Monday, June 16, 2014

Amsterdam June 8 through 11

I think I've been delaying writing about the rest of our Amsterdam visit because once I write about it, it'll truly mean that vacation is over.  Never mind that I've started back to work, so of course vacation is over.  Drat.

Our entire stay in Amsterdam encompassed the river cruise (June 6 -7) and time on our own (June 8-11).  I've already told you about the river cruise portion, and the 8th was mostly the Rijksmuseum.  So that leaves all the 'other stuff.'  Which was a LOT.  Yet also very relaxing.  Would that be an oxymoron?  No, of course not.  Just apparently contradictory.  Ah well.

While we weren't always on the move, we did do a lot of walking.   Ken and I only used public transportation one day - and that didn't work out too well.  The rest of the time we walked.  My feet were pretty sore (I was grateful for someone's advice about bringing two different pair of shoes so I could trade shoes from day to day) but the plus was that we worked off all the cheese and beer!

We managed to visit, or walk by, all the places we'd heard about.  And yes, that included walking through the Red Light District - and it's true, I didn't realize where I was until one of the windows that didn't have a curtain pulled had a woman standing wearing....uh...not much....  I did a swift double take, then started looking around and saw all these windows, most with curtains drawn, but a few not...with women standing or sitting there.  It was actually more low key than the area we'd walked through on our way to the houseboat our first day....that area (not sure exactly where it was since I still didn't have my bearings yet) had guys standing in doorways shouting "weed....come in and smoke weed and drink beer" with loud music blaring.  Definitely NOT my style.  I'm not one to go anywhere there is someone hawking things....well...unless they're hawking anything related to horses!  HA!

But I digress....

Trying to remember all the things we did....Anne Frank House (check), Rijksmuseum (check), Dam Square (check), I AMsterdam sign (check), Diamond museum (sort of check - we walked in the door but I wasn't about to pay 8.5 euro for that so we walked out), Dutch pancakes (check), Saturday Market (check), Canal Cruise (check), get lost in Amsterdam (check - their public transportation maps suck... even a waitress couldn't tell us where we were from the map)

Spend lots of family time on the houseboat, eating many varieties of cheese (DOUBLE check)

I've gone through all my photos and narrowed it down some.  Not much, but some!  I'm having a hard time giving up my vacation!!!

Walked across a bridge near the Rijksmuseum and saw these beautiful trees and buildings.  Loved the tree in the water.

Walked down a random side street and Ken spotted this place.  We didn't go in but had to take the photo.

On our walk back from the Rijksmuseum (where I'd been on my feet for 5 hours, and my feet were screaming so loud I wasn't hearing anything.....) suddenly I heard the rapid clip/clop of hooves.  Very distinctive, but doubly so because to my ear they sounded a bit more rapid than any I'd heard before (and there have been a lot of carriages in Europe).  Looked down this street to see them....the horse on the left was a bit out of control.  The driver was wielding his whip and some people were commenting, but to my eye, he wasn't hurting the horse, instead he was getting the horse's attention (and if you know me you know I'd be screaming bloody murder if I thought it was being hurt), and in the space of 50 yards he had what looked to be an almost out of control horse back in line.  And if you notice, the girl at his side is very calm.  (I could post the series of 4 photos but unless you were there it probably wouldn't help much). got my mind off my feet long enough to notice a bench....

The bench was across the canal from the Anne Frank house.  Too bad this picture doesn't show the whole line.  It's CRAZY long.  The actual house where the Frank family stayed in hiding is the third one in from the right.  The two modern looking buildings to the right of it are added on and accommodate a very nice museum.  We went on Tuesday the 10th - at 8:15am to stand in line for a 9am opening.  We were there 45 minutes before it opened (in the rain) and we were standing at the far right of the grey wall you can see here.  By the time we were out of the house at 10am the line was around the corner well out of view in this picture (where it usually was all day long).  Whether you read her diary when you were in school, or as an adult, I recommend a visit.  Seeing the children's growth charted on the wall was what did me in....

Not exactly the best picture to follow a discussion on Anne Frank, but....we look miserable, don't we?  I know.  It's a shame.  Being in such an amazing place we really should have been happier....

The view across the canal from the houseboat - I was (we all were) fasciated with the lean of the buildings.  This time though, the color in the sky caught my eye.  Loved the clouds.

I think it was the second morning that Ken and I lead the family to this place.  It looked interesting while we were exploring.  It's on Prinsengracht.  They make huge pancakes.  But not the kind you're thinking of....

This is my "Chilean Pancake" which is full of spiced meat and beans.  It is bigger than my plate.  I ended up folding it in half and attacking the middle.  I think I finished maybe 1/3 of it.  Ken ordered the Mexican pancake, but a word of warning....they thought curry was Mexican???  The did also have sweet pancakes - though none of us ordered them.  When we walked by one day I saw two women eating one, it had three giant scoops of vanilla ice cream...looked yummy.
I would recommend a visit here.

And yep, we were all having fun!!!  Pretty amazing that we could all be together for 21 days and be as happy at the end of the trip as at the beginning!

Aren't families great?!?

Love ya Yolanda!!!!!!

Oh shoot....another one of those serious photos....

And you have to check out the bicycle garage.  It's three stories tall.  Seriously.  Chock full, too.  I also saw some boats (barges?) that were also used as bicycle garages.  Amsterdam is truly a bicycle mecca.  

And another word of warning....if you're walking and you look at your feet and you see red (brick/cobblestones/cement/whatever) out!  You're in a bike lane.  And bicyclists don't care about you.  It seems true that if you hear one bell it means 'get out of the way.'  Three bells means 'it's too late' and you're about to get squished!  We witnessed three crashes while we were at the houseboat.  One bike vs bike, one bike vs car and one bike vs scooter.  Yet none were hurt.  Even though there are no bicyclist helmet laws.  Amazing.

Couldn't get a good view of the I AMsterdam sign because there was an impromptu street musical group pulling in a decent crowd. 

It was too bad that we left the before World Cup mania really started.  That would have been pretty awesome.

We did see lots (and I do mean LOTS) of orange at the airport though.  it appeared that at least half of The Netherlands was leaving to go to Brazil!  Those that remained were treated to some pretty amazing decorations.  Very festive.

While sitting on the houseboat we observed a couple birds that appeared to be parrots.  When Ken and I were walking to the Anne Frank Museum one morning early we found them.  How many can you spot in this photo?  Hint: there are three.  Truly.  Though one is partially hidden (I know, you're thinking they're ALL hidden, but there really are 3, what I think are,Ring-necked Parakeets, in this photo).

Our last full day in Amsterdam.  Notice the sky?  We were quite warm in the canal cruise boat.  The roof was open, all windows open.  I had my fan out (the Sissi fan that I bought in Austria).  Taking pictures out the roof of the canal boat.  I mention the sky because shortly you'll notice another photo of us....

Approaching the Skinny Bridge - the canal cruise guide said it was good luck to kiss while going under the bridge.  So we did.  Thus I have no other photos of the bridge <wink>.

Mom and Dad.  We'd just hopped off the canal cruise (a hop on/hop off) to get a bite to eat.

Here's the other photo I was talking about.  Notice Ken's wet shirt - mine just didn't show the raindrops though you can see my arm is wet.  And the grey sky.  This is just about 2 hours after that other photo was taken.  We'd been stranded under a tree for 30 minutes waiting for the boat to come by while it absolutely dumped!  The only time we didn't bring any form of rain gear.  No jackets (it was sunny and 75 when we left the houseboat), no umbrella (though Dad had bought one about 2 hours earlier with the express purpose of replacing the one supplied by the houseboat that he'd misplaced, not because he thought it would rain...though Mom and Dad weren't with us at this point in the day so his new umbrella wouldn't have helped anyway. on...sorry!) but we're not made of sugar (as we heard on the River Cruise a few times) so we didn't melt.

Your run of the mill sailing vessel in Amsterdam!  

Our last night...we were going for Indonesian take out but the restaurant which said it was open every day...wasn't... So we found an Italian place down the street from the houseboat and ordered food to go.

But you wouldn't expect us to wait empty handed would you?  (By the way the food was very good)

The whole family!!!  Notice Mom and Dad on the houseboat?!?   (I've had a bit of practice with selfies you know) Knew I'd be able to find a way to get a family picture, even across a canal!
Our last supper (the Italian food)

Mom and Yolanda

My parting shot...sunset in Amsterdam, June 10, 2014

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Amsterdam - the houseboat Prins & Brouwer

Bet you're wondering exactly what it's like to stay in a houseboat in Amsterdam.  If you've ever stayed in a houseboat on a big lake (Shasta, Powell, etc), well, it isn't anything like that!

I didn't see any two houseboats that were alike.  Some are built on a cement float (sounds like an oxymoron but it's true - at least according to the canal cruise guide we had one day) and others are remodeled cargo ships from the early 1920's.  The latter is what we stayed on.

A little background on how we came to be staying on this particular houseboat, as the story is kind of interesting (at least I think so!).  Mom tasked me with finding a houseboat that would sleep 6 adults and had room to sit outside in order to watch the world go by.  Not an easy thing, it turns out.  Not many sleep 6 and those that do don't all have their own private rooms, or space to sit outside, and some are far outside the city center (I was determining that by distance from Centraal Station).  I did my usual and compiled a spreadsheet to track all the houseboats I was researching.  I went through a number of rental websites, but found THE houseboat of all houseboats on  The Prins & Brouwer Houseboat appeared to have everything we needed.  The photos on the website showed a very nice home and when I emailed them I received a response promptly.  Rene (the manager) answered all my questions (and I had quite a few) and the owner of the boat responded once when I asked about the size of the beds (my brother is 6'3") and he let me know he was the same size and could sleep in all the beds.  So, where it turns really interesting though, is when I emailed Mom.  I let her know I'd found the PERFECT houseboat and sent her the link hoping she'd agree.  She said she took one look and realized it was the houseboat they'd stayed on about 8 years ago and they'd LOVED it!   She had heard that it wasn't a rental any more.  It was what she and Dad were using as their 'ideal houseboat' when they were telling me what to look for.

And the reality, 8 years later, was as good as they remembered.

On a previous post you saw the pictures I took when we were on our canal cruise, so you saw how pretty it looked in the morning the day before we checked in.  We could see the picnic table on top (that was added sometime in the previous 8 years) and it certainly looked nice from the outside.  We all looked forward to getting on board and we all enjoyed our time on the Prins & Brouwer.  Highly recommend this houseboat if you want a wonderful vacation in the heart of Amsterdam, while still having your own oasis.  We all commented on how nice it was to stay somewhere central, with access to markets and restaurants so we didn't have to cook (unless we wanted to) and where we could hang out in our own little oasis (as opposed to in a hotel lobby).

I send a big thank you to the Prins & Brouwer owners and manager for an absolutely divine vacation in Amsterdam!!!!

Please enjoy my photos:

Here's a picture I took while we were walking up to it on the afternoon of the 7th 

The building on the left is the pub Ken and I hung out at, and where we met the Amsterdamer couple.  On the far right is the Prins & Brouwer

A view from the bridge, looking at the Prins & Brouwer

Approaching the boat.  The front door is on the very far right of this photo.

A double bed in one bedroom (Ken's and my room). The high windows let in lots of natural light. 

The master bedroom - a King sized bed, with an en-suite bathroom including jacuzzi tub and shower - this is at the front of the boat

Third bedroom had bunk beds that were over 6 feet long.  The top bed had less room though because of the low wall.

Washer and Dryer in the master bedroom/bathroom - and you can see the jacuzzi tub/shower

The second bathroom.  The shower had a hand held shower head as well as a rain shower head and a bench.  Great water pressure and hot water!

The view from the bedroom hallway towards the back of the boat.  The table extended so all 6 of us could eat at it and still walk by the hallway.  Looking to the back is the stairs to the entrance on the right and to the left is the entrance to the den with the huge TV

Part of the kitchen - the oven/micro combo is just barely seen on the right, the dishwasher is the cupboard to the left of the sink

The rest of the kitchen - the fridge and freezer were plenty big and the stove was an induction with a vent hood that rose up from the surface.  Worked perfectly for our dinner one night.

The TV in the den.  The windows at the top middle are to the top den and entrance

The rest of the den.  This is the very back of the boat and all the panels are cupboards.

The upstairs entrance, looking to the front of the boat and you can see the picnic table where we spent a lot of time hanging out

the upstairs den - we all enjoyed time up here.  There is even power access so I could power my laptop and write my blog while watching the world go by.

The view while sitting on deck - this is what it looked like all day Saturday and Sunday

Dad, Mom and Ken - they don't look too miserable do they?

The flowers Ken bought.  It was such a nice touch to have them on the table whenever we were on the boat.

Another view of the daily activity - and even though it seems like it would be noisy, ship swaying in the water, or whatever, I can assure you the boat barely moved and the sound didn't carry to inside.  It was a peaceful oasis inside and a great time outside.  The perfect combination for a fun vacation.

The building that housed the pub - it was leaning to the left.  Seriously leaning.

A look over my shoulder down Brouwersgracht from our spot on Prinsengracht

Sunset over the boat

Moonlight view from the picnic table

Dinner our third night on board - I didn't have a tripod so I couldn't set up a timer photo with all of us

The building across the canal as seen through our flowers and the trees

The bridges had such beautiful flowers that it screamed for pretty pictures.  This one I took in the early morning on our way to visit the Anne Frank Museum

Sunset through the boat

The bell at the front of the boat

Peaceful sunset our last night on board