Some notes and photos from Amsterdam during our recent trip to Europe:
The Hague for the most part is a modern city and is not super interesting from a touristy point of view. We spent most of our time at a place called Madurodam which is a park with lots of impressively realistic miniature models of various places in the Netherlands.
My day was spoiled a bit when some bird decided to take a poop on my head.
After walking around a bit more in the Hague, we took a train to the nearby town of Delft, where we met up with my friend Lieven, who is an associate professor of quantum mechanics.
Day 4 in Amsterdam and we made a day trip to the nearby town of Haarlem. Haarlem is a very laid back and relaxing place, especially when compared to the crowds in Amsterdam for Queen’s Day.
Highlights included a canal cruise, a church, more Flemish fries, and visiting a “coffee shop” called “High Times”.
Unfortunately, something went screwy with either our camera or our SDHC card and a bunch of the pictures that we took somehow got corrupted. Lame.
For dinner, we went to an Indonesian place called Puri Mas and had the traditional rijsttafel (Indonesian “rice table”). Most of the dishes were excellent, although there were a couple of lamb dishes and we’re not huge fans of lamb. Some of the dishes were spicy but nothing overly so for me.
The third day of our Europe trip and our third day in Amsterdam. We spent most of the day in Keukenhof – a place that could best be described as a “flower park”.
We took the tram to the Amsterdam Centraal station and then took a train to Leiden and from there a bus to Keukenhof. At the Leiden train station, I noticed a particularly impressive number of parked bicycles.
It was a very flower-filled day.
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.
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.
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!