K Travels….The High 5 of Amsterdam….for the New Year!

So, since I can’t share EVERY detail about my excursions, I now have tradition of doing a HIGH FIVE re-cap about the best and the brightest parts of each new traveling tale….….maybe one day, I will collect them in a HIGH FIVE page.

Vowing not to let the continued flashbacks of freeze-bite fireworks of last New Year’s Eve in Berlin deter me, I hopped on a prescheduled tour to Amsterdam last week. What 2010 taught me more than any other skill is how to sniff out a good tour from lackluster one. So, how can a single gal hit 5 different highs when on someone else’s itinerary?

Suck up her precociousness, resist peer pressure to “join the rest of the bus” and forge her own way.

The High 5s of Amsterdam

1. Randomly befriending a family, convincing them to “DITCH” the group… and SHARING experiences with them.

Too often, when people travel, they restrict themselves to a single itinerary, isolating themselves off from other tourists or locals. I “SUPER-try” to extend myself socially because as a working professional, it is very easy “at home” just to do the routine of work-home-leisure routine (book, wine, work out, cook, Skype, blog). Meeting new people, I am more flexible and fun, experience parts of the city in perspectives colored by their presence. Connecting with these new friends is a treat for me. The best part of Berlin last year was meeting my now friend Magnus, from Stockholm.

Some unexpected highlights from getting this family to ditch the tour schedule and let me and my friend guide them around:

Eating off their plates when the teenage girls’ metabolism announced their force every 90 minutes or so. My favorite stolen nibbles involved delights from a Turkish family operated bakery, called L’Amor. Yep. It. Was. LOVE.

These waffles melted into the New Year, almost as if they were “edipped in nutella batter and re-fried and then topped with nuts.

 

Best Bite of NYE Night

Air Temp is 28F...would you dip in the ocean to start the year off FRESH

……….and Rooting for the dad to dip into the frigid ocean as part of the Dutch’s New Year’s morning tradition. The event had ended an hour earlier, but I finagled a hat for him to honor his bravery from one of the sponsors. Yep…I am pushy like that!

………and toasting of, course. My favorite drink of the trip Jenever…a berry-infused Dutch gin that made me swoon….okay, those were my legs. (WHY DIDN’T I MAKE TIME TO FIND A LIQUOR STORE??? I guess it is easier being green in Amsterdam than any other delicacy) But, this Jameson loving gal might have a new poison if I had a bottle at home.

There are two types, young and old. The new one follows a more recent distillery process making it smoother, but  I preferred the older form,  for it’s BITE.

 

Super Hilarious T-Shirt Shops Provided Entertainment. Let's just say I'll never seen the McDonald's Arches again without thinking about this night

2. As a family, downtime festers some of the best memories and bonding opportunities. Even when solo,  I frequently enjoy no-goal roaming in a new locale.

Had I stayed on the tour bus and wasn’t aggressive about “meeting back at the hotel” I would have been stuck in some cheap smoky sub-urban Dutch version of Dennys rather than strolling around the streets waiting for the clock to strike MIDNIGHT.

3. Van Gogh Museum

I somewhat fell in love with Van Gogh in Provenance, intrigued by his madness and eagerness to fit in and heal himself. Not really a big fan of his sunflower series, I discovered that he created them there mainly to drum up interest in his work and in attempt to be considered a more serious artist. Personally, I favor his portraits and still life depicting so much psychological breadth and ambiguity in what appears simple….at first.

Plus for 20 Euro, this museum had one of the best audio guides I’ve encountered. At many exhibits, you pushed a digital button and heard “Van Gogh” read from a letter referencing the piece. Or you could touch an expert button and see a video giving more detail. This is how I learned that he made this startling Almond Blossom Tree for his nephew only a few months before he died.  And I had NO CLUE he was influenced by Japanese art.

3. Dinner at Moeder’s

Who wouldn't love a place where the first patrons donated dinnerware from their own tables?

Moeder’s just knew what I needed. If you go, you will LOVE all the photos of moms up on the walls….you can’t HELP but smile….and miss your own mom a bit.

It swaddled me in warm hushed lights, bright pictures and funky lamps, pampered me with big hipped smiles, chastised me with home-made dinner ware, and nourished me in tried and true traditional dishes made from scratch. Ever been to a place that intuitively simply hit the spot?

It made me completely FULL and HAPPY. Kiddish, really. Except this time I BEGGED to eat the vegetables….especially the cabbage/potato dish called MOSH POSH

 

A week later, and I STILL keep Saying to Myself....Dang, that LAMB was TASTY!

And let’s not forget about dessert….un-necessary, really…but what would dinner at mom’s be without a little sweetness?

 

Raspberry Foam, Chocolate Hazelnut Torte, and Speculous Ice Cream

5. The writing on the wall at the Anne Frank House

Sure, it’s been commercialized a bit. Yet standing in the spot where she wrote, she dreamed, she hoped, she whined, she grew…it felt like a movie. I think why we love this diary so much is that she is so RELATE-ABLE.  Besides learning about how her father found the letters and multiple “books” a few months after being released (sidenote: can’t IMAGINE being the only member of the group to survive…) what left me speechless were seeing marks on the wall where Anne and her sister’s growth was marked. The same wall holds plastered magazine and photo pictures of ads, movie stars and royalty to “brighten” the place up (remember…no natural light was let in save for the attic. Here was “just a girl” hidden away like so many others, who didn’t write a diary….waiting……wishing……..for something to happen.

I still feel this way……….when is my life going to REALLY begin….and then it hits me. I am in THE house. THE place….and it’s not that MY life belongs to me with a beginning or an end….somewhat like Anne’s.

We belong to each other.

The Writing on the Wall

 

Where ever I go…..I carry my goals, my opinions, my faith….and hopefully, love (remember those waffles?) Thank you, Amsterdam for sharing.

What writing is on your wall this New Years?

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4 thoughts on “K Travels….The High 5 of Amsterdam….for the New Year!

  1. What an amazing trip! So glad you convinced them to stray from the itinerary. I did that with a few people when I was in China. The only difference there was the planned itinerary was planned for a reason. The trip was educational and worth continuing ed credits. I think we only skipped a tour in favor of street markets in Shanghai, which was so worth it. I am certain we did not skip out on a meeting or presentation. I just wish I could better remember. So jealous of your travels. I need to email you soon and see what we can figure out.

    • Some tour companies are better than others. USO ones usually are superb…and I am going to China in March with Intrepid Travel. But this one was out to make $: dinners and drinks weren’t included, or tickets to cruise the canal, and no city tour of Amsterdam. But they DID make people sign up on the ride up there for their meal stops and pay BEFOREHAND…so you couldn’t back out once you were in, and the price was in a sub-urban place and doubled that for better food in the city.

      There is a cooking school in Italy April 8-11th….ryan air flies there. Will you be around Italy that time with your hubby?

  2. The highlights of my trip to Amsterdam were a. Anne Frank’s house – absolutely breathtaking and shocking all at once, and b. the chocolate dipped waffles.

    I cannot imagine being the only survivor of an entire family – really, it was just such a moving memorial.

    Amsterdam was freezing cold in the middle of summer so I can only imagine how chilly you must have been!

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