I Heart Amsterdam

I Heart Amsterdam

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 cafĂ© 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.