Life, Travel

Fall in Amsterdam

I did fall today, actually, off my bike. I was hopping onto my bike, and my leg somehow didn’t make it over the bike… My groceries and I were just fine. I’m really glad I waited to get eggs.*

Fall is by far my favorite season. Michigan does Fall very well, as proven in so many PureMichigan advertisements:

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I always felt, that if/when I left Michigan, Fall wouldn’t be the same without cider and donuts at the local cider mill. I googled “Cider Mills Amsterdam” and found ONE in the whole area.

But Amsterdam’s beauty in the Fall makes up for it’s lack of cider mills! Fall is hard to mess up, though.

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The Netherlands can’t decide if it’s ready for winter or not. It goes from winter-coat-cold back to should-I-bother-with-my-jacket warm. Yesterday, I wore a dress and was completely comfortable. That’s something I wasn’t expecting about The Netherlands! An extended season of warm! I like it!

Yesterday I met up with two friends of mine, Tomas and Nazam, for Indonesian food in a nearby city called Haarlem. Haarlem’s downtown is a bit quieter than Amsterdam, and still retains most of the wonderfully Dutch old-architecture, so it’s a popular place for families to move to. Tomas and Nazam know the family from the Indonesian restaurant, which was very cool.

I can’t believe I haven’t discovered Indonesian food before now! It’s delicious! It’s different from Thai, but it does share it’s love of peanut-based sauces, which I love. I feel like there was a missing element of my diet all my life, and Indonesian Satay is it.

I’m headed to Munich for the Christmas markets, so I’m hoping Munich is better at Winter than Michigan! I give Michigan an A+ for the first week of Winter, then hovering back and forth between a B- and a D for the rest of it.

Cheers!
Beth

* Tip for dropping your carton of eggs – if they don’t crack and spread all over the place, but only have little cracks in the shell, boil them up real fast and have a week’s worth of hard boiled eggs!

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Less tourist-y, but still kind of tourist-y things to do in Amsterdam

I’ve been here a month, and I’m starting to feel like a resident of Amsterdam! I’m able to go several places, including places in the canal district, without a map; I finally realized I don’t have to try to speak Dutch when in public; and I’ve baked my first quick bread in my kitchen!

Today marks the longest time I’ve ever been in Europe. I feel a little bit like Samwise Gamgee in this scene:

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Sam: This is it.
Frodo: This is what?
Sam: If I take one more step, it’ll be the farthest away from home I’ve ever been. 

I should also say that today marks the first day my friend, Christina, is living in Oxford, England! I’m so excited for her and to have her in the same continent as me!

I’m so glad I came to Amsterdam while it’s warm. It’s a daily joy riding my bike around town, running errands, getting groceries, and just meandering for the sake of meandering.

Amsterdam is very small – you can spend a leisure afternoon riding your bike through the entire city, popping into shops, grabbing lunch and stopping for a photo-op at an Iamsterdam sign. I don’t mean to say you can do everything, but you can cover a lot of ground.

But the more you do, the more you see there is to do!

1) Flea Markets!

Last weekend I went to the Noordermarkt, which is a Saturday flea market in the fashionable Jordaan district. There was so much there! The best flea market I’ve ever been to was Pike Place in Seattle, Washington, but this was was very nice, too. There were vendors for fish, meat, bread, olives, dried fruit, nuts, even British pies! There were vendors for clothing, leather, purses, shoes, tights. I bought tights, dried fruit (dried bananas, but not the chip kind, they were chewy, and dried grapes – still on the vine!), 3 single serving British savory pies (sweet potato, veggie lentil curry, and african-something!), eggplant spread and what ended up being my lunch: honey mixed nuts and a persimmon fruit!

I parked my bike. (The one with the wooden basket.)

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One of my first stops was at this heavenly selection of dried fruits. And you could just pick one up and sample it! Or at least the old lady did next to me, and when nobody stopped her (who stops an old lady?) I did the same, and they couldn’t reprimand me after not reprimanding her. 😉

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know someone who’d love these watches. 😉

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I stopped in my tracks when I saw the pies! I LOVE British savory pies! It was tough picking which ones I wanted.

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If you’ve never tried a persimmon before, you should – they’re light and sweet and very delicious.

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Dried grapes on a vine!

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On the way back I got stuck in traffic.

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There are a lot of flea markets. I was at City Hall for work, and I walked outside to this:

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Can you spot the TIE fighter?

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2) Bagels & Beans Cafe

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Bagels & Beans‘ are everywhere, and have delicious Chai Tea Lattes and bagel sandwiches. They also have free wifi! I’m not yet sure if free wifi is common in most cafes here. I feel like I should know that by now, right?

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3) Heritage House Tours

Wow, it was already 3 weekends ago, but I toured one “Heritage House” of many that were open to the public for one weekend in Amsterdam. The entire tour was in Dutch, and despite the house being nice, it wasn’t nice enough to entice me to see more without knowing their historical significance.

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And on the way out of the tour, there was a boat parade, and one boat had a full band on it!

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4) Public Art

And always keep your eyes open for art cropping up from nowhere.

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Well, those are some of the highlights of my weekends here in Amsterdam. I’ve also gone jogging in the beautiful Vondelpark and Rembrandtpark here, both close to my apartment. Last weekend I visited a friend of mine in a southern Dutch city, Maastricht. I’ll post about that trip later!

Tot ziens,
Beth

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Food, Life, Travel

Eet smakelijk! – Eating in Amsterdam.

I feel like Harry Potter in Prisoner of Azkaban when we as staying in Diagon Alley for two weeks by himself, and loving it! It’s been two weeks since I moved to Amsterdam, and I’ve loved every minute.

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When I was moving, people asked me if I was nervous about moving to a new culture. No, actually, I wasn’t. I’ve been to Europe a few times, lived in London for a bit, and have been to Amsterdam twice, so it wasn’t too unfamiliar to me. I think I’m kind of adaptable, anyway, wanting only a few essential comforts – as long as I can get a decent jar of peanut butter, I’ll be just fine. 😛

Speaking of peanut butter. I’ve tried three different brands already:

Calvé peanut butter was very good – slightly gritty and not too sweet.
Dirk van den Broek’s house brand of peanut butter, was very delicious, though extremely addictive for me. I suspect they got some extra ingredients from the coffee shop next door.
I just bought Albert Heijn’s ‘Excellent brand (compare with Meijer ‘Naturals‘, lol) of hazelnut peanut butter – with candied hazelnuts!

Hazelnut Peanut Butter

Hazelnut Peanut Butter

Hazelnoot Pindakaas 2

I mean, just look at that.

Quite delicious. Though it doesn’t go so well in what I THOUGHT would be normal yoghurt… but turned out to be buttermilk yoghurt. I mean, what are those specks?

Buttermilk Yoghurt

Buttermilk Yoghurt

I’m eating a lot more meat than I ever did back in the States. The staples of a Dutch diet seem to be dairy, bread and meat. And you can’t forget the appelstroop! (Appelstroop = apple syrup)

Here’s me constructing a sandwich, with all the goods:

(If the animated GIF doesn’t work, click here.)

Making a Dutch sandwich: brown bread, two kinds of liverwurst, appelstroop, tomatoes, cucumbers & young cheese!

Every country seems to have their form of pancakes, and the Dutch are no exception. They have Pannenkoeken (large, very thin pancakes with sweet or savory toppings) and Poffertjes (little bite-size pancakes with powdered sugar)

Poffertjes

Poffertjes

Poffertjes & Kaffee

Poffertjes & Kaffee

As I was riding by one of the fancier food markets (Marqt), I noticed they were giving out samples! Of course I stopped by and met a nice woman who started this business of making food out of local hunted meat. These were her croquettes made from goose meat. I could taste about as much meat as you can see in the photo below. 😉 But they were delicious! This croquette in my hand costs about €1 in the store though… so, I’m sorry, but I wouldn’t buy it on my own, no matter how delicious!

Kroket or croquette

Kroket or croquette

More photos to come soon! Next I’ll tell you about the parks near me and how beautiful it is riding through Amsterdam!

Bedankt! Tot ziens,
Beth

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Food, Life, Travel

Amsterdam + Bruges + Food + Friends = totaal koel weekend

For my job, we travel occasionally. I work in marketing but I work with lots of sales representatives, who mainly do the traveling. But for the big industry tradeshows, it’s important having the marketing team join them, to meet business partners, to be more connected to the industry, etc.

Which is amazing for myself. I never dreamed of having a job that brought me to The Netherlands! At least this early in my career! I never thought I’d even go to The Netherlands!

This was my second year going on this work trip. It’s great, because all our meals are expensed, and the restaurants we go to are vastly more expensive than what I’d pay for traveling on my own!

This is a journey of the food I ate: “Smakeleijk eet”, as they say in Dutch!

On the first night, a co-worker and I went out to eat, and when asked what I wanted to eat, I said “Something different and unique.” Somehow, I found myself eating pizza, though at an admittedly fancy Italian restaurant. But even the proscuitto on it didn’t liven up this relatively boring meal. AND I couldn’t take the left overs with me, which I love doing.

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I love traditional Dutch breakfast. I love it more than North American breakfast. Even than English breakfast! I love meats and good cheeses and eggs with tomatoes and cucumbers, and of course the sweet jam or Appelstroop (apple syrup, a staple in Holland!). The hotel I stayed at this year even had smoked salmon in the breakfast buffet!

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They also had this wrapped sausage thing, which I found tasty, but didn’t know what it was. I just found out that it’s raw beef sausage. Yum? But actually, it was seriously really great. I wonder if I can find it in the States?

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The presentation of coffee and tea is way more impressive than in the States. At really nice places in the States, the presentation for these drinks can be nice, but in many places in Europe, any standard restaurant makes ordering coffee or tea a nice little experience, with a little Biscoff cookie or other treat! I miss that when return to the States!

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Dutch Stroopwafels (syrup waffles): the simple placement of syrup inside thin slices of waffle – a food originally made for the poor – is quite likely the best gosh darn treat I’ve ever and will ever taste in my life. It’s fantastically delicious! (Fresh or packaged!) I ate so many of these while I was there!

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Cadbury, and other chocolate companies sell what’s called “drinking chocolate” which I’m sure is beyond amazing. But that’s still just measly powdered chocolate. This, below, was a chunk of chocolate that you stir into a cup of hot milk. And you get extra chocolate treats on the side. It’s not, but it’s almost too much.

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Below is a delicious “Dutch Coffee” which involves coffee, a Dutch liqueur and I think someone said something about egg?? I forget, but it was WONDERFUL. I tried looking it up, but Googling “Dutch coffee” brings up mainly “Dutch coffee shop” results.

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Below is a delicious mint pea soup that I got at the restaurant connected to my hostel, St. Christopher’s in Bruges. (Stay there if you go to Bruges! It was great!)

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When I bought this salami panini, I was regretting getting something so simple on my first night in Bruges, but it was quite literally melt-in-your-mouth delicious. I was also sure that I’d only eat half of it, but to my astonishment, I ate that gosh darn entire sandwich.

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And after the sandwich, I still had room for this Belgian Waffle! I’m not huge on too much sweet, so I told him to put less chocolate on it than normal. He acted as if it was blasphemous, but obliged. “But it’s Belgian Chocolate!” I had pistachio ice cream, because I’d deluded myself into thinking it would be less sweet than other flavors, like chocolate.
It was quite good, but, as you might have guessed, very sweet for me. I only ate half and then, sadly, chucked it.

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Life

The Fault in Our Stars

No, that fantastically poetic title is not of my own creation – it’s the name of the book I just finished, by John Green. I’d never heard of him before, but my friend suggested I read it, and also John Greens attending the mega Harry Potter convention I’m going to next weekend!

I didn’t know his style of writing, or even the premise of the book, but now that I’ve finished, it was exactly what I’d expected it to be.

“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.” – A Fault in Our Stars, John Green

The premise: ‘Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has ever been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.’

Green adds unexpected humor to affliction, and sharp, witty intelligence to a love story. I’m excited to read his other works! And also, to watch his vlog. (At least for a few days or weeks until I slowly forget/don’t have time to follow him anymore, which just generally happens with me and YouTubers. It’s of no fault to their talents!)

But I do want to quote him one more time. He’s brilliant at describing human emotions and thoughts in raw, descriptive, yet very simple ways.

“We stared at the house for a while. The weird thing about houses is that they almost always look like nothing is happening inside of them, even though they contain most of our lives.”

And I haven’t even mentioned the chapters that are essentially a love story to Amsterdam. I went to Amsterdam last February and fell in love with so many of the things John Green evidently did – the city’s adamant refusal to rely on vehicles, that you can look anywhere and a canal will be in sight, the fact that some Dutch locals speak better English than Americans – and to top it all off, Hazel and Augustus, the main characters, stay in Hotel de Filosoof (Hotel of Philosophers), where I stayed! Each room was named of a different philosopher. Unfortunately, I can’t remember my room…

Front door to Hotel de Filosoof, where I stayed in Amsterdam, and so did Hazel and Augustus!

Update: I looked up “Nerdfighters” and Urban Dictionary came up. This is what it said:

1. Nerdfighters
People who instead of being made up of cells and organs and stuff are actually made out of awesome.
They fight decepticons on behalf of Nerds everywhere!
John and Hank Green are made of awesome Nerdfighters.

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Beware of bell.

Tonight is my last night living south Novi, close to downtown Northville, which I love riding my bike down to. As it’s my last night, and a magnificent night, I thought I’d take one last bike ride to downtown Northville. I was thoroughly enjoying the mild wind, the people sipping coffees outside cafes and people leaving restaurants carrying leftover boxes.

I’ll interrupt with an important note: I got this bell in Amsterdam:

and I’ve only recently put it on my bike. Naturally, a biker would use this to inform a pedestrian that a bike is coming. But no metro Detroit city I’ve been to is used to bikers. People here jump out of their skins when they  hear this noise:

I frightened a poor older woman today, leaving a restaurant with her husband. They were leisurely strolling up the sidewalk in front of me. I was going so slowly behind them, that I was practically walking my bike, but I couldn’t get around, so I did what any biker with a bell would do – rung the bell.

She was startled and asked me if I should be on the sidewalk or not. Honestly, there’s no room in the street in downtown Northville – the cars barely have room to squeeze by. She was polite to me, but still annoyed with me.

At first I was a little ticked that she’d put a dent in my nice night and good mood, and sorry that I’d done the same for her.

But then I thought, it IS up to me, as the biker, to make sure I don’t inconvenience any pedestrian; not to frighten them, even if they’re in no danger of being hit, because they still think they are, when a biker comes near. It didn’t matter that I was practically inching along the sidewalk – they hear the bell, see the bike, and freak out. “Should I move to the left or right? Or stay where I am? Should I even turn around?”

I have two morals to this story:
1) Be courteous to walking pedestrians when on my bike. They’re comfort comes before my comfort.
2) DON’T ring the bell! Instead, shout, “bike on your left,” which is easier for them to determine how far you are behind them, how fast you’re going, in which direction you’ll skirting around them, and also how kindly you ask. People are much less scared this way, and very appreciative.

Oh, and moral 3) If you don’t like the bike bell sound either – don’t go to Amsterdam!

Yeah, that’s a kid in the front cart.

Bike racks in a residential area. wowzers.

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