Trip Start Sep 07, 2010
Trip End Sep 06, 2013

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Where I stayed
What I did
Keukenhof Lisse
Read my review - 5/5 stars

Flag of Netherlands  , Noord-Holland,
Wednesday, April 18, 2012

    When I was a kid Amsterdam was in Holland - now it's called the Netherlands.  A trip to Amsterdam starts out like a multi-modal experience; plane, train, tram, bus, boat, taxi, and if you're brave and not laden down with 40 pounds of cameras, maybe even a bike.  We managed 6 of the 7.  It seemed to be enough.
    Amsterdam allows you to appreciate natural and man-made beauties; man-made beauties of Amsterdam- the canals, Van Gogh paintings, Rembrandt paintings, natural beauties – flowers at their peak, crossing both lines – Dutch beauties in the windows of the red light district.
    We’d booked our hotel through a website.  Upon arrival they informed us we were fortunate to be placed in the “apartment” nearby.  We’re not sure if it was considered a booby prize, we were healthy enough to climb the steps, or just short enough not to hit our heads on the ceiling in the bedroom.  The apartment building, about 20 meters from the hotel had 11 steps into the foyer.  Then it was 2 curving narrow stairwells of 15 steps each to enter the apartment.  THEN, 11 more steps up into the bedroom.  The downstairs had a nice sitting room, the water closet and a kitchenette.  Other than a hike if you needed to visit the loo in the middle of the night, it was a lovely spot, right on the Amstel River, across from the opera house.
    When trying to figure out how to get back to the airport, or out to the gardens we approached the hotel desk clerk.  In our best pseudo Italian-Euro trash accent I asked how to get to the KOOK-en-hoff?  She looked at me funny.  Kou-KEN-hoff - I tried.  She still looked at me with a perplexed look on her face.  I showed her the brochure and I think what she said was Ohhhhh, Kehr-ken-hoff (do your best interpretation of the Swedish chef from the Muppets on this one and you’ll get close.) 
    We picked our timing to visit Amsterdam to see the tulips at the peak of their beauty.   Immediate sensory overload as you walk into was originally a “kitchen garden” (kueken = kitchen, & hof = garden).  It’s nowhere near that now.  The variety of colors and the sweeping displays are breathtaking.  For Randy who delights in photographing flowers - it was like hitting the jackpot.  Like a kid in a candy shop, or more likely, Randy at a Porsche dealership; we didn’t know where to look first.  Our heads swiveled around resting on each site and flower bed for a few fleeting moments before moving on.  It was everything we hoped for and more.
    The lunchroom at the garden was as equally a mix of international people as a quick visit to the United Nations.  There were as many different kinds of people in the cafeteria as patches of flowers outside.  The similarities in the people were like the similarities of the flowers – even though we had our differences, there was a common element as well.  Where most of the flowers were tulips and hyacinths, us hungry lunch seekers were 90% in the same age bracket – mostly 30 +++, just like Randy and me.
    Only now while looking at the HUNDREDs of photos that both Randy and I took did we get the chance to really appreciate some of the flowers.  Flowers themselves are fascinating.  I read somewhere, sometime, they are the first thing created with no practical purpose.  Okay, mostly non-practical.  I know that squash blossoms are frequently eaten - but there are plenty of other flowers whose primary purpose is just to bring joy.  Flowers can also be considered decadent.  For me, a person that takes practicality to a higher level, the appreciation of flowers would seem rather out of character.  Tulips especially, fall into the category of decadent flowers.  They bloom early in the season - when fewer things are green, let alone purple, red, orange, yellow, etc., and then they fade rather quickly.  With such a short lifespan, they really are precious.  
    Other interesting points from our trip to Amsterdam – 1) Bicycles with wheel barrow type crates on the front.  Usually they contained a couple of relatively small kids, and sometimes not so small.  Those parents must have some great legs and a great sense of balance to keep propelling those kids.  2) Bike barges.  With so many bikes around, when you stop and have to go into work there’s gotta be somewhere to lock the thing up.  The city has had to park barges in the canals just to get the bikes out of the way.  3) Argentinian steak houses.  These were everywhere, in different price ranges.  Did the Argentinians get lost and turn right at some point, or did the cows just go on a European vacation and never go back?  I thought the migration for WWII was in the other direction? 
    After the garden, we visited several museums, and seemed to get the hang of the tram car schedule.  With so many people out riding bikes, it looked in all types of weather; you would expect the Dutch to be very healthy people.  They must have been, as I do not recall seeing anybody that appeared out of shape as they almost ran me over. 
    We spent an evening strolling through the Red Light district.  There actually were red lights at the entrance to the pedestrian area.  Then there were red lanterns strung from the Chinese Food Restaurants.  We continued strolling finding the shops offering the adult toys, and then of course the windows offering the adults.  I sure hope they were adults, because they looked awfully young to me.  The beauties were generally helped along with a little science/medicine/silicone.  The girls in the windows though scantily clad actually had on more clothes than the 2012 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition cover.  So much for American prudish standards!
The Rijksmuseum was lovely and the gallery that shows you all the Van Gogh (we Americans can’t even come close to a correct pronunciation on that one) reminds you that it is such a comprehensive collection because the poor guy never sold a thing until after he was dead.  Well, one, but I think it was to his brother and his brother died shortly after that.  So it’s easy to show all your work when it has never gone anywhere.
    Right after we left, the Dutch government announced they were considering limiting the “coffee houses” to residents only.  Coffee is served in addition to other items served in this type of bar.  In the US we would think to call them Dorito Shops, or Potato Chip Places, as the other item served generally is known to induce munchies, more than a desire for caffeine.  While looking for a lunch place we wandered into a “Coffee House”.  I told Randy my preference was to find a place a little more heavily visited, but it was his turn to choose the meal spot.  Three steps in and no other clients other than us, I said it was not quite what I thought he was looking for.  Luckily Randy pulled a Bill Clinton and didn’t inhale; otherwise he would have marred his perfect record of never having partaken.  He never did that “college experimentation” when his focus was entirely on the goal of getting into the Naval Academy.  At this late date in his life, as long as the beer is cold, it doesn’t look like a time to start.
    The last day, at the last minute we hopped on a tour bus arranged by the Diamond cutters, Gassan.  As we were the last bus of the day, the factory was closed.  I had to apologize to my mother that she wasn’t get a diamond souvenir – heck even I didn’t get one, so I surely wasn’t organized enough to get a second one as a gift.  Gee—Randy must have planned that well, because we certainly did not reach the Heineken tour too late to buy a sample, or two and several souvenir mementos from the brewery.
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