I Heart Amsterdam

I Heart Amsterdam

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.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Bicycle Trip to the North Sea

#6 08/28-29/2010 First Free Weekend

It is about time I went on a bike ride. Maren, Molly, and I set off on our first bicycling adventure this weekend. The destination was the North Sea aka Nord Sea about 20 kilometers (I think) away. After toast with Gouda and salami, a bowl of cereal and several cups of coffee, we set out early morning on what was to become one amazing journey.

Our route out of Amsterdam took us through Vondelpark (where I went running one morning) to the outlaying West Side of Amsterdam. After only 15 minutes on the bicycle I was already in unfamiliar territory, diligently following our fearless leader Molly. I didn’t bring a map figuring if we just head west we would eventually find the sea. Good plan with no apparent flaws in it.

30 minutes or so into the ride a storm crossed our paths and we sought shelter under a roof overhang on the side of a house with no one home. There were no other homes anywhere else along the path for many kilometers so we were lucky to find this one when we did. Shortly thereafter, we were joined by a teenager who was seeking a respite from the pounding rain, which was now showing full force with earth moving, fierce thunder and vibrant lightning.

After light fun conversation with this village local and with the rain abating, we continued our journey westward. We came upon a small Jewish cemetery, with remarkable bone chilling tombstones. The dates on many of the tombstones were dated around the Second World War. I am getting goose bumps just thinking about this as I write because it was truly a remarkable place. Unfortunately, it was the Sabbath so we were not allowed to enter.

We continued our bicycle ride through the town of Haarlem (the original town from which Harlem in the United States got its name from). This town is where the Frans Hals is from and many Dutch Masters are associated with, as well as amazing beer and cheese makers. Riding through this town was wonderful and seeing the Saint Bavo Cathedral (where Mozart played the pipe organ when he was ten) at its town center was truly remarkable. I loved how the Gothic cathedral towers over all the other buildings and how all roads seem to lead directly to it. On our way back we spent time exploring this town in more detail, going to the Frans Hal Museum and Saint Bavo, where I purchased a pint of beer made from the original 15th century church recipe (which I later tried with friends in Rotterdam and damn right it was good).

To get to the Nord Sea you first have to ride through sand dunes and as we approached the wind was blasting away at us, to an almost crawl on our bicycles. Determined as we were we just pedaled our single speeds and eventually found the sea.

The coastline was ragged and there was a smattering of small seashells covering the white soft sands. It was the softest sand I have ever felt and its color was as beautiful as ivory. Maren, Molly, and I just stood and stared, letting the wind and mist lap our faces as we took in the salty sea breeze on our faces.

I was admittedly very hungry and we made our way to the beach café where we had some delicious lunch and espresso with caramel bits. Once recharge went took a stroll on the beach, wading into the water and feeling the cold, cold sea on my toes. This was the first time I have ever touched the waters of the North Sea and I told myself there and then that it wouldn’t be the last. I then collected some sea shells for my loved ones.

On the way to the sea we pasted the Dutch Honorary Cemetery for the Dutch Resistance, where brave Dutch men fought for their lands in World War 2, using the sand dunes as their protection. We decided that we must see this and pay our respects for the fallen soldiers and I am so glad we did.

Our ride back home was lot easier with the wind on our backs. We spent a lot of time in Haarlem, as I said earlier, and then eventually Maren and I made our way home, leaving Molly in Haarlem to spend some time by herself.

This memory is one of my fondest of my time spent in Amsterdam and I am thankful I had the opportunity to spend it with such good people.

Here is a little slideshow of this day trip. Enjoy.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

Today we had a field trip to a city called Hilversum, a short train ride away from Amsterdam, to take a tour of the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision (NiSV).
Here is their website (http://instituut.beeldengeluid.nl/index.aspx?ChapterID=8532).
The NiSV is the home of the national broadcasting archives and houses the largest audio-visual archives in all of Europe! While this may sound impressive, take a look at what the actual facility looks like....

Our group was divided into two groups and we then had a private tour of the facility. It is hard to not have chills when walking down the halls of this place, and this is not only because it is below ground for the archives requires a colder temperature for storage life, but because of the ingenious design.

After our tours we then had a lecture by Roelant Ordelman on a project he is working on involving incorporating digitizing audio and aspects of social tagging. One problem he faces in his work is the disparity of user and technology and he is hoping to fix this by making social tagging a sort of community tagging. In doing this, he is bringing together the wisdom of unnamed experts and thus capturing relevant data and linking this with archival data at NiSV. Simply awesome! One other little tidbit was the Rock N Roll Multimedia Project where viewers tag their favorite artists and in doing so you create a network of clips that you can search for.

Anyway, this trip was simply incredible. Here are some more photos of that day...

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Moonlit Run

I am fortunate to have great roommates here at the Bicycle Hotel. They are kind, nice, understanding, and respectful. Here is the BUT, one of them snores more than I can handle. Oh well. Two day into the trip and I still haven’t slept.

Still dark and unsure what time it was I decided I should go on a run to Vondelpark, a “sprawling equivalent to New York’s Central Park” as the Netherlands guidebook states. After getting into my running shoes, my Vibram’s Fiverfingers, I noticed it was only 5am. Why bother just lying there staring at the ceiling so out I went…

It was still very dark and very quiet. There is nothing like exploring a city when the city is still asleep. You see things a little differently this way. No hustle and bustle, no one to get in your way. I turned my headphones on and listened to Gayngs songs.

Upon arrival to the park, which is by the Museum Center or Musuemplein, where you would find the Van Gogh and the Rijsmuseum, Massive Attacks ‘Mezzanine’ began to play. I think this was the perfect soundtrack for the dark and eerie morning, for the park was empty and lit only by lamps with the fountains still turned off sleeping like the rest of Amsterdam. The moon was my flashlight.

The park is filled with ponds and was intended to be an ideal place for strolling and riding bicycles and picnicking all set in an urban area. It does exactly that. All in all I ran about 6 miles, zigzagging my way around the park. I saw maybe six other runners and a handful of cyclist casually riding by.

Running is the perfect time for reflection and I have done some of my best thinking during the many hours I have spent on various trails. Here in Amsterdam at Vondelpark, this is no exception. I often run after lectures for it helps me evaluate them more clearly. I have heard that you tend to remember things better if you exercise. Actually I heard this from John Medina’s book Brain Rules where one of the rules is that “Exercise Improves Cognition.” So that’s what I do and I have found that this works for me.

So I spent much of this run thinking about our lecture from Paul Wouters of Virtual Knowledge Studio (http://virtualknowledgestudio.nl/). His lecture titled ‘E-Research: Scope and Implications’ brought up several interesting points about information research but the one in particular that stood out to me most was this question “Is data being simplified too much?” He went to also ask if the data deluge makes the scientific method obsolete. These are interesting points to ponder over and I find myself still thinking about them each day as I deal with information theories and concepts. Are we simplifying data too much? Is this helping or hindering us?

All in all my moonlit run was an amazing experience that I would not have done on my own in such a way. Really though, I owe it all to my roommates snoring and my inability to tune it out. Thanks Karl. I owe you one. I really mean that too.

PS. Here is the song that started playing when I entered the park at 5:15 am with only the moon lighting my way. Beautiful.

Where the 'I amsterdam' photo is from

08/25/2010 Wednesday…

Greta and I set off for the Van Gogh Museum after lecture this afternoon. We were determined to find out what exactly this Museum Card thing was and hopefully see this Dutch master. Apparently for 39 Euros, or $44 US, the Museum Card, MC, is a free pass into over 400 different museums all over the Netherlands. I am a museum nerd; I love going to them and I love going often. The thing is, however, is that I like to go for only snippets of time, maybe 2 hours here, 3 hours there, and never for a full day. The idea of a full day is too overwhelming and I would be likely to suffer a form of information overload. Fortunately for me I found out that Greta is the same way, so Museum buddies we quickly became.

We decided to take the Tram to the park area called Museumplein. It is called this is because not only is the Van Gogh Museum there but also the Rijksmuseum and Stedelijk Museum and the Concertgebouw. On the Tram Greta was approached by an older Israeli couple, tourists just like ourselves, who were headed to the Van Gogh Museum and needed help finding it. They weren’t sure where they were in relation to the museum. Amsterdam is a very confusing city to tourist because of the narrow roads, long long street names, and canals. Luckily, the Israeli couple asked the perfect people because that’s where we were headed, plus we are “Information Professionals” :) Before our eyes our group of two just doubled into four.

I walked side by side with the woman as we neared the Museumplein, talking to her about my time spent in Israel. I had traveled there for two weeks, going all over the country one summer back in high school. It was nice hearing her talk about what it is like there now, versus my time there over ten years ago. Talking to her made me want to go back. We finally said goodbye to our new Israeli friends and parted ways as we hit the Museumplein, Greta and I going left while they went right. The park center was enormous and there were people setting up for some big festival.

We made our way into the museum and wandered for a few hours inside. Sadly, you are not allowed to take photos. The museum was completely packed and it was hard to see some painting up close, but even still, I was amazed at just what I was seeing. I couldn’t believe I was seeing the real paintings of Van Gogh, paintings I studied while an Undergrad in Art History classes and paintings you see on friends’ living room walls or journals.

A few hours later, once our thirst for Van Gogh was satiated, we made our way to the gift shop and found some little gifts. I ran into the Israeli couple again, saying a quick hello and then we made our way out to the park to decompress. Housed in the east side of the Museumplein was this IAMSTERDAM sign. I knew we had to get some photos of it and with it and off we went…So there you go.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Koffiehuis Van Den Volksbond

First group dinner at Koffiehuis Van Den Volksbond, Amsterdam.


We had our first group dinner at this wonderful place off of Kadijksplein. We took the tram to Amsterdam Centraal and snaked our way to the restaurant.

The food here was incredible! My starter was the green salad with baked goat cheese. This was followed by Haas Sirloin Steak with whiskey-green pepper sauce and fried potatoes and then several desserts, mine being the Pistachio ijsparfait (basically Pistachio ice cream).

Through the cooperation of friends around me, we made great use of the ‘I’ll share my dish if you share yours’ technique and so I tried the risotto. It was incredibly flavorful and done perfectly. Here are some photos!

We spent almost 3 hours eating and talking. Taking time to enjoy your meal and the company with you is a very Dutch way of doing things. There is no rush to clear the tables and the check is not forced at you as is the way in the States. We arrived in the sunlight and found ourselves leaving in the moonlight.

With my belly full of wonderful food and my mind full of new ideas and overloaded trying to take everything in, I found myself too wired for bed, even though at this point it was 11pm. Last night I slept better but not soundly, but I think tonight will be different.

One last thing before I go...my room at the Bicycle Hotel is on the top floor, the 4th floor, up the steepest and most narrow stairs I have ever witnessed. The upside to being on the top floor is my spectacular view of the city street below. I will leave you with this shot from my window I took yesterday afternoon, once the rain abated.

08/24/10, Tuesday, Albert Cuyp Straat Market

@ ,,het koffiehuis’’

I walked into the café and the man at the counter asked if I wanted espresso, apparently remembering me from my previous visit. He already knows what I like, after just one day. The man is very much a Marina type of guy-somewhat reminiscent to the Erik the Viking Vampire of True Blood fame: tall, thin, and mysterious, also very much European.

After my espresso yesterday morning I walked back to the hotel in the downpour. It rained hard for the next few hours, really hard in fact, soaking everything and everyone. I had to take a warm shower and change when I got back to the Bicycle Hotel.

Breakfast each morning is provided for us at the Bicycle Hotel: bread-white or brown- cheeses and salami and also a plethora of spreads, from their version of Nutella to apple spreads and jams and even some chocolate sprinkles. There is also cereal, but just no fruit to be seen. I may stop at the grocery store today and pick some up.

We were planning to have lecture in this park next to the hotel. It is called Sarphatipark. Sadly the rain wasn’t letting up.

We had class in the lobby’s hotel instead. After breakfast and having re-charged with a make-shift power nap before lecture, we went on our own way. We had a group dinner at the Koffiehuis Van Den Volksbond (http://www.koffiehuisvandenvolksbond.nl/) at 6pm so we were set loose. I used the time to go off on my own and further explore-going to the Albert Cuyp Market hoping to find some gifts, postcards, and maybe some fabrics and clothes.

After finding some decent postcards, I wandered around looking for a nice place to write. It was no longer raining but the wind was in full force, narrowing my search for indoor coziness. Eventually I found a bar (mistakenly with no food service) that was perfect. The bartender was almost 70 (like Nick from Nick’s Bar in Gilbert, MN) and his 5 customers were all old men. I felt right at home. I ordered an Amstel and found a spot to do my writing.

One of the patrons took a liking to me and was very chatty. The only problem is that I don’t speak any Dutch. He had a very heavy accent and spoke only a few words of English. Once he realized I had no idea what he was saying to me, we mostly communicated through the use of gestures. He was simply fascinated with my handwriting, and in particular, the fact that I wrote left-handed. He was also curious to whom I was writing these postcards to. “Momma, Sista, Broother, Fawther” he kept repeating to me, as if he was practicing how to say these words.

I tried asking him about Genever (Dutch Gin made with Juniper berries) but he didn’t understand. I showed him the word, Genever, in my book, hoping he would recognize it, but that was of no help either. He then took my travel book, Lonely Planet Netherlands, and then walked over to the menu trying to match up the words in my book with the words on the menu. Two other men got up and joined in, trying to make sense of what I was looking for.

It was interesting that no one spoke English and I suspect this is due to their age because just about everyone else I had met tended to be a lot younger and spoke it well. In the end, we all determined there was no Genever to be found there. Maybe I will find some later tonight. After writing my 10 postcards I set out to mail them. It takes .93 Euros to mail a postcard and is worth every coin.