Thursday, September 29, 2011

Day 7 - Amsterdam, Netherlands (2011)

"My aunt came back from Holland, too, And she brought with her a wooden shoe."

I loved dancing to this song, while dreaming of really being in Holland, when I was a kid. And now I am living my dream, although I didn't get myself a wooden shoe :) 

Holland, as The Netherlands is "commonly" known as, is actually a misnomer since it's not another name for the country but a region within. Luckily though, I could say I really went to Holland since Amsterdam, the country's capital, is part of North and South Holland. The land of tulips, wind mills, wooden shoes and canals. This was one road trip I was really looking forward to.

From Brussels, we drove around 211kms northeast to Amsterdam (roughly 2.5hrs). 

driving route north-bound to Amsterdam

We initially planned to park the cars at Centraal Station and take the local transpo around. But we were able to get good parking space for FREE (you seldom get that in Europe) within the city, how good is that?!

A short walk from our parking spot and we were already at one of the canals. 

our first glimpse of one of Amsterdam's canals

crossing over Museumbrug

behind us is the famous  Rijksmuseum Amsterdam
We didn't go inside the museum though. We are not really museum fanatics :)

finding our way towards.....


one of the common sights around Amsterdam

not really sure if this one was a busker. But he was interesting enough.

this was something new to us. I wonder if Ira would be comfortable riding this....

sort of the centre of chaos - where people and trains meet
Better watch out when you plan to cross the street cause the trains do come and go.

one of the canals of Amsterdam

photo op stop on the bridge

another biker "walking" her dog

Amsterdam, the land of bikes? Indeed there were a lot of bikers driving around the city.
They ride these very big bicycles - the old types with big wheels, long handles - the one we usually call bike for aunties.

an array of buildings with noticeable hooks on the roof

these hooks were used to bring bulk items in and out of the windows because most of the houses in Amsterdam have narrow, steep staircases thereby making it difficult to bring bulk items up

we haven't seen tulips yet during this part of the walk but there were definitely beautiful roses

looking for a good pancake house so we can already eat brunch

found one! and they have lots of flavours to choose from. We ordered hawaiian (ham and cheese), bacon, and cheese. They were really good and had big servings.

for drinks, they have a small bottle of iced lemon tea :) that's what I ordered. The others had chocolate drink and water (not the fizzy one).

more iced tea drinks please... these were sparkling drinks

an a hot choco for the little girl

After brunch, we walked towards Anne Frank Huis. 

We walked along Princegracht.....
and found this small statue of Anne Frank around a block away from the house

We were hoping to get into the house to see the place where she and her family had hidden, but the queue was too long we didn't have that much time to wait.
so we just settled with a photograph in front of her house

a boathouse just across Anne Frank's house

we went back to where the statue was for another picture then strolled around the plaza while the kids played around

there were some shops nearby so we checked out the prices for their souvenirs. If we were going to buy some we need to do so as soon as we find one.

that's me thinking if I was going to buy the set of magnets

I got these....
no wooden shoe but this will do

Dutch in bikes

of course, the windmills of Holland

and got this one for hubby

sis-in-law resting while overseeing the kids

The kids love these short breaks from long walks where they can just be kids 
- running around, playing, running after birds

a nicely decorated lamp post

break is over. Souvenir shopping is done for now.

Magna Plaza on the background

complete family photo taken by a passerby

Across the road, just beside the church was a shop with Russian dolls - thousands of them in different designs. I was tempted to go and check if I could buy one.
we got out of the shop empty handed
The dolls were just too expensive!

in the middle of the road, making our way to the Dam Square

they were having a beach volleyball game at the center of the square during our visit. I guess weather was already good for them to do outdoor sports - hot sun with cool breeze.

one of the many different buskers around the square. Some wore really colorful, fantasy-like costumes, while others also seemed like they were ready for Halloween!

checking out the exchange rates

walking along the road we passed by this museum. Tempting, but we couldn't bring the kids along. Anyway, we were looking forward to a more popular (controversial) place later in the afternoon.

we were surprised to see this snack vendo machine. Convenient, if you have coins with you.

we continued our walk towards Centraal Station, looking for a canal cruise pier

we saw some boats parked along the side so we must be close the one of the tour companies who do canal tours

bike heaven?

colorful blooms

Reederij P. Kooij, Central Station location

finally we saw one which was affordable and about to leave. So we bought tickets (Euro 8 per person), grabbed some snacks from a shop nearby, got into the boat and sat back for a one-hour tour of the canals. This was an efficient way to see the city in such a short time.

the kids started munching as soon as the boat left the pier

we saw a Chinese floating restaurant (felt like we're in HongKong!)

Clock Tower

Blauwbrug ("blue bridge")
A historical bridge in Amsterdam. 

beautifully decorated bridge with it's bases formed like ships bows, top columns with leaf-motifs, masks and the Imperial Crown of Austria

Magere Burg (Skinny Bridge) across Amstel River

Narrowest House in the world (so they say)

Well actually there are around 4 of them narrowest houses in Amsterdam. 
One is located at Singel Number 7 (width 1m), another at Oude Hoogstraat 22 (width 2.02m), and the 2 others I still need to research on the address. Upon finding this out, now I'm confused as to which one this was! 

crossing under the 7 bridges canal @ Reguliersgracht

there was heavy traffic flow and one boat even bumped into another while maneuvering in the canal

Huis met de Hoofden, or "House with the Heads" 
@ Kiezersgracht ("emperor's canal")
a bird nesting in one abandoned boat

Father and Son houses

tour's over! Time to explore Amsterdam again on foot. 
This time in search for the famous (infamous) Red Light District.

We walked, and walked, and finally.....
several streets with big windows displaying the ladies in their skimpy, daring outfits (ok, they were wearing lingerie!!!). Some of the ladies were really sexy and good looking. Some of them, were not as "marketable" as others. They had one window each with either a small room with bed in it, or a stool. Some windows had curtains wide open, with the ladies enticing guys passing by. Some ladies were by the door, doing their seductive poses. Other windows seemed dark, curtains and doors were closed. I guess that meant there was some "action" going on. Our men (husbands) didn't get that much attention from the ladies probably because we, the wives, were ahead of them. Of course, we left the kids with their aunt and uncle somewhere nearby. They will have their turn passing by this street when they are old enough.  

 It was still a bit early when we passed by so it didn't look as vibrant as did during the night. But the feel of the street was there. There were also sex shops and "coffee shops" (selling cannabis, not coffees) around the area.

photo taking is not allowed in the inside streets of the Red Light District. We had to make do with what was legal for us to take. Behind me is one of the coffee shops. By the way, no one dared to try cannabis. I must say, we were all "behaved" on that day.

a view of the canal upon coming out of the Red Light District

the narrow street of the Red Light District. 

the couple who tended to the children while we got a glimpse of the sexy ladies (why weren't there any hunky guys on display???)

cannabis anyone?

we gave our husbands time to go back to the streets on their own - and advised them to get a good "deal" if they can (of course, we knew they wouldn't dare to do so). Then played charades at the canal side before continuing our journey around the city.

the kids' favorite European car - the smart car.
Mini car for the mini kids :)

one of the entrances to most visited place in Amsterdam

bronze statue in honor of prostitutes around the world 
- the first and only such monument in the world

Well, I think we had enough of the sex in the city. Time to see other attractions...
what good would a diamond center be if it's closed????

finally, tulips, tulips and more tulips

Amsterdam also had a lot of these in the streets

mopeds anyone?

final look at the canals before we leave Amsterdam

Ira amused at the train display

wandering off to see the "sign"....

Yes, the big I Amsterdam letters...
ah, here it is just in front of Rijks Museum.
now if we could only get a clear shot with everyone posing in it

take 1...

take 2...

take 3....

The good thing about this location was that there's a playground so the kids had time to play for about 30minutes while the adults (again) rest. The kids had so much fun climbing and swinging we lost track of time. Before we knew it, it was already getting dark and we haven't even had dinner yet. And we still had one place left to go to....

Zaanse Schans. It has a collection of well-preserved windmills and houses. This is one of the most popular destinations in the region. Unfortunately, we drove to this place only after dinner, and arrived past 11pm.

just a few minutes drive away

It was very dark and cold at it was already very late at night. No one actually wanted to go down from the cars anymore (only hubby and I were still eager to walk out in the cold). Hubby brought his tripod out and made the most of what he could capture given the situation. I think the picture came out nice. I was amazed at the outcome as it was really dark when we got there. From this photo it seems that the sun has just set. Good job, hubby!

of course, we couldn't pass on the opportunity for a photo in this beautiful place. We gave it our best to project smiles even though we were already trembling in cold.

and the final photo of the day.... our last stop before calling it a night...
after that, we all rushed to the cars and turned on the heater. 

It was a long drive back to Brussels after that. We were exhausted but delighted to see the sights of Amsterdam. We hope to come back and visit Zaanse Schans during the day to see the windmills up close. I guess we have to wait for a few years for that to happen though :)

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