A Travellerspoint blog

This blog is published chronologically. Go straight to the most recent post.

red light special

So that's why they left us ear plugs! The Albert Cuyp market sets up every morning, just in front of our front door. The set up can easily wake someone from a deep slumber. Hence, the ear plugs.

Today's Fitbit read: 18,663 Julie steps (that's about 7.91 miles)

This late sunset thing has us all thrown off. When we entered De Jaren Cafe for dinner, it was light out. I looked at the time - it was 21:00. It was modern and the food was good. L: veggie lasagna J: lamb stew. Two classics that had been on their menu for 25 years. We hadn't eaten all that much today, but we did drink our fair share.

The drizzling and ominous forecast gave us an excuse to have a leisurely morning. We decided on the Rijksmuseum, a nice indoor activity. It wasn't the easiest space to maneuver and there was lots to see. Rembrandt's Night Watch and Vermeer's Milkmaid are the two big draws, which means big claustrophobic crowds. Favorites of mine and Julie's was the Yves Saint Laurent dress: a handstitched shift dress inspired by painter Piet Mondrian, the library space, the botanical sketchings, the fab bathing caps
and the heads on floral fashion dresses. We spent a shocking 3 hours there. Our stomachs urged us to leave.

Brouwerij 't IJ (a brewery) - a flight to taste, abbey cheese with celery salt and sausage. Outdoor seating with a windmill ta' boot.


There was something perverse about Rick Steves guiding us through the Red Light District- narrating its "history, sleaze, and cheese". It's the oldest neighborhood with the traditional trades like prosititution and drugs. De Wallen was designated in the 1980s as the neighborhood where prostitution is legal. The women dressed in their skivvies sit in chairs in windows and tempt passersby. The heaviest concentration surrounds a church. Ironic.

Bier Fabriek for a beer rosso and nero and to snack on peanuts and throw the shells on the ground.

and on to our dinner, when it was still light.

Posted by LaurendeMatt 17:00 Archived in Netherlands Comments (0)

We're locals, we each have cheese in our pockets

Mike's Bike Tour: Countryside
20-25 km
11 am
+/- 4 hrs

Pete was our guide and Green Miles and Marge were our bikes. (shout out to Nana Marge!)

Biking is a big deal here. Everyone is doing it. Women in stelletos, suited men with briefcases, kids sleeping in laps while mom bikes. All are helmetless. There are rules and etiquette to follow; we didn't get the memo. City biking can be stressful, Julie and I were relieved we signed up for the countryside tour.

We learned:
The hooks at the top of the row houses are part of a pulley system because of the narrow Dutch staircases that we know so well.
Which begs the question, why so narrow? It's because they are taxed on the width of their home.
Why are some crooked? Because the wood foundation has rotted and needs to be replaced - just a quarter million euros to fix
1/3 of the Netherlands is below sea level ("God may have created the universe, but the Dutch created the Netherlands")
The canalbelt (3 canals) was dug to control the water
It was only in the 1980s that the water was clean enough to swim
The hippies of the sixties were in the right place at the right time - they were grandfathered into that mooring space, which are now worth 250k Euros

We biked the dike out to the country. On it we could see clearly the different levels: the water side vs. the land side. The land was lower.
We stopped at a cheese and wooden shoe farm. We learned to cut the cheese always from the same side and that the parafin wax serves as skin - it breathes and sweats like human skin. Once cut and packaged and refrigerated, mold sets in.


Our bike ride back through the country side was lovely and calm until Julie skidded out and came to a full stop. Julie brought the drama - her back tire was flat. Really flat.

Pete pulled out a piece of glass, replaced the air tube, pumped in air and off we went from Amstelvaan to Amsteldam. Holland is the name of a region, The Netherlands is the whole country.

Once back in the city, we cozied up at a cafe along a canal, ordered the house white wine and we each took our cheeses out of our pockets. "This must mean we're locals now". We skyped with Matthew about the Newton real estate biz.

Back at home the sun peaked out long enough for us to enjoy a glass of Rose on our roofdeck. We finally ate frites with our burgers at The Butcher (voted best in Amsterdam). I guess we are not yet locals though, we stuck with ketchup on our fries - the thought of mayonnaise makes us gag.

Fitbit read: 12,521 julie steps (5.32 miles)

Posted by LaurendeMatt 15:00 Archived in Netherlands Comments (0)

wigs and coffee

When your front door opens up to this:


it's near impossible to start your day without happiness and laughs.

We went to a coffee shop for "coffee" and some coffee. We had been out shopping the Nine Little Streets Shopping District and needed a sit down. It was exhausting going into all the cute boutiques, opening and closing our umbrellas (thanks for letting me use yours, our host!). Julie got gray jeans and macaroons and I bought from the potter herself a ceramic bathroom drinking cup with grasshoppers on it.

We brunched at Bakers and Roasters and dinnered at Pancakes! (please read it with ample excitedness) We got a salty (camembert, ham and chickory with rasberry sauce) and sweet (banana and mixed nuts with a chocolate sauce). In between we wandered the idyllic Jordaan neighborhood. Isn't it cute? But how can one home in that corner plot?


Fitbit read: 14,491 Julie steps (6.14 miles)

Posted by LaurendeMatt 12:03 Archived in Netherlands Comments (0)

Seeing Pink Elephants

We were looking for pink elephants. That was the sole goal of today: to find the pink elephants. It was an all-day, dual-nation, multi-modes-of-transportation affair. And it was fun.

Melle is a small Belgian town with a brewery that brews the Best Beer in the World. Really, it is. It is a fact. In 1998 Delirium Tremens won a gold medal during the "World Beer Championships". It is that good. Put a pink elephant on the label and I am sold. Jose, our guide, told us when people drank it they became delirious and saw pink elephants. Hence the name and the logo. It has 8.5% alcohol.

With only 4 of us on the tour, we were able to go places no bigger tour groups get to go. And we could sample as much as we'd like. So we sampled to our hearts content:


Delirium brand: Tremens, Floris Kriek (cherry), Noël, and Argentum (the Head Brewer Himself poured Julie this 25th anniversary batch!),
Artevelde Grand Cru (really liked it but the US *shocker* has funky import laws)
La Guillotin
Mongozo's fruity beers (coconut) and
Averbode. This is a recipe made by monks from an abbey in northern Belgium, but is brewed here.

The monks chose the Huyghe Brewery because it:
1. is a family brewery
2. is well established, brewing since 1654
3. has it's own well water
4. is ecologically responsible with solar panels and recycling, etc. and
5. is socially responsible employing handicapped workers to help fold boxes, etc.

We bought tulip glasses with pink elephants for souvenirs. Before we went we lunched in Ghent. (shout out to Aunt Gina in Ghent, NY!)


After hemming and hawing trying to translate the menu, our waitor summed it up: "lunch 2-times". We got two "Lunch Special of the Day". After the brew tour, with a 20 minute stopover in Antwerp, we ate a waffle. We spent lots of time in train stations today. As far as stations go, Antwerp's is tops:

Julie was antwerkin in Antwerpen.

So, just in our few hours in Belgium, we checked off the Belgian Musts:
1. beer
2. waffle
3. chocolate

The search for pink elephants took 8 trains and 4 trams, 12,200 Julie Steps, almost 17 hours, across 2 countries. Thanks Julie for masterminding it!

Posted by LaurendeMatt 05:00 Archived in Belgium Tagged delirium Comments (0)

Trust to Troost

"Come as you are, pay as you feel." It's a cafè across the street from our place. It intrigues us. Their menu has no prices. Sit, enjoy, and pay what you feel. We felt that since our Senseo Strong coffee was decaf, we felt grateful their Americanos were super-caffeinated and so gave a super-five Euro.


Our place is the brick on the right, top four windows. Our own street's market had everything and anything from hair extensions to pickled herring with onions. No thanks. We bought a fresh Stroopwafel to share.

We hung about in Vondel Park and appreciated the many fragrances: smoke- both cannibis and grilling, flowers and we watched the birds and the people.


We returned to our area to eat at a micro-brewery nearby that our hosts suggested: Troost. Food was fantastic, even the mayonnaise for our frites!, and both my veggie burger and J's lambburger. We got a flight of beers to taste.

Thankfully we had pre-reserved tix to the Van Gogh. The building's exterior is not worthy of its interior contents. Hence they are renovating and modernizing it. We came at 6:45 Friday night for the DJ and cocktails, much like mfa's First Fridays. We bought red wine, an audio guide and we were off. For nearly three hours. We couldn't believe it when they announced the museum was closing in 15 minutes. Van Gogh is one of my favorite artists. The audio tour was excellent - giving glimpses into his mind through his letters to friends and family, especially to his brother Theo. (note to self: get a biography on VVG as "Seen" through letters) and it had some interactive activities like make this color, or which frame looks best. It dispelled some myths as well. Crows flying over wheat fields was not his last painting. I loved also how they juxtaposed works that influenced VVG and on the flipside, how influencial his works have been on future artists. No photos of his works allowed.

When we left the VVG museum it was 10 and it looked like this:


Really! So light out. And so clear! We stopped for a drink, it was Friday night after all. We observed how many young people smoke here. On our walk home it started to rain.

Posted by LaurendeMatt 16:00 Archived in Netherlands Tagged van gogh Comments (0)

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