Saturday, October 17, 2009

An afternoon in A'dam.

Spent the afternoon rambling around Amsterdam. We rode the tram through the city and hopped off on Koningsplein near Dam Square. It was HECTIC in the city! So hectic that we decided we had to fortify ourselves with some Vlaamse Frites! Belgian fries, for those uninformed. Delicious golden gems of potatoey goodness topped with mayo and sate sauce. DELISH!

Vlaamse Frites! Want some??

Turns out the crowd would get worse because the fair was in town! It was set up in front of the Palace on Dam Square. Some things are the same the world over! Loud music, wild rides and lots of fried food. I managed to get Ton to ride their version of the ferris wheel. It was huge! And had great views of the city. After that, we wandered to the Begijnhof, which is a little oasis on calm in an overcrowded and hectic city. Originally, the Begijnhof housed catholic women who sought to do good works and practice their religion without actually becoming a Nun. Today, it remains housing for women, but also offers anyone who seeks it a place of solitude and contemplation in a quiet garden and a small chapel. (

We moved on up the Damrak towards Beurs van Berlage. The Beurs van Berlage was built by Hendrik Petrus Berlage (1856-1934) for the Municipality of Amsterdam. Construction started in 1898 and was completed in 1903. It was Berlage’s first really large commission – and it would make him world famous. ( A beautiful building designed by Berlage (think Amsterdam School!! and you've got it!), who is a simply amazing architect. I hadn't had an opportunity to see the building up close and after seeing it, I'm not sure I took it all in. There is so much detail, so many things to absorb...gah. Pictures don't do it justice. Not mine or anyone else's.

But one can take only so much scholarly observation and religious contemplation before they are driven straight to The Walletjes, aka The Red Light District. This is always an odd experience. The women for the most part are beautiful, well-toned, and completely disinterested. What is most interesting is watching the men. Men who wander down these extremely narrow alleyways to see the women behind glass rarely stop to LOOK but rather march on, hardly daring to look at these women out of the corner of their eye. Ton looked down at his feet and soldiered on claiming the women behind the glass are intimidating and most men find them so. I just find it ODD. C'mon. It's just sex. *shrugs* You're window shopping for it just like you would in a bar. Except you're not buying them a drink first, you're just paying for it outright. Cutting out the middle man so to speak.

Past the red light district, we ambled back towards Centraal Station, past the Waag, and through China town. When we saw the famous Nam Kee sign, Ton had to stop for dinner. There was a wonderful little wizened Chinese man making dumplings at the front table. His economy of movement, his fast and practiced hands were fascinating. I wanted to take his picture, to film him, but I didn't dare ask. Somehow, his preparation felt a bit like ritual and interrupting it didn't seem right. Instead, I settled on Chinese Chicken Sate with green onions and Ton choose sweet and sour chicken. I could have had cuttle fish, or pork intestine, or crispy bowel (of what, the menu didn't say) but I played it safe. Bourdain would be so disappointed in me. Oh, or I could have picked my eel from the tank and let them cook it for me. Ugh. The food that arrived was worth the hype. It felt like home-cooking, not the standard Chinese-American fare we have come to know as Chinese. I want to add Chinese tea here is nothing like our heavy smokey tea in the states. It is jasmine tea and light as summer honeysuckle. I could drink it by the gallon.

Tea at Nam Kee

The day was winding down and turning cold but we wandered down to the harbor, behind Centraal Station and took the Buiksloterweg ferry to Noord Holland to have a drink and take a few shots from across the harbor. I had a decent glass of bitter lemon at Cafe De Pont ( followed by a stroll through the marina. At the marina, we passed a series of bathrooms, all illuminated in a very weird blue light. Ton tells me they use that color because junkies who seek out private spaces like bathrooms, can't find their veins in that type of light. Interesting, no???

Bathroom in Blue

Then it was back on the ferry and onto another one! This one to Ijplein. By this time it was soooooooo cold and the wind was blowing we did nothing more than take a few snaps of a heron that asked to pose me. Being the kind American that I am, I didn't want to offend this native and obliged. Until the ferry returned to pick us up (8 whole minutes! Whew!) and then it was back to Centraal Station and the Number 5 tram to Amstelveen.

Heron on Ijplein

By the time we returned to Amstelveen THEIR fair was in full swing! If such a small fair can swing. I think they had three rides and a few mechanical arm toy-grabbing machines (what ARE they called??) I snapped a few photos and walked back home. To a warm pot of tea and a stroopwaffle. What more could a girl ask for?


I might not want to know the answer to that. Tomorrow if "family day". In the Amsterdamse Bos. Pannenkoeken anyone?

Tonight's bonus!! You get to see all my photos of the day!! You can find them on my flickr account..

Friday, October 16, 2009

"On the Ground" means landing. Thank god.

United/Lufthansa keeps telling you that you'll be "on the ground" in X amount of time. I think this is a poor choice of words. Of course, it could be their form of disclaimer. If you crash, you're on the ground. But maybe you'll get lucky.

We landed safe and sound around 7am Nederlandish time and waited for around 30 minutes to get through the WORST Customs line I've ever waited through. Our baggage arrived with us, too. This always surprises me. At any rate, the flight was horrendously rough, lots of turbulence and rain. They ended up climbing to 39,000 feet to get above the weather and still had to keep flight attendents in their seats a good part of the flight.

After a shower and a nap, we wandered to the market with Ton's parents and now we're awaiting the arrival of his siblings. In the meantime, Ton will prepare a "dump cake" to amaze and amuse. I'll be amazed if it turns out. They have a convection oven and weird looking cake mix. I think I'm out of element.

The weather is incredibly windy with short bursts of rain. It's weird how fast the weather changes. No plans for tomorrow other than I want to go into the city and soak up that A'dam atmosphere. No pictures, yet. The market was fun but it was too rainy for the camera.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Time is short....

but the packing list is long. I leave tomorrow! So much not done! A last panicked gasp before heading out to catch the flight out of Charlotte Douglas. My list of things to do:

1. Pack. No, it's not done. Yes, I am usually organized. I decided to freak out and pack at the last minute like the rest of the world.

2. Deliver Allie to her sitters. Yes, I'm crying over my dog. Deal with it.

3. Pay phone bill and insurance before leaving. EEP.

4. But lottery ticket. I will win the powerball lottery on the fifteenth. I have it on high authority that it is my "lucky" day. On second thought, this is not first on the list.

For those that are interested, here's my itinerary:

October 15th:
USAirways express flight #2236
Leaving Charlotte at 2:05pm
Arriving Washington/Dulles 3:17pm

Lufthansa Flight 9057 (May also be referred to as UA946- United Air 946. It is a code share flight)
Leaving Washington/Dulles 5:20pm
Arriving on October 16th at Schipol 7:05am (1:05am EST)

November 5th:
Lufthansa Flight #9056 (May also be referred to as UA947- United Air 947. It is a code share flight)
Leaving Amsterdam at 12:20pm (6:20am EST)
Arriving Washinton/Dulles at 2:57 pm

USAirways Express Flight #7071
Leaving Washington/Dulles 5:20pm
Arriving Charlotte 6:53pm