The weather is getting nice in Amsterdam and on sunny days people flock to the beach if they can. But if they can't get to the beach, Amsterdammers can just go to Strand Zuid, which is a beach that's created in the middle of the city. They truck in sand and beach furniture and families can spend the day there, getting drinks at the bar that's set up.
At night, it turns into a nightclub with DJs spinning the tunes. It's right in our neighborhood at the back of the RAI conference center so maybe we'll check it out some night. We saw it last year from across the canal when we were walking in the park and it was a full on dance party.
One thing I've noticed as I walk home each night is the large number of families and couples sitting in chairs (or at full size dining room tables) on the sidewalk. But they're not out at a cafe. They're sitting in front of their house! Typically I see neighbors having a drink or reading a book while soaking up the sun - but sometimes it's a full on dinner party.
Having a few friends over is great - but it's strange to me to see the entire dinner party sitting at a table on the sidewalk. I feel like I'm interrupting their party when I walk by, even though they don't seem to notice me.
I guess that's just the way life goes in a big city. No back patio? No deck? No problem. You soak up the sun any way you can - even if that means dragging your furniture into the streets.
One of Brett's friends is visiting from the US this week and he wanted to try some traditional Dutch food. Brett took him to our favorite Dutch pancake house for lunch, and then for dinner we went to Moeders (Dutch for Mothers).
It's a cute restaurant with hundreds if not thousands of pictures of moms inside (they encourage you to bring one of your own to add to the collection) and all the plates, silverware and glassware are different. Apparently at their grand opening, each guest was invited to bring a complete table setting, and the mismatched items are still used to serve diners today. If that's not gezellig (cozy in Dutch), I don't know what is.
We ate a Dutch rice table (which contrary to conventional thinking doesn't include rice). It's just a term that means "small selection of everything on the menu" so we enjoyed:
Hotchpotch, which is a concoction of mashed potatoes and vegetables (the vegetable we were served was sauerkraut) along with smoked sausage, meatball & bacon.
Suddervlees - which is stewed beef (braised steak). Kind of like pot roast.
Hachée - hashed meat...also kind of like pot roast.
The food wasn't really blue, as my camera phone makes it out to be - but the meal was served with stewed red cabbage, applesauce, roasted potatoes and boiled potatoes. Lots of carbs and not a lot of greens - but it was definitely one pot "comfort food." A typical meal for a Dutch farmer's family. Cheap, filling, and made in one pot. You have to love the lack of dishes to wash!
If my doctor says my cholesterol is high when I get back to the US, I'll know why. These cheesy delights are sold at my office cafeteria every few weeks or so - and my carefully packed healthy lunch always loses when they're on the menu. Lekker! (Dutch for tasty).
Queens Day is a big party here in Amsterdam and the Dutch have created a marketing campaign to attract tourists by showing world leaders Photoshopped into party scenes. Check out a "drunk" Obama and Putin in the center.
Too funny. I can't imagine this ever happening in the US.
Brett and I took our bikes to the beach today. I have to say I will really miss the public transportation here. We cycled to the station, put our bikes on the train, and 30 minutes later were at the beach! Love it.
There's a giant stork hanging over the door. Or a stork is attached to a window. Or there are pink or blue balloons decorating the outside of the home.
One of our friends here just recently had a baby here. It was her first, and since she's also American, I found it interesting to learn about the process here.
First off, most women have their children at home - so you're assigned a midwife. A doctor is only consulted if the midwife feels it's necessary. If you want to deliver at a hospital, you can choose that option, but it's less common. In addition, only certain hospitals have epidurals available on a given day, so you might have to go to a hospital that's farther away if you go into labor outside of normal operating hours and you are determined to deliver with pain medication.
At the hospital you don't deliver your baby in a bed in stirrups. You are buck naked in a room with a "birthing stool" that's low to the floor. After the baby is born, you are given juice and sugars to get your strength up and then you go home a few hours later.
That's when the kramzorg comes in. A kramzorg is someone who comes to your house for 8 hours a day to cook, clean or run errands for you. They also help you figure out how to care for your new baby - something especially useful for first time moms. They come for a week or so and are fully paid for by the government. What a great perk!
Everytime I head back to the US, I go to Wegmans to get my fix. I was hoping to find a Bacon Chocolate bar like a co-worker had found - but instead I found the usual suspects. Oatmeal, bagels, and Orbit chewing gum.
I threw it all in my luggage and brought it back to Amsterdam with me as a checked bag. I get three 70 pound bags checked free with United, so it's a very economical way to get food - if you're willing to give sweat equity. Hauling a bag of groceries around is tough work.
At least once I've been known to stand in a Wegmans parking lot with a bathroom scale, balancing foods between 2 bags to make sure each one was within the weight limits. You may think I'm crazy - and you'd be right. This is the same girl who used to fly a backpack of dirty laundry home to mom's when she first moved to DC and went back to Rochester for a visit :-)
My favorite part of unpacking is looking for the "TSA searched your bag" slip. It never fails to get opened. The flying public will be safe knowing my corn torillas aren't harmful :-)
Ok. I've been a terrible blogger lately. I haven't posted much - so I'll try to get back on track now.
At lunch the other day, they had something called Kipcorn on the menu. I had no idea what it was but knew that kip was chicken so I gave it a shot. It was actually pretty tasty. Not healthy - but tasty.
Think of a chicken patty shaped like a hot dog. Yum!
I live near a large convention center called the RAI. Every month or 2 I'm walking the dog in the morning when someone comes up to me and asks where it is in Dutch. I reply back "Do you speak English?" in Dutch, and everytime it's the same reaction:
1) A kind of disbelieving laugh. One that implies "Great. I picked the one American tourist in this part of town." 2) A head shake 3) A raised hand with a "nevermind"
Then I say "I live here. What are you looking for?" They answer "the RAI" and I point to a traffic light and tell them to turn right. They thank me a bit disbelievingly and get on their way.
I think I've been asked for directions to various places at least 10 times (and once was even asked to call a cab for some people from France). I'm quite proud to say I've been able to get every single one of them to their destination.