Happy Birthday Anne Frank

I know what I want, I have a goal, I have opinions, a religion and love.

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Happy birthday Anne Frank! So touching that we got to visit the Annex while in Amsterdam this past spring break.

JMF

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Windmills & Tulips

On our last day in Amsterdam my husband and I decided to get out of the city to see some Windmills & Tulips. I know how incredibly cliche this sounds but I don’t care one bit! It was on the top of my Netherlands bucket list and gosh darn-it I was going to go do it. To make logistics a bit easier for us we decided to do a guided tour…in the end that was not our cup of tea but it was an overall gorgeous (and sunny!) day.

Windmills & tulipsOur bus ride was broken up in to two major chucks: the morning was a windmill/countryside tour and we switched around noon to go to Keukenhof, the most famous tulip garden in the world.

Windmills

Our first stop for windmills was Zaanse Schans, a little neighborhood with a few working windmills. Most of the group went inside to learn about the inner workings of windmills while Will and I walked around the town taking photos and enjoying the rare sunny Netherlandish sunshine.

IMG_2908IMG_4885IMG_7402IMG_7435IMG_7453IMG_7468IMG_7480IMG_7531Volendam & Marken

After the windmills, we got shuttled off to Volendam to learn about traditional Dutch cheese and wooden shoe making. Although informational, mass tour guide lectures aren’t our thing and we kinda just wandered around.

IMG_7532IMG_2148IMG_7534FullSizeRender 7.1IMG_7500IMG_8489After lunch we hopped on a ferry to Marken, which remarkably looked like Cape Cod, then hopped on the bus for part 2…the tulips!

Keukenhof Gardens

This tulip garden is actually opened from March until May and we happened to be there on the first day they were opened this year! I was so excited. Now, it was a bit early in the tulip season so we didn’t get to see the garden in “full” bloom but there was plenty to see and the greenhouse had absolutely gorgeous variety. Every row we walked up was something new. Just enjoy the photos below!

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Amsterdam Day 2

Amsterdam day 2Our second day in Amsterdam was pretty relaxing, we didn’t have too much on the radar at the start of the day. But here’s what we ended up accomplishing:

  • Free diamond tour at Gassan Diamond factory
  • Wandered Vondelpark
  • Popped into a secluded begijnhof
  • Joined a river cruise
  • Downed some jenever (Dutch gin)
  • Walked around the gorgeous neighborhoods

Well that didn’t seem like a lot before I wrote it all down, but I promise it was a leisurely day. 🙂 Read about Day 1 in Amstedam HERE.

Gassan Diamond Tour

We spent about an hour on a free, private tour learning all about the 4 C’s (I can’t really remember what they are right now…lol) and then we got to handle diamonds that literally equal my yearly salary. That was scary! Our course, as with any industry tour, they went you to buy something at the end but we happily walked out without purchasing anything. Although, if you are in the market for diamonds, their prices were competitive.IMG_6999Vondelpark

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Interested in my travel style on this trip? Click HERE.

Amsterdam Begijnhof

IMG_7310IMG_7307IMG_7308River Cruise

What a great way to really see the city! There are a bunch of different cruise lines to shop around. Most take about an hour and include audio information.

Read more about Amsterdam vs. Venice.

IMG_7039IMG_7037IMG_7028IMG_7080IMG_7093IMG_7056IMG_7111IMG_7138IMG_7160IMG_7167IMG_7180Dutch Jenever

Jenever is a 300-year old Dutch gin recipe that is really well-known for its smooth flavor. I personally hate gin with a passion but “when in Rome,” right? Our waiter, seeing our lack of expertise, explained the way to drink jenever with a beer chaser. That did not go down well but it was an experience.

Read more about the foods of the Belgian and the Dutch.

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JMF

Amsterdam vs Venice

Two famous cities of canals! Although they are initially similar in their city planning, in truth, these cities could not be more different. Each one is beautiful in its own way, it just depends on what you like. Here is my opinion on these two curious canal cities!

amsterdam vs venice

Getting Around 

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In the simplest sense, Amsterdam is an organized, planned city while Venice feels completely random and organic. Essentially, their city planning matches their history. On one hand, Amsterdam’s UNESCO canal rings are feats of modern engineering with a long-term planned program of concentric arcs of canals that are connected with perpendicular canals. This makes the city incredibly easy to navigate because it just all makes sense.

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Venice, on the other hand, is a cacophony of alleys, streets, bridges, and dead-ends. This is certainly not a UNESCO Site because of its mathematical plan, but for its insanity. Venice was founded in the 5th century and slowing grew out into the ocean on 118 tiny islands. This organic and long-time growth (as opposed to long-term, planned growth) makes Venice a maze of small winding alley ways. Your best bet is to throw away that map! Know where the major things you want to see are located in relation to your accommodations and then just enjoy getting lost because its inevitable anyways!

Read more at the blog Becoming Italian Word by Word: Walking Venice in the Italian Language 

Famous Markets

FullSizeRender.1Amsterdam is famous for its Bloemenmarkt, or flower market, overflowing with tulips at the right time of year. The market actually consists of floating barges stationed along on Singel between Muntplein and Koningsplein. Easy to find and totally worth a stroll through, even if the tulips aren’t in full bloom yet. And if you are wondering, yes you can bring tulip bulbs home – just make sure they are the “international travel approved” ones.

IMG_7920Venice is alternatively famous for its Rialto Fish Market that teems with the ocean’s bounty every single day starting at 7 am. You can find nearly every variety under the sun but some Venetian specialties are cuttlefish, octopus, canoche (a mix between a shrimp and crab), and schie (tiny shrimp).  Even if you are not a seafood lover, its fantastic to walk by and watch Venetians haggle, argue, and swap the day’s news in this packet covered market.

Road Rules

IMG_6728Bikes rule the streets in Amsterdam and if you are brave enough, it is an awesome way to get around (personally I did not have the courage!). Be careful! The Amsterdam bikers are professionals and they don’t mess around. Always double, triple check before crossing the street or sidewalks, you can’t always hear the bikes whizzing by. Alternatively, a canal tour is a great way to get your bearings and see a lot of the city in an hour or so.

248087_10150195758208541_1821853_nWhere were going, we don’t need roads.”

That iconic line from Back to the Future essentially sums up Venice. No cars, and hardly any bikes or scooters; nothing but boats and boots. Although gondola’s are Venice’s iconic mode of transportation, I don’t suggest them. They’re expensive, cheesy, and really not the best way to see the city. Alternatives? Walking will allow to you get leisurely lost in the back alleys but you will be limited on your “point A to point B” capabilities. The vaporetto, or water bus is the best way to get around and see the city from the water – as it is meant to be seen.

Architecture

IMG_7201IMG_7902The architecture of Amsterdam and Venice could not be more different and lot has to with their geography. Amsterdam is in Northern, Protestant Europe which tends to be more reserved and practical. While Venice has always been known as a city of excess and glitterati. The fantastic architecture is best seen via boat so I would high suggest booking a canal tour while in either city!

My personal winner?

IMG_7909As frustrating as Venice is, it wins in this showdown. My choice has a lot to do with my overall love of Romance cultures as opposed to the orderly Northern Europe but Amsterdam’s architecture did surprise me. Venice I think just captures the imagination as a “romantic” city. My husband through would probably disagree with me (he hated Venice lol). To each their own!

JMF

Amsterdam: Day 1

Amsterdam_ Day 1We took a morning train from Brussels to Amsterdam which was a little more than 3 hours; perfect time to catch up on reading, napping, and blogging! Once we arrived in Amsterdam we hopped on a city tram to Hotel Van Gogh (despite the name, it was a hostel). Our hostel was on the opposite side of the city but closer to the things we were going to be doing in Amsterdam over the next few days.

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This is The Milkmaid (my favorite painting in the world and she was temporarily relocated to the Louvre – I was so bummed! (via)

Official check in wasn’t until 2 pm, so we dropped our bags off and went to eat at the restaurant practically attached to the hostel, Blushing, then we killed some time in the Rijksmuseum. This is considered one of Amsterdam’s premier museums filled with Old Dutch Masters. I had my eye to see ONE piece of art and funny enough it had been temporarily moved to the Louvre for a Vermeer exhibit…bummer!

  • Opening times: daily 9:00am-5:00pm
  • Price: 17,50 euro (adult)

IMG_2018IMG_6709IMG_6791 2After finishing the museum, we ran (literally ran!) to our appointment at the Reypenaer Cheese Tasting Room for a cheese tasting. I found out about this place from the an awesome travel guide on Etsy by the Overseas Escape (click HERE for the link). It was a great experience we would not have thought to do otherwise.

  • Price: 16,50 euro pp (basic Cheese Tasting)
  • Address: Singel 182

By the time we got out, my sister’s train was getting in (perfect timing!) so we went back to the hostel, met up and had a lovely dinner afterwards.

JMF

P.S. All the opinions are my own and no one compensated me for any praise I gave them!

Reypenaer Cheese Tasting Room

cheese tasting reypenaerThis was actually one of the unexpected highlights from our time in Amsterdam. We heard about the Reypenaer Cheese Tasting Room from the Overseas Escape Punchy travel guide on Etsy (click HERE). Will and I typically don’t “splurge” on fancy experiences while traveling but a) this was not expensive and b) it was something we could not have done on our own. Well worth it!

We had a lovely two-person table right in the front (because we were running late…lol) that was laden with different types of cheeses, wine glasses, and a cheese tasting chart. Lemme tell you we were ready to get our fancy on!

IMG_2013IMG_6706The presentation started off with a video about the process of cheese making and aging that the Reypenaer company uses. Our presenter talked about some of the different ways you can infuse a cheese with various flavors, explaining all the things we were about to taste (I was skeptical of my ability to taste anything but a “cheesy” flavor in cheese but I was going to try!).

The whole process was a little over an hour. We would try some cheese and describe the smell, consistency, flavor, and other properties then the Cheese Master told us about the cheese and we saw how close (or far we got to the truth). Will was happily spot on nearly every time…I kept describing things as “cheesy”…so yeah. Each cheese was paired with a different wine and sometimes mustard (Gouda + mustard = surprisingly delicious).

FullSizeRender 10,1IMG_6791 2All in all, it was a fabulous experience. Very fancy without being snobby. I loved it! Once back in the states we ordered a cheese guillotine and some sample cheeses. It should be arriving soon! Can’t wait!

JMF

 

Tulip Mania!

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Tulips are my favorite flower. Don’t know why, don’t know how but I do know that I asked my boyfriend in 7th grade for tulips for Valentine’s Day so this has been a life-long love. I was so excited to see tulips “in their natural setting” while in The Netherlands. Unfortunately we were a bit too early for their full bloom but my mission was accomplished.

Enjoy the gorgeous photos!

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JMF