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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Who is Oman?!

And so it continues...

Saturday morning, April 3, I met Emily at the Amstel Station around 7 a.m., as she'd arrived on the overnight bus from Paris.  We hauled her stuff back to the hotel, and got ready for a full day in Amsterdam.

Our first stop of the morning was the Dappermarkt, Amsterdam's most famous food and flea market.  A cold front moved in that morning, and the wind bit at our faces as we shopped.  The clouds kept rolling in, and we lamented at the gloomy day.  This didn't, however, keep us from buying.  I snapped up a beautiful slate blue pashmina, a grey and black keffiyeh, and a emerald green scarf for my mom.  We walked to the end of the markt, to the canal, and saw an old windmill resting at the top of the bridge.

Cheese Shop at Dappermarkt


Em and I hopped the tram to Elandsgracht in Westermarkt to shop a little at the De Looier Antiekmarkt.  I didn't buy anything, but it's still nice to have a look at European antiques that are scarce stateside.  We were starving by the time we finished browsing, and waded through the rain to Sara's Pancake House for some authentic Dutch lunch fare.  The service was extraordinarily bad, but the pancakes were delicious.  Em and I split a proscuitto, banana, and cheese pancake, and the combo of savory and sweet was delectable.  For dessert, we shared an apple, rum and cinnamon pancake.  We left stuffed.

One great thing about Amsterdam is the convenient and fast GVB tram service.  Amsterdam is relatively small anyway, only about five miles wide and ten miles deep, and with the tram service, you can get from one side to the other quickly.  This is why it's easy to hit-up most of Amsterdam's tourist attractions and boros in one day.

So, Em and I skirted across the city to one of our most anticipated stops, The Heineken Experience, at the original Heineken Brouwery.  The Brouwery is no longer used to produce Heineken, but instead has been turned into a musuem with interactive exhibits.  And, the price of admission even gets you a few pints of the pale, golden lager.  We spent several hours exploring the museum, viewing the Shire horses, walking across the sticky beer-stained floors, and sipping some ice cold Amsterdam culture.  The fresh, free beer alone made it well-worth the price of admission.

There was still a lot of cloudy day left when we departed the Brouwery, so we headed over to Dam Square to walk around.  We were lucky enough to be present to witness a large crowd engage in a pillow fight, as afterall, it was International Pillow Fight Day.  I know, right?  The cold was really beginning to bear down at this point, so Em and I ducked into the Nieuwe Kerk.

The Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) sits in the city center of Amsterdam and has been around since the 15th century.  It's a gorgeous, Neo-Gothic building, but a bit spiritually shallow to be a once Protestant church.  Our iAmsterdam pass gained us free admission, and we began touring the exhibition, as the chuch is now a musuem.  The exhibit, titled OMAN, featured artifacts, tools, weapons, books, and even ornate burqas.  We walked through the entire exhibit, and at the exit, I paused, puzzled.  I looked at Emily, and said questioningly, "what I want to know, is who is Oman?!"  Emily stopped and stared at me, and then she burst out laughing.  "Oman is a country in the Middle East, not a person."  Oh.  Well, I wondered why this church was showing off all of his stuff.  The two of us continued to laugh about this, but somberly expressed our sadness at the irony of the exhibit in a Christian church.  So many churches in Europe are no longer churches at all, but only historical landmarks that promote a secular worldview and contribute to spiritual darkness on this continent.

Em and I emerged back into the late-afternoon, and browsed a bit at the adjacent Magna Plaza shopping center.  We were getting hungry for dinner by this time, and I was excited to take Em to my favorite Amsterdam restaurant, Ankara.  But much to my dismay, my Turkish delight turned into a tapas restaurant, and eliminated most of their menu.  We dined anyway, and the tzatziki dip redeemed the experience. 

Can you believe we packed that all into one day?  Well, I'm not done yet.  After dinner, the tram took us over to Museumplein, and we took advantage of a photo op in the rain, at the I Amsterdam sign in front of the Rijksmusuem.  Soaking wet and cold, we made our way over to the neighboring Leidsplein, to grab a comfy wingback by the fire at the Americain Cafe.  Em and I spent the last couple hours of our evening resting over tea and sympathy...and sugared confections.

Early Sunday morning, Em and I drug our luggage to Centraal Station to stowe our bags in the lockers.  The Centraal Station janitorial staff was on strike, and we were both totally grossed out by the amount of filth the train station collected.  The stench wasn't a pleasant way to begin our day...especially since it was Easter morning.

Centraal Station

The rain began again, today, a steady downpour.  We bought train tickets to Schiphol Airport, and then waited in the grey for the bus that would take us to Keukenhof Tulip Gardens.  Em and I had been looking forward to visiting fields of cascading tulips for months, and the rain only slightly dampened our spirits.  Afterall...He is Risen!

Forty-five minutes later, we arrived and began our descent into the park.  At first we were a bit puzzled.  We saw lots of greenery, lush grass and palatial trees.  But upon closer inspection, hidden among the landscape were thousands of tulip bulbs, just peeking their stark green leaves out of the ground.  My heart sank.  With the cold and wet early April weather, our arrival to Keukenhof was premature. 

We ducked out of the rain into one of the greenhouse pavilions, and were transported into a magical land of indoor tulip gardens.  Every variety of tulip known to humanity was grown under this big glass roof.  Some tulips were speckled with unique colors, and their edges were frayed like a peony.  Other tulips were so gargantuan they brushed our hips when we walked by.  It was an amazing site, and for a couple of hours, we photographed the different varieties. 

My favorite.

The rain was still strong outside, but we ventured deeper into the gardens, hoping to see multicolored rows of Holland's own flora.  The yellow tulips seemed to be the overachievers, ahead of the curve, leaving their blue and red and purple sisters sleeping in the ground.  Emily and I were so disappointed, but we tried not to be.  The sight of a proud windmill did excite, and we continued to amble along.  After a few hours, we were cold, wet, hungry, and a bit cranky.  We boarded the bus back for Amsterdam. 

Lonely, unbloomed tulip field.

Yesterday while we were exploring Westermarkt, we passed a pizzeria emitting the most wonderfully fragrant oregano and basil and garlic.  Our hunger remembered this pizzeria, and we spent long minutes on the bus ride back in anticipation of lunch. 

In an Italian-induced coma, we swam to Musuemplein, and found our place in line for the Rijksmuseum.  By that time, the cold settled over the afternoon, and we shivered in the wind.  For an hour-and-fifteen minutes, we waited, attempting to entertain ourselves.  Sometimes, it wasn't hard.  Like when we snickered at the Asian guy behind us practically making out with his hot dog.  Other times, we didn't think we'd ever enter Rijks. 

Lovely woman in the courtyard of the Rijks

We did, finally, and pored over the collection of Rembrandt, Johannes Vermeer, Jan Steen, and other artists from the Dutch Golden Age.  We were plum exhausted upon completion of the musuem, and headed uptown to find Melly's Cookie Bar near the Dam.  Realizing we had a few more hours to kill before we boarded the overnight bus (i.e. Hell on wheels) to Paris, Em and I grabbed our hot beverages to go, and we walked up to the canal belt.  Our iAmsterdam passes comped us a boat cruise through Amsterdam's historic canal system. 

Emily aptly referred to our little ship as a death trap, and right she was.  Our windows were inches from the murky water, and the wooden boat frame creaked and groaned at each sharp turn.  With no ventilation, we became a bit claustrophobic, and suffered through the rest of the ride.  This is one tourist trap that you'd be hard-pressed to get either of us to recommend.

We knew we needed dinner soon, as it would be a long bus ride without something on our stomachs.  Em and I lucked out and found a little corner cafe called Soup Kitchen.  The food was cheap, but the company warm, and we sat there for a long time talking and laughing at Amsteram as she walked by our window. 

Our time in Amsterdam came to a close, and we reluctantly found our way to the Amstel Station to route ourselves to Paris.  After inhaling a bit of second-hand doobie, we climbed into the bus and settled in for an eight-hour nap. 

That's all for now.  Next, April in Paris.


Anonymous BigBob said...

Enjoyed the vicarious tour with you and my daughter. Thanks!

6:57 AM

Blogger Amy Helms said...

Delightful post

8:41 AM

Blogger thesciencegirl said...

This makes me want to go to Amsterdam. Looking forward to the Paris posts; it's such a beautiful city.

4:44 PM

Blogger Valerie said...

I feel like I just completed my own visit. Thanks, MA, for a wonderful travel log. :)

2:00 AM

Blogger Amanda Vilendrer said...

Loved the recap. You certainly squeezed in a lot in one day!!

9:23 PM


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