Thursday, May 15, 2014

Day Seven - Ladies Day Out

Baby Bink & Baby Emma
One of my guilty pleasure movies (I feel guilty because it is so dumb) is Baby's Day Out. It came out about the time Emma was just a baby and Baby Bink was just like my little Emma, crawling around having all sorts of adventures. Emma was child #4 and so was right in the thick of all the fun like the dirt piles, crayons, dogs...and loving every minute. She was a very happy child and I honestly don't remember her ever having a tantrum. (Yes, this is an thinly guised excuse to show you darling baby pictures of Emma.) I call this post "Ladies Day Out" in honor of our big adventure being out and about; first to the sea and then the city, that was filled with sea shells and buses, coffee and vistas, pizza and pigeons, boats and LOTS of gift shops!

Our hosts for the day were Saskia de Graaf & Chris Meerburg-Wijgand. We decided we go to the sea first because it was so close to the hotel. I LOVE the sea so, for the second time, I got to take off my shoes and enjoy the cool sand between my toes and crunchy little shells under my feet. Of course, I was cleaning sand from between my toes the rest of the day...but I loved it.

One thing I love about Holland is the water everywhere. It's a normal part of the landscape. There were canals and bridges and lots of bike paths along the waterways. One thing about those bike paths that almost gave me a heart attack, though, is people will ride right up to the roadway on their bikes and every time we'd zoom right by I thought we would have a collision, but that is the way in Holland. The pedestrians and bikes stop for cars instead of the other way around. Makes sense when you think about it, which is easier...stopping a 4,000 lb car or stepping off your bike for a bit?...but it takes some getting used to. There were fields of green and flowers and Christina managed to snap a pic of a windmill out the window as we zoomed by on our way to Amsterdam.

Saskia thought it would be easier to take a bus ride into the heart of the city so we parked at a parking station and got tickets to park and ride downtown. There was a neat little tent market set up at the station with fresh vegetables, clothes, curtains, spices...a little bit of everything. It took a bit to find where we were supposed to stand for the bus but we caught it and were headed to town. The first thing you could see from the drop off was a three story bike park. There must have been a thousand bikes just in that structure. Another thing you'd never see in America.

SkyLounge Amsterdam
Our first stop downtown was a really fancy outdoor patio called the Sky Lounge on top of the Double Tree Hotel not far from the bus drop off. Saskia said it was a little expensive, but was worth it. Well, it was! What a view and all for the price of a gorgeous little platter of treats and really good coffee or tea. There was a little block of divinity, a crispy cookie, truffle all on a little white tray. The tea was presented in a lined box and you could choose your favorite and then a personal tea pot was brought with hot water...all brought by a very cute waiter I must add.

While we were there I brought out my new friend Tulip. I've always loved stuffed animals and she was trying to get my attention in the hotel every time I passed the gift shop so I finally gave in and adopted her. I brought her along in my white crocheted sling purse and had to bring her out to enjoy the view. I think I will be bringing her along on my adventures in face painting. She's a good companion...quiet and doesn't take up much room.

Hop On Hop Off Tour
We decided to do a combo "Hop On, Hop Off" package where we could ride the bus around the city and see the sights and then do a tour by boat. There was a recording in different languages that would talk about the highlights of the city. Our first stop was at the Royal Palace Square. We were getting hungry and so we went to a pizza place right off the square. They did the pizza in an odd way. Instead of mixing all the toppings together all over the pizza, they put the ingredients in wedges. Christina figured out a way to split ours so we'd each get a taste of all the different ones. I saved my crust and we went out to try and feed the pigeons. I guess you aren't supposed to feed the pigeons bread because they'll keel over...or that was just a tale told to Svetlana from a guy selling bird seed, I'm not sure which....but it was fun! Christina was the bird whisperer in the bunch and had a good conversation with one particular very brave fat pigeon.

Pizza, pigeons and Indonesian
We got on the bus and did the rest of the city, the only problem was, the pizza was the first bread I'd had in long while and with the cool breeze coming in and sitting down listening to the narration, I was having a hard time staying awake!

We hopped on the boat portion of our excursion and they took us all around Amsterdam through the canals. It was amazing how many houseboats there were. The recording said that there were 2500 docked permanently throughout the city. Some had gardens growing on top. I saw one that had been turned into a tiny cafe. Another entrepreneur had posted a sign "See a real houseboat" and was selling tours of his boat.

The old world look of Amsterdam is like nothing I've seen in America. I'm from the west and everything is relatively new here. It's so fairy tale that there was even a "crooked house" from the Mother Goose rhyme. I guess older Amsterdam is built on wooden piles driven into the ground because the earth is not stable so you don't see buildings more than 3 stories high and some of the older ones are sagging. But everything is beautiful in a way. Even new construction matches the old world feel of Amsterdam. We did finally find some tulips in bloom as we got off the boat and had some girls take our picture, my favorite picture of the day, the one with us all peeking over the flowers. We had to say goodbye at this point to Sylvie because Saskia had to get her to the airport to catch her flight.

Well, the rest of the day was spent ducking into gift shops, trying to find the perfect gift for family. (Be warned, regular stores close at 6:00 pm, even in a tourist town like Amsterdam.)  I wanted some more of the seashell type candy that Ferry had gifted we instructors. Chris was a good detective and finally found me some in a little grocery store downtown. We did find a little shop that was different from the rest and had interesting imports like seashell necklaces and blown glass and skeleton art. I ended up getting a tiny glass cow for myself and a sea shell hair comb for Emma.

Christina had mentioned that she had wanted to try Indonesian food earlier and we finally found an Asian restaurant that served it. It was called Restaurant Mandarijn. It was on the second story and small but nicely decorated in black lacquer and Asian prints. We noticed that a lot of locals were there having dinner and animated conversation which we took as a good sign. I was brave and shared an Indonesian dinner with Christina. It wasn't bad but I was jealous of Svetlana's stirfry. The waiter didn't even know the term "stirfry" but we described it to him and he came back with a great dish for her. We got some ice cream with our dinner and even that was pretty with cream and caramel drizzle.

Before we left for the night to go back to our hotel, Svetlana treated us to admission to a very interesting museum that you would only find in Amsterdam. Let's just say that I have now had the full Amsterdam experience!

I can truly say that this whole EFABE experience was one of the best of my life. To be able to mix my love of face painting with such a beautiful place and make friends with such wonderful people as the organizers and the instructors and still fills me with sunshine to think of it to this day.

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