I Heart Amsterdam

I Heart Amsterdam

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Day Trip To Gouda Pt 3.

(This is the canal where I took a little dip looking for a lost bicycle key)

An older gentlemen wandered over to us, as I was wiping my legs clean of muck. One of the girls told him what had happened and how I tried retrieving the key. It turns out he was an artist of some sort, with his studio right next door to us. Maybe he could help he suggested and off he and Poppy went to come up with something while Maren, Molly and I just stood there all defeated looking down into the canal. Poppy came back a few minutes later with a piece of string with a large circular doughnut magnet on the end. Looks like we are fishing.


This time the plop was the sound of the magnet hitting the murky water below as Poppy starting fishing and while the rest of us simply crossed out fingers. No luck. Plop......Plop...... Plop. This isn't working. Maybe the magnet isn't strong enough. Maybe the key doesn't have enough metal. Most likely the key has sunk well below the mud where we can reach. I decided to give Poppy a break and give it a try.

Plop. Plop. Plop......

I tossed the magnet into the water a little off to the side where the bike was above, thinking that sometimes objects don't always sink straight down, but sway back and forth in the water. I felt a little tug on the key and I though I had snagged it on something, for as I began reeling the string back in the line was heavier. When the magnet breached the water, I saw what appeared to be decaying leaves on the end (yuck) and I grabbed the magnet to clean it off.

"Oh My GOD!!!!" Poppy screamed. I then realized that I had just reeled the key up over the railing, onto the sidewalk. It actually work and we had the key! We all roared with laughter and utter delight, hugging and jumping all around. Tears of joy, relief, and laughter abound. I think it is say to say that none of us could believe that this actually worked, but that didn't matter anyhow. What mattered is that we had the key.

Poppy took the key, cleaned it off and after the bike was unlocked, we set off on our ride back to Rotterdam....but the story doesn't end there.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Day Trip To Gouda Pt 2.

Plop. That is not the sound you want to hear when you are standing over or next to a body of water and you are holding valuables. Plop.

Maren, Molly, Poppy and I all just stood there and stared at the ripples in the water, not believing what had just happened, looking over the railing into the water that is 5 feet below us, water that is stagnant and putrid.

A rush of emotions all at once hit us. We went from jolly to panicked in seconds. What were we going to do??? Poppy's bike can not be moved, we are far from home, and we don't have a spare key.

Poppy said she would go into the canal and fetch the key. Gross. Who knows how deep the water was, what was actually in there, and also we weren't really even sure where the key had sunk to. I told her I would go in. There was no way I would let Poppy or anyone else go in there. If it had to be someone, then it had to be me.

Off came my shoes. Then my socks. Up rolled my pants and I climbed over the rail and put my toes into the sludge. This was going to be awful. I held my breathe and stepped down.

The water was cold and all I felt was mud and rotting leaves. I put my feet a little deeper but I was not hitting the bottom. I had mud up to my knees and I was still sinking. Air bubbles engulfed my body and I had to find a way to stop sinking. I held onto the railing for dear life. This was going to be trickier than I thought. I needed some sort of plan.

There appeared to be a stone or concrete piling in the mud below Poppy's bike. I thought maybe I could stand on that because obviously what I was doing wasn't working. Maybe I could use that to plant myself on and then use one foot to feel around the muck. What seemed like a good plan really wasn't. I stepped onto the stone and then gradually placed my weight down and as I did this the stone just started sinking and never stopped. Here I am, hanging on for dear life and my legs covered in mud...what a sight to behold.

A middle aged woman walking by noticed us and asked in good English what happened and what was I doing in the disgusting canal. When we told her the a bike key had fallen into the canal below and the bike was still locked and I was trying to fetch it she simply chuckled. "If I was younger I would just pick the lock for you" she said, giving us the impression that A) this isn't the first time she had lost her own key and B) she is too old to steal bikes and C) we are on our own. We asked about local bikes shops but it being almost 5pm now they were all closed. She went on her way. "What about the police?" we asked her but she said they wouldn't be able to do much. We were out of ideas but I knew I at least needed to get out of this muck.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Day Trip To Gouda Pt 1.

Maren, Poppy, Molly, and I headed off on a bike adventure that will be forever embedded in my mind. Our destination was the town of Gouda (How-da) the place where some of the tastiest cheese is made.

After a good breakfast and quick bike check/map check, we left the Hotel Baan in the morning full of smiles. To get to Gouda from Rotterdam, we would be winding our way through small towns along bikes paths and canals. It is about 15 kilometers away with the sun on our backs the whole way there.

Getting there was no problem. What I love about riding bikes in the Netherlands is that you just figure it out as you go. There are so many bike routes so you just choose one, ride to the end of it, then jump on another. All you have to do is follow the signs. Easy right? Maybe not. But we did make it there, passing swans and old bicycle lovers along the way.

The town of Gouda is a very small town medieval town, with St. Jans Kerk Cathedral (built 16th C) in the middle. This cathedral is the longest crossed shaped church in the Netherlands and also houses the beautiful and tall Gouda stained glass windows depicting famous Biblical stories. We parked our bicycles along a canal and we out for a bite, in dire need of some beer and cheese.

The famous cheese market is still held each Thursday, but since we were there on a weekend we missed it. Instead, we went cheese shopping in the local markets, sampling cheeses that we 30 or even 50 years old and unbelievably delicious. I could write and write about the cheeses, but I'll spare you the details of that. All I will say is that I have never in my life had such amazing cheese and that the Gouda cheese in the US is awful compared to real Gouda cheese from Gouda.

Of all the places to run into people, we ran into Pei and Sue and joined them for lunch. They had taken the train there, about a 25 minute ride over our 90 minute bike ride.

After filling our bellies and saying goodbye, we went to the Cathedral and after giving a donation, took a self guided tour of the inside. I am still blown away by the beauty of these windows, windows that survived WWII because the townspeople hid them from the Nazis after they were invaded.

After an amazing day spent in Gouda it was time to head back to Rotterdam for we had a group activity planned that evening where we were going to share our travel experiences from the weekend previous (where Maren, Poppy and I went to Utrecht [another story soon to come]). Checking our bags, and after rolling up our pant legs we were almost ready when I hear a PLOP.

Hummm? Plop. I glance over the railing into the canal and see ripples in the water. I look over at Poppy and she is pale white. She just dropped her only bike lock key into the murky, stank, canal. It is gone and her bike is still locked, unrideable.

Friday, December 31, 2010


I traveled back home to California last week to see my family, spending Christmas and my birthday with my loved ones. It didn't occur to me that most of these people haven't seen me since my trip, which means that I had the opportunity to share over and over again the highlights of this trip, reliving and retelling the stories of bike rides, amazing food, and great company.
What I had a hard time doing was finding just a few thing to tell them, limiting myself to a few stories. As most people know about me, I can go on and on about Gouda cheese and Genever, or in other situations Libraries or Tequila. I get passionate about things I love and I live to share this passion with others.
So what did I tell them....
I told them about the Eramus University and Trent's Lectures.
I told them about Suzette.
I told them about the cheese.
I told them about the windmills.
I told them about the different cities, from Amsterdam to Delft to Rotterdam.
I told them about the friends I made
and finally....
I told them that I can't wait to go back.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

De Pannenkoekenboot

09/05/10 Sunday

The Pancake Boat Ride and John Baan Private Boat Tour

Upon filling our belling with several Dutch style pancakes with various toppings, we were walking back to the Hotel Baan with me as the leader. I decided to dip down closer to the canal locks to see if there were any boats going through. Peering over the edge right in front of me was John Baan and his family: Gabriela, his wife, and his two youngest boys Dominque and Fabian. Let’s not forget Chet, the dog too. I don’t think anyone even knew he had a boat. We said hello and the next thing you know is that he asked if I wanted to go on a cruise in the harbor! This was an opportunity I couldn’t refuse. Mariah joined me and we met John at the end of the dock.

This weekend happens to be the annual Harbor Days Festival. All different boats were in the bay as well as various demonstrations from the rescue helicopters and naval ships. Along the boardwalks were booths set up for games and food. A huge fireworks display started the festival, similar to our first night in Amsterdam with the Tall Boat Festival.

John is an excellent tour guide, who has so much to say about the city of Rotterdam and its history. He is also very knowledgeable about the buildings histories, pointing out various aspects about their design and architecture.

John took our tour away from the bay and back into the canals of Rotterdam where he handed me a Schulten Brau and we cheers to the beautiful weather and wonderful boat ride. Prost. The boys did their part too, handing me massive amounts of candies, some black licorice-like kinds that we made figures out of before consuming.

One of the best things about this trip is that the two boys only speak Dutch. Here we are, on a boat drinking beer and eating licorice, and I am trying to communicate with them. Gabriela and John just loved my engagement with them. The boys taught me words in Dutch by pointing to a swan and saying it over and over. I would then repeat it back to them and they would giggle. Mermaid. Swan. Mermaid. Giggle Giggle. The boys were comfortable with me too, even sitting in my laps as John navigated our ways through the various canals. The boys were always touching me, establishing a kind of trust. It was sweet actually and I wish we had this sort of thing back in the states. I think it is because they have seen how I interact with their parents, so the boys are comfortable with me too, as an extension of their parents John and Gabi.

We made our way back to the Hotel Baan several hours later with a wonderful memory of just how hospitable these people really are. I miss them so much.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


08/30/2010 Sitting at the laundromat in Rotterdam. 24 minutes until my clothes are dry...

After Trent's lecture today I went looking for a bike and I found one! It's perfect! A junky, rickety, rusty Giant...Fenders...Back wheel lock built in...Bike rack with elastic bands...Commuter... A god-awful gold color.
I named her Suzette.

She has a few gears, 7 in all, and has a wheel generator light on the front. Upon her purchase, the bicycle shop owner threw in an extra lock for me. She cost me 140E. Not bad actually. Not bad at all.

Suzette is an interesting comparison to that of the bikes we had rented from the Bicycle Hotel. Those were very industrial cruise style bikes, heavy but great for around the slow and crowded streets of Amsterdam. Rotterdam on the other hand is more open and has faster riding, though I will still be sticking with cruising.

Oh something I failed to mention about the Maren, Molly, and my North Sea bike trip...
"Amsterdam is the Shit" - so says a young villager who's Moped ran out of petrol along the fietspad. He sought shelter from the crazy storm under the roof overhang.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

First Day in Rotterdam

08/30/2010 Hotel Baan. Day One.
I woke up this morning in my single room feeling refreshed and excited. It was 7:00am when I got up and figuring no one else would be awake I grabbed my Rotterdam map and headed out for a walk. I made my way along the canal to Het Part (The Park) which is located near the Euromast.
The buildings are definitely more modern in architecture and not at all as intriguing as the classic Dutch style. Sometimes I would see something reminiscent to our Central Library back in Seattle, designed by Rotterdam's own Rem Koolhaus. Other buildings in the Netherlands that stood out in its modern nature were NISV, NEMO, Open Bare Bibliotheek. Here in Rotterdam, I thought there would be a lot more of this kind of architecture, but so for not as much. Still some very beautiful buildings, and the Erasmus Bridge, also known as the Swan for its elegance, is simply breathtaking.
The pathway to Het Park, and in particular the Fietspad (bicycle path) was screaming at me to get on. I can't wait to purchase a bicycle!
When I got back to the Hotel Baan, Trent and Cheryl were in the lobby having breakfast. I sat down and had breakfast....coffee and several cups of it, apple, banana, two hard boiled eggs, strawberry yogurt, toast with cheese and salami. Good way to start the day and my next three weeks in Rotterdam.