy a few weeks ago. It’s looking more and more like we’ll be buying an apartment here. I’m sure I’ll post about the process as we experience it.

It’s been pretty rainy here lately, but it only rains when I want to go somewhere. As soon as I get home, the sky clears and the sun shines…at least until it’s time to take Churchill outside, then the storm clouds start to gather. Mother Nature hates me.