Monday, September 15, 2014


Thursday, September 4th

For once, Nick and I made it to the airport without total meltdowns for either of us. Haha! We had gas in the car before we even started the trip, we dropped our car off at the car park, and made it through security with time to spare. Our trip to Amsterdam started off nice and easy!

While we waited in the airport, I had a chance to look through old photos on our old camera. (Somehow, I lost the charger to our new camera on our last trip. It likely fell out of my purse.) I brought our old camera along, so we didn't have to miss out on any picture taking! It was fun to see the old photos that are still on there. 

Once we boarded, Nick passed out on the plane. I should have taken a picture of him with his mouth wide open, snoring. :) But I was a nice wife, and didn't...I'll just write about it instead. Haha!

We arrived to the airport at 12:30am. We bought our train tickets into Amsterdam, and then waited. A woman came over the loud speaker and announced that none of the trains were running to the airport because of a faulty track line. Ugh! (I've done some research since then, and turns out that Amsterdam does most of their work on the trains in Sept. That would've been good to know earlier.) We had JUST bought our tickets. We walked around the airport for half an hour trying to figure out what to do next. Do we try and get our money back with the angry mob at the ONE ticket counter? Do we wait for the track to be fixed? Do we get a bus? Taxi? There were at least 300 other souls aimlessly walking around the station; they looked just as lost as we did. We started to look for buses when the man that owns the apartment we would be staying in texted,"Grab a cab." It was an expensive trip, (50 Euro one way) but we got into Amsterdam in 25 minutes! Dan, the owner of the apartment, greeted us and handed us the keys. By this point it was 2am. Time for some shut-eye. 

Friday, September 5th

We were fresh, and ready to hit the town by 11am the next morning! Our first order of business was to rent a bike! We'd had such good luck with the tandem in Ireland, we thought we'd try it again. The first bike shop, Mikes Bikes, was out of all of their tandems. Doh! They called to several other shops around Amsterdam, which were also out of tandems. We walked down the street to Starbikes rental. They had ONE left! It was pretty old, but we loved it! We rode through the city (which was an adventure) and straight to Vondelpark. 

My cute husband on our cute bike. :)
This was moments before he tried to dismount, caught his jeans in the handle, and fell over. Haha!

I had reserved tickets to the Van Gogh museum for 2pm. When we arrived at the museum, Nick was laughing that we had bought tickets in advance...until we walked around the corner and he saw the long line. We didn't have to wait one second in it! Totally worth it!! 
We each bought an audio guide, and we were off on the grand tour! I would HIGHLY recommend the Van Gogh museum and the audio guide. We learned so much about his life and art. 
Van Gogh was really quite modern and well ahead of his time. He had over 30 paintings of himself. He was the first person to do a "selfie!" He also painted several different copies of some of his paintings; each with different shades of color. He made 5 different copies of his famous "Sunflower" painting. He was the first artist to do "filters" like we use today on Instagram! 
What surprised us most was that he was so heavily influenced by Japanese art. Amsterdam was a city built on trading, and that included places as far away as Japan. So cool!

Even though this is one of is more well-known paintings, it was still my favorite. 

Nick and I grabbed some lunch in the cafe to discuss Van Gogh. They had a great selection of food. They even had fresh mint tea! 

Just around the corner from the Van Gogh museum is the Rijksmuseum. We were more excited about the "I amsterdam" sign in front of it. 
These street performers in the photo prevented us from getting a close-up shot with the sign. We decided we'd come back later to get a photo with it. 

Afterward, we started our Rick Steves' walking tour. (Or in our case "biking tour.")

While Nick steered, I directed him and read snippets of info from Rick Steves tour book. We had a lot of funny looks. I heard one man laugh and say, "Ha! A new kind of tour on wheels!"
We stopped in Leidsplein first. It's Amsterdam's busiest square. 
The Bulldog is a chain of cafes/coffeeshops. They don't just sell coffee. We went in to see what the fuss was about. There were about a dozen people in line to buy pot and almost all of them looked like grungy tourists. We immediately turned around and left. 

Nick on Leidseplein with the Stadsschouwburg Theatre behind him. 

The same french architect, Pierre Cuypers, built the theatre, the Rijksmuseum, and the train station.
Nick was getting bored quickly, and slightly annoyed with having to tie the bike up every time we we continued on! 

We had to get off our bikes again to walk down the pedestrian- only Leidsestraat. There were all kinds of fun shops including: cheese shops, clog shops, and frito Lays shops! (Yes! You read that right!)

Look, I finally found a shoe store with my size in Europe! :P


I really loved seeing all of the architecture in Amsterdam. I love me some Gables! The houses lean to appear larger. They also are built leaning forward to help when trying to lift large items up to the top of a house. Anyone on the 6th floor need a piano? Baby elephant?

It's easy to see why Amsterdam is called the "Venice of the North." They have canals everywhere!

 Next we rolled through the flower market. I was expecting to see fresh flowers. Instead, they just had big, ugly bulbs. I snapped a few photos of the actual flowers I saw. 

At the end of the flower market is Mint Tower in Muntplein. 
This used to be a gate that marked the medieval city limits. In 1620, it was changed into a tower. 

In a few blocks, we came across a book market and the Begijnhof; it was a quiet refuge in the busy city.

Pilgrims prayed here before they departed on the Mayflower. 

During the Crusades, many men left and never returned. The women were left husbandless. Most women moved here and lived simple, unpretentious lives. 

This is the oldest wooden house in Amsterdam; it dates back to 1477.

We left the Begijnhof and walked farther down a pedestrian only street. We walked past the Amsterdam Museum. We didn't have enough time to visit it this day, so we decided we'd come back to it later. 

Our tour ended in Dam Square in front of the Royal Palace. Nick was relieved. :) He and Rick don't get along too well. :)
We were starving by this point, so we rode our bikes to the closest "chips" place!

Chipy Chips had some DElicious fries! Most people order the french fries with ketchup and mayo. I ordered a spicy mayo and Nick just ordered ketchup. 
There are shops that only sell french fries everywhere in Amsterdam. I would almost expect something like this in the States, since we have more obese citizens. Maybe this is the Dutch secret to staying thin. :) 
We returned back to our apartment to do some research on places to eat. After an unsuccessful search, we decided to just walk around and see what we could find. We found a yummy tapas place; unfortunately, we ate too many fries earlier, so we didn't enjoy as much Spanish food as we would've liked. 

We joined the crowds an hour later to walk the streets of the red light district. What an experience that was! I felt more comfortable knowing that there were other tourists, but it was still strange.  It was awkward walking past a window with someone staring at you while they were half-naked. There was also an overwhelming smell of pot smoke in the air. I have never been able to decipher the smell of pot smoke until this trip. I should add that to my resume. :) I was excited to leave that area....and take a shower. Phew!

It was a fun day! I had seen and smelled enough of the red light district to last a lifetime. 

Saturday, September 6th

We knew we wanted to start off our morning with a boat ride through the canals. Rain was predicted for the day. Hopefully, it would hold off until after our boat tour.

We HAD to stop and take another photo on our way to the boat tour. :) It looks so gloomy compared to the previous day! It's hard to tell, but I'm actually standing in front of the "d."

It took us WAY too long to get this one photo without anyone else in it. The second Nick stood on top, someone else sat down inside the "d"..and then someone else...and then one more. I had to be really quick and snap a photo before someone else grabbed the spot. He's crossing his arms because he was getting tired of standing there. :) Haha!

After getting our photo, we rode to the boat tour ticket booth. They had just sold the last ticket for the noon boat, so we bought tickets for 12:30pm. We grabbed a spot at a cafe across the river to watch the barges go by. At 12:20 we noticed that a line was already forming for our boat tour. We ran over, but realized we were at the very end of the long line. We weren't too worried, since we'd already bought tickets, but we likely weren't going to get a good seat. 
Our boat pulled up and people started filing in. The woman taking tickets stopped us. In broken English she explained that there might not be room for us on the boat. DOH! We stood there for another 10 minutes while the other passengers got seated. There were only 2 spots left! PHEW! 
And we were off...

Normally the windows on top are open, but with the chance of showers they kept them closed. 
Everyone had a headset attached to the table to listen to the recorded audio guide. It was SUPER corny. Most of the actual information we heard was in our Rick Steves book, so we didn't learn a whole lot more information...but, we did get to enjoy the views!

The tour lasted an hour and 15 minutes. It was just right; not too long.

We were glad to get back on our bikes and ride! Since we were so close to Vondelpark, we decided to ride through there again. Nick let me steer. I had a LOT of trouble steering! It was like I was learning to ride a bike again. We were both dying laughing at how bad I was.  
We spotted a bride and groom taking photos on a bridge. We slowly rode toward them to get a photo. We were still laughing hysterically as I was swerving all over the path. The photographer laughed, then looked at us and said, "You will be next." (He was referring to us getting married next.) We both pointed to our rings on our fingers and said, "7 years!" That was one of our favorite moments of our trip! 

After giggling like little schoolgirls, we rode over to the Amsterdam Museum. In the Rick Steves' book, he mentions that there is a carillon that guests can play! We were sold! 

First, I spotted a herring stand. I've heard that these are pretty popular in Amsterdam. Many locals will eat the whole herring in one bite! I opted for a herring dog including: one herring, a bun, onion and pickles. Nick was grossed out! I took my first bite. was good! I figured if it's pretty popular, then it must be worth trying. I even convinced Nick to try it! I still think I would likely order a hot dog before ordering the herring again, but it wasn't that bad!

We walked down to the Amsterdam Museum; unfortunately, (or maybe fortunately) we didn't get any photos. Neither one of us was impressed by the museum. First, it was really confusing because there were so many floors. Second, they had just removed the carillon! We walked around for over an hour looking for it, to find out it wasn't even there! I want my money back! 
Even though Amsterdam is known for there museums, we were museum-ed out. We did, however, really enjoy riding our bike, so we got on and just explored. We hadn't been to the Jordaan district, so we headed there. 

We loved the little canals and pretty lanes of Jordaan. We decided we'd live here if we had to move to Amsterdam. 

We spotted a few good restaurants on our ride. One was a Thai restaurant. (Our fav!) We couldn't wait to come back for dinner.

We remembered that we had to return our bike at 7pm, so we decided to ride to a few new places on our way to the bike shop. We went ALL over the place. When we came to Barentzplein, we realized we weren't in a great neighborhood. Nick let out an "Owwww!" I saw something fall from his arm. I thought it was a leaf. He turned the bike around very suddenly. There was a kid hiding behind a corner looking very guilty. The kid had thrown a rock and it hit Nick in the arm. Nick started peddling toward him. The kid sprinted down the street. 5 other kids darted out from behind cars and followed the first kid. They all ran to their houses. None of them were over the age of 7, and probably didn't speak much English. I thought maybe Nick had been overreacting until I saw his arm; it left a gash in it! Nick wanted to give the kids a piece of his mind, but I think we scared them enough by biking after them. I couldn't believe it! It could have hit one of us in the head! It made me realize I should probably wear a helmet, even though hardly anyone wears helmets in Amsterdam. 

We moved on and returned the bikes to Starbikes rental. We then walked 20 minutes to the Thai restaurant we had spotted in Jordaan. Amsterdam really isn't that big compared to London or Paris. It's very easy to walk or bike.
 The restaurant was called Kinnarree. It was THE best Thai we've ever had. It is ranked #35 out of 2300 restaurants in Amsterdam.  I had a coconut soup to start, then we shared pad thai and a black pepper steak dish. They were so yummy! We considered going back again for another dinner! :) 

We'd had a relatively easy and relaxed Saturday. We were both itching to get to the Redhead festival on Sunday!

Sunday, September 7th - Redhead Festival!

Today was the big day! I get to meet thousands of other redheads! I was a little nervous!

We walked to the central train station (2 minutes) at 8:45am. The normal trains weren't working because they were under construction, (once again) so it added 30 minutes onto our commute. The tickets were 80 Euro for the two of us - roundtrip. (Yikes!) We hopped on the 9:07 train that would take us through Hertogenbosch and onto Breda by 11am. 

When we switched trains in Hertogenbosch, I spotted a few redheads with purple shirts on! It made me so excited! We were almost there! 

I was also excited because I had ONE battery that was still charged for my new camera. I had saved it so I could use it at the redhead festival. 

We walked from the train station into Breda. (About 25 minutes) We realized we had taken the long route. Oh well! We made it on time to see the grand opening! The organizer of the Redhead Days came out and spoke on a balcony to hundreds of redheads. He would ask if there were people from different countries, "Ireland? Scotland? Italy? US?" You could hear people cheering for their countries after he would call them out. America apparently has the most redheads in the world. It was fun to hear all of the Americans cheer when he called our name! Afterward, we all walked to the park to take the group photo.

On our walk to the photo shoot this young guy asked if he could get a photo with me because I had a hat on. He was so cute! 

I found my people! Haha!
There was an area blocked off just for redheads for the photo shoot. Nick snuck in to stand with me. He had actually dyed his hair red so he could slightly fit in. :) 
It was so bizarre seeing so many redheads! We were all kind of shy, and not really talking to one another. I think we all realized just how weird this whole situation was. 
The master of ceremony came over the loud speaker and told us to shake hands with the person next to us. We met people from Italy, Belgium, Ireland, and the Netherlands. 

I was so excited to meet an Italian redhead! I spoke to him a little in Italian. (I guess he's more of a red-face than redhead.) :)

Nick was so creeped out by how well we took orders. When the photographer would give us direction we'd just do it. Nick said we were better at taking orders than the military. He kept thinking we were going to turn on him and attack since he wasn't a natural redhead! Haha! 
Here, the photographer said, "Everyone put your head down." 
The photographer was high above us on a lift. She ended up using this photo she took when we all had our heads down. Unfortunately, Nick and I were so far back that you can only see our pants in the picture. If I had been one row up you could have seen us! :(
It was just after this that they announced that we had not set a record for redheads this year. We only had 1,716 this year. I'm not sure how many they had in previous years, but I know we didn't miss the record by much. 

After all the photographers were done, we mingled. 
This was John from Ireland. He was so kind! I love Irish people! 

These guys were from all over. I just liked that they had hats on. There were so many photographers around us that we felt like we needed to do something to entertain them. We all started doing the can-can. Haha!

Later we met Rusty from Oregon. He's in charge of a redhead festival in Portland. He's hoping to have a festival in Portland as big as this one in the Netherlands. 

We saw someone handing out Ginger Ale, so we went over to ask for a bottle. The woman handing it out looked at me and said," Wow! You're so tall and pretty! Would you get in this photo to help advertise my new drink?" (Oh, ok. Twist my arm.:P) She was so nice! I ran over to jump in the photo, but didn't realize that I was completely blocking the label from showing. Oops! Clearly, I'm not cut out for modeling. :)

The drink was actually pretty tasty too! It's called Gingerella.

We walked into town to see what other events were going on. There was a fashion show in the main square with all types of clothes being modeled for redheads.
 There was lecturer speaking on the history of redheads in the church in town. There weren't any seats left, so we walked around the church and admired the photos on display. It was a photo exhibition called, "Red Hot." The photographer wanted to give redheaded men a better name. Nick was not as amused by it as I was! :P It was a little odd looking at half-naked men in a church. 

When I walked outside, a couple of photographers stopped and asked if they could take my photo. Why not?! I felt like I had paparazzi following me around. :) 
Nick was so nice, he just stood there and held my purse while photographer took my photo. Haha! 
Another woman pulled me aside to interview me for the local newspaper. She was amazed that I had come here from the States. ;)

We walked to the river to check out the wake boarding events going on. Nick's first comment was, "I can do better than that. Maybe I should get out there and show them how it's done." :) I'd love to see that!

We walked back into the square to get a quick, cold drink.

A nice couple stopped and took a photo of us together. I love that we both have purple shirts, and red hair in this photo. :)

This cute duo drove by...

It was around 4pm at this point. We were both pretty pooped, and it was much warmer out than we had expected. We walked straight to the train station. We caught the train to Rotterdam and then back to Amsterdam. The train system is pretty confusing for how often the Dutch use it; hopefully, that's just because they're doing so much work on it in September. 

Amsterdam Central Station

We did a little research on dinner places back at our apartment. We were both craving burgers, so we walked down to Lombardo's. It was a 30 minute walk, but it was worth it. 

I still had a bit of juice left in my camera battery, so I went a little crazy with it when we got back to Amsterdam. 

Lombardo's is ranked #4 of all the restaurants in Amsterdam. It was pretty delish!

We enjoyed a nice evening stroll on our way back to the apartment. It was then that we decided we would rent another tandem bike for our last day in Amsterdam. Enough of the walking! :)

We also stumbled upon some red lights just around the corner from our apartment that WEREN'T in the red light district. (?!) 

The redhead festival was fun! We were glad to cross it off our list. I don't think I'll be able to convince Nick to do it again. :) He was just a tad creeped out by it. Haha!
We had just one more day in Amsterdam... 

Monday, September 8th

Our last morning in Amsterdam, we woke up and rented a bike first thing. We tried Mike's Bikes one last time. They actually had a tandem! This one was in much better shape than the first one we rode. 
We rode to a bakery around the corner from us and bought Nick's favorite breakfast - ham and cheese in a croissant. They were warm and delicious! 
We decided to hit up some of the areas we hadn't seen on the bike before. We started with the Waterloo area. 
The only things left on my bucket list were: to stand in a pair of clogs, to see a windmill, and to see the Waterloo flea market. 

We stopped at this stop light and what did we see?! Clogs!
You know what they say about big clogs...? Big socks.

Next we made it over to the Waterloo flea market. I spotted a "4 Cats" store. (Don't they know it should be 2 Cats?) :)

We spotted all kinds of knick-knacks including bottle openers in the shape of, male parts. I won't show that photo. 

I was so tempted to get a magnet with the gabled roof tops. They're my fav!

After I took this photo, I realized there was a sign that said I couldn't take a photo without buying a pair of clogs first. Oops!

Nick's comment when we left was, "...and I never saw one flea." Haha! I don't think they sell fleas at the flea market. :)

Next we rode to Oosterpark. 

They had a fun playground in water. I got off the bike to take some photos when Nick decided to take the bike IN the water! I started to walk away I was so embarrassed. (after I snapped a photo) And then someone came out and started yelling at Nick. Ha! Such a doofus!

Nick was already hungry. (Breaking the law apparently works up an appetite.) We stopped at a lunch spot right on the canal - Amstelhaven. It was a nice, quiet spot to enjoy a sandwich and salad. Our salad had some yummy nuts on them. Nick's comment was, "Everyone's goo goo for nuts here." ..uh? I asked,"You mean coo coo? Like...Crazy for nuts?" Haha!
 We enjoyed our lunch, but after doing a bit of research I found out it was voted 2,018 out of 2300 restaurants in Amsterdam. Yikes! Glad our visit was ok!

We decided to do one last tour of Vondelpark and the "I Amsterdam" sign. It's amazing how different it's looked each day.

I had to get a few more pics of my favorite gables. 

We spotted a blue heron in Vondelpark. This was the closest I've ever come to one before. 

We stopped again in Jordaan on our way back for a drink. 
"Zeezout and Peper." Haha! I will never understand Dutch.

Nick has RBF: "Resting Bitch Face." I had to take a picture just to prove it to him. :)

This is one of my favorite photos of Amsterdam. For the most part it was sunny and beautiful during our stay. And we loved riding around through the tree-lined canals. 

The last thing on our bucket list was to see a windmill. We spotted one on our map. It was east of the train station...

We found it! This is the Brouwerij 't IJ. It's a windmill that is attached to an organic brewery. It got great reviews, but we were only interested in the windmill! Crossed that off our bucket list!

We rode back by NEMO the Science Center, and on to the train station to return our bikes.

We could have rented this gem! Darn!

One last view of the thousands of bikes in Amsterdam. 

We grabbed our things and headed back to the train station. 
The train ride was quick since the trains were working again! 

The Amsterdam Schipol airport was amazing! I was so glad we got there early and had time to enjoy it. They had sections of the airport dedicated to relaxation which included: beds, comfy seats, massage chairs, sounds of birds chirping and water running, and mood lighting. And they had bike machines that would charge your phone; all you have to do it pedal! One of my favorite parts was the chocolate bar! We couldn't resist. :)

We loved our stay in Amsterdam. When we do come back it will be during the tulip festival. 
Riding around the city was by far our favorite part of the city, as scary as it can be sometimes.
 We loved all the different cuisines we could try! The food was pretty amazing!
I wasn't impressed with the "coffeeshops" or the red light district. (Not that I expected to be.) 
I wish we had done Anne Franks House and NEMO. Nick wasn't all that interested in seeing either of those, so we skipped out. I have to have something to see the next time I visit, right? 
We decided we would try to speak a little more Dutch on our next visit as well. :)

Ciao for now!!

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