Saturday, May 31, 2014

Touring Amsterdam

I have been pouring through hundreds of photos to pull out the best of Amsterdam. I have so much that I want to share so I’ll put them in multiple photo heavy posts. I admit that I have mixed feelings about Amsterdam. It is a very beautiful city. The architecture is fabulous. It is easy to navigate on foot. Everyone speaks English. What more could you ask for? There are a few negatives. Marijuana and cannabis are legal there and are readily available in nearly every convenience store and in “smoking parlors”. Starting around 5 o’clock in the evening, the smell of those substances wafts through the air. Another negative is prostitution which is also legal there.  On most of the tourist maps that I saw, the “red light district” was clearly marked. Since we had no interest in that activity, we never went near that area. We only saw one very scantily clad prostitute standing in a very large open window of a very nice home in a great neighborhood while we were riding bikes. It appeared that she was watching for a car to pick her up. For moral reasons I am strongly opposed to both of those activities and I find it very sad that such a beautiful city would legalize activities that are so detrimental to their citizenry. Now, on to the good stuff.

Amsterdam panoramic

Amsterdam is a city of canals and row houses. There is no grass except in public areas yet there is beauty everywhere.

nice canal view

After an overnight flight, we arrived in the early morning and got to our room around 8:30 or 9 AM. We decided to take a “hop on hop off” canal boat tour to help us get acclimated to the city. I highly recommend taking a tour when you arrive at a new city. It is always informative and saves a lot of time in figuring things out.

Amsterdam windmill

We passed this windmill on the boat tour. It was huge, about the size of a lighthouse. We were told that this is one of eight windmills that are still in existence in Amsterdam.

1627 building

Many of the older buildings proudly display the year they were built.

wood house 1528

The dark colored house pictured above is the oldest wood house still standing in Amsterdam. It was built in 1528. There is grass there because this house is part of the Begijnhof and the houses were built around an enclosed courtyard. Beguines were single Catholic women, some were widows, who did good works like the nuns but who had not taken vows. Each of these houses had a tiny garden outside. It was quite a lovely setting.

1620 building

This building was right across the street from our hotel. It was built in 1620!

1620 building view 2

This is another side of the same building.

1620-wavy glass windows

I love the operable shutters and the wavy glass in the windows.

hanging benches

While I was taking photos of the 1620 building, the shop keeper of the shop above was getting ready to open. She brought out these benches and hung them on the wall then let the seats down. It was very efficient use of a small space in this alley.

train station

The Amsterdam Centraal Train Station is huge but easy to navigate. The trams stop right outside the station. We never rode a tram there because everything we needed was nearby. We only took a taxi one night when we were really tired after visiting Keukenhof Gardens and taking the 10 mile bike ride. If you missed that post you can read it here.

bike parking at the train station

This is the bike parking deck outside of the train station. I believe that it holds 2500 of the 7500 bikes parked there each day!  There were bikes everywhere and there were special bike lanes in addition to car lanes and sidewalks.

bike lane traffic light

There were even special traffic lights for the bike lane. When we first arrived and were walking to the hotel, I was nearly run over by bikes before I saw the additional light!

biking through the streets

The second day we were there we rented bikes for touring the city. That is me on the left in the photo above. The picture is slightly blurry because it was snapped from a moving bike. My daughter also used a GoPro camera on the front of the bike to take photos. If you didn’t see the video she made you can watch it by clicking here

underground parking

The car above is going into the underground parking area. Apparently it was very large because we saw the elevator for the garage about a block away! In the photo above, the building to the far left that says “City Centre” was our hotel. We stayed at the Westcord City Centre. As expected, the rooms were small but plenty big enough and well appointed and the bathroom was quite spacious. It was in a great location and I would highly recommend it. You can visit their website here. Because this was a budget friendly trip, we searched high and low for affordable hotels that met our standards and this one certainly fit the bill.

Amsterdam cars 1

We saw several tiny vehicles that I thought were so cute. These two were parked on the sidewalk and were about the size of a golf cart.

burger truck

This little burger truck was so cute. You can tell how tiny it is compared to the size of the bicycles.

I could not get over the beautiful architecture everywhere.

canal side homes

canal side homes-2

corner shop - leaning walls 2

If you look carefully at the photo above, the building on the corner looks a little wonky. It is not the photo. The buildings are actually wonky. They are built to go out toward the street at the top.  Supposedly, this has something to do with balance for the hoisting beam.

hoisting beam

The photo above shows a good view of the hoisting beams. They are located at the top of the top windows. Because the houses are narrow and the stairs are narrow, the hoisting beam is used to  raise furniture through the large windows into the rooms upstairs.

hoisting beam being used

I was hoping to see a hoisting beam being used and this was as close as I came to that. Look carefully and you will see a large rope tied to the hoisting beam. You can also see the workman sitting in the open doorway that is used for hoisting.

very skinny house

Some houses were much more narrow than others. Look at No. 10 above behind the yellow car.  It is about as wide as the compact car in front of it!

interior stairway

This photo (above) was taken inside a little pizza shop just down the street from the hotel. It had delicious pizza for 5 Euros and a green salad for 4 Euros. We ate there 2 nights. I took this photo to show the tiny staircase. Now you see why they use the hoisting beams and the big windows upstairs.

narrow streets

If you look closely on the left side of this street, you can tell that the buildings are leaning slightly toward the street as they go up.

house w yellow striped awnings

This huge house with yellow striped awnings was one of my favorites. It was really beautiful. It is now used as an office.

The rowhouses are all “A” frame and they use decorative facades to cover the “A”. Some of them are very elaborate.

pediment facade

At the top left, you can see the roof line behind the façade. The homes on the right side are unusual with the sloped roof coming to the front. These houses were also in the Beguijnhof.

angel top pedimentI loved this life size angel standing guard over this house!


I love the statues across the top of this building.

building with wood accents

I love the beautiful wood accents on this building.  It doesn’t show up in the photo, but McDonalds was in the red building next door. Side note: everyone in my family has a very sensitive GI track! We are very cautious about what we eat when traveling. We rarely ever eat at McDonalds when we are in the US. However, when traveling overseas, McDonalds is a staple of our diet. We know that the menu will be nearly the same as at home, it is very inexpensive, and we won’t get sick. Sometimes we even grab an extra burger to put in the backpack for traveling so that we don’t have to take time to search for non-threatening foods! Occasionally we do partake of the local cuisine but it is when we know that we will be near the room in case it doesn’t set well with the tummy. We have decided to be safe rather than sorry. After all, who wants to spend your vacation in the room with the toilet?

Turret corner building 

Look at the turret corner on the building above.

turret room

This one has a round room too. I sure would like to see the inside!

rowhouse statues

More statues on the second level. I would like to pressure wash these!

house pediment 1

Another great façade at the top!

houseboats in the canal

Many of the canals have permanent houseboat residences.

houseboats 2

Very unique housing!

houseboats 3

rowing in the canal

How does this compare to the old rowing machine?

photo op canal view 1

We came across this spot while riding bicycles and decided that it would be a great place for a photo. The hard part was finding someone to take the photo.

photo op canal view 2

We had 3 different people take our photo and this was the best we got! You know the drill. Ask someone to take the photo. Look at it. Wait for them to walk away. Wait a few minutes. Ask someone else to take a photo. Repeat.  This was not cropped. Everyone of the photos zoomed in on us and took out the background! We even tried a few selfies but I am way too old for a good selfie!

I’ll stop here for today but I will be back with a whole lot more!

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Linking to Metamorphosis Monday at Between Naps on the Porch

Linking to Wow Us Wednesday at Savvy Southern Style

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Treasure Hunting

I love to go “treasure hunting” at antique shops near and far. This weekend a friend and I spent a couple of hours treasure hunting at local antique stores. I was thrilled to find several treasures.

brass parrot candlestick- polished

My first find of the day was a pair of brass candlesticks. I already cleaned and polished the first parrot. I used Bar Keepers Friend to give it a good cleaning then polished with Wenol metal polish.  These are two of my favorite products for tough cleaning jobs.  Below is a shot of the pair showing the polished one and the unpolished one. They stand almost 14 inches tall and I think I will make lamp bases out of  them.

brass parrot candlesticks somparison

I have a small collection of antique wooden kitchen paddles and I found a couple more. I plan to use these as bread plates at each place setting.

wooden paddles

I also found a pewter salt shaker and pepper mill just like another one that I already have. Now I have one for each end of the table!

pewter salt and pepper mill

I stumbled across a group of copper cookware that I couldn’t pass up. It seemed to be nice heavy weight. Several pieces were made in France, the roasting pan was made in Italy, and the 3 small pans were made in Sweden. All of them will need a thorough cleaning and polishing.

copper cookware

Looks like I’ll be busy polishing for a few days!

I’m still sorting and labeling my pictures from our trip to Europe so I will get those up as I am able. Click on the home button above if you missed the previous posts that I did on the trip.

I hope that you have a nice Memorial Day a great week! My hat is always off for those who have served our country!

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I’ll be linking to Thrifty Treasures at Southern Hospitality Blog. Click the link to see the other finds.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A Visit to Keukenhof Gardens

Today I am sharing more of our recent trip to Europe. If you missed the previous post on the flower fields of Holland, you can view it by clicking here. If you missed the video that my daughter made you can see it by clicking here. The photos in this post are all from our visit to Keukenhof Gardens. Keukenhof is a 79 acre garden planted with hundreds of thousands of bulbs and it is unbelievably gorgeous. It is open from late March until late May and our visit was the first week of April. The gardens have shuttle buses that operate from nearby train stations and from the airport at Amsterdam. We took the bus from the Amsterdam airport and I believe that it took about 15 minutes.  There were many tour buses there but the property is so large that it didn’t seem crowded at all.  I’ll let the photos do most of the talking.

Keukenhof Gardens 1

It was chilly and slightly overcast but the flowers were still beautiful.

Keukenhof Gardens 2

My young travel mates for the day wanted to have their picture taken in the giant wooden shoe.

Keukenhof Gardens 3

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I was surprised at the size of the windmill.  It was really big.

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The photo above and the one below were taken on the deck of the windmill.

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I had my daughter stand there to show the size of the Rhododendron. It was at least 10 feet tall and wide.

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As I have said many times before, nothing makes a bigger impact than a mass planting of a single color. I hope that you enjoyed the tour. Have a great week!

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I’ll be linking to Wow Us Wednesday at Savvy Southern Style and to Grace at Home at Imparting Grace. Click the link for  lots of inspiration.