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Some Random Thoughts and Photos From Amsterdam

Friday, April 06, 2012

WARNING !! There will be pictures of food in this blog. So, if you're feeling weak today, you might want to save my blog for another time. ;)

I haven't officially sorted through all 500+ pictures I took while in Amsterdam, but here is a small selection I grabbed with a card reader. Luckily, it's quiet in work today. phew...

I stayed at a wonderful little European style hotel in Amsterdam about a five minute walk away from the Anne Frank House. This was a very simple room that many Americans might consider "roughing" it. No TV, no radio, no clock, no phone, no desk... yes, I did have a small bathroom with shower, but no shower curtain. There was WIFI, but it wasn't working. boo.

The room was 50 euros a night during the week and 95 euros on the weekend. That was the lowest price I found. Many hotels were routinely 90+ euros a night. They did serve a hearty breakfast. For those of you who've never been to Europe, smaller hotels don't have shower curtains. they have a drain in the floor and a big squeegie to mop up afterwards.

About five minutes from my hotel was the Westerkerk. That's one of several old churches (some built in the 1300s) in Amsterdam. This one is famous because it's the resting place for Rembrandt. It's also a few feet from the Anne Frank House. For those of you who remember reading the book, Anne wrote about hearing the bells from the Westerkerk. She said how hearing those bells helped remind her there was a world outside their hiding place.

Let me tell you about those bells, they are famous. Inside the church is something called a clavichord. That's a musical instrument that chimes bells instead of strings like a piano. They occasionally have clavichord concerts.

Well, when my co-worker recommended the hotel to me, he didn't tell me the bells of the church chime REGULARLY. The big bells chime on the hour and half hour. The little chimes ring on the quarter hour. The bells are quite lovely. UNTIL you have to listen to them 24 hours a day. So, there I was laying in bed, jet lagged, trying to sleep... and there go the bells. I'm sure they are white noise to the locals. And eventually, my body learned to ignore them too. but the first couple of days, I spent the evening listening to the bells chime every fifteen minutes.

Here are a couple of pictures of lovely canals. These were near my hotel in an area called the Jordaan. It's just a beautiful area with lots of art galleries, antique shops, funky stores, etc...

This is a photo of Centraal Station. Every single tram, bus, train or subway train starts or end up at Centraal Station. If this were NYC, Centraal Station would be a combination of the Port Authority and Grand Central Station.

This is a photo of a small section of the DAM. The Dam is a major square in Amsterdam. That's where you'll find the Royal Palace, Neiwe Kerk, Madame Tussauds and several major department stores. It's more like Trafalgar Square than Times Square. The photo is a picture of the Royal Palace and part of the Neiwe Kerk.

WARNING !!! This is where I'm going to talk about food !!!

When I was talking with people about my trip to Amsterdam, every single one of them said I had to try the Vlaamse Frites (Flemish fries). People think that French fries are French. Nope, historians will tell you these types of fries originated in the Belgium/Holland area. And they are absolutely amazing.

I'm going to go back in the Way Back Machine for a moment. When I was young (and those of you of a certain age may remember this), my mother would take me to Woolworths to eat at their counter. I'd usually get a hot dog with a small crinkle fries. I remember this meal. The hot dog bun was buttered on both sides and then pressed in a grill until toasty. When you broke the fries in half, you could hear the snapping sound they made. When you bit into them, they'd crunch. And when you continued to eat those fries, once you got past the crunch, you'd taste the smooth creamy center of the potato. That is a memory of mine from over 40+ years ago.

Now, the reason I'm talking about those fries is because in all the times I'd had fries since Woolworths, they've never tasted as good. Sure, I ate some great tasting fries from really great restaurants, but they never gave me the same sensation I had as when I bit into those crunchie fries from Woolworths.

Well... let me tell you that when I bit into those Vlaamse Frites, I immediately remembered sitting at the Woolworth's counter eating those fries. They were absolutely delicious ! The only difference ? When I was a kid, I dipped the fries in ketchup. In Amsterdam, I dipped them in home made mayonaise. YUM !!! Oh and the picture is a small. You wouldn't believe how big the big was. You can get different types of topping. You could do mayo and ketchup. You could even have curry sauce ! As you can see, they come in a paper cone with a wood fork to stab them.

As for this... you don't want to know, your cholesterol will go up just looking at it. The picture speaks for itself.

Now, let's talk cheese. Amsterdam (Holland really) is cheese heaven ! There are wonderful cheese shops all over the city and they all have samples. The cheese is wonderful. It was so fresh and tasty. I tried dozens of different kinds of cheese. Here is a small selection.

Now, you would think that with all that cheese and Vlaamse Frites stands all over the city, you'd see a lot of overweight people. You know what ? Holland does not have the obesity problem that the United States does. While I did see a few people who carried a couple extra pounds, I did not see anyone who was morbidly obese. Even the folks who carried a few extra pounds were still pretty healthy looking.

How do they do it ? Their portions were certainly smaller (on average than ours) AND they ride lots of these.

There are bikes everywhere ! Millions and billions of bikes ! Everyone owns at least two bikes. One piece of crap bike they ride around the city and one nice bike they keep at home. AND... the piece of crap bikes are still locked with two locks ! That's how bad bike theft is in Amsterdam. What's more, they don't wear helmets. The only guy I saw wearing a helmet was also geared up and riding a road bike fit for the Tour de France.

Not only do the Dutch ride a bike everywhere, they also climb lots and lots of stairs to stay fit. I had to climb 48 steps to get to the third floor where my room was in the hotel. No elevator. Many of the old buildings (like the Rembrandt House as well as the Anne Frank House) have some very steep flights of stairs you have to climb to get from floor to floor.

Somewhere in my photos I took a picture of an electric car battery charger port. Electric cars are becoming popular in Amsterdam.

I have more pictures. I even have a few "naughty" pictures from the Red Light District. Don't worry, it's very safe there during the day and even into the early evening. Getting towards the later evening, you might want to head to your hotel. All in all, I felt very safe in the city. Amsterdam has one of the lowest levels of crime in all of Europe. The only thing you really need to be aware of are pick pockets. But, you have to be careful of them everywhere.

So... some random thoughts on my trip to Amsterdam. oh and no, I didn't gain weight. In fact, I lost. While I wasn't riding a bike. I did lots and lots of walking and climbed lots and lots of stairs.

Enjoy !

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    I think we all have drains in the floor, no shower curtains and a squeegee mop in Europe...even in our houses! Did you come across one of those toilets that was just a hole in the floor you stood over and then pulled a cord to make it flush? Now we don't have those in our houses or anything but I have seen and had to use them out and about. (they terrified my son! lol!) But now I am digressing!

    Love the picture of your room. That is how we travel normally also. Beautiful church too! Bells every fifteen minutes though! Ack! I just love the pictures of Amsterdam. We were going to go two years ago and then it didn't work out. You make me want to try again! I love the canal pictures.

    Your food pictures and descriptions REALLY make me what to go though! I just love the way you describe the fries at Woolworth's! Who knew you would have to wait 40 years and go half way around the world to enjoy that experience again! (Who knew Woolworth's had such good fries way back when!)

    That bike picture is awesome! People ride bikes here and I saw a lot of bike riding in Copenhagen but nothing like in that picture. Here everybody wears helmets though...and biking clothes...and shoes. Norwegians love to dress the part for everything. Gotta have the gear! Quintessa was appalled in Italy when she saw children without bike helmets. She just couldn't imagine why anyone would do that!

    I am not surprised you lost weight...I don't usually lose weight on vacation but I don't usually gain weight either...all that walking! It sounds like you saw some wonderful sights and had a great time! Thank you so much for sharing your pictures. Feel free to blog again about it and post more pictures...I would love to see more!
    3244 days ago
  • NAVYMOM133
    Ah, brought me right back!!So glad you pointed out you went too! I love the room you found. We stayed at a place in the Centruum. We also walked our heads off and had such a good time.
    By the way, the trip was to celebrate me getting my Associates degree. I tell you this because I saw your recent blog and I, too, was laid of in MA, back in July 2010. I took advantage of the Section 30 program and got a general degree in Health technology. I was in software quality assurance for 20+ years prior to stepping out on the educational limb. No regrets!! (But now I'm looking for a job!! ARGH! hate this part so much!)

    Best of luck in your search. You mentioned computer skills, I hope you find something good soon, if you don't decide to retrain.

    Melly emoticon
    3296 days ago
    I really enjoyed reading your account of your adventure to Amsterdam! Like someone else posted, you made the reader feel just like they were experiencing the same sights and sounds in person!

    Had to Google Belgian fries after reading your blog....LOL! Must try to make sometime (as a reward).

    Maybe you've found your next calling as a travel writer?

    Have a great weekend!
    3364 days ago
    Hm... What is a Euro in American dollars? I have no clue but am curious as to how the rooms compare. I actually think the room sounds great! At the retreat house I've often stayed at (which used to be the home for some St. Benedictine nuns) there is only a bed, a desk, a sink, and a small closet. It always feels very cozy to me!

    The Westerkerk...I am always so astounded to see beautiful buildings that old still standing. Lots of churches like that. There were TONS of them in St. John, New Brunswick. Our history here in the states is so young yet that we don't have the opportunity to be awed by that kind of history. Sounds like you were suffering from Grandfather Clock syndrome for awhile there!

    I remember eating at Woolworths, too! You're not old enough to remember that!!! But I can't get past that green cheese in the cheese picture. Good grief! Did you try some of that???

    Great pictures! I love seeing old architecture. Seeing the Colosseum in Rome is one of the things on my Bucket List. Did you get to see the Anne Frank Museum? We have some friends who are going to Holland in June to visit family. There are 18 of them going! And another family from church is leaving next week to take a river cruise through Holland. I'm assuming that would be on the Rhine? don't know what river runs through there.

    So glad you had a great trip. Hope to see more pictures. We're going to be in Montreal in September and I'm trying to find some interesting things to do there. I just found out yesterday they have a Holocaust Museum up there. So I have that and Notre-Dame Basilica on my list so far.

    3393 days ago

    Comment edited on: 4/19/2012 11:16:45 AM
    This is so great - that food had me salivating! I loved the photos - so many memories of my own trip to Amsterdam. I didn't realize there was a Madame Tussauds there.... So glad you had a wonderful trip!
    3394 days ago
  • ADAM2298
    Great blog and pictures. Love any country that supports bike riders.
    What a hoot about Woolworths, during the summers when we lived in NY City my mother would take us to any cultural event that was free and hit the Woolworths for lunch. It was a big deal for us kids.
    Glad you had a great trip. I'll come back and re-read the blog again.
    I love to read where people have traveled but I hate to do it myself.

    For you younger people, the history of Woolworths is a good read, check it out on a search engine.
    3395 days ago
    Catching up with your blog was way more fun than catching up on my taxes (which is what I should be doing) ! emoticon I hope you get a chance to share a "part 2" because I *really* enjoyed this and would love to more (please) ! emoticon

    And yes, I do remember Woolworths, but I (vaguely) recall only getting treated to an ice cream sundae.
    3401 days ago
    is it possible all those bikes keep them from putting on too many pounds?
    3403 days ago
    Wow! I loved your blog & seeing all the pictures, makes me want to go with you on your next trip.
    I love fries with mayo! I will have to try them with curry next time. I'm glad you had a wonderful time.
    3403 days ago
    My New Year's Eve meal this year was Belgium Fries! I tried to make the homemade mayonnaise to go with them, but failed pretty miserably. Your room looks really nice despite not having some "amenities." Sometimes no phone or TV makes a vacation that much better. It looks like a really fun time. Thanks for sharing!
    3403 days ago
  • no profile photo CD8574152're the finest, most comprehensive, cover-all-the-bases-and-all-the-sen
    ses cybertourguide I've ever had the pleasure of meeting! I really have come away from your marvelous photojournalist's take with a strong sense of having been there...even though I never have :) Now, you've got me wanting to Google the clavichord just so I can hear those bells, too... What a magnificent way you have of bringing the sights, sounds, and even the SMELLS of this magical part of the world to us! Those big, timeless, clean buildings, all the biking, all the wonderfully hearty food and drink - that is LIVING! And I'm glad you enjoyed your experience of it, too :) Thanks so much for so generously sharing all this with us!
    3404 days ago
    Loved your travel blog and photos! And I LOVED Amsterdam too. Don't remember the multitudinous bike parking lot though. I too rode a bicycle while there. Enchanting in many ways, Amsterdam.
    3404 days ago
  • no profile photo CD318156
    THANKS for sharing Karen! Next time can you take me along...I make a fine food-tester! emoticon
    3404 days ago
    Great blog, thanks for sharing your trip, and great job on balancing the food with the movement....amazing that you lost weight on vacation!
    And I do love the pictures....
    3405 days ago
  • MPLANE37

    3406 days ago
    Amazing photos! I REALLY liked that you gave us warnings! Your a real "TREAT" of a new "friend"! I've never been to Europe, but your blog makes me want to go!

    3406 days ago
    emoticon for sharing the story of your trip and and the lovely pictures, Karen!

    3406 days ago
    Is that green cheese?! What made it green? It sounds like a lovely trip! Except for maybe the bells... I'm such a light sleeper that would have killed me! I look forward to hearing more and seeing more!
    3406 days ago
  • no profile photo CD9136158
    emoticon emoticon for the wonderful photos! Portion sizes are actually smaller in most european lands.. In norway you can purchase ½ a cucumber lol.
    3406 days ago

    Comment edited on: 4/6/2012 12:21:00 PM
    Beautiful pictures, Karen. You took me on a mini vacation thru your pics. ; ) Thanks for sharing, Maria

    emoticon emoticon
    3406 days ago
    Fascinating! About Europeans... my friend spent a semester in Prague and drank 4 beers every day, as is customary there. She ended up losing 10 lbs! I still don't really get how that's possible. The only explanation I have is that she must have done a ton of walking around.
    3406 days ago
    I have sooo been waiting for this ~~ THANK YOU ~~ for sharing. I have traveled a bit through Europe in the late 80's. 3 AWESOME weeks by train/backpack, you learn so much and I haven't been back but plan to. I PROMISE.

    3406 days ago
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