Friday, February 24, 2012

Amsterdam - Part 3, the (semi)Final Chapter

Another early morning for us. Good googly moogly, do I hate to get up early on a Sunday. Well, ok, I hate getting up early any day. But, thankfully I had the free breakfast to help wake me up (I needed to snag some more sugar waffles!).

It rained for a lot of the night, but thankfully, the skies were clear by the time we woke up.

Today, we decided to get out of the city, and check out Dutch life (alright, Dutch life for tourists, but that's ok). We got the tram back to the Olympic Stadium to get our car. MAN, it was such an easier trip going, than coming, without having to lug all our luggage. Word to the wise - if you're going to be taking a tram thru Amsterdam, with lots of luggage - sit in the very back. Wish we had known about that on Friday - there is TONS of space to put luggage without worrying about pissing off the locals who are trying to maneuver themselves around your 50lbs of various bags. But anyway, on the way to the stadium, we passed by the Museumplein (where the Van Gogh museum is located). It's then we realized exactly how far it was from the Central Station. Oops. Oh well, we needed the exercise...(I say so begrudgingly I can't even stand myself).

So, got in the car, and off we went to Zaanses Schans. Make sure to explore the website - it's got a lot of fun things to do & see. I describe it as a sort of Colonial Williamsburg, but for Holland. People don't dress up or anything, but it's a place with all of these museums, shops, restaurants, walking paths, etc. People actually live there, but it's so much more than that. Unfortunately (or fortunately, if you're not into crowds), since it is still winter, not everything was open. But, 80% of the things I wanted to check out were open, so I can deal.

Amsterdam, and the surrounding area (hell, maybe all of the Netherlands) is swampy marshland. And boy, does that wind absolutely whip around the plains (everybody, now, "OOOOooooooooklahoma!!!"). The sun was warm (I suppose), but the wind almost froze our faces right off. For reals, yo.

I cannot believe my lips never turned blue. Brrrrrr.

There weren't a whole lot of people there yet - things were just starting to open up. There were maybe two or three cars in the parking lot (including ours) and one Japanese tour bus. Trust me when I say this (and PLEASE know that I am just stating a fact, not a commentary)...there will ALWAYS be a Japanese tour bus.

Our first stop was at the clog factory.

Of course we got there too early to see an actual demonstration (I honestly don't know if they even do demonstrations in winter, but it looked like they did). But it did have a little museum all about the different kinds of clogs, and how they made them. They even had some 400 year old clogs! One thing I never realized - the reason that the clogs have pointy toes (well, many of them do) is so fisherman could pick up nets with their feet! They also had clogs specifically meant for peat farmers (I guess so they didn't sink in the muck). They looked a little bit like skis, almost.

They even had horse clogs:

As well as wedding clogs, roller skate clogs, and many many many others. It was also interesting seeing how the clogs were made.

Yes, I know, I'm a big huge dork. I'm secure with myself, and my nerdy ways.

I just think it's so cool that you can take just a solid block of wood, and make yourself some fancy-pants shoes! These Dutch are genius, I tell ya!

Anywho, onto some more Dutchy things!

Next up, my personal favorite - the cheese shop. They supposedly have a demonstration about cheese making, but no one was back there (another aspect of Zaanses that is a casualty of winter, I suppose). But, whatevs, y'all know my love of cheese, so you can probably imagine that I've been to many many many cheese factories before. I don't need to watch them make the cheese.

I did, however, need to sample some.

They had cow cheeses, sheep cheeses, and goat cheeses. I love cow cheese. I love sheep cheese.

I do NOT love goat cheese.

I know this about myself, and yet every time I'm around it, I make myself try it once again. This time it was smoked goat cheese. I figured the smoke would cover up the taste of goat.

Nope. Still tasted like goat.

So we had our fill of cheese (or, rather, I had eaten enough of the cheese were if I kept on going, I'd be scoffed at for eating ALL the samples). So, we went off to explore some more.

All of the windmills around the area are working mills. The first one we went into was the spice mill.

OMG, the smell was wonderful! They had three different grinders - one was doing cinnamon, and I think one was doing clove, and the other one wasn't being used at the moment. They also had a cool display showing how far the Dutch sailed to gather their spices back in the day. And, there was a "smelling station" where you smell different spices, and guess what they are. I'm a little ashamed to admit that I mixed up the clove & the nutmeg. And the lady working there laughed at me. Not to be mean, she just thought we were being our cute Aycock selves, I guess.

That's one thing I definitely noticed about this trip - the Dutch people are generally all REALLY nice! They are very welcoming (unless you get in their way when they're on a bike. Don't do that, please, if you're every here) and kind.

Anyway, we kept on walking, checking out the sites.

There were more museum/shop combos that weren't open yet - a coffee house museum, and a pewter foundry. I realllllly wanted to go to the pewter foundry, but had no idea when/if it was supposed to be open. Poo. So, trying to keep our faces from freezing off, we decided to go walk down the line of windmills to see if they were open yet (the spice mill was on the very edge of the line of mills, which is why we went to that one first).

I reallllly wanted to go to the pigment mill - where they ground ingredients to make paints, and chalks. Not open.

Then we get to the sawmill - glory Hallelujah, it was open!!!! I've never been so happy to see an open sawmill - a chance for us to get in out of the wind!

The lady running the front of the mill was very kind. She also laughed at us for being so cold, and told us to remember that they needed the wind for all the mills!

Whatever, Miss Smartypants.

Anyway, we watched a short video on the sawmill, then got to go inside to see it in action.

My dad would have had an absolute nerdgasm at this place! As would my grandfather, who used to BE a logger in British Columbia back in the day. They're both kinda dorks when it comes to old machinery.

I guess the dork nugget didn't fall far from the dork tree.

Yes, I'm including myself as one of those dork nuggets.

The sawmill really was interesting - I couldn't get over how SLOW it was to saw the logs. But you could definitely tell when the wind picked up, by how fast the saws were going. I had to laugh as we were walking thru the place, though. There is no way in HELL that any place in the USA would be open like this. We (the tourists) could walk all over the place, and there were zero safety precautions. It wasn't like it was extremely dangerous or anything, but you DEFINITELY had to watch where you were going. Plus, the back end of the mill was open to the water (where they kept the logs that were waiting to be cut) with a large ramp going down to the edge. I am Señora Klutz, and I've been known to fall off quit a few structures in my life. So I was verrrry careful about where I stepped.

BTW, please don't think I'm defending the American way of making everything so sterile and "safe" (which leads to stupid lawsuits when people still manage to do truly effed up things to hurt themselves). I think more places should just be like, "Hey, you're responsible for your own safety. Watch your step, or you could get hurt."

But I digress.

We decided to go do some shopping after this. On our way out of the sawmill, we bought some Glühwein from the lady at the counter. I know glühwein is a German thing, but this was probably the best I've had so far. Even better - she made them extra hot to help warm our hands.

God bless that woman. :)

We stopped back at the cheese shop (duh) and bought two different kinds of cheese (smoked gouda & spicy), some black licorice bears (I'll get to these in a minute), and some stroopwafels.

Do me a favor. Search for online stores that sell stroopwafels, and buy yourself a case. You will not regret it.

Stroopwafels are basically thin, crisp waffles that are sandwiched with a kind of smoky, syrupy, molasses-y, taffy like goo. So incredibly good, you have no idea.

Then, we stopped by the clog shop and bought ourselves a really nice painted pair. After a few more stores, we decided to get a snack/lunch and then head back into A-dam.

Everyone who's been to the Netherlands has urged us to get a pannekoek (pannekoeken if it's plural).

It's basically a really thick crepe, really thin pancake. There are many types of toppings (generally, though, either bacon, onion, cheese, or cinnamon & sugar/powdered sugar). Then you top it all off with a Dutch syrup. We got ours with just cheese. The verdict?


It was really crispy on the edges, and soft and spongy in the middle. It was fine. But I don't really need to get another one.

I do need to get more stroopwafels, though.

At this point it's almost 1pm, so we headed back to Amsterdam to go to the Rembrandt house.

But, as we sit down in the car, I realize that we bought licorice bears that I haven't tried yet. (No, I wasn't hungry...but I did want to try the stupid licorice). Now, I love licorice. We always got licorice babies when we went to visit relatives in Canada. I always picked out the black jelly beans to eat first.

So, I open the package, pop one in my mouth, and start to chew. Josh likes licorice as well. He looks at me chewing, and pops one in his mouth as well.

He lasted about 3 seconds before spitting it out. I had chewed too much, so I was only able to get half of the bear out of my mouth, and was forced to swallow the other half (which took an unGodly amount of time).

Apparently, they like salted licorice in the Netherlands. I knew there was such a thing as salted licorice, but I thought it was something that just the Nordic people from way north ate. Nope, apparently the Dutch like it too. I had never had it before. I'm pretty positive I never want to have it again.

I'm still trying to get that taste out of my mouth.

We get back to the Olympic stadium, and take the tram to the middle of town (instead of Central Station) so we can go to Rembrandt's house.

I loved this little house. Rembrandt was born wealthy, but he went bankrupt before he died. Most of his belongings were sold off to pay his debts, so other than the paintings, the furniture wasn't original. However, he drew & painted many interiors of his house, so historians were able to do a really good job reconstructing the place.

I really liked this place. We had those little audio things that told us about the rooms as we went about. Again, this was another one of those narrations that was actually informative (like the canal tour).

There were a couple of artists stationed around the house, showing methods from Rembrandt's time. One lady was showing how he did his etchings. We JUST missed her live demonstration, but we did see a video on the process.

Another lady (who we did see) showed how they made their paints back then. Which was HILARIOUS! Okay, the artist wasn't hilarious, but one of the fruitloop tourists in the crowd nodded and agreed with EVERYTHING the artist was saying. She seemed very much like a high school art teacher. "Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Oh, yeah. Uh-huh."

Josh and I had to leave the room, because we kept eyeballing each other and nodding, making it very hard to stifle the laughter.

That's how you have a good marriage, folks. Laugh at other peoples' idiosyncrasies.

Here's one of the reconstructed beds. Back then, people were much shorter. But, they ALSO were scared of sleeping while laying down (something about the blood pooling in the head and causing death, or something along those lines), so they used to sleep propped up. How uncomfortable, amiright?

After the Rembrandt house, we decided to walk back to the hotel, and get ready for a night out on the town. We even got a quick nap in! (ok, Josh napped, I interneted)

This time, we actually researched where to go for dinner. We were in the mood for Thai, so based off of online reviews, we decided to go to Thai Bird, right outside the RLD. Thai Bird has two locations - right across the street from each other. One is a take-out place, and the other is a sit-down place. At first we thought about going to the take-out place, because the entry way to the sit-down place was PACKED. But, it was just one big party, so the waiter let us cut. The party was not happy about that. They stood their ground, and Josh and I literally had to squeeze through a people-tube. I'm pretty sure I got felt up. Hell, I'm pretty sure Josh got felt up.

But, I gotta tell ya. It was TOTALLY WORTH IT! This was by far, hands down, the BEST Thai food I have ever ever had. If you are EVER in Amsterdam, you must go to Thai Bird. Amazing.

One thing, though - Josh and I love spicy. The spicier the better. Europeans can't handle spicy, and the Thai people that own restaurants here know this, so they cater to European tastes. When the waiter took our order, we made sure to tell him "extra spicy."

"You sure? You sure?"

"Yes, we're sure. Extra spicy."

"Really? You sure?"

"Um..yes, please."

It was definitely spicy, but nowhere near inedible. It was the perfect amount for us. I think the waiter came over twice to check on us, and he said, "Oh, too spicy?"

"No, no, this is perfect. This is good."


"Yes, very good, not too spicy."

I think he walked away a little defeated.

****After dinner, we went to a show.****

After the show, we went to bed. I think we made it into bed around 12am, 1am?? I'm not sure. I just remember crashing.

We didn't even go to breakfast in the morning. We both just wanted to sleep (and we did, til about 8:30am). Then, off we went, back to the Olympic stadium, and back home. 5 hours later, we had the dog from the kennel, the cat was happy to have us back, and we were happy to be relaxing on the couch.

This trip was DEFINITELY the best trip we have planned on our own. Josh said he was really proud of me for working my ankle so hard (I have to admit, I was a freakin' champ). We did everything we planned to do, and more.

So, here's the list:

My favorite thing: Anne Frank house tied with Zaanse Schans
Josh's favorite thing: Van Gogh museum
Least favorite thing: Both of us think the weed museum was a waste of time. HOWEVER, it's not really fair to say that on here, because it was being remodeled. If you're going to be in Amsterdam, and it's still being redone - skip it. But, I'd go again to check it out if the remodel was done.

I'm sure we'll go back someday. Next time, here's what I want to do:
- Go in the spring time when all of the tulips are blooming (so we can go to Keukenhof gardens)
- house boat museum
- cat museum
- flea market district
- Zaanse Schans to see EVERYTHING open

Okay, folks, here's the deal. I have written an entry about the "show" that we went to see. Don't worry, nobody got a hooker or anything. But it is definitely an NC-17 description. If you want to read it, you have to ask me - I'm not letting everybody read it. If you think you're worthy, let me know, and I'll send it to you. It's not scary or anything - it's really pretty funny. I just don't think everyone wants to hear about it. ;)

1 comment:

  1. OK, Court...send it to me :D

    Sorry it took me so long to get the last 2 entries read. I'm a loser and have been busy trying to decide what to do with my life. Anyway, you are a trip! I will have to use this as my "Tour Guide" when I go with my sister nest September. As for the pannekoeken...well, wonder it wasn't had a stroopwafel! Caramel filled waffle? How can anything beat that? Count me in! And the cheese factory...I definite next time.

    I <3 Cheese!