Holiday in Amsterdam (part 1)

This weekend Mike and I decided to hang out in Amsterdam. We decided to take it slow and only hit a few places. As soon as we left the station the holiday spirit was everywhere.

holiday street scene

Our first stop was for the best fries in Amsterdam: Vlaams Fritehuis. I recommend the mayonnaise or the speciaal curry (mayonnaise and curry ketchup topped with raw onions).

Then we were thirsty so we swung by this place: Heineken

Logo

IMG_0037

logos

Here is where the brewing occurs:
brewing room

the process

brewery

water and barley

Bet you didn’t know Heineken is still delivered by horse and cart. The horses are well taken care of and even get a vacation time (in the country).
stables

blacklight brew

At the end of the tour you get to try some beer. Yes, this “bar” is part of the tour.
the bar

My beer (yep they give you two).
beer

Next stop was the Royal Palace also known as Koninklijk Paleis Amsterdam. Check out my next post about the palace.

Warming Towel Racks

One of the most awesome household things I have discovered since moving here is the warming towel rack. Sure I knew they existed before but I didn’t know that every Dutch residence comes equipped with one. You get to step out of the shower (or tub, bathrooms here usually have both) into the warm dry embrace of your towel. If, like me, you do not have a dryer you can also hang damp clothing on the towel rack to finish drying.

Sinterklaas Arrival

This weekend Sinterklaas arrived* in town by boat with his entourage of Zwarte Pieten (Black Petes). Children dressed as Zwarte Piet or Sinterklaas lined the river and waved flags or balloons to greet the popular holiday figures. The Piets handed out candy to the children. (Mike was a little disappointed that he didn’t get any candy.) After disembarking from his party boat Sinterklaas lead the children in some songs then proceeded to the parade route. The parade looped all around town. Many stores were closed for the festivities and had signs welcoming Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet.

On our way back from the river, Mike and I ran into a celebration in a plaza that included Batman (yes, all the way from Gotham City) and Dominoes Pizza mascots. Guess everyone really does get into the holiday spirit over here.

Sinterklaas and the Zwarte Pieten will be in town until Dec 6 which is Sinterklaas day when they hand out presents. Though apparently from now until the 6th people give each other candy. The stores are full of pepernoten, kruidnoten, chocolate letters, chocolate coins and euros, as well as Sinterklaas shaped chocolates. All in all this is a pretty sweet way to celebrate and I think I may just pick up some chocolate to get into the spirit.

*Mike took a ton of pictures of the event. You can find the photos on his blog.

Koffie

One thing it seems the Dutch can’t get enough of is coffee or koffie. This is perfectly fine with me since I love the stuff.  There are stores devoted to the sale of koffie and its accoutrements.  Many cafes have 6-10 types of coffee on the menu from plain koffie to cappuccino.

Paperwork and Sightseeing(ish)

On Tuesday I arrived  in my new Dutch town.   Mike took me to a lovely Indian restaurant for dinner.  It was comforting to know there IS Indian food (and good Indian food) in town.  (Today we located an Asian market with myriad spices and sauces so I can even make my own curry again!)

Yesterday and today were a whirlwind of touring the town, apartment hunting, and paperwork (I have my ID and a bank account so I am legit).  I was impressed by the speed and efficiency of Dutch bureaucracy.  Their buildings are well organized and all my paperwork took less time than equivalent paperwork in the US. Of all the places we visited or passed by the standouts were

-a lovely French bakery where we grabbed sandwiches and sweets for take-away. I had a tomaat sandwich with mozzarella on olive bread.  Mike had a rhubarb crumb-cake.

-the town mall. There was a store full of Saint Nicholas figures, reindeer and Christmas decorations.  Another shop carried every sort of coffee or tea implement you could wish for from percolators and hotpots to specialized mugs and infusers. We grabbed koffe and tosti (toasted sandwiches) between ogling the shops.

-a gothic style church in the center of town. This church is tall enough to serve as an orientation point anywhere in town. At some point I plan to visit the church for a tour or perhaps a service.

Tomorrow I am on my own for sightseeing so I am hoping that I can start to get a better feel for the layout of the town.

It’s a Wrap

Sorry for the hiatus, Mike and I spent the last two weeks visiting family and friends.  If you know you will be gone for a long time you want to see people who are important to you.  You also want to get a last taste of foods and activities you will miss while you are gone. We hit up our favorite restaurants: a family owned Thai restaurant, our fave brew-pub, breakfast place etc.  We did a lot of typically American fall activities: Mike’s dad helped us hand press cider. My mom and Mike made homemade applesauce from apples Mike’s dad sent along with us.  We watched a football game.

This is my last weekend in Texas so I am wrapping up last minute details. My sister-in-law and a friend came down to help me. So I plan to show them around and share good Texas foods with them so it isn’t all work.  Table-side guacamole will definitely be on the menu.

Next time I post will be from the Netherlands. So long America. Hallo Netherlands!