Beethoven, Bikes, & Behinds


Cabin fever can lead to overzealous planning which later leads to physical pain.

With rain nearly every single day last week, I was like a prisoner at my parole hearing and ready to get out.  The forecast for the weekend held partly sunny skies, mild temperatures, and NO RAIN!  Finally—a rain-free weekend.  To G’s “excitement”, I was set on spending as much time outdoors as possible.  I lined up an outdoor movie, a bike ride to a nearby town, and an outdoor music concert…not once giving a second thought to the cumulative effect this would have on my behind.

August sunsets are still as late as 9pm and the perfect time for a post-dinner movie.  The Oscar nominated movie Easy Rider (1969) was scheduled for  Friday’s Vondelpark’s Sunset Film Festival so we packed a few adult beverages and biked to the EYE Museum…as did many other Amsterdamers.  Tickets (read: seats) were sold out; however, you were welcome to cop a squat on the pavement in front of the screen at no charge.  And we did.  And after 10 minutes, the lower half of my body was quite uncomfortable.  Having just run 5k in the park didn’t help either.  Fortunately we live close by and a quick trip home procured two, albeit thin, cushions making the next 95 minutes possible to bear.

With partly sunny skies on Saturday afternoon, I was not going to miss the opportunity for a long bike ride.  Oh, and photos.  I suggested Naarden for our bike ride, but with an ulterior motive.  The World Press Photo Exhibit is currently on display at the Grote Kerk and with World Photography day the day before, I thought a perfect opportunity to indulge…regardless of the fact I had already seen the exhibit in Amsterdam (shhh, don’t tell G!).

The ride to Naarden was typical of the Dutch countryside complete with our own bike lane 90% of the time…I LOVE biking in this country.  A lot of cows, sheep, goats, and farmland for our viewing smelling pleasure.   Getting to Naarden required passing through the town of Muiden.  Our ride was slowed to a walk due to their Spiering Festival in full swing on the main street coupled with draw bridge traffic from large ships entering the canal.  Another 9km stretch of farmland and we made it to Naarden.  Click here to see the route.

Naarden is small town southeast of Amsterdam with well-preserved fortified walls, an encircling moat, and a distinctive star shape best viewed from above.  Dead center in the town is the Grote Kerk (large church) rising tall above the surrounding buildings.

Aerial view of Naarden, NL © http://www.naardel.nl; photo editing by Connie Ricca

We refueled with traditional Dutch broodjes (sandwiches) and Belgium beir.  The larger Uitsmijter  for G and a smaller tosti for me.  With full tummies, we entered the Grote Kerk and enjoyed the photo exhibit.

I continue to be inspired by the amazing photographs captured by photojournalists and documentary photographers.  Each photo at the exhibit is like reading a short story.  Each photo captures so much information, detail, and history that I could spend hours at the exhibit.  And at least one photo, even if you only glance at it for few seconds, will resonate with you after you leave.  A new exhibition begins each April so try to catch one in a town near you.

After satisfying my sweet tooth with some ice cream, we were back on the bikes ready to conquer another 25km to head home. But no time for a leisure ride home.  The Prinsengrachtconcert was starting at 8p and we hoped to arrive early enough for a nice spot canal side to enjoy the live classical music.  With a quick change of clothes and a stash of adult beverages, we arrived 45 minutes early…nearly half the town of Amsterdam was already there.  Once again, we plopped our behinds on the pavement (sans cushions!) and enjoyed the people watching until the concert began.

Despite a physically worn out body come Sunday, I was mentally rejuvenated and prepared to take on another rainy Amsterdam week ahead.

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PRIDE on the Amsterdam Canals

[click on any image to view larger]

In NYC, the Pride parade marches along 5th Avenue. In New Orleans, its the streets of the obvious French Quarter. Always on the street, always in June.

Hop on over to Amsterdam in August and experience the parade on the water. Come on, its Amsterdam…you had to figure it was a bike or a boat, right? The parade of barges and boats begins at the top of the Prinsengracht and then cuts up the Amstel River before ending around the Oosterdok. And this is when living on the canal (or knowing someone who knows someone!) has advantages. We were fortunate to be a +2 add-on with our friends and enjoy the parade from their colleague’s canal house.  This meant the luxury of a clean bathroom and not having to improvise our own vantage point like these two.

We missed the parade last year as we were stateside, but I heard it was a washout with rain. This year, the day began with sunny skies—quite a rarity this summer—and the Prinsengracht was packed with spectators along the canal walls on foot and boat.

Some had choreographed dances…

Some a color theme…

And several with confetti…

And if you were a large barge, you required a boat on the front to steer:

And one on the back to push:


A good time was being had by all, and then Amsterdam had to be AmsterDAM[n].

However, the celebration on the boats continued!


After about 15 minutes of hard rain and high winds, the clouds moved on and the umbrellas were folded.

The week was filled with various events around the city, but the Saturday parade was certainly the highlight.  The night before, we also attended the Drag Queen Olympics.  Quite interesting!  I did’t have my camera on hand (shocker, I know), but you can catch some great photos and video posted on my friend’s blog by clicking here.

All fun times come to an end, but I’ll leave you with some other parade fotos…and a promise to have updates from Italy posted soon.  CLICK HERE for foto slideshow.

R & G’s B&B

A month ago we returned to Amsterdam after a great time with family and friends in the States.  The next day, we started visitor season.  It’s my only plausible excuse for the lack of blog posts lately.

It is a rather tricky time of year here with the weather.  One day is beautiful, sunny t-shirt type weather; the next day is chilly and won’t stop raining.  And then there is the teaser day that starts out sunny, and later becomes rainy—or vice versa—and you find yourself outfitted in the wrong gear.  So, either pack the kitchen sink or roll the dice when you head out for the day.  Sadly, our first set of visitors had to trek to Bruges to see that the sun does exist this far north.  G’s mom and her friend came to visit and they spent their week in Amsterdam under the refuge of a raincoat.

Rainy day on the Prinsengraft

However, after heavily bribing the sun gods and trekking a bit south to Bruges, we found sunshine!  Along with an abundance of Belgium beer, frites, chocolate, and waffles.  Loves for the tummy, but sworn enemies to my derrière.  Regardless, I indulged! Click here for a full photoshow.

Canals along Dijver

Bruges Canals

Minnewater Park

Driving back to Amsterdam, we couldn’t help but laugh as we crossed the Belgium/Dutch border and were greeted by, what else…rain! At this point, our guests were used to it and we toughed it out on their last day at Zaanse Schans to see the windmills.  Click here for a full photoshow.

Not a good open-air museum day

Still windy, but at least no rain for the photo op

A few days later, G’s pseudo-sister and her cousin arrived.  The weather made a complete 180 and showered them with mild temperatures and sunshine all week.  I think Mother Nature knew they would spend a lot of time on the bike, so she was kind to them.  C & K also made an overnight trip to Bruges and discovered my four deadly favorites.  With all its charm, Bruges again tops the favorites list with our guests.

Proost!

G & C at the Brouwerij

C & K waiting for dinner at Balti House

We bid adieu to C & K and prepare for G’s cousin and wife arriving the next day.  The weather is gloomy when they first arrive, but with lunch in our bellies and two rental bikes in the pack, we are ready to show them around.  When the weather cooperates, we love to bring our guests to the Brouwerij ‘t IJ .  Turns out this was a day that started ugly, but peaked during the late afternoon.  After a ride along the picturesque canals and the obligatory gawking in the red light district, we were off to the brewery to replenish our energy with some local beer and cheese.  Lekker!

Mid week they were off to, big surprise here……Bruges (and Boullion)!  With all the guests we have brought or sent to Bruges, I think we have earned a sizeable referral fee from the Belgium tourism department.  Or at least a waffle?!?

New to me was the nearby town of Utrecht.  When S & E returned from Belgium, we spent an afternoon/evening there enjoying the scenery, beer, and pancakes. Dutch pannenkoeken’s are best described as a cross between an American pancake and a French crepe—on the thinner side like a crepe, but served open face with the added items visible.  They are available all day and a typical pannekkoeken house has at least 50 varieties.  Sweet, savory, veggie, meaty, fruity, cheesy…hard not to find one that will suit your craving.  My choice for the night was sprek en kaas (bacon and cheese, super lekker!).

Utrecht canals

Canal reflections

E & S enjoying the scenery

Cousins toast with one last beer

As I brought our guests to the airport this morning, I couldn’t believe how fast a month went by and had to accept the fact summer is clearly over.  The days are getting shorter, fall weather is upon us, and the rainy season is around the corner.  The debauchery of my summer time fun has caught up with me so it’s time to hang up my hostess hat and put in some long hours at the gym!

One Hundred Eighty Three…

Days.  With the start of a new month, I realized I only have 6 months until my Dutch residence permit expires.  Time is flying faster than I can keep up.  I’ve been here just a tad over 6 months and now only have 6 months left.  Wow.  At least the days are getting longer and the temperatures milder…so I need to get out and soak up as much of The Netherlands (and the rest of EU) since the clock is ticking.

If anyone has figured out the magic formula for slowing time down, I will pay a pretty penny for it.

Nov - My new bike

December

Jan - It never stopped snowing

Feb - Carnaval in Maastricht

March - Tulips are in bloom

April - Boat rides through the canals

May - Windmills at Zaanse Schans

Koninginnedag!!! (Queen’s Day)

Grab a boat, a beer, and something orange and you are ready for the national Dutch holiday that is a cross between the debauchery of Mardi Gras and country pride associated with the Fourth of July.  Koninginnedag celebrates the Queen’s Birthday in The Netherlands.  The current Queen Beatrix’s birthday is actually in January, but she chose to keep the holiday on her mother’s birthday, April 30th, which makes for pleasant outdoor celebrations.

Plastic animals for sale

Can you land the ring on the bottle?

The day starts very early in the morning as it is the one day of the year anyone has rights to vrijmarkt(free market) to make a few extra euros–commonly know in the states as a garage/rummage/yard sale.  Early birds may happen upon some worthwhile finds, but the majority of the stuff appears to be junk that sat in a box gathering dust since last year’s Koninginnedag.  You can also sell perishable items such as baked goods or bottled water; however, alcohol is off-limits unless you have a license.  Other than selling items, the Dutch creatively craft games in an effort to consume the euro coins you have reserved in your pocket to pay for the use of restrooms as you trek all over the city while consuming beer.

Judd, Geo, & Keely

If you are a lucky soul who owns a boat, you will have friends appear from the woodworks.  The canals are filled with orange clad revelers floating along in boats and barges.  So why orange when the county’s colors are red, white, and blue?  Orange is the color of the Dutch Royal Family. The lineage of the current dynasty — the House of Oranje-Nassau — dates back to Willem van Oranje (William of Orange).  If you are a futbol fan (soccer) and plan to watch the World Cup this year, you will see the Dutch in orange and black for their home jersey and red/white/blue for their away jersey.

Canal boats in Jordaan

Rach & Keely in Jordaan

My friend Keely and her friend Judd came to visit from the states.  We spent Koninginnedag roaming all over Amsterdam to soak up the celebration and give our guests the “highlights of Amsterdam” tour.  Oud Zuid to Vondelpark to Museumplein. Skirt the edge of Leidseplein to the Jordaan, wander the Canal Belt and Nine Streets towards Dam Square, a quick walk through the Red Light District and arrive at Nieuwmarkt.

Click this foto for a video of the ride

With the sun setting later and later, it is now 9p without realizing it…and still a 3.5k walk to get home!  Needless to say, we were not early risers on Saturday morning.  I had a fantastic Queen’s Day, but I think my heart still belongs to the neutral ground on St. Charles Avenue and Carnival season.  CLICK HERE for a few more fotos from Queen’s Day in Amsterdam.