Netherlands

Amsterdam Canal Cruise – Day 2: The Blizzard Tour

At points visibility was really low!

At points visibility was really low!

Because we couldn’t get in all the canal cruises in on Day 1 we headed back to Amsterdam the next day despite the fact that it was snowing like heck most of the day. It actually made the day a bit more fun and adventurous especially because the Dutch railroad is NOT known for it’s dependability when it snows. In the back of our minds we thought there might be the possibility that we would have to find a bus to get home or a hotel to stay in overnight. Fortunately that wasn’t necessary and we were able to get home via the railroad.

Matt ready to take on day 2!

Matt ready to take on day 2!

This duck, however, thinks we're crazy!

This duck, however, thinks we’re crazy!

And, of course, it wouldn’t be an adventure without a picture of us! 🙂

Neither rain nor snow nor...oh wait that's not our motto!

Neither rain nor snow nor…oh wait that’s not our motto!

I didn’t take a lot of pictures this day because the snow was coming down pretty thick most of the day. It was fun but it was hard getting great pictures…

The visibility was like this on and off all day.

The visibility was like this on and off all day.

The next couple of shots are of a replica of the famous Dutch ship called The Amsterdam. It was an 18th Century cargo ship of the Dutch East India Company. If you would like to know all about this beautiful ship CLICK HERE.

Beautiful Dutch Ship

Beautiful Dutch Ship

Beautiful Dutch Ship 2

Beautiful Dutch Ship 2

Dutch flagging flying high!

Dutch flagging flying high!

Right next to this lovely ship you’ll find the National Maritime Museum also known as Het Scheepvaartmuseum!

Het Scheepvaartmuseum, Amsterdam

Het Scheepvaartmuseum, Amsterdam

Just in case you weren’t convinced about how cold it was, here are some icy canal photos. For more of a real experience put on the theme to Titanic and you’ll be hearing exactly what I was hearing (well, in my head at least…In reality I was hearing scraping ice on the side of the boat too…) while on the boat.

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Does that seagull look pissed to you? He’s at least moderately grumpy due to the whole ice thing…

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You can’t really tell from the photo but this ice is fairly thick.

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Ice covered boats, Amsterdam

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I think some of these boats have seen better days!

Here is some raw footage of our icy Amsterdam Canal cruise. Being I am so behind on my travel blogs I didn’t take any extra time to edit out and only pick the key moments but I think you’ll still enjoy watching this.

Matt in Amsterdam City Center in the snow!!!

Matt in Amsterdam City Center in the snow!!!

A very cold me in front of Amsterdam Centraal Station on way back to Alphen.

A very cold me in front of Amsterdam Centraal Station on way back to Alphen.

Amsterdam Centraal Station is housed in a really beautiful old and ornate building. Simply gorgeous. Check out this quick little video I made of the building and the area around it. It was impossible to get that big building in one photo and do it justice but the video does a really good job of it.

Well that’s all for our Amsterdam travels. Just a few more Netherlands post and we’re off to the next destination. Stay tuned for more…

Categories: Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands, Netherlands | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

Amsterdam Canal Cruise – Day 1: The Sunshine Tour

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One of the many boats along the canal that fascinated me! This one is so romantic!

Right before we left Holland (maybe 5 days before) we decided that you can’t go to the Netherlands and not do an Amsterdam canal cruise. So despite the fact that it was really cold and the canals were freezing, we headed to Amsterdam to experience the waterways for ourselves.

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You can see by the above picture that the canals were all freezing and because of that there was only 2 of the 3 or 4 canal routes open. It was a really cool experience however if you’ve never heard the sound of ice scraping the side of the boat I can tell you that it is a little disconcerting. I just could not get the theme from the Titanic out of my head during both days of canal tours.

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Holland has some really nice architecture that you can’t see anywhere else in the world and seeing it from the canals is absolutely incredible!

Canals, bicycles, and seagulls...it must be Amsterdam!

Canals, bicycles, and seagulls…it must be Amsterdam!

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One thing I’ve learned from traveling is that you’re never too far from a Hard Rock Cafe and their ‘Save The Planet’ logo! Makes me smile every time!

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Some more beautiful architecture coming up…

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The detail on these buildings are stunning!

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It’s like a mini White House! I want to live here!

I can picture myself sunning in that wonderful sun room in this next house…

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Sun room and everything…

Me looking pretty damn cold...I was!

Me looking pretty damn cold…I was!

I think this next picture shows I was pretty justified in shivering….

Ice, Ice, Baby!!

Ice, Ice, Baby!!

I love the splashes of color that the boats add to the cold, icy landscape in these next few pictures!

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Most of the buildings in the city have family crests on top from days gone by. There were no numbers on the houses (and mostly there still aren’t) because the houses were identified by the crests and the buildings had names.

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This one has the crest on the door too!

And this next picture shows you how you move into one of these buildings. Due to the fact that in Amsterdam they build up and the buildings are tall and skinny the stairs are tall and skinny too making it impossible in most cases to move furniture in in the traditional way. Everything goes up and in the windows!

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In this next picture you’ll see that at the top of most of these buildings are hooks that were (and still are to some extent) used to load things up and into the building.

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Tommy Hilfiger knows how to get things directly shipped in to them…

Tommy Hilfiger, Amsterdam

Tommy Hilfiger, Amsterdam

Beautiful canal views!

Beautiful canal views!

Beautiful ornate bridge, Amsterdam

Beautiful ornate bridge, Amsterdam

And lots of house boats lined the canals. Almost tempts you to want to rent one for a bit and see how it is.

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We really loved these buildings on the canals with the green and red shutters.

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Accents of red and green brighten up the cold, grey day.

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Very cool clock tower coming up…

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And more very large house boats on the canals…

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What’s more Dutch than bicycles…everywhere!

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Imagine living on the canal like that? Amazing!

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Then there’s the famous Grasshopper! It has everything from a steak house on the top floor, a sports bar on the middle floor and a coffee shop on the bottom floor that serves that green stuff that Amsterdam is known for (thus the name ‘Grasshopper’). Behind this building begins the Red Light District of which I have no photos (you are strictly not allowed to and there are people watching that you don’t…even if you don’t see them).

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Schipol Airport's famous 'I amsterdam' sign at night in the snow.

Schipol Airport’s famous ‘I Amsterdam’ sign at night in the snow.

And here is a picture of Matt and I as we start out on our canal cruise…

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Here are two videos I took of the canal tours. Nothing Oscar winning but still has some really cool bits. I hope you enjoy! Stay tuned for Part 2 of this post where we return the next day during on and off blizzard conditions to take the other canal tour!

 

Categories: Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands, Netherlands | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Snowy Day In Alphen Aan Den Rijn, Netherlands

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

After leaving Florida and heading to the Netherlands I was looking forward to some winter weather and in early January we got some. We went to bed with flurries and woke up to a winter wonderland so, of course, Matt and I had to go out and explore especially because this was his first real winter. Here are some pictures from that day.

Do you see the cat?

Do you see the cat?

I bet you do now! 🙂

Our neighbor's cat was intrigued with this white floaty stuff!

Our neighbor’s cat was intrigued with this white floaty stuff!

No school day for these kids...

No snow day for the kids at this school…

The view through our little Christmas tree...

The view through our little Christmas tree…

New mode of transportation...the sled!

New mode of transportation…the sled!

The school where the kids came from...

Where are the kids? It’s SNOWING!!

Snowball fight!!!

Snowball fight!!!

I was impressed with the teachers at this school. These kids get to play outside in the school yard every day but this day because it was snowing, they came out earlier and were brought out to the playground behind our building to have a snowball fight!

I call this one...snowfall on plant thing! :-)

I call this one…snowfall on plant thing! 🙂

So now after seeing how fearless the children were in dealing with the snow…Matt and I ventured out on our walk in the winter wonderland too!

Canals are starting to freeze...yes those are duck footprints!

Canals are starting to freeze…yes those are duck footprints!

And then we found out where the ducks went…the other side wasn’t quite as frozen…YET!

A bit of unfrozen canal for the birdies!

A bit of unfrozen canal for the birdies!

Pretty winter canal scene

Pretty winter canal scene

Matt is ready to experience a walk in the snow!

Matt is ready to experience a walk in the snow!

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This it the park where I used to see my little cat friend…this cold day he wasn’t there! Smart kitty! 🙂

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Get ready for this one…I call this photo ‘Snow on rock wall’…pretty clever, ehh?

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I guess because the town is fairly easy to get around in they felt the need to add some confusion…hey, it worked!

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‘Snow on…I don’t know what this is…but there’s snow on it’!

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I really liked these condos and the park that was a part of it!

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Snow and red condos!

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This little guy seemed so lonely there…but I thought it was pretty.

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I couldn’t decide which picture I liked best so you got them both.

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These guys seem determined to wait it out right there…on the ice!

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They hardly seemed bothered by the cold!

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These swans and ducks found one of the rare places where the water wasn’t frozen!

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Ducks on ice!

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Bridge over frozen waters…

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Nice homes on the park…

Bridge in Europapark!

Bridge in Europapark!

Can you hear the snowy silence?

Can you hear the snowy silence?

More sleds as transport...this is what they use when they can't ride their bikes because of the snow.

More sleds as transport…this is what they use when they can’t ride their bikes because of the snow.

A cow sign in the middle of town???

A cow sign in the middle of town???

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Well lookie there…a cow…

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The rest of the herd…we walked right by them and they barely looked at us. Must be used to the foot traffic on that little trail.

More snow and glad to be in the warm apartment.

More snow and glad to be back in the warm apartment.

Parents picking up their kids from school with sleds rather than the usual bikes.

Parents picking up their kids from school with sleds rather than the usual bikes.

It's coming down again!

It’s coming down again!

Categories: Alphen aan den Rijn, Alphen aan den Rijn, Netherlands, Netherlands, Video Tours | 4 Comments

New Year’s Eve In The Netherlands

Fireworks Outside Our Window

Fireworks Outside Our Window

When I arrived here at the end of October I kept hearing what seemed like explosions throughout the town at strange times of the day. Matt didn’t know what they were and said he’d been hearing them all along. We came up with theories that it could be a transformer blowing or maybe something to do with the windmills that are located down the street and various other situations that we felt might produce a noise like that.

We even asked our landlord’s dad who told us he hadn’t been hearing anything but maybe it was fireworks. He stated that they’re not legal in the Netherlands with the exception of about 3 days, December 31 – January 2, but he said sometimes people try to get away with it at other times. B-I-N-G-O! After that we were looking to see who it was every time we heard a loud boom and eventually our persistence paid off. Teenagers!

They roamed around the neighborhood looking all innocent (actually they looked like they were up to something but they thought they looked innocent) and they would discreetly light  something, throw it, and run like hell. Now as clever as they thought they were they would always backtrack to the same area, usually laughing, but if they saw you looking at them they would slink off like they knew nothing.

The Neighborhood Comes Alive!

The Neighborhood Comes Alive!

Anyway, long story short (probably too late for that actually…but I digress) New Year’s Eve morning at 8 a.m. we are awoken but what sounds like a mortar round. Are we being invaded again? After all that’s not unknown in Europe and certainly the Netherlands has had their share of invasions. No! Apparently because it’s New Year’s Eve Day it’s legal and bands of teenagers with backpacks full of fireworks are roaming the streets seeing who can make the loudest explosion! Oh joy! It’s going to be a long day!

By 8 p.m. the firework explosions had been consistent for 12-hours and the novelty was worn off. There were no ‘pretty’ fireworks all day, just the loud bangs of your basic explosives, and I stated that there better be some pretty fireworks at midnight or this whole display of affection for fireworks will have been for naught. Don’t disappoint me Dutch people! Show me what you’ve really got!

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First of all, I should say tell you our town is so quiet that you hardly see anyone during the day except when they are taking their kids to school (the school yard is across the street from our apartment) or picking them up. At night, it’s like a ghost town with the exception of those few wandering teens that really should be home.

But New Year’s Eve at 11:59 p.m. it began! It was amazing! Like clockwork the town all came out of their homes and started lighting off fireworks, the booming kind and much to my delight lots of the ‘pretty’ kind too! This wasn’t the fireworks show of some organized state agency. This was private citizens who had apparently been buying and saving up for New Year’s for some time and the effort was fantastic!

We were delighted by the neighborhood display and figured that it would last a half hour at most because after all these were private citizens. How long could they possibly sustain this massive display? Well let me tell you that growing up on Long Island I remember the greatest fireworks displays were done by the Grimaldi’s. They usually were the ones doing the shows over the Harbor in New York City on July 4th and New Year’s Eve but even their shows only lasted about a half hour or so.

Kind of looks like an Angel to me! What do you think?

Kind of looks like an Angel to me! What do you think?

The show here lasted until about 2:30 – 3:00 a.m. pretty much full tilt! I found myself smiling and laughing like a kid because it was just so awesome and unexpected. Over the last few years in the States fireworks displays have been really measly and unimpressive so I just figured it was like that everywhere. I was wrong. Matt and I have already discussed the possibility of coming back to the Netherlands sometime in the future to experience New Year’s Eve by taking a canal tour in Amsterdam during the fireworks. I can only imagine that would be insanely beautiful!

Well without yammering on any more here is a video of our neighborhood letting loose on New Year’s Eve. There’s even an unconfirmed UFO sighting in there so make sure you watch the whole thing. 🙂 I hope you all enjoy it. We certainly did!

Categories: Alphen aan den Rijn, Alphen aan den Rijn, Netherlands, Netherlands, New Year's In New Places, Video Tours | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

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