Last week, I was away on my Dutch adventure. The first thing everyone told me when I mentioned I was going to The Netherlands was that the Dutch people are super friendly. This I found to be true. What no one told me was that the Dutch are extraordinarily attractive. These people are blessed with good genes. Every single person, from the tram drivers to the police officers to the guy stumbling out of the “coffee shop,” looked like the children of Beyonce and David Beckham. I, on the other hand, always had dark under eye circles from jet lag and hair that belonged on Albert Einstein. Guess who was the tourist?
Now that we have that out of the way, without further ado, the Vrijdag Vijf.
1. The Tulips. Going to The Netherlands in the spring and missing the tulips is like going to Disney World and missing Mickey Mouse, going to Hawaii and missing the beach, going to the suburbs and missing Wal-Mart.
The Keukenhof Garden is open only two months each year when the bulbs are in bloom. The garden is located just outside of Amsterdam amid acres and acres of bulbfields which create ribbons of pinks, purples, whites and reds as far as the eye can see. I had no idea there were this many varieties of colors and shapes.
2. The Canals. Much of Amsterdam is below sea level and the rings of canals help keep the North Sea out. We decided to take advantage of the picturesque, unique setting by staying on a houseboat. We didn’t feel the waves as much as I would have thought (a good thing) even when another boat passed.
3. The Architecture. The canalside homes are like little cake toppers, all dressed up in ruffles and lace. Many date back to the 18th century, and some going back as far as the 16th century. Gables like this one were fancy ways of hiding the steep attics used for storage. The hooks are still used to hoist goods rather than carry them up the stairs. Some of the homes are a bit crooked and listing because they are sinking into the soft marshland below.
4. The Food. Asking for traditional Dutch food was met with quizzical looks and thoughtful glances. “Potatoes. We eat a lot of potatoes,” our friend offered. So we found ourselves eating Indonesian food, which seems to be the closest to local cuisine as one can get. The Dutch brought back many Indonesian spices after colonizing that part of the world and put their own spin on it, coming up with the rijsttafel, which translates to rice table. It consists of about 10 small plates and a heaping bowl of rice. We enjoyed it so much, we ate rijsttafel at two different restaurants.
The only other dish we found to be particularly local was Dutch pancakes, though they’re more like crepes. They come in savory and sweet varieties. And yes, I ate the whole thing. For dinner.
5. The Culture. Spend five minutes in Amsterdam and you’ve probably nearly gotten mowed down by a bicyclist. In fact crossing the street was an act of bravery akin to bungee jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. I live in NYC and I thought it was chaotic and just plain nuts. There’s the bike lane which doesn’t seem to observe any traffic regulations whatsoever, then the mopeds riding in the bike lane (ditto on the traffic regulations), then the trams, then the buses and the cars. Then repeat in the reverse order for the traffic going in the opposite direction.
If you’re a coffee
addict connoisseur like I am, logic would dictate that you’d find the liquid gold in establishments called coffee shops. But, you can’t get coffee here, silly.
Word has it that by the end of this year, the sale of soft drugs like marijuana will be limited to local residents who have a membership card. Hurry before it’s too late.
On that note, have a great weekend everyone!