[travel] Last day in Amsterdam

The last day in Amseterdam we tried to cram in as much sight-seeing as possible. We went to Oude Kerk, Amsterdam's oldest building and church at 800 years old.

Oude Kerk. 800 year old church.

It was very quiet inside (not many visitors besides us) but so beautiful. They were doing a little restoration to different areas inside.


The floor was all decorative gravestones (the bodies had been removed)- the stone was so smooth after centuries of being walked on:

Engraved stones in the floor of the church.

Under the organ tower, decorative cherubs:

Under the organ, looking toward the ceiling.

And an area of fold-down seats had a different carving on every single seat. Here are just a few:

Wood carvings on the church bench seats.

We left the church and the red light district is literally on the other side of the canal. We went down a side alley to get to a cool bar that I thought Dollar might like and we did see red light ladies in full-length windows. We kept walking, rather than stopping to gawk (like some men were doing) but I was just like, "Huh. So... yeah. It's really a real thing." 

Anyway, the bar we were going to was the Excalibur Cafe:


Dollar loved it- it has lots of awesome paraphernalia on the walls (armor, swords, axes, rocket launchers, posters, etc). Since it was 2pm, we were basically the only people there but the bartender was friendly and played all the kind of music that Dollar loves. We left after a few and walked around. We saw some of the local fuzz:

Amsterdam beat cops, rolling through the red light district, busting up crime. We easily plotted out an entire season's worth of storyline for these two.

That evening, we went to an "escape room" in the Jordaan called Time Trip. There are two rooms- Jungle and Medieval, and you have 60 minutes to solve puzzles and mysteries to deactivate a bomb:

#timetrip #amsterdam. We chose the Jungle room. Had to solve puzzles to deactivate a bomb in 60 minutes. We did it in 64 minutes.

We asked for a few hints (you're allowed up to three) but still failed. We were so close (and it was a quiet night) that the person running the game gave us an extra 10 minutes to solve it.


Then we walked down to a cafe for a bite and beer. Guess what I saw on the menu?

Grolsch Stender. Non-alcoholic? Wtf.

Non-alcohol Stender. Tastes like disappointment.

Grolsch Stender. I had to order it even though it was non-alcohol. It wasn't good.

So that's it. We had a week in Amsterdam and we were pretty sick but I think we saw and did a lot. I definitely want to go back some day- probably at a different time of year. And I won't declare any tulip bulbs that I bring back (like I did like an IDIOT and they were confiscated). 

I brought home some nice Dutch food items that I'm still enjoying- cocoa, gouda cheese, chocolate, tea. Many stroopwafels were eaten there and brought home. And there are some recipes that we enjoyed that I'd like to get into regular rotation at home: dutch apple pie (of course), veal croquettes (kalfskroketten), bitterballen. I've also got to pick up some nice Dutch mustard- all their mustards were so good. We didn't have any bad meals or beers (besides my namesake above) while we were there.


[travel] The Hague

We took a day trip down to The Hague. The train ride was about 45 minutes and it was a nice, pastoral ride. I noticed that there are lots of farms and livestock... and no fences. All the pastures are separated by small canals.

Train to The Hague.

We did a lot of walking around the city and eventually ended up at the Peace Palace, which houses the U.N. International Court of Justice.

Peace Palace.

Which we wanted to see but they guard was like, "Ha ha, no" when we asked if we could go in. We showed up on the wrong day- Monday. So we left and walked down to the MC Escher museum. Also closed on Mondays. Dammit. Clearly I didn't plan this day trip well enough. We did have a very nice lunch at an old pub (used to be horse stables) where Dollar had some traditional Dutch veal croquettes (which I'm going to try making at home). We ended up at the Mauritshuis museum and saw a ton of wonderful, old Dutch paintings. Including this beauty:

Vermeer. #mauritshuis

Of course, the photo doesn't do it justice. I wonder sometimes what makes one painting so much "better" than other. It's all quite subjective but this painting was so beautiful. I had only one word: luminous. They had so many great paintings at this museum, I'm post going to post a bunch:

Rembrandt, self portrait, 1629:

Rembrandt, self portrait, 1629.


Just a Vermeer, on loan to the museum from the Queen of England's private collection:

Vermeer, from a collection of Dutch masters on loan from the Queen of England.


And I absolutely loved that one of the great rooms had arms sticking out of the walls as candle holders:
The candle holders in this museum are arms.
Really classed up the joint. Still, I enjoyed the Maurithuis more than the Rejksmuseum. We jumped back on the train and headed back to Amsterdam. And I lost my hat on the train. Here's the only picture I have of it, when it was still in progress:
Yes Checks hat, in progress. #knitting
Pattern is Yes Checks by an Amsterdam-based designer (Stephen West). I finished the hat before the trip and it was soft and slouchy and perfect. I wore it every day. Then I left it on the train. I hope hope hope that someone found it and likes it and is wearing it.


[travel] Windmills and Canal Tour

At the midpoint of our vacation in Amsterdam, Dollar and I were both crazy sick. Coughing, flu-like sweating and chills. Because of that and since we were six hours ahead, it was kind of tough to get up even by noon. Not wanting to waste the vacation, I would still get up around 10, trudge down to the coffee shop, buy a cappuccino and croissant and sit outside to feed a pigeon or two (and then run away when two turned into twenty).

Then I'd head back to the hotel and try to rouse Dollar. One day, I was trying to gently shake him, saying, "Heeeey, I know you don't feel good... but, like, we still have to go out and see stuff. Sorry." He rallied and we went up to the train station to go 10 minutes outside the city to Zaanse Schans to check out some windmills. It was overcast and drizzly, but the sun came out for a second:

Got outside the city to see some windmills.

These windmills were cool- and I loved that they are still used. They were all close together and we went inside to see a couple. 



Inside the saw mill, we watched a video on how the windmills are made and this little Dutch kitty came to get some pets:

I got some attention from this Dutch cat in a saw mill.

Back in Amsterdam, we took a canal cruise, which was great. It's totally a tourist thing to do with prerecorded audio but it was still informative on the history of the city, architecture and interesting locations.

Canal boat tour next.

Here's a spot where seven bridges are lined up over this one branch of water:

Seven canal bridges all lined up.

Canal cruise

The facades of the buildings have gables at the top (neck gable, bell gables, step and spout gable). Since the homes can be very tall and narrow, there are winches that extend from the top to hang a rope to move furniture up and down through windows to top floors.



After this, we just spent the evening in the hotel with takeout soup.


[travel] Amsterdam Museums

We visited many museums while we were in Amsterdam. The large fine arts Rijksmuseum was fantastic:

Rijks Museum. #rijksmuseum

There were so many works by famous Dutch painters. Vermeer. Jan Steen. van Gogh:

Van Gogh #rijksmuseum


Rembrandt #rijksmuseum

There was a large library inside:

Library in the museum. #rijksmuseum

Stained glass windows:


I loved this black and white sea scene:


I don't go to museums often enough with Dollar- it's really nice to see everything with him. He notices and points out things that I miss.

We went to the modern art museum after and it was underwhelming. Then we tried to take the tram back up to the hotel but it was packed and slow. One thing we noticed about traffic in Amsterdam- the rule seems to be "go". Watch out, but... go. Cross at your own risk... but GO. Pedestrians, bicyclists, mopeds, cars, trams... EVERYONE GO. Sure, there are stop lights and some semblance of traffic laws but we were nearly run over multiple times by multiple modes of transportation. 

More nighttime walking:

Midnight strollin'

The weather was definitely not awesome. It rained a bit every day off and on, and I don't think we saw the sun for more than a few minutes the entire week.


[travel] Amsterdam

Earlier this summer, I got a message from the airline where I've been collecting frequent flyer miles for 16 years that they were going to delete all my miles in 2017. It was a very WTF moment, because I had close to 100,000 miles. We had talked about going to Amsterdam for years, so I started searching for free tickets. Off-peak season starts in November, so I got two tickets for November 2 for a total of $150 in fees. I was pretty happy. We arranged for a house/cat sitter and off we went.

I was a little worried about the looooong flights (9 hours on the way over, 7 hours on the way back) but they actually weren't too bad. We were able to get a little sleep on the red eye over and woke up to:


Took a train from the airport to the main station and walked to the hotel, which was right at dam square. We walked around a bit.

Canals and such.

The first day we went to a barber shop/bar and Dollar got a nice haircut and straight razor shave. I did some yarn shopping. I think we went back to the hotel to pass out for a bit. Then went out to find some dinner:

Nighttime sightseeing

We found a Korean BBQ place where you can cook your food right at the table (which I love):

Korean BBQ! Amsterdam style.

Pork bulgogi and squid.

It was really good. The format was interesting- it's fixed price and you get five rounds of food, with each person ordering up to three things. We only made it through three rounds. It was funny, we walked in without a reservation and were told we could have a table but we couldn't stay for more than two hours (because of a reservation at a specific time). Ha ha ha, oh Europe. We just said, "Yeah, that's... that won't be a problem." 

There was no language barrier; literally every person we encountered spoke English. We got the hang of restaurants and cafes after a couple days- just seat yourself when you enter and go up to the register when you're ready to pay. More pictures to come- we visited lots of museums and took a couple small day trips outside of the city.


[misc] Murderface Monday

Home. Home home home home with the kitties:

Home again. The kitties really missed me.

At the beginning of the month, Dollar and I took a trip to Amsterdam. Prior to that, I was working extra long days and overtime to make up for the lack of leave I had. I started a new job (same as the old job) in mid-Oct and was like, "I'm taking a vacation in early November. Can't change it. Booked it months ago." After a couple weeks of super-long days, I started to feel a little sick and thought, "Oh no, I hope I don't get sick on this trip." I got sick. And I got Dollar sick. But we rallied and it was a great experience. Then I was home (basically sleeping) for three days and then off to Kansas City, Missouri for the week. Now I'm home and the luggage is put away.

Lots of pictures and knitting to come. I'm just happy to be home, cooking meals, hanging with the kitties (they really missed me!) and Dollar. Glad it's a short week this week. Oh yeah, and we got a lot of snow yesterday:

It's been a blizzard all day. Drove down 20 min to my moms and it's barely raining. #mountainliving

Woo! Time to crack open the box of Dutch cocoa that I brought home for real, Dutch hot chocolate!


[knitting] Simple Garter Stitch Slippers

Needed some new slippers to keep my feet warm around the house. Whipped up some easy and quick garter stitch sliipers:

Simple garter stitch slippers. #knitting

I did this pattern twice last year. It is pretty easy- knit a rectangle, taper for toes, sew the heel shut and use a contrasting yarn to crochet the instep closed and around the ankle. Good use for leftover sock yarn held double. I used yarn remaining from this baby surprise jacket and these socks.

I see a couple more of these in my future- they are nice and cushy and warm.