Lewis and I have taken two tours through the Red Light District.
1. Last year, 2013, we took the Saturday 5pm tour offered through the Prostitution Information Center (PIC). Mariska who now runs PIC was a prostitute and she gave us an informative one hour tour. She’s serious about this age old business and we learned a lot. If you are traveling with your parents, your kids or someone you don’t know very well, we recommend this one. www.pic-amsterdam.com 2. This year we found Mark Law, a quirky, fun tour guide to take us through again. His tours are usually two hours long though we cut it down to one and a half. With Mark we saw more of the underbelly of the Red Light District, and he successfully took us out of our comfort zone. He also did a good job answering the questions around legalizing prostitution. You have to schedule tours with him by calling him or using his website. Also important to note: he doesn’t just do tours of the Red Light District. www.thatdamguide.com Phone: 0031 (0) 6272 69604 or firstname.lastname@example.org I stole this picture from his website:
That Dam Guide on the right with the two oldest prostitutes in the Red Light District
Rodman Ward Sr. born April 8th, 1934: Happy Birthday, Dad!
Flower Auction in Aalsmeer: World’s largest flower auction. We were so glad we got up early and went out of our way to visit this huge spectacle. We rented a minivan for the day through xxx. We were told that about 90 million flowers and plants change hands every day at this auction. There is even a special trolley line that takes carts and carts of flowers out of the auction house straight to the airport. www.vba-aalsmeer.nl
Inside the Warehouse
Kuekenhof: The Netherland’s famous bulb garden. Kueken means kitchen and hof means garden. Gigi, my sister, said, “That’s gotta be the biggest kitchen garden in the world.” The flowers were out in all their colorful splendor though the weather wasn’t as cooperative. Despite the intermittent rain, we had umbrellas and it was April, the only real month to go.
Private Canal Boat to our dinner at the Intercontinental Hotel’s La Rive Restaurant
Bluespoon in the Andaz Hotel
One of the reasons I am writing about this restaurant is that it isn’t in any of the guide books we are using.
Coming home from a dinner out along the Prinsengracht canal, we ran into an attractive elderly couple out walking their wired haired dachshund. Trusting their taste, we asked them what their favorite restaurant in Amsterdam was. Smiling at each other, they responded, “The Bluespoon.”
High end, expensive, and modern sophisticated (the exact opposite of Wally) , the Bluespoon turned out to be the perfect restaurant to take my parents, sister and our brother-in-law. We had an elegant, delicious dinner and the wine was perfect.
Attached to the Pullizer Hotel with its entrance on the Keizersgracht, this hotel was another hit with our parents. We had a delicious lunch here after spending the morning at the Rijkmuseum. The full wall mural that makes fun of the huge golden age Dutch paintings is an example of typical Dutch humor. They love to make fun of themselves.
Our first overnight bike trip to the north of Amsterdam was to the town of Edam. This little place was, in a Dutch word, charmant. We spent the night at a charmant hotel called the Fortuna and rode home, via Marken Island, the next day.
Our Route To Edam
Delightful De Fortuna, built in 1654
- Dinner at Fortuna (best dinner yet! Cheers to the cook.)
- Ferry ride to Marken Island
- Cheese Museum in Volendam
- Tasting the water on either side of the dike to see if it was fresh or salt… answer: fresh leaning to brackish on both sides because the former ZuiderZee has been enclosed as the IJsselmeer.
- Walking around Edam, beers at the Dam Hotel
Fietspad (bike path) on the top of a dike
Walking Bridge (Brug)
Canal as reflecting pool
Approaching Marken Island (return trip to Amsterdam)
Cido and Rob are our amazing landlords. They invited us for drinks and we had a lovely time. Susie took the picture.
Cido and Rob
They answered our questions:
1, The canal house right next to ours went for 1.5 million euros (2 million dollars approx.)! It is very expensive to live right in the city especially along the three historic canals.
2. Kids start biking as soon as they have graduated from the trike. It is a great place for kids as they gain the independence. They are able to go all over Amsterdam at a young age… And no helmets… We haven’t seen a single one.
3. Almost everyone sends their kids to public school and almost no one sends their kids to boarding school.
4. Cido was a dentist before she was a VRBO landlord.
5. Many Dutch have work experience or have traveled to other countries. Ever since the V.O.C. (Dutch East India Company by its Dutch initials), the Dutch have been a very enterprising people.
Wally is our dog back in the US of A. Wally happens to be a poorly behaved, but personable wire-haired dachshund. There are more wire-haired dachshunds in Amsterdam than any other dog… as far as we can tell. Here are some of the ones we made friends with:
Hans walks Fuzzy and Beloved, his two old geezers
Uppie gets Attention
This is James
This fellow was out for a Sunday afternoon stroll on the Prinsengracht with his owners:
This guy’s called “Trouble” in Dutch
We had visitors our second week here. Two beautiful women stopped by to check in and we went to the Noordemarkt right near our apartment. This food market is only open Saturdays. Sally was looking for a full wheel of cheese to send to her mom and Helen was taking photos of cool fresh food for her mom’s blog. Lewis and I bought some fish to fry.
Helen Vinn, a person whom Lewis and I have gotten to know really well because she is an awesome adult in the making and actually looks you in the eye and engages in meaningful conversations… we could go on and on about Helen…. leave it to say, we love her.
Sally Slade, gorgeous, wacky, upbeat, wide open to experiences… Sally can make you laugh until you let go of your autonomous nervous system. So fun to spend time with Sally… in a word… Gorgeous.
Sally on the left; Helen on the right. Taken from our apartment window
1. Diary of Anne Frank (The Diary of a Young Girl, the definitive edition) The Anne Frank House (located on the Prinsengracht 276) is one of the most popular museums in Amsterdam with a line for admission as long as a canal. Lewis and Emmy read this amazing book before visiting which was the way to do it!
- the long line at the Anne Frank House
2. Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier This is a short historical fiction story about the 17th century author, Johannes Vermeer through the eyes of the girl with the pearl earring. Vermeer’s most famous painting, Girl with a Pearl Earring hangs in the Mauritshuis Museum in The Hague.
3. The Dutch I Presume? This nonfiction book about the Dutch has lots of great photos and ‘fun to read’ text about the Dutch. Our Seattle friend, Pauline Bach who is 100% Dutch, recommended this fantastic book to us.
4. The Embarrassment of Riches by Simon Schama. Schama tells the history of the Golden Age of Holland through Dutch culture as depicted in painting, emblem books, and descriptions of daily life. We learn that the Dutch saw themselves as the new Israelites who escaped the Hapsburgs (“Egyptians”); parted the waters (not of the Red Sea, but of the North Sea–with dikes); enjoyed domesticity; indulged their children, and felt a teensy bit guilty about wealth and the enjoyment of alcohol and food.
5. The History of the Low Countries by Paul Arblaster. Despite surveying nearly 2000 years, Arblaster does not do “equal coverage”. Despite the admirable brevity, Arblaster focuses on the most critical times, providing a nuanced view of the evolution of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg from their shared beginnings to becoming very distinct nations.