Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Amsterdam Revisited....In Search of Tulips

I had the opportunity to take a trip to Amsterdam and the surrounding area again this past weekend.  A chance to see the tulips that I missed out on two weeks ago....or so I hoped.  Plus, the tour was with a group that would also visit Delft and Volendam with a very knowledgeable and entertaining guide.  Did I mention that it was also my first weekend away from my one year old daughter!  A much needed break for Mom :)

Our first stop was Delft, but along the way we stopped or at least drove by some very old windmills.

Delft was a sweet little city famous for its blue and white ceramic wares.  And Hello sunshine...Finally felt like Spring!

Souvenir shop selling the famous blue & white wares

Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) Protestant Church in  Delft Market Square

Decorative and colorful wooden tulips (for sale everywhere) with Delft  wares in the background

A view from behind City Hall with bikes parked everywhere
Next we headed to the Keukenhof Gardens with our fingers crossed that the tulips would be in bloom.  Well, since Spring didn't arrive in Europe until this week, the tulips were not really blooming.  There were a couple early varieties showing colorful blooms and tons of Crocus.  However, they had several indoor displays of flowers - one whole building full of tulips.  Enough for me to take over 100 pictures of flowers ;)

Flower beds of green awaiting us

Crocus making it feel like Spring

Some early tulips

One of my favorites

Colorful blooms abound....inside

Happy faces

The colors are so amazing!

Tulips, outside, in a bowl of course

Souvenir wooden clogs

My windmill shot (like the popular ones you can imagine) not so colorful
Next onto the hotel, on the North Sea, in Ijmuiden.  What an interesting place, especially in the off season.  We arrived at dusk and right before dinner so I unfortunately didn't get a chance to wander over to the WWII bunker tucked into the sand dunes.  However, I did wake up early the next morning so I could walk over to the North Sea beach.  Wish I had more time to explore this misty, sleepy seaside.  The little cottages along the beach look so very interesting (Trip Advisor has some better pictures as does Google).

View from hotel room, overlooking the harbor

Eerie & empty, the beach had about a dozen restaurants lining the dune

A lonely empty beach in the off season

Beach parking for bikes - love this!
We left Ijmuiden at 8am and headed to the rain wondering if the sun would shine.  Once in Amsterdam, I decided to wait in line for the Anne Frank House Museum, which I highly recommend, but order tickets online in advance.  The weather was overcast and wet (unlike the forecast reported) so no reason not to see this historical land mark.  Afterwards I wandered around by myself (a sweet indulgence, concerned only with what I wanted, how rare!) and stopped into my favorite restaurant Greenwoods for a cappuccino   Amsterdam is such a beautiful and friendly city.

The Anne Frank House Museum (very busy)

Prinsen Canal

One of my favorite restaurants, Greenwoods, great food and energy
Condom Shop in the Red Light District 

Looking toward the Central Railway Station 

After a few hours in Amsterdam we all met back up and headed to the home of Edam cheese, Volendam about a half hour away.  This is a cute little seaside gem of a tourist trap.  Here one can walk along the water and a smattering of tourist shops.  I highly recommend making your way past the tourist shops and stopping into the antique/second hand clothing store, BLIJ! aan de dijk located at Zuideinde 9.  The town itself is quaint and small with a great seaside view.

Seaside (makes me long for Lake Michigan)

Alley way with the sound of chickens clucking

Tons of restaurants mixed in along the stores

Boats galore of all shapes and sizes
A really great trip, well deserved and much needed vacation for this mom.  So much to see and do as the time continues to fly by....


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Staying Connected

Living in a foreign country where you don't know the language can sometimes feel like living in a bubble at least when it comes to knowing what is going on in the news locally.  I normally found the evening news depressing back home, but still had many other sources of information.

A couple sources for those of you living in Germany and wanting German news (in English!)......

The Spiegel - a popular German magazine has a small condensed English version on their website

The Local - German news in English


I'm still trying to read the German newspapers, watch films and listening to German radio in an effort to learn the language...honestly I naively thought learning German would be easier.  HA!


Friday, April 5, 2013


A long weekend in the world famous Amsterdam.  Known for its canals, tulips, bikes, cheese, pancakes, the red light district and yes, decriminalized marijuana - all these reasons had people from all over the globe flocking there this past holiday weekend.  Many who were hoping to see tulips, were undoubtedly  let down with temperatures not nearly warm enough and yes, snow flurries on Saturday and Sunday morning - much to my dismay.  Where is Spring anyway!
Bike Parking outside Central Station - A sight to be seen

Regardless, we made the best of our time and crammed in as much as Hannah would allow ;)  *Yes, there are lots of traveling with toddlers and the art of learning to readjust your expectations stories behind that smiling face.  Live and learn.

We arrived by train on Friday afternoon, bundled up and ready to experience Amsterdam and all it's glory.  The city is beautiful, so much more European than Frankfurt, but then that is not hard to do.  We promptly made dinner reservations for the whole weekend - since it was Easter weekend places were bound to be packed and well, Travis doesn't like it when I turn into Betty White because I am hungry!

Next we were off wandering around, in search of the infamous Dutch Pancake.  We wandered along a meandering coffee shop filled shopping street taking in all the sights and yes, the pervasive aroma of Mary Jane.  So very different than any place we have been.  Pancakes were not hard to locate either - YAY!

On Saturday we rented bikes - to Hannah's dismay as it was pretty chilly and the cold air hitting her face seemed to be an instant switch for screaming.  So the bikes didn't last very long and we found our way back to the hotel so that she could nap for two hours.  *Expectation adjustment #1: yes, we are sitting in a quiet hotel room in Amsterdam reading, not out enjoying the sights - deal with it and be glad she is napping before taking her all over the city again and then sitting through a dinner.  She really is a great traveler.

We crammed in as much as we could on Saturday with the luxury of our wheeled transportation and custom sound effects, thank you Hannah.  All in all it wasn't so bad, when the wind stilled.  We made it to the floating flower market and cheese store.  Must sees.
Tulips and Flowers and more Tulips
Flower Bulbs
More bulbs....creating angst for Spring!
Cheese - Gouda my favorite
We also made it to the Albert Cuyp Market - not my favorite.  After returning the bikes we had dinner at the Haesje Claes restaurant that had good reviews on Trip Adviser.  Did I mention that everyone speaks English and the people are SO friendly.  I loved it.  A breath of warm fresh air coming from Frankfurt.

*Expectation adjustment #2:  It is 8pm and we are sitting in the dark hotel room staring at each other as Hannah sleeps peacefully.  OK, reading too and drinking the bottle of wine we picked up, but each thinking and feeling like WOW! here we are in Amsterdam, once in a life time trip, hanging out in the hotel room.  Be glad she is sleeping and so peacefully in an unfamiliar place.  It could be worse!

Sunday was equally as cold, less windy and significantly sunnier - YAY!  We walked everywhere from the north of the city (?) near Central Station to the southern (?) area to Vondel Park, a great big park with a couple nice cafes.  Then back again....for Hannah's nap.  Although she can sleep in the back pack and did for an hour, a little more rest before dinner seemed ideal.

The Cheese Museum & Shop
The Tulip Museum & Shop

Church near Vondel Park

I recommend the Cheese Museum, the guys in there are very nice and the cheeses are well, delicious.  Also, I very highly recommend eating at Greenwood's on the Singel Canal and at the De Bakkerswinkel (a few locations).  We visited the Nemo Science Museum for kids - a very cool museum however, crazy busy with kids everywhere since it was a holiday.  The building alone is something to see.  If you have kids then I definitely recommend making a stop here.

We really enjoyed walking around the canals and looking at the architecture.  There is never a bad time for a coffee and pancake :)


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Language & Laughs

One has to be able to laugh at oneself and see the humor in life.  Sometimes I find myself laughing out loud at I did today after completing a Google translation for something that I've been seeing in the produce section at the local Rewe grocery store.

On all of the produce signs there is listed the name, price and country of origin.  This time of year few things besides apples are from Germany.  So buying local can be difficult, but this is very important to me so I do my best to buy local or at least from close neighbors.  Most fruits and veggies are arriving from Spanien (Spain), Italien (Italy), Argentinien (Argentina), Peru, Süd Afrika (South Africa), etc.  There are many labels, at least at Rewe that read Declaration of Etikett???

Organic (Bio) Lemons from Spanien (Spain)
These Oranges appear to be from "Declaration of Etikett"???

I had never heard of "Declaration of Etikett" before and this bothered me.  So much of the produce had this where others listed a familiar country.  Not to mention this "Declaration of Etikett" was growing everything from eggplants and potatoes to onions and lettuce and strawberries.  I was baffled and needed to know where on the globe this place was that was growing so much - sounded exotic.

So, I consulted Google.  No results.  So then I found my way to Translate and typed in "Declaration of Etikett".  Drum roll please......Etikett = Label.  HAHAHA!!!!  Yes, I laughed out loud at myself.  This is not a place after all, but just a generic label for the rapidly overturning stock of produce from wherever the label reads.  HA!

Well, there is my cultural language lesson of the week.  Still giggling on the inside ; )