Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Amsterdam (long post, lots of pics)

Last weekend we had a little getaway. Hunter got Monday off because it is "Rosenmontag," kind of the equivalent to Lundi Gras. He took Friday off so we could have a nice little break. We each wrote down three places we wanted to go on pieces of paper, and decided if there was an overlap we would go there and if not, then we'd go to Paris. We both wrote Vienna and Amsterdam, but we'd really have to fly to go to Vienna and Amsterdam is only about a three hour train ride, so we decided to go there. I was a bit apprehensive because I booked our hotel using the Priceline express deals, where it only tells you the area the hotel is in. It said Museum Quarter, but that was pretty misleading. It was a 20-30 minute tram ride from anywhere we'd want to be, including the museums. It ended up not being that bad, but Hunter and I agreed that next time maybe we can just spend a little extra money for the convenience. I can drop $50 on some Urban Decay eyeshadow like it's nothing, but show me a hotel/flight booking and there is like a physical block on anything but the cheapest option. This is basically the third time since we've moved to Europe that I've booked a fairly inconveniently located hotel. Maybe next time I'll learn my lesson.

Anyway, we got there and checked in to our hotel. I called to make reservations at an Ethiopian restaurant, because we apparently just have to eat Ethiopian any time we are in a major city, and since there was a little bar/cafe right near the restaurant, we went there to have a drink first. Of course, Sadie got tons of admirers! The only problem is that she is very hot natured, so she started getting pretty fussy eventually. We got a picture of she and I outside the bar:

Then we hit the restaurant. The waitress spoke perfect English, she had an American accent and I actually asked her if English was her first language. In Amsterdam, everyone speaks English, I mean, everyone which is good because Dutch is, as Hunter says, the Welsh of German. I mean, "ui" makes the "ow" sound like in "house." Basically, it sounds like they are speaking Simlish. Anyway, one possible reason why their English is so good is that movies aren't dubbed in the Netherlands, so I imagine they hear more English on a regular basis? Plus Amsterdam is such a huge tourist city; I guess in smaller areas it might be less ubiquitous. Anyway, it was super convenient for us. In addition to your basic Ethiopian stuff, the restaurant had dishes from some other African countries/regions; they even had crocodile and antelope! Ultimately, we decided to just get an assortment of Ethiopian things, although sadly they did not have kitfo, our fave. Sadie got admired even more, and then eventually got too warm. Many of our restaurant meals ended with Hunter and I alternating who would walk around with Sadie outside to cool her off. Much in the same way that the American South exercises no moderation when it comes to air conditioning, Northern Europe doesn't know when to shut the radiator off.

We had thought about hitting another bar before going back, but I was kinda getting a headache, which really only got worse. Luckily, there was a grocery store near the tram stop for our hotel, so I could grab a few waters. At the hotel, I took a bath and some aspirin and tried as best as I could to fall asleep. This was the worst headache I'd had since Sadie was born and I was seriously afraid I wouldn't be able to get up the next day. Then at like three in the morning, Hunter couldn't get Sadie to stop screaming. She was making herself hoarse, and refused to eat even though she hadn't eaten in like six hours. We eventually calmed her down and things were more or less eventful til the next morning.

Saturday's first item was to hit the Van Gogh museum. It was a great museum; they have most of his major works (of course Starry Night is at MoMA and Sunflowers was visiting London), but they have most other things you would want to see, as well as some lesser known works that I really like better. There was just one problem with this museum, well, kind of two: first off, it was really crowded. I mean, obviously people come from all over the world to see these paintings, but I feel like the layout didn't necessarily take that into account. The first room is laid out chronologically in a big square, so it has kind of a "Disneyland" feel to it where you are just shuffling through in a line. Plus, a bunch of people have the audio tour and so they are standing there for like ever. The upstairs was a little less annoying because you could go more at your own pace. On our last day, we saw the line outside to get in and I guess we went on the right day because we didn't have to wait or anything.

For lunch, we found a random Italian restaurant, not really notable but I did take a few pics of Sadie:

People kept saying "he." I get that there is blue on her onesie but it's a ruffly heart!

After lunch, we went to see the "Oude Kerk," the oldest building in Amsterdam. It cost 7.50 to get in, which honestly was a bit steep. I think the main reason they charged so much is because there are also some art exhibitions inside, or, as Hunter put it, "post-art." However, it was a really pretty church. Observe:

Big Organ
The choir chairs had these engravings that were meant to teach moral lessons. I have no idea what this one is, but it was deliciously creepy.
Stained glass--the walls used to be painted also but the Protestants put an end to that.

After the church, we went to check out the Royal Palace. It is where the Dutch royal family still hosts dignitaries and has events and stuff. We had to leave a bit before we had really seen everything, because Sadie woke up and was fussing/crying. She did briefly smile when we told her she was in a palace--I guess she just likes that word. We took this picture outside a few nights later:

People from History just had no idea what North America looked like.

I had made reservations at an Indonesian restaurant for Saturday night; we went back to the hotel to let Sadie rest a bit before embarking on that adventure. The food was delicious, but the restaurant wasn't the best idea. The tables were really squeezed together, plus the food took up basically every square centimeter of the table, which was just difficult with Sadie. Plus, of course, it was super warm. I'm not sure why I didn't take a picture of the food, but I did get a picture of the menu. We got what is called a rijstafel--basically some rice with tons of different other foods to try.

We debated going to another bar, but we just thought that Sadie wouldn't necessarily be up for it. We ended up getting some beers and cream puffs at the grocery store and watching some House of Cards. Not super exotic, but when there's a baby you can't just be out every second (as we learned).

Sadie on the tram

The next morning, we planned to go to the Rijksmuseum. We ate in the museum cafe because I didn't think I could handle a few hours on my feet on an empty stomach; the food was pricey of course, but pretty good. The Rijksmuseum's most famous piece is probably Rembrandt's The Night Watch, which is huge. For a lot of the more famous works, they have these informational sheets that tell you about the paintings--sometimes about things they found using x-rays, or just the symbolism of objects and whatnot. This museum was crowded too, but it wasn't as much just a moving line of people like the Van Gogh museum was. By the time we left, my feet were really hurting. I walk a lot in Germany, but I guess not as much as I thought!

For lunch I wanted to get pancakes, so we found a pancake place. Here's what I got:

Sugar, bacon, raisins, rum, apples...

After lunch we thought it'd be fun to go to a Dutch beer bar. The previous two nights had kind of taught us that post-dinner, going out wouldn't really be an option. We went to a place called' t'Arendsnest. They had lots of Dutch beers and also Jenever, which is the national drink of the Netherlands. It's made from juniper and supposed to be gin-like, but I thought it tasted more like whiskey. It was ok, but I'm really not used to drinking straight liquor so it was a bit strong for me. Of course, we had to fly too close to the sun and get a beer also. Once again, Sadie was none too pleased.

Once again we went home to rest. Since our previous two dinners had been a bit pricey, we decided we'd just get street food and walk around a bit. We had heard about these sort of hot food vending machines, so we started there. It was kinda weird, but good. Then we went to a croissanterie and Hunter got a waffle with Nutella; I got a turnover. It was about the price you'd expect for a place that presumably caters mostly to people with the munchies, but it was still tasty. We walked around some more and eventually got fries. I got mine with sambal on them. Seriously, I thought my tongue would fall off, but I've never been defeated by spice before and I did finish them all.

I thought it would be interesting to see the red light district, but Hunter didn't think it was a great idea with Sadie. Not because she would see anything untoward, I mean, she's a baby, but just because there would probably be idiotic tourists of varying levels of intoxication, and he just didn't want to deal with that. We walked around a bit more before heading back to the hotel.

Monday was basically a shopping day. We went to a cheese shop to get some cheeses (I seriously wish I could just eat these cheeses the rest of my life), I got a purse at the museum shop, and we hit an international beer store. They had some American beers, but nothing I loved enough to buy. I got two Dutch beers and a Belgian lambic. We ate a quick lunch before getting our stuff together to head home.

We were there for three nights and really I feel like we could go back and do all different things. We didn't see the Anne Frank Huis, for one thing. We had meant to but just never really had time. Our plans had to be pretty flexible with Sadie along. We also had thought about doing an excursion to a bit outside the city, they have things where you can see windmills and cheese farms and stuff, but we ended up not doing that either. I wanted to go on one of the boat rides in the canals, but Hunter thought it was a bit touristy and I'm not sure when we would have fit it in, anyway. It's a great city to visit and we had a lot of fun. I don't think of the Netherlands when I think of beer, cheese, bread, or really anything, but they seem to be a country that just quietly does a lot of things really well.

Our next big trip is when Hunter has a conference in Dresden at the end of March, and even though Sadie doesn't make things easy, I can't wait!

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