Monday, September 30, 2013

Real roses

we were at a cemetery today and somewhere i saw this beautiful heart of real roses.... so very pretty!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Het Rijksmuseum

2 days ago i showed you the pond overlooking the museum square. turning around, you see the rijksmuseum. to the left there is still some construction going on so you cannot really see how huge the building is! it opened in 1885, and was built to mainly display the paintings of the 16th and 17th century dutch masters. 
as i mentioned before, the building has been closed for 10 years for renovation (financial troubles and what not), and re-opened just a few months ago. there is a passageway underneath the museum that you can see here, which was originally built for a tram line, but that never happened. motorized vehicles were allowed until 1931. after that, only bikes were allowed. but... while the museum was closed, bikes werent allowed either. in this picture you can see how huge the museum is, and the red lines indicate the more dangerous routes bicyclists had to take while the passageway was closed. there are 2 main museum entrances under the passageway on either side of the street, and the new director of the museum wanted to keep the street closed for bikes; it would be too dangerous for especially tourists. eventually in court (!) it was decided that the underpass should re-open to bicyclists.
to me, biking in amsterdam is still a challenge! tim says im behaving like an old lady, but i never biked in amsterdam before. that, combined with not biking at all in the usa for the past 3 years makes me indeed a little hesitant at times. but.... there is just sooo much traffic! you have to watch out for cars, trams, buses, pedestrians, other bikes... then you also have to be careful not to get stuck in a tram track (im still extra carefull when crossing the tracks, and there are a LOT of them), the crazy fast scooters that are allowed on the bike path (luckily they are banned from the passageway above), and all the construction going on everywhere so that sometimes the street literally stops in front of you and you have to either bike through the sand, over shaky boards or have to take another route altogether. on top of all that, the city center is full with tourists on bikes (who clearly do not know how to bike), and people (accidentally) stepping on the bike lanes.... causing peak stress levels for someone who is used to biking in utrecht, a much smaller city, with less crazy traffic...

Friday, September 27, 2013

Oooops, more....

.... shoes! ah, and another manhole cover. as you can see, this one is in an outlet shopping center. as far as i know, we have only one outlet center in the netherlands (but i could be wrong). for sure this one was the first to ever open, in 2001. its in lelystad, and there is not much else around (except for a nice museum about the history of lelystad; this province was reclaimed from the water, as you might know).
just like an american outlet center, this one has a lot of parking. but.... even here in the middle of nowehere you still have to pay for parking (aaarghhhh!!), just like you have to pay for everything here in the netherlands (including visiting a public toilet). we werent really looking for something to buy, but the shoe shop had very cheap shoes (really cheap!). so i got those pink shoes above (and blue shoes... perhaps i show you those some other time). i really didnt need those... but well....

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Museum square

we went out today and got to take some pictures! it was a really nice day, not cold at all and rather sunny. perfect weather for biking... 
here you see a part of the museum square in amsterdam, which was reconstructed in 1999. this should be a little pond, but i dont know why there is so little water in it right now! in winter it apparently is a skating rink? (i really dont remember ever seeing that. wikipedia just told me... ). there are 3 museums located at the museum square. right behind is the rijksmuseum (which is huge and was just reopened after having been closed for 10 years; its renovation cost just 375 million euros..), and then there are the van gogh museum, and the stedelijk museum. right in front you could see the famous "concertgebouw" (concert building, with its highly regarded acoustics), but that truck is blocking the view. buuhh...
in the usa we visited many museums for free, either because at a dedicated time and day each week there was no entrance fee, or because we could enter for free with our bank card. in the netherlands there is no free entrance, i think... but my parents gave us a "museumjaarkaart", with which you can visit most dutch museums for free (or a small fee) for an entire year (you do pay for the card, but if you go frequent enough, its more than worth it). so.... we went to the rijksmuseum! we saw a lot of interesting things, but not everything, as we can now easily go another time with the card....

More pictures...

i need to take more pictures! im currently not taking a whole lot of pictures and every evening im very indecisive as to which picture i should post. sometimes i spend an hour looking at folders and folders of pictures, only to not post any of them... (like yesterday). 
so... perhaps today we will take some more pictures. lets see. most certainly, the above is in a diner in the usa (close to boston). the booths, the ketchup bottle, the ketchup itself (the dutch give you mayo with your fries..), the burger... all so very american!! a burger is something you can get in every american restaurant (if not the only thing), but thats really not the case in the netherlands (unless you goto mcdonalds)... so a picture like the one above i probably wont get anytime soon... :)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Our pets

i have shown you these birds before, but since we hung some food for them, we can often admire them right in front of our living room window! its like having pets, but without the hassle! usually they come in the morning and the afternoon, sometimes they try to be on that little wire with 3 of them... they eat quite fast, but a lot falls on the ground (messy eaters! good they are on the other side of the window). it seems like they often peek into our living room, and as soon as i come too close, they fly away. when there is no food anymore, they still come and sit on the wire, every now and then, but much less then when there is food! to me its really interesting how quickly they figure out there is food....

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Tiny kitchen...

here it is... our tiny tiny kitchen.... as opposed to our kitchen in the usa, this one is in a separate room, and not overlooking our living room. no fancy high countertops with barstools... just a tiny place with too much stuff.... cooking several things at the same time (like making dinner and cookies) is really a challenge, as there is not enough space to put your mixing bowls, cutting board, etc etc. and then there are the dirty dishes that need a place too as we dont have a dishwasher (and we dont do the dishes every day, then we could make do with just 2 plates, and we have several!!). in the usa we had so much space that we could keep appliances like toasters etc on the counter, but here we have to put them away after use.
as opposed to the usa, we separate our garbage here, so there is the general trash can, a plastic bag for all the plastics, a paper bag for all the paper, and then we have the glass bottles and the bottles with deposit. 
when one is in the kitchen, its not that easy for the other to pass, and that sometimes really gets on my nerves... as i have mentioned several times, the oven is also much tinier than the one in boston. on top of that, theres not a lot of space to maneuver, so i am not very good at putting a very hot, very heavy cast iron pot into the oven; i usually make tim do it. then i open and close the oven door to make it all go faster. however, to do that, i need to step onto the balcony, as tim is standing on the other side. when we bake bread its usually in the morning and more often than not i am still in my "robe" (such a funny word), so i guess it must be a pretty weird sight when i step outside just to open and close the oven door... :)

Friday, September 20, 2013

Obviously, this.... not in the netherlands!! this was back in march, on our way to yosemite in california. it was such a beautiful ride!! here we had lunch in the hot sun, and that one little cloud just kept hanging there, haha. we took a little too long during lunch and arrived in yosemite pretty late (but still had a nice hike there. just too bad that we left the park while it was dark).
yesterday we again wanted to go to the cinema here in amsterdam. and again didnt go, since it was... yes... raining again! taking public transport takes too long, and sitting in the cinema all wet from biking in the rain isnt fun either. maybe next week... so different from the us, where we wouldnt even have to go out, but just had to walk down to the garage underneath our apartment, hop in the car... (i once walked home from the cinema there; it took an hour....)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Trash can...!

today they were doing some repairs on the trash receptacle, as you can see. normally, only the green trash can is above the ground. only when they empty it, they pull the entire thing out so that it can be emptied. im always afraid they are going to hit the cars when that huge thing is hanging in the air, swaying from left to right, but it seems to always just work out... :) every street has one, so they must have some practice doing it! when i lived in utrecht, i did not have the luxury of throwing out my trash whenever the trash can at home was full; only once a week the trash was being picked up (as is still the case in many places in the netherlands). since i did not have an outside (not even a balcony or something), i had to keep all my trash in my tiny kitchen until trash-pick-up-monday. imagine hot summers! yuck!! so sometimes i had to secretly throw my trash in the public bins (which is not allowed, ofcourse).
here you can even put out all big stuff you dont want anymore next to the bin. but only once a week. on wednesday evening, not before 9 in the evening, and then they come pick it all up somewhere thursday morning. ever since i live here i am annoyed by all those people that just throw all their big trash next to the bin, regardless of what day it is. and if one person puts something there, others come to add their stuff as well, resulting in a huge mess thats standing there for days. every now and then people come by and take stuff they can use, or halfway change their mind and just leave it somewhere on the pavement; an even bigger mess. AAARGHHH!! i really dont get the laziness (and carelessness) of people....

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Miss World

i read on the news that today an islamic beauty pageant started in jakarta, named world muslimah. this in reaction to miss world, where women are selected based on their outer beauty by showing off their bodies (in small bikinis, etc..). to participate in the islamic version you need to be wearing the islamic head covering in daily life, and you need to be good at koran reading. apart from that, the contestants need to be "smart, pious and stylish". i dont know about the age limit, but the ladies above might be too old already.....?
although the above is a very common sight here in amsterdam when the weather is pleasant, its currently much too cold (and rainy. and windy), to have a get-together like this outside...

Monday, September 16, 2013

Dutch clouds

weather is still awful around here! yesterday at least it was dry every now and then, but very very windy. today was even worse.... the temperature has dropped dramatically so i guess we officially have started the dutch autumn.... no indian summer like in boston.... buuuhhh!
to me the above looks so dutch (its a little outside of amsterdam)! the house, clouds, the water... all the green...

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Bye legs..

this was during the gay parade in august. perhaps these were all students, now enjoying the canal parade from their living room window. then it was still warm enough, but the past few days it almost felt like autumn! lots and lots of rain, wind, and not too warm. so... no more legs i guess till next year.... :(
we biked to the city center to visit some "monuments", unfortunately in a bit of rain, but luckily we did not get too wet. today and tomorrow its "open monumentendag" (heritage day), and that means you can visit many places, mostly for free, that you normally cannot visit, or only by paying. there were several histoic canal houses open to the public and we planned on visiting perhaps a few. but... then we saw the lines outside many of them and we decided to not even try... (waiting in the rain outside is not one of my favorite things). we did visit a photo exhibit in the amsterdam city archives, which was quite interesting (of course we somehow choose the one exhibit that you did have to pay for). then we biked back. luckily it was dry, but still damp and windy. it gave me a headache; i guess after 3 years of hardly ever biking outside in the us i am not used to it anymore...

Friday, September 13, 2013

Black & white

somewhere in amsterdam, 2 ladies busy talking. you see this clothing style a lot in amsterdam, where at least 17% of the population is muslim. of course i am not sure that these women are muslim, but given their clothing its highly likely... :)
probably its not politically correct to mention that tim is always looking for the perfect sofa cover  (our couch is very old, ugly and has some holes in it. a cover would be nice, but i have looked for one and there arent many options. moreover, covers can be more expensive than a new (cheap) couch!!...). the above dresses come in many different colors and styles, some even more beautiful than others... every now and then he says; aaahhh, wouldnt that look good on our couch...? (in dutch: "kijk, mooie bankhoes!!").

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Those trees!

this is a little outside the city center of amsterdam, where there is a little more space for wide bike paths as the one you see above (although many bike paths are actually not as narrow as i had expected!). the trees here are numerous and so very pretty! they are all crooked, hanging to the same side... of course, it started raining a little after taking this picture. at least we were almost at our destination... 
as you can see, you do not necessarily need a "bakfiets" to transport kids. a seat mounted on the back works as well. some also have one on the front, so that you can transport 2 kids... :) then you can hang your big bag of groceries on your handlebar... just make sure to keep your balance!!  me and my sister once were transported like that (hard to imagine now), but never in such a fancy seat as you see above.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Hello rain....

this was taken on saturday, when the weather was still pleasant.... all bridges in amsterdam (or any other dutch city) have bikes on them (at least the bridges that cannot open to let boats through, haha), as it is the perfect place to lock your bike to. one rule i at least never try to break is to always attach my bike to something that cannot move... if not, thieves can just pick up your bike, with as many locks as you like, put it in their van and use all tools they have at home to cut the locks... the other day i heard a couple explaining to a cop that "they were locked together... and now gone". i presume they were talking about their bikes. i had just parked mine and thus made my trip to the store as short as possible, as i dont want to have my new bike stolen as well... :( even with additional locks i am not comfortable parking my bike at the moment. i guess that feeling will take a while before going away....
anyways... all bridges in amsterdam are decorated with flowers, its so pretty! in the city center, as above, they are even on this metal hanging poles. i really like it! weatherwise today was awful. its cold suddenly, and it has been raining the entire day. hardly a moment it was dry, and at times the rain was coming down with such force i wonder whether those flowers will survive... on top of that the wind is howling around... byebye summer, i guess....

Monday, September 9, 2013

Hipster family

not only dogs can be transported by bike, also entire families.... :) nowadays its very hip to move your kids in a "bakfiets", as you can see above. i guess in english you would call it a "cargobike". basically its a giant wooden box at the front of the bike. during the early part of the 20th century these bikes were used by tradesmen to deliver bread, milk, mail, etc.... (as wikipedia tells me). then they were used to transport furniture etc within larger cities like amsterdam where the streets are too narrow and parking is horrible. but in recent years, they became very popular with hipster families to transport their kids in and nowadays you see them everywhere! some are bigger than the one above, so that next to the kids, you can transport your groceries (or even more kids!). some are covered, so that they can be transported in whatever kind of weather. but mostly, they are huge, and they take up a lot of space... they are not easy to maneuver either... (not that i know from experience, i never tried! but you can see it... when hipster mom is trying to turn a corner...). and... to get to speed takes a bit longer as they are so heavy (especially with several kids in it, haha); they are not motorized, so it all depends on your legs.... :) (here you can read a blog about the experiences with the bakfiets from a family in portland, usa (!!)).
tim couldnt keep his eyes off this perfectly manicured family. the little boy with the hat placed semi-nonchalant on his long hair, the parents with their fancy pants and sneakers, and of course the bakfiets to make the picture complete...
and me and tim? sunday night we realized we miss the american lazy convenience of jumping in your car to go to the local cinema, where parking is free and never a problem.... the thought of having to get on our bikes to go see a movie was not appealing with the weather cooled down, and luckily it wasnt as suddenly heavy rain started and lasted throughout the night (and i cannot even think of a dutch cinema where you can go by car without parking troubles or not having to pay....!)

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Moving anything!

with a bike, you can move about anything... here, to the right you see a man moving his dog!! i must say, i had never seen that before, so i had to take a picture when i saw this today (i have seen women moving their dogs in a little basket on the front of their bike). the dog was really enjoying it. unfortunately, i only could take a picture while the dog was not looking our way... :( we were waiting for a red light and i had to put my camera away before it would turn green again, as otherwise all the bikers behind me would get mad at me moving so slowly (biking really is a race, and you will get angry looks, or even yelled at if you dont move fast enough, most certainly people will use their "fietsbel" to let you know you have to move out of their way immediately).
i love those saddle bags and use them to get groceries home (their size determines how much groceries you can get at once... luckily they can be pretty big!), my bag (i dont like biking while having to carry my bag), or whatever else. unfortunately, with my bike stolen last month, i also lost my colorful saddle bags, and i have not yet bought new ones... :(( they are pretty expensive, and i want bags that are really big (like those on the left bike). at least i do have a little basket on the front again, for light stuff (but no dog for me!!)

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Yeah pink!!

it was crazy hot today! especially for september, and for the netherlands... it was 30C (86F), and this is where we were.... the pink tube was great!! we bought it last august on the campground in new hampshire. we stayed at a very nice one, surrounded by a river. but.... it rained for 3 days and 2 nights.... :( no swimming, it was too cold!! then... each time i could have used it, i had forgotten to bring it, much to my frustration. of course we did ship it back to the netherlands and luckily it was in one of the boxes we did unpack (i think 9 are still waiting to be unpacked... but there is no space for all my clothes yet. buhuhuhuhuh, very frustrating). so.... today was finally the day... i was in the sea (just a little chilly) floating on this bright pink tube.... soooo nice...
and then on the way home tim managed to punch a huge hole in it.... quite the expensive tube... :((

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Amsterdam mural

this is part of a mural on a playground in amsterdam. we were biking past it and stopped when we saw the mural. its really big and very well done! (this is just a small part). i just looked at the website underneath th painting, and it says that there are several large murals in amsterdam, and they all have something to do with amsterdam's golden age.
the above is the coat of arms of amsterdam, the official symbol of the city of amsterdam. the 3 x shaped crosses are the symbol of amsterdam since approximately 1419 (!). the 2 lions are the symbol of the netherlands, and were added in the 16th century, and after world war II the dutch queen added the 3 words to the coat of arms: "heldhaftig, vastberaden, barmhartig", which means "heroic, determined, compassionate, in recognition of the people of amsterdam that protested in 1941 against the persecution of jews by the nazi regime.
tim has some days off and we are trying to finally tidy up the apartment. the weather is very nice again too!! but the outdoor pool has closed... :( (they close at the end of august, buhuhuhuh). i hope tomorrow we finally can ejoy the sun a bit, before it will disappear for the remainder of the year....

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Some pink!

this man was posing for photos with anyone who was interested... only the back of his gilet was black..... and his heels were quite high!! this was on the gay parade in amsterdam, beginning of august. and now its september already.... days are starter to be shorter again, and since yesterday it became noticeably colder... it might be that summer is really over now... buuuhhh!
today is theme day, and the theme is... pink! at first i wanted to show our living room (again; we made quite some changes), but looking at the photos it all looks still too messy, we really first need to tidy it (at least) a bit. 
for the other pink participants, go here!