I LoOove Babies. Especially Dutch ones of Chinese Norwegian Swedish descent.
Amsterdam Travel Blog› entry 23 of 48 › view all entries
It's been a long time since I updated (today's actual date is May 13), but I'm adding this entry for April 26th, so the blog properly records my arrival in Amsterdam. This entry will cover events from April 26th through May 4th, which was our weekend in Brussels, and I'll add a separate entry for Amsterdam post-that-weekend.
So I stayed in Berlin for only 1 night and skipped Hamburg entirely. After speaking with RuiRui, I realized I would miss the beginning of Queen's Day festivities if I stuck to my original plan, which would defeat the entire purpose of arriving that weekend. Queen's Day is a nationwide holiday celebrated in Amsterdam as an enormous all-city street party. It begins the night before the holiday and continues into wee hours of morning the day after. Over half a million people come to Amsterdam to celebrate, and the entire city decks itself out in orange to honor the royal House of Orange.
On a somewhat related (and totally exaggerated) tangent, I almost died yesterday when a stampede of photographers appeared out of nowhere to photograph the Dutch prince and his new wife as they approached the theater near Leidseplein. RuiRui, Carl (her man and baby daddy), and I had unknowingly walked behind the royal couple for blocks. The lady was wearing a very nice black-and-white checked coat.
Okay, so . . . back to my arrival in Amsterdam:
I really didn't need much of an excuse to come early, as I'd eagerly anticipated seeing RuiRui's new baby, taking a nice hot shower sans flip flops, and staying in one place for more than a few days. I've now added Berlin to the extensive list of places to which I'll return and spend more time.
The longer I travel, the more I feel like some kind of waterbug, touching down briefly here and there and just barely skimming the surface of places that I visit. I figure this trip is sort of like a tasting menu showing a small sampling of what the world has to offer, which I can use to inform my choices in future travels. I hope my horrendous use of similes will someday improve, but in the meantime I figure I'll leave their use to real writers . . . speaking of which, I've enjoyed several awesome collections of short stories and a lovely novel or two thus far on the trip. Though I've mostly been studying travel guides, I've also read the following:
Runaway - Alice Munro
Drinking Coffee Elsewhere - ZZ Packer (So amazing. Read it if you get a chance. Oprah likes it, so you must too)
Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage - Alice Munro
Gold - Dan Rhodes
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime - Mark Haddon
Norwegian Wood - Haruki Murakami
Currently I'm reading:
Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World - Haruki Murakami
Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market - Eric Schlosser
Everything is Illuminated - Jonathan Safran Foer
Gould's Book of Fish: A Novel in 12 Fish - Richard Flanagan
The first couple days in Amsterdam (I call this period "pre-moth"), RuiRui and Carl brought me to eat some delicious food near their three-floor condo in Spui and to walk around the main areas of Amsterdam. The location of their place is unbelievably convenient - right in the city center and close to all kinds of great restaurants, grocery stores (hooray for Albert Heijn!), shopping, and historical attractions. RuiRui's mom is staying with them right now to help out with the baby, and her presence made things so much easier, allowing RuiRui to get out of the house and hang out some with her friends.
It was so weird seeing RuiRui as a mom. Clearly priorities change once you become a parent, and a vast majority of her time is now occupied with breastfeeding, changing diapers, worrying about Kiri's daycare. On top of that, she returned to work a couple weeks ago and is juggling her job in i-banking with care of the baby (insane!).
Kiri herself is adorable. She's such a happy baby and loves it when you make kissy faces at her or funny noises with your mouth. She has extremely dry skin so is constantly itchy but cries very rarely considering her little baby status. Moth and I tried to teach her how to say "lamb chops" while we visited but so far no luck.
At the request of my brother and Miss Chung, I took a tremendous number of food pictures while here. The request was easy to fulfill, as we daily consumed large quantities of various food items. It was good to be with my food-lover friends again, though the Moth took a few days to shake off her horrible LA no-eating habits. A few favorites from the first week:
*Dutch pea soup - I love it! Filled with carrots and sausage, comfortable and hearty, a nice snack or light meal for any time
*Roast quail with foie gras at Odeon - mmmm. i love foie gras when it's seared. don't have particular feelings about it otherwise
*RR-and-Carl-grilled fish with pureed parsnips and potatoes in some fancy schmancy sauce - pretty!
*Moth's lamb chops at Haesje Claes - all the lamb we've had so far has been awwwesome
*Bitterballen - sorta like Japanese croquettes except not at all, we tried all sorts of these deep-fried balls of mashed potato plus meaty goodness. a little sickening at times, but good with beer. i bought a curry flavored one from Febo, which is sort of like a hot snack dispenser where you view the food through little windows then put in coins to open the windows and take the food out. they have stuff like mini hamburgers, chicken burgers and tons of different bitterballen and can be found all over the city
*Sea bass appetizer at a restaurant whose name I forgot - actually that entire dinner was delicious. Moth had bouillabaise, RR and I both had the 3 course prix fixe, and Carl had some kind of salmon (?) phyllo thing. The appetizers were the standouts (manali had quail and ruirui & carl tuna carpaccio), though dessert was also delicious, comprised of seasonal sorbet, forest fruits, and cream on a little teeny tiny cake bed
In terms of what we did, the first weekend was occupied mostly with Queen's Day festivities. Moth arrived early morning on Sunday the 29th, and we walked around to see the city with RuiRui and Carl. A carnival had been set up in a main city square, and many bars and restaurants set up booths outside for DJs and beer. There was lots of singing and bright orange hats, humongous sunglasses, boas, that kind of thing - traffic jams in the canals with all the boat parties, and lots of people falling in (though I personally did not witness any). Moth and I also won a little bear for Kiri at the slot machines, hooray : ) I got a triple 7 jackpot on my second try and out came 100+ tokens. I felt very lucky hehe - wonder if the luck would hold up in Vegas! Maybe I'll try one day, though I've never been a big gambler.
Amsterdam's a really beautiful city and a perfect size to explore by foot or by bike, whichever you prefer - all ours was done by foot. I love all the canals and different styles of architecture that could be found absolutely everywhere. While RuiRui worked during the day, Moth and I would wander around, eat, and visit random areas of the city. Some things we checked out included the self-guided Heineken factory tour, the Van Gogh and Rijksmuseums, the red light district, and several coffeeshops.
Our only major excursion was to Keukenhoff, this amazing world-renowned flower garden that we reached by train from Amsterdam. It was super relaxing there, and they had a ton of gorgeous flowers - not only the requisite tulips for which Holland is famous but all kinds. The garden only blooms 8 weeks out of the year (April and May), so if you're debating about when to go to Amsterdam, I'd highly recommend going during this time. Actually I think the last week of April/beginning of May is the best time, because you can experience both the Queen's Day Festival and the flower garden. I'd have liked to buy some tulip bulbs for my dad but found they're illegal to send to the US. Same thing for cheese and mustard apparently. Sad.
This first week passed in a blur, and soon it was time for our mini trip to Brussels. I shall write about that weekend in my next entry. Okay bye!