Netherlands

All posts tagged Netherlands

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My start into a freelance business venture began in February and near the end of April I thought it was about time for some relaxing and traveling again. I departed off to Amsterdam for my second attempt at experiencing the city. I had doubts about going to the same place again in such a short time, but I also knew each time you visit a place the impression will be different! I was also very glad that the setting would be different; being in the beautiful harbor city with my girlfriend instead of a group of friends. The last visit also ended with a bitter and extended, complicated illness, so I wanted to go again and have a good end to it.

We decided to try out Airbnb for the first time. I had my worries about it working out smoothly, but it all worked out nicely when we arrived on the first day near the evening. We moved into a cozy, two story loft about 10 minutes by foot away from the center. We decided to keep a balance between cooking at home with local groceries from the food markets and eating out at restaurants.

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On the first evening we ventured into the center of the city to walk around casually, keeping an eye out for starting it all off with a great dinner and wine. We ended up in a steak house sharing a grill platter for two and some red wine to go with it. Laughing and enjoying the first hours away from our daily life back home was priceless.

We wobbled back home having had a good time and trying to stay conscious of the bicycle bullets flying by us slow and dumb pedestrians.

On the second day we hopped on the city tram buying a 24 hour ticket, knowing we wanted to make a lot of distance and see more of the sights. We started out towards the museum district, then Vondel Park, and back through the city center. The friendly driver gave us our card and we were on the way.

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We strolled through the museum grounds with an amazing tasting, fresh-squeezed fruit juice from the super market. We checked the ingredients and it was 100% biological and natural. We ended up buying a lot of different varieties of juice during our stay.

Neither of us was interested in any of the current exhibitions, so we decided to leave towards the Vondel Park, to lie outside and have some food. The park is very large (47 hectares / 120 acres) with many people, but also quiet niches where one can relax. I find that the Dutch are very culturally diverse, and they were always friendly to us. We also never had a language barrier problem, everyone seemed to speak English fluently.
We walked towards the center and stopped at a Cafe with tables right next to the canal. We had coffee and mozzarella and tomato sandwiches, and chocolate cake with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream. Hey it’s a holiday after all!

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The Dutch and Amsterdam lifestyle really “spoke to us” both. I always feel positively uplifted just being in the city. We continued to get “lost” and walked endlessly along the canals until we checked the clock and decided to head to the Albert Cuyp Market in the De Pijp district. They had an amazing variety of fresh produce; the vegetables and fruit all tasted great for acceptable prices. The smell of freshly baked waffles and mini pancakes filled the strolling crowd’s noses. Other ready-to-eat dishes were pickled herring, kebab sandwiches, sausages and potato chips. We thought a giant red snapper fish would be a good choice for dinner, with a seaweed, mango, tomato, zucchini, mushroom curry and rice.

The next day, on our way to a fairground in the city, we spotted the Bodies exhibit, which we both heard good things about. They take bodies of deceased people, who donated their flesh for science, and then make a biological exhibition of the parts. We decided to go there the next day, and both found it fascinating and would understand why so many have recommended seeing it.

At the fair we got on a Ferris wheel to get some nice aerial shots.

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Back on the ground, we proceeded through some small shops in the twisting maze of alleys and partook of some street food. We were in a lot of hip shops, 10 minutes from the central train station, with UV decorated gadgets and clothing.

On our last day we decided to visit the zoo. The park and animal enclaves were built with a lot of space and were clean. There was enough to do and see and we didn’t expect to spend almost the whole day there. It was busy, but not overfilled or crowded, and it offered a big variety of animals!

The last day we consumed the last of our groceries and stayed up the night to catch our flight back home at 6 in the morning. Sleep deprivation, tight airplane seats and the most obnoxious seat partners behind us rounded off our vacation. Thankfully the flight back wasn’t very long.

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Amsterdam 2013

Landing at the airport in Schiphol with a tingling sensation of excitement, a spontaneous 3 day vacation with friends was waiting in Amsterdam. We boarded the train heading to the central station to meet up with the others who arrived a day earlier. We got a great deal on a houseboat, just 10 minutes slow strolling distance from the center of town. A bedroom and couch bed provided enough living space to be called home for a short time – plus smoking was allowed inside, a big plus I suppose? The boat was surprisingly roomier than expected with high ceilings, another bonus for a big guy.

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The first thing I noticed was bicycles everywhere, all the time and at high speeds cutting through the city and up and over canals. The main train station alone had racks with ~4000 bikes chained to a 3 story parking garage, and the city is estimated to have a total of 900,000, yes it’s a lot. I enjoy mountain biking but it seemed a little bit scary to rent a bike and cruise through the city like the others, but in hindsight I do regret not doing it, I think I would’ve seen everything from a different perspective and have experienced more. Next time….

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We stopped by a few coffee shops, each having their own flair to them. A lot were packed and noticeably pricey establishments with elaborate decorations or glass floors with ornaments you walk over. Each place offered their own menu of smokeable treats, either in a bag or pre-rolled and ready-to-go. Most locals from what we observed just bought and left, understandable I guess, why hang out with the loud tourists walking around amazed by the relaxed drug laws, I am sure that becomes annoying after a while. Most shops offer a list of beverages and also good food. In the morning you can come for a cup of tea, coffee or breakfast items, in the day and towards the evening the selection widens to sandwiches and other meals when you get the munchies.

Other shops offered a more basic setup and were noticeably cheaper hole-in-the-walls. All they had were cans of soda, seating for 10 people on rundown wood furniture, and a small selection of low grade weed, which are probably top notch compared to what many think is good back at home. We eventually got tired of hopping around between the shops and continued on to stroll and take a bus through some of the streets.

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We stopped by the Heineken Brewery, which to be honest just wasn’t worth the money and an obvious tourist trap. I do feel like it’s the best beer in the world now because they convince you of that fairly quickly.

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I found the tiny 2 seat cars that fly by the streets and parks extremely funny for some reason. They were smaller than a smart car, built for tight streets and parking spaces, which I can imagine is very handy in this city.

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We continued on aimlessly through the canals and walked around in big circles at Vondel Park, where a lot of people were keeping up with their fitness routines; jogging and biking through the area, or couples romantically sitting around the endless benches under the shade of trees.

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I found the architecture of the city spectacular; the buildings all had very odd angles giving off a quirky illusion of leaning forward and sideways. At night a lot of the canals are lit with lights decorating the sides and the city is still very awake with a lot of people out and about. I noticed a lot of British people were there on vacation, which isn’t too surprising considering they aren’t too far away from the country.

The next day we stopped by the large Albert Cuyp market, that sells local food and cheap knockoff clothing. We loaded up on some supplies, mostly bread, dried meats and a few cheeses which the Dutch are famous for. After lunch and rest back at the houseboat, we planned our next visit to be at the NEMO Center, I wasn’t too thrilled by it because it didn’t seem like a very unique experience, but I didn’t have any better suggestions so I tagged along. It’s a great place for a couple or with your kids, there are a lot of scientific demonstrations with do-it-yourself devices that play with gravity, mirrors, water, games and sexual information. All spread out on 3-4 floors, in the middle a giant “Rube Goldberg” device that gets set off at certain times during the opening hours.

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It took about 2 hours to get through half-heartedly interacting with the displays when it wasn’t necessary to shove away some small pesky kids to have our own turn at childish fun.

After that we went to eat at the Sea Palace, a fitting name for a gigantic 3 story high, floating Chinese restaurant. The interior was very well designed with a lot of patrons at the tables. I don’t know much about the cuisine, but there were a lot of business men speaking Chinese on the table next to you so it seemed to be authentic. The menu was overwhelming with hundreds of choices, and it took a good half hour and a few appetizers and soups until we even knew what we were looking at, and half of our order was unknown until they were served, and even after consumption uncertainty remained. But still a delicious place to eat, although admittedly pricey in my mind.

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We took a longer stroll through the alleys on our way back to the houseboat, stopping by some small shops for postcards and t-shirts as gifts. The same night my friend and I visited a Goa party, which for me was obligatory to take advantage of while there, and the couple we were with had an evening to themselves. I stomped through the night in good spirits, with the music and visual projections next to me, until oddly enough the music all of a sudden stopped and the lights were turned on and the crowd clapped enthusiastically and left the building in a civilized manner. I guess that’s it, we were a bit perplexed because I am usually used to the music not stopping until the morning light. So we walked back through the cold night to our houseboat for the last night in Amsterdam.

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The next day we started off with some Irish breakfast in a pub, there wasn’t too much more we could think of doing. I was starting to get sick and wasn’t very motivated to do a lot besides walk around and enjoy some of the last hours in the sun of the summer near the canals, listening to the locals talking. Another place that was high on my to-visit list checked off, and I am happy for the experience I had. The only thing I would do next time is get a bike and explore more outside of the inner city canals. Also watch out for the bicyclists, they will run you over if you don’t look in all directions all the time!

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