Finally! A great night's sleep - and ready to explore Amsterdam!
This morning we went downstairs to breakfast, had some croissants with nutella and yogurt - with strong coffee, and headed out to our morning cruise on the canals!
(Connie and Jeff - people that live 20 minutes from us! Funny to meet in Europe, isn't it?!)
We boarded a glass-top boat and were given a tour of the city by water. It was a little overcast - but a nice way to spend a morning. (I can imagine this would be beautiful in the summer!) We saw the Anne Frank House.
We also saw the many 16th-century merchant houses, and lovely old churches and their bell towers. Just looking at all the different houses and their gables was fun! Every gable (almost) is a different shape with interesting and detailed carvings around them. The houses themselves are so skinny, it's sometimes hard to believe it's a house! (But apparently, they're REALLY deep - I really wanted to tour one...) And, if you notice on my pictures, the pulley system at the top of almost every gable - that's how they move furniture in and out of the houses. The stairs are too steep, and often spiral, so they move things in and out through the windows - and have done it that way for centuries! Cool, huh?
Another funny thing about Amsterdam - that I mentioned briefly yesterday - is ALL THE BIKES! Whoa. There are parking ramps all over the city - for bikes only. Craziness!
The canals were just cool, though. So colorful with all the amazing houseboats. Like I said, I bet it's beautiful in the summer!
Oh! And electric cars everywhere!
Next, we stopped by a diamond factory and got a demonstration on how diamonds are shaped, polished, and set. (Then of course, we got to try rings and necklaces on in an effort to sell us thousands of dollars worth of diamonds! Didn't work. I don't think anyone bought anything... Ha ha ha.) They were very sparkly, though! Very tempting...
As we were leaving the diamond place, we went across the street for a free latte and dutch waffle cookie (stroopwafel) - ohmygoodness! These little waffle cookies are something else! (It's probably good we don't have them here... We're obese enough, right?) We also bought our Christmas ornament from Amsterdam - little Delft pottery "wooden" shoes. So cute.
We drove through the city, a tour of all the districts, as we headed out of town for a visit to Volendam - a charming fishing village on the old Zuiderzee.
(On the way, we passed this bridge - they call it the "Dolly Parton" Bridge. Ha ha ha.)
Then, later in the day we saw this sign - no idea what it means, but I think I could fit in here! Ha ha ha!)
Volendam was beautiful and quaint. We walked up and down the main street full of tourist shops and cafes, and made our way down the side streets to look at the beautiful residential areas. So cute - and lots of character! Each house has a different front door - different styles and very colorful. The joke is that they are different, so when the drunk fishermen would come home they could find their house based on the door. Ha ha ha.
(If I were to live here... that little white house is where I would live.)
(Daisy and Marmaduke - on "holiday"?!)
Oh! And as were walking around, we think we saw a group shooting a music video! I've tried finding them online.. Nothing yet. Anybody know who they are?
We ate lunch in Volendam - raw herring from the Fish Shop (the owner didn't speak any english, so when we noticed a local man order what we wanted, we pointed and said, "that, please." It worked!) Then we walked down to a street vendor selling more fish, and ordered a smoked eel sandwich.
Looks gross - but amazingly good! A strip of smoked eel, plopped in a hoagie bun. Yum. And of course, we topped it off with some "frites" - french fries, but so much better. Crisp and warm - made right there as you wait. No soggy fries here! And they're served with a sweet, homemade mayonaisse. So good. A delicious - and cheap - lunch!
Next, we made our way to Zaanse Schaans hertitage park, where we got to see the old windmills, watch a demonstration of how they make wooden shoes, and see a demonstration on making cheese! It was a beautiful little village of green and white buildings. Sheep grazing on the grass, windmills all around, blue skies.
(We got our "REI socks" picture! Last year it was on the Cliffs of Moher, this year with the windmills of Holland!)
The wooden shoe demonstration was very fun and interesting. Did you know that the Dutch still wear wooden shoes?! They are kind of like our "steel-toed boots." People who work in industry, farming and on road crews often wear them to protect their feet. And they're making a comeback for little girls - they like the "clip clop" sound of wearing them... So funny. We got to try some on - I don't think I could wear them. Not very comfortable (and they need to be really big to fit some thick socks on, too! Uff-da.).
(You know what they say about a guys with big feet, right? Ha ha ha.)
Next, we went over to the cheese house for a demo on making cheese (not very interesting) and a tasting of dozens of kinds of cheeses!
We didn't taste many, unfortunately... Another tour group came in from another country (I won't name names), and they were incredibly rude - pushing in front of us in lines and yelling at the staff. I couldn't handle the horrible behavior... It wasn't worth putting up with for a few bites of cheese. (Really shows you the difference in cultures though, doesn't it?)
Finally, we made our way back to Amsterdam and the hotel. We had a little bit to rest and relax (meaning, take a nap) before we headed out once again! (While we were in the hotel room, we flipped on the tv - and on several channels, they were airing the interview with Tiger Woods. All I could think was, "really?" Why is he such big news ALL OVER the WORLD?! Gross.)
Tonight, we would go to a lovely little restaurant for our group dinner and then for a tour of the Red Light District.
But first things first - dinner. We ate in a very cool little room, full of stained glass windows and beautiful light fixtures at the "Haesje Claes." It was dark and cozy, and very fun.
We sat with Connie and Jeff, and Jim and Vera - and enjoyed getting to know one another even more and sharing lots of laughter!
We tried a before dinner drink of Geenever - the original gin. I had a cherry version (the girl's drink) and I thought it was very yummy, the hubby tried it straight (the man's drink) and thought it was not so good. I had ham and melon for my appetizer (the hubby had carpaccio - raw beef - and cheese - which I have to say, was delicous!); for dinner we both had salmon (which I must say, after all the smoked fish we had earlier - didn't quite measure up!); and for dessert, I had a thin pancake with vanilla ice cream and an orange liqueur sauce (the hubby had cinnamon ice cream with egg liqueur and a peanut butter cookie) - both were yummy!
With full bellies and a few glasses of wine in us, we headed off for a walking tour of the Red Light District (this link tells a lot about the district - it's interesting stuff!). Weird. It was not what I expected, and exactly what I expected at the same time. You'd walk by large windows (sometimes through tight alleyways - which made you WAY too close to the window!), with red lights on, girls in their bras and undies (often white lingerie, so the black lights would make them glow) standing in the windows or sitting on a bar stool. The girls looked bored to death - texting and talking on their cell phones. If you were a guy walking by, they might shake their boobs at you - but that was as erotic as it got. It was sad. The girls were 18 and up (they had to be, legally) - and most looked a lot younger. No men in the windows - apparently there used to be, but the women didn't like all the attention they were getting so they were kicked out. Now, if you want services from a guy - you have to call to make an appointment. (I thought that was kind of funny.)
Interspersed between the "windows" were "brown cafes" or Coffee Shops - that didn't sell just coffee. These were the marijuana cafes and hooka bars. LOTS of people in these places! The smell filled the streets - and it was only a Monday night! I can't imagine what this area is like on the weekend! Oh - and lots of sex toy shops. Gross. The window displays alone made me wonder about what goes on behind the red windows. Eeewww. And so sad. I just felt sad when I left this area. (And no pictures from this tour - you get in BIG trouble if you look like you're taking pictures of the girls in the windows... So I didn't even bring the camera...)
On the way home, safely tucked in the bus, we passed a long line of people waiting outside the "Torture Museum." Really?! This is an attraction that people wait in line for? Gross.
The rest of the drive back to the hotel was nice - it was fun to be able to see inside the windows of the beautiful row homes. The living spaces were so modern and classy-looking! I still wish we could have snooped in someone's home... Wouldn't that be fun?
Day three done - busy, fun, eye-opening, and adventurous!
Things I am thankful for today:
2. Jim and Vera - such special people.
3. Funny pictures.
4. The waffle cookies! Stoopwafels.
5. The smell of lake water.
6. Windmills. So cool looking.
7. Trying new foods - and loving it!
8. Grateful to not know that much about the Red Light District. So sad.
9. A beautiful, sunny day!
10. Kinder Eggs - chocolate eggs with toys in them. We got some for my confirmation boys!
Director of Youth and Outreach at St. Paul's United Methodist Church AND a daughter, a sister, a wife, a friend, an aunt, a god-mother, a volunteer, a woman of faith, and one who chooses to live in joy and gratefulness... Here I write mostly about faith and life - and would love to hear your comments and stories, for I believe that is how we learn and grow together!