Day 2: Amsterdam

This was the second day of our Europe trip and our second day in Amsterdam. We had not realized this when we booked the trip, but April 30 is a very special holiday in the Netherlands called Koninginnedag (Queen’s Day in English). Queen’s Day is a huge outdoor party, all over the city, and the city is filled with the color orange. People are dressed in orange and wearing orange crowns and other orange paraphenalia. There’s lots of music and partying and people in boats sailing down the canals while drinking and dancing on their boats. It’s quite a site to see.


While a huge crowd of people gathered in a park to attend a free concert, we went to the Van Gogh Museum.


Afterwards, we walked around the crowded city, looking for a non-crowded place to eat lunch. After a while we settled at a place called the Beems Brasserie, where I had a delicious Dutch beefsteak w/ pepper sauce and fries and Nicole had a club sandwich.


After lunch, we did a canal cruise and then had so
me great fries and mayonaise from a street vendor.


Incidentally, the city had some interesting “public urinals” out on the street.


One nice thing about Queen’s Day for us was that while everyone was partying outside, we easily slipped into the Anne Frank House, which normally is a very busy attraction.
The Anne Frank House, as you might expect, is a sobering experience and I definitely felt the irony of being in such a sad place while the rest of the city was partying outside.


While walking around, two orange-clad, gregarious Dutchmen engaged us in conversation. We as tourists of course stuck out like a sore thumb and they inquired where we were from. I mentioned that we were from California and interestingly, it turned out that one of guys had spent some time at Stanford, which is where I did my Master’s. Before leaving us, the two guys reached into the deep pockets of their cargo pants and gave us two bottles of Heineken. That tells you something about the atmosphere in Amsterdam on Queen’s Day.


One of the things that fascinated us most about Queen’s Day was the incredible amounts of trash everywhere.


We ate dinner that night at an Indian restaurant called Bollywood. The food was quite good and they had TVs showing Bollywood movies. We talked a bit with one of the servers, who spoke excellent English. Interesting that this guy spoke excellent Dutch, English, and probably a few Indian languages. Dutch folks in general tend to speak excellent English (at least the ones that a tourist tends to encounter) so getting around and getting info is pretty easy.

Day 1: Amsterdam

We finally made a first pass through the 2000+ pictures that we took on our recent trip to the Netherlands, Belgium, Paris, London, and Bath and I uploaded some of the better ones to Flickr. Here’s the first installment in a sort of travel log (accompanied by a few photos).


Our first day in Amsterdam was a bit of a blur since we were extremely tired after the long flight. After a minor adventure figuring out where to buy a strippenkaart for the tram (turns out you simply buy it at a little snack shop near the trams), we took the tram to Prinsengracht and walked a bit to our hotel (Dikker and Thijs Fenice Hotel). Then we walked around a bit, mostly around the Jordaan neighborhood, and had dinner at a nice little place called Café De Reiger. Then we walked to the hotel and went to bed early.



Going to Europe

It’s time for a vacation. In a few hours, we’ll be hopping on a flight to Amsterdam and we’ll be spending the next three weeks in the Netherlands, Belgium, Paris, and London.

We’re hoping to use the long flight and Nicole’s new video iPod to catch up on 24, for which we have managed to get 6 episodes behind.

See y’all later!

Tom Delay on Kosovo

Stumbled across a list of Tom Delay quotes. Assuming they’re real, they’re amusing. This one in particular caught my eye:

I cannot support a failed foreign policy. History teaches us that it is often easier to make war than peace. This administration is just learning that lesson right now. The President began this mission with very vague objectives and lots of unanswered questions. A month later, these questions are still unanswered. There are no clarified rules of engagement. There is no timetable. There is no legitimate definition of victory. There is no contingency plan for mission creep. There is no clear funding program. There is no agenda to bolster our overextended military. There is no explanation defining what vital national interests are at stake. There was no strategic plan for war when the President started this thing, and there still is no plan today.

Canon SD800IS

We just got a new Canon SD800IS, right before a trip to Europe (a few cities in the Netherlands and Belgium and Paris, and London).

We had a Canon S40 which served us well, but on our last trip while we were in Vancouver we started having trouble with the sliding lens cover and with the camera not turning on or powering itself off because of poor switch contact. I made some attempts to fix it and had limited success, but it’s not perfect and I’m not confident that it will continue to work reliably. So we figured we’d take the chance to upgrade and take advantage of the latest technology like image stabilization, orientation sensing, and ridiculously big memory cards that cost little more than a burrito.

I love the small, pocketable size. The user interface is snappy. It’s much quicker to turn this camera on and snap a photo since you don’t have to wait long for the barrel to extend and for the camera to “boot up”. Another feature that I dig is the orientation sensor – looking forward to not having to rotate photos that are taken sideways. With a 4 GB SDHC card, we have room for 1000+ pics at the highest resolution and medium compression. Newegg threw in a bonus 2 GB SD card with it too, so we should have plenty of room. Amusingly, the camera comes with a 16 MB SD card in the box, which is a joke. When the camera arrived, I popped it in and took 8 pictures before the card was full! I don’t know why they bother. I’d rather they not include the 16 GB card and knock a few bucks off the price that I could put towards a reasonably-sized memory card.

The thing that I don’t like about this camera so far are a few aspects of the build quality – namely the door over the battery and memory card compartment and even worse, the door over the USB and A/V ports. The hinges on these doors are extremely flimsy – shockingly so for what I’ve come to expect from Canon. Luckily, I probably won’t use the latter door very much, because otherwise I can’t imagine it lasting a week. The battery and memory card door is a tad sturdier but will get used a lot more so I’m a bit worried about that. Maybe I should pack some duct tape in my bag? 🙂

It will be interesting to see how the camera performs in the real world, on vacation. I am hoping that the small size and image stabilization will be features that I will appreciate a lot. And I hope that I don’t leave a broken-off battery door somewhere on the streets of Amsterdam…