Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Amsterdam Wanderings

We had the best Dutch pea soup ever with wonderful bread and even butter! At the Uptown Meat Club. We don’t know what aspect of it made it specifically Dutch and I haven’t eaten butter in years but this was fresh I think and very good. 

Interjection here, I hope I don’t come off as a food snob. At least I don’t think I am but do like access to fresh markets and well prepared food. 

Found another market on the net, http://albertcuyp-markt.amsterdam/?lang=en oldest in Amsterdam and walkable to, we’ll be going there for sure.Other things we want to do, flower market, a hop-on-off bus, as above picnic, that’s about it really. We are in the museum district but having seen the line ups and the hordes of tours going and coming, not for us. I would like to take a closer look at the Rijksmuseum, which is very close, just to actually look at it, not to go inside necessarily. Okay, admittedly I’m missing out several wonders of the world, well considered so, but I truly cannot abide long queues, crowds and the selfie sticks that come with, (although I think they are a great invention).

This fellow is holding a flute and wearing "winged" shoes, can't remember his name but liked it.
Walked up to the Rijksmuseum which holds many important past Dutch painters. 

Currently they have an installation named "Who's That Girl'
We walked around the grounds but didn’t go in. There are rather strange, to me, sculptures around it depicting stories they said of people, they are cubist in design and white, with painted black and red lines on them, not for me. There was a different sort of fountain on the grounds though, people could walk inside the circular water shoots and stand right inside the fountain!  

This is a Greek Triton, merman, there were several statues that came from the city gates when they were torn down.
The "I Amsterdam" sign is in front of the Rijksmuseum and people were climbing the letters and generally fooling around it, site of many more selfie sticks. 

Outdoor large chess set, one of a few in Amsterdam
Walked up to the Heineken brewery, original one, didn’t go in that either, sat along the river and watched the tour boats go by under gigantic willow trees with leaves dripping into the water. 

The bridges are lined with petunias, really festive.
Had lunch at a restaurant called Small Talk and it wasn’t really very good, but we are usually so lucky in our choices that one dud out of so many can be expected. This was chosen due to my being tired and hungry rather than a really good look at the menu, so I should just suck it up and continue to a better choice! 

We went to the floating flower market (which doesn't free float, it is moored to a dock) on Tuesday, crowded tram there, many people with large pieces of luggage going to the Central Station, but it was only three stops so not too long at least. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloemenmarkt One thing to note, this is not the best time of year to go to the flower market, there are hardly any real flowers available, best would be to go in spring when the real tulips are in abundance, not the wooden painted ones or plastic. Still it was a sight to see and on a previous trip we had seen it in the Spring so know what’s missing this time. 

Bruce wanted smoked edam cheese but I was kindly informed it’s smoked gouda they have here, doh. Proprietor came to the door, shop is three steep steps down, with samples for Bruce, so we bought smoked gouda, creamy smooth and, yes, smoky. There is a Chinese import store along there also and I’d been thinking to upgrade my sad cotton bathrobe for something nicer, maybe silk. So walking by this shop I see a nice one outside and go in to check it out. Bruce liked one and I liked another so we compromised and bought both, why? I can’t say, but they are both beautiful indecision reigned here and cost wasn’t a factor, not expensive, store was called TA HWA, The canal is called Singel. https://www.amsterdam.info/shopping/flowermarket/

We walked back over three canals which is pleasant in itself. Streets are really crowded with tourists, of course, and again, so many cyclists, some are obviously new at it and it must be a pretty scary experience for them.

Great post from Laurie Mitchell, and her dog Mango in Amsterdam 

I’m reading "Amsterdam, A brief life of the city" by Geert Mak I found in the closet, Bruce and I are still sharing my laptop so wanted something to read while he uses it. Interesting history of the city author seems to have researched from the archives.

There is an organic market close by so we went to check it out, unfortunately stairs prevented Bruce from coming in, we’re finding that frequent here. In Paris you could ring a bell and they would bring out a ramp, but here not so. Trams are good though. Anyway back to the market, nice, good selection of everything but didn’t get the vibe we did in Brussels where you walked in and immediately felt at home and welcomed. This one is more like a supermarket, I think Brussels was an anomaly, although I feel at our local Bio store in Rieselfeld, some of the same feeling as the one in Brussels.

Wandered the streets after, found a card/post office/cigarette shop and bought a card, postage and cigarettes, very handy. The area we walked through seems to be mostly sporting goods stores and health shops; then walked back to the Uptown Meat Club where we had the Dutch pea soup before, not available today so I had the Chicken coconut curry soup which wasn’t available last time, not worth the wait honestly. Bruce had the highest BLT we’ve ever seen, had a steak knife stuck in the middle, really, I should have taken a picture! He said it was very tasty. 

Muggy today so our plans to go to the Albert Cuyp market shelved for a cooler day but we wandered the streets and found a used book store which sold English books, I bought one for 4 Euros, bargain! Then we went back to the Seafood Bar and I had a lovely sole over cooked vegetables covered with a delicate mustard sauce, really good! Bruce had fish and chips again which he enjoyed. The couple who sat next to us, she’s from Jamaica and he’s from the Netherlands ordered the seafood combo grill which was huge when it arrived! Artfully arranged but just so large! Looked good.

Beautiful building, note the top, the hooks are still used for moving goods in and out of the buildings.
We did make it to the Albert Cuyp market on Friday and it wasn’t too crowded http://albertcuyp-markt.amsterdam/?lang=en A real mix of cheap items and expensive ones along with food, as said, a real mix. Many stalls are extensions of real stores so there is much to investigate if willing. Stretches across oh, guessing, 10 blocks and visited by locals and tourists both. Many stalls of thin crisp pancakes and crepes of every description, would be worth another visit to get a savoury crepe and Bruce found good dried apricots and some Stilton cheese, okay Ryan, know we are in Holland, with another 200 kinds of local cheese and he’s still buying British…

After we were informed Apple would not cover the cost of repair of the motherboard on Bruce’s computer we decided to buy him a new one. Apple store here in Amsterdam is really close to the flat so we went Saturday, soon as possible after hearing the news on the non-repair. Met an older fellow named Peter who was good to us and now Bruce has a computer again, backup from the previous one will go to Freiburg and that’s fine too. Peter said it is best not to get a computer repaired that has had water damage, it usually affects something other than the keyboard, good to know. 

We had Indonesian food, a first for us, at Samo Sebo, a small family run restaurant we have stopped by for a drink at. We asked the fellow what was good since the menu is 90% written in Indonesian so he gave us a sampler plate each, food brought home again, but it was impressive in light spice and wonderful taste. It even included a cooked plantain which is different but similar to a banana, honestly I was prepared not to like it much but did.

Outside the WCs, says it all!

Cheers, Bev, Bruce and Lexi Cat

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Amsterdam Unique Lodgings

Hello friends,

I'll do a separate post(s) about Amsterdam the City but we are living in a truly unique apartment here in the Museums District, next to Vondelpark. It is a converted 18th century building originally built for the wealthy so has moulded ceilings which is pretty much all that's left of the original I think in this suite. 

From the book Amsterdam Architecture, A Guide (2006 Gaston Bekkers and THOTH Publishers) "Successful example of speculative building for the better-off. Fifteen terraced house, in plan and section resembling an 18th century palace, incorporating two wings and pavilions. Louis XVI ornament with meander, palmettos, Vitruvian Scroll, etc. A few vertical accents due to situation, immediately opposite Vondelpark." 

The facade has changed quite dramatically except No. 15 which we are in.  

Koi, from small to large, we think maybe fifteen of them 
We are in the Garden Suite which is aptly named, mini stream runs into a tree lined pond with Koi in it. More in a bit...

Lovely lily pad and flower
The train Paris to Amsterdam, friendly roller taxi drivers at both ends was smooth. At the flat we are greeted by Charles and Omar, so drop the bags and Lexi because we have to wait for the cleaner to finish the flat so we do a small shop and enjoy a glass of wine and watch all the people on bikes riding, make that zipping by. Major form of transport here, as you probably know, but it is quite amazing, so many! Get to the flat and Omar is here to get us settled and show us all the technology that makes everything work, even the inside and outside gas fireplaces. He’s kind of like a concierge, here to make our visit comfortable. Found out later he is also a supreme gardener and photographer extraordinaire, you’ll see some in this blog with his permission. 

Outside looking in. Photo Credit Omar Traore, Vossious Photography (Vossious is the name of the street we are on)
Charles owns the suite, he's the fellow in the video. Pictures and/or videos are worth a thousand words so here’s an artistic video of the flat we are in… http://parkmansion.amsterdam/?page_id=15 and pictures.

Omar is the “go to guy” to get things done. He even made croissants and bread for us to welcome us the next morning. Note comes on a postcard under our door with cheery smiley faces and a bit about the weather expected for the day. Charles came in to explain the rules of the house. Fridge is full of meat, cheese, dairy, beverages of all sorts, drawers are full of sweet and salty biscuits and chips, we won’t starve for sure! Met the next tier, Gilbert, who does the cleaning, laundry etc for the flat, he also helped Bruce plug in his wheels, we looked inside the cabinet we were told to use in the hallway and didn’t know which plugin to use, didn’t want to wreck any of the numerous electrical systems housed in there so called. 

This place is really more on the genre of a hotel than an independent apartment. That means no laundry for a month, Thanks Gilbert!, and minimal grocery shopping, Thanks Omar!, although we like the shopping part, hauling it home isn’t always the easiest. Lexi’s litter is heavy and sometimes so is her food. Oh, speaking of Lexi I heard a growl last night, middle of the night, quite loud! Charles cat Koshka had come into the garden for a “visit”. It is her garden after all, she probably wanted to check out Lexi the intruder, Lexi was rude and protecting her space and people, so Koshka backed off after a while. 

We get breakfast of warm, fresh croissants and bread, yesterday later in the day a complete cinnamon apple pie, still warm, was delivered by Omar, apparently a specialty of the house. 

Wow! and scrumptious! Lots of cinnamon.
Whew, we have a lot of food, tomorrow I think we’ll make a picnic of some and take it to Vondelpark which is close by. Must look at what’s there at the park, looks to be a large one.  

Omar came to do some gardening when we came home and when he’d finished came back and asked if he could let Koshka their cat into the garden for half an hour. Then she hid and prowled back and forth until she came to our door, let her in and out the main door into the hallway. All this time Lexi was asleep in the bed so we closed the door to her. Koshka, the Mistress, of the garden, is apparently quite upset she can’t get into her garden. 

Outside Mistress Koshka
As you can see she's a pretty cat, taupe mostly with a bit of brown on her face, a bit thinner than Lexi but about the same size. So that was our cat drama for the day. I’ll suggest they bring her earlier next time, just after we’ve got home and Lexi is still out for the count for another couple of hours.

Inside Mistress Lexi

More about the garden, it is, as is about six years old. The large trees were grown in a nursery and brought by crane into the garden mature, some are really tall, must have been quite the effort. It’s how they brought in the picture window also, which takes two hours to clean. Omar has planted over sixty plants in this garden and maintains it. More about Omar, father Malaysian, mother Croatian, surname is Malaysian. He comes from Zagreb, Croatia, which I’ve heard a fair bit about from bloggers I read.

Garden lit at night, from above. Photo Credit Omar Traore, Vossious Photography
The garden is lit at night as you can see, ruling is that if you turn on the lights, you turn them off, if someone else turns on the lights, they turn them off, you don't. It's all about sharing the garden with people upstairs. 

We are living with nature in the middle of the city, there is a heron that comes to visit, we saw it looking down at the koi and wondering how to get a meal out of them; I was out in the smoking area which I haven’t mentioned yet, later, about dusk and a small rodent came out from under the bench, mole, vole, mouse, not sure but I didn’t shriek, just thought about Koshka making a meal of it, yuck; several slugs, the small brown kind; so far mosquitos are not a problem although they could be, the water in the pond moves though so that’s probably a help. They seem to have those green parrots we’ve seen in Sevilla first and then Brussels, same noise and Omar confirmed they are, hard to see in all the green but nice to hear.

Smoking area is a U-shaped covered patio at the end of the path from the suite. It has an outdoor gas fireplace, which we haven't used yet. Around the U are cushioned benches with pillows and sheep skins, very comfortable, and that is a good thing since we spend most of our time out here. WiFi works well out there, in fact I'm writing this blog post propped on a sheep skin with pillow at my back, feet up to make a table with my lap, very comfortable. The stream is bubbling beside me and I have a view of the garden, since I'm in it.

As for plants, there has to be over a 100 species, even strawberry and grape, tree ferns (one sprouting a fiddlehead at the moment) with large trunks and delicate leaves; palms of different sorts, a jasmine that smells lovely; lily pads of various sizes; planted round boxwood plants which I thought looked strange in this more exotic garden but actually look nice. And of course the koi, from small to a quite large one that is more yellow than orange.

This flat comes with flower arrangements which we’ve enjoyed and got renewed today. One large for the kitchen/living room and one for the bathroom. I always have felt “rich” to have an arrangement in the bathroom and the only time that has ever happened before with me is when my mom sent me boxes of daffodils, I’d spread them about in my apartment including the bathroom and take some to work. She would fill a shoe box full of buds and mail them, they were so very much appreciated in Alberta in the cold, mushy, dreary, days of March!

Charles brought us a sponge cake, and honestly he does’t get that we don’t eat sweets but that has changed since his bakings have been offered. Bruce devoured the cake, I was lucky to get a slice to taste. Maybe Bruce’s inherent sweet tooth has come out while Dawna, his sister has always had it.

Omar delivered two tarts to us from “the best patisserie” in Amsterdam from Charles, very, very good! 

Both pretty and tasty, not pretty for long!
Charles asked us if a lady from an Amsterdam magazine like “Architecture Digest” could come and visit the garden so she came and was impressed I think, must ask for a copy or link to the article, curious to see what she’s written.

So that's where we are until mid-September, pampered and well fed!

Next post, Amsterdam and enough about food! Well, maybe a little bit about a seafood meal I had that was fantastic...

Cheers, Bev, Bruce and the jealous Lexi Cat

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Bateaux Parisiens Boat Tour

We took the Bateaux Parisiens boat tour again but no rain this time like this one http://bevbrucelexi.blogspot.nl/2016/09/boat-or-bateaux-tour-on-seine.html . Meal was good, service not as good, okay for us, but the French couple sitting next to us seemed to wait forever for their entree, we were almost done before they got theirs and two waiters checked the chit at their table before they got it. They were fast voracious eaters too so wouldn’t have appreciated the wait. 

Note the little red car on the back of this boat, they're ready to travel either way!
Couple behind us were American and had been on the boat earlier in the week for the dinner cruise, how do I know that, because the woman’s voice I could clearly hear as if she was sitting next to me, well clearly close anyway, and she wasn’t objectionable, just her voice carried. This is where Bruce and I have a bit of trouble, he can’t hear me in a normal range of voice due to ambulant noise and I don’t want to talk too loud like a tourist. Solution would be to whisper into his ear, must try that! Two singers, male and female, both good, same female as last year. So I think I’ll leave you with the best of pictures and that’s all folks for now.

Notre Dame Cathedral
Well that's different! 
Sorry, I don't know the name of this bridge but there are two statues alike and lots of gold.
Had to add another of the Eiffel, obsessed? Maybe!
On another note, I found the next three little statues in a travel store window and liked them very much so maybe you will too.

The confidence!
Just getting some sun, but not on our heads!
We're now in Amsterdam and staying in a very special property with a garden and pond with koi fish swimming in it, I'll likely do a post about the property alone, next time we "talk". Nice to be back in Amsterdam after a few years, we were here before on a short rainy visit. The biggest thing for me in this city is the masses of people cycling! More on that later too.

Cheers, Bev, Bruce and Lexi Cat who was let out into the garden by mistake, ate some grass, and you likely know the result of that... 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Eiffel Tower and wandering

There "she" is!
We walked to the Eiffel Tower, it’s about half an hour each way, there is a bus, but the walk was enjoyable. A bit about it, you can walk from bottom to top, there are two elevators to two viewing levels, look it up if interested, we just stared, and stared, at it. Even a wedding, well the photos anyway, with the tower as a backdrop, romantic and memorable.

Walked through the Champ de Mars park in front of it, and it had a few children’s play areas, ping pong tables, basketball court, much of the grassy areas were under construction.

Close up, I could stare at it all day, so beautiful!
I took many more pictures but these two will do. People with selfie sticks again, loads of tour buses, all to be expected at the most viewed monument in the world. 

It didn’t take long to walk back into the neighbourhood where we had lunch at Le Pavillon on Av de la Motte Piquet. This part of the 15th has tree lined boulevards and is a lovely part in my book.

I found the Post Office by accident actually, line up was long and building hot so I left. Back the next day and was told I have to buy stamps at a machine anyway, glad I left yesterday. Bruce helped me read the machine and the postage I bought has a tracking number for it, wasn’t cheap as postage goes, for two envelopes but the tracking feature is nice to have.

Stately door, look to the right of the balcony, statue of David.
Strolled along Rue Convention where there was a street market happening, usual knock off purses, cheap clothing, but a couple of fresh fish and meat stalls too. Stopped at Le Cafe du Marche for probably the most delicious quiche lorraine I’ve ever had. The crust was made with filo pastry so light and flaky, baked to perfection. A local fellow in a wheel chair talked to us for a while, this was obviously a locals bar, mostly men coming in for a quick coffee and leaving again, everyone seemed to know everyone else. Interesting people watching from that bar, all sorts walking by. Large flower market across the street made a nice view. Walked the back streets coming home. 

I liked this part of the building
We did another shop at the markets and are starting to get recognized. The young fellow at the wine store is particularly charming, his name is Paul. 

Japanese for lunch and oops, Bruce spilt the soy sauce, lucky we’d finished, ran all over the table and off to the ground. Sitting outside so no wrecked floors, table plastic and no cloth, he said, could have been wine, much worse.

You may remember about the water in the streets, from last year. Architect Haussmann used the water from the Seine to clean the streets, it goes back to the Seine, I’m sure much dirtier but there you go. The water is now turned and off by specific metres around the outflows. We didn’t know who or why this happened last year, a little mystery solved.

Haussmann style buildings
Bruce spilled water onto his computer and it won’t turn on now. Well that seems to happen about once a year so I found an Apple dealer, the closest one is a 40 minute walk one way so we took the bus. Driver pushes a button and the ramp comes out on it’s own, same as in Brussels, so easy for everyone! Driver waived Bruce’s fee (we guessed that might happen), took my 2 Euros but we had the same driver coming back and she waived my fee also, nice driver. The fee for people needing the ramp would be difficult to collect by the driver, everyone else gets on at the front door and pays there, handicapped seats are in the middle of the bus, makes sense.

Anyway, we got to the Apple store in the Marche Saint Germain which is basically a big modern mall. Years ago it was a farmer’s market, now that would be more interesting to me. They directed us to an Apple support shop close by. Poor Bruce is bereft without his “entertainment” of trolling the web where ever something interests him.

Detail above a door
I was reading about the neighbourhood of Saint Germain in the 6th and it used to be quite bohemian with writers and artists living and working there. Gradually it’s been changed to upmarket stores and one writer/blogger figured it had lost a lot of it’s character. Anyway, good to explore another part of Paris and since we’ve now found it is easy, and cheap, we’ll do it again, well, we have to go back and get Bruce’s computer if they can fix it. Must look up what a new one costs these days. Thinking of it and he’s had this one for over two years now so that’s good.

Bruce wanted onion soup and wow! did he luck out at Les Artisans, my caesar salad was good as well. Many diners around us were eating steak tartare, (spiced, minced, raw beef) it is common here but I just can’t get my head around it. There is also a shop that sells horse meat, I won’t be going there either. The bathroom was “interesting”, big steel washtub, water flow by using a foot pad. Another common thing there are two stalls, men’s no door, woman’s has a door, common washing up area, and usually the woman’s toilet has no lid on it, guess that’s so the guys can use it too.

You may have read or know that Paris is considered to be a chic city where people dress up, even to go to the shops. Well they do and don’t, like everywhere, but I saw an exception the other day. She floated past, grey/silver hair, knee length loose, sleeveless dress in white with red flowers, shoes were spike heeled red pumps, tres chic! As I watched her go by a lady sitting next to me gave me a nod to agree.

Pig out! Onion soup (French, although there is no need to say that here) at Les Artisans which is becoming my favourite place to go, the servers are very friendly, speak some English but appreciate our attempts at usually butchering French. The soup is beef based for the broth but we can’t identify the other flavours they meld together so well, anyway we’ll be back again. Sometimes a place just captivates you in a new city, it’s a combination of service, friendliness and of course the food and drink, and outlook for people watching. 

Had, just had to buy a baguette from the next door boulangerie/bakery line ups in there and everyone walking by had one in hand. I’ve read no “real” French person will buy one from a department store, you go directly to the bakery. I’m in agreement there, the brown one I bought was still warm, maybe they have warming tables, but who cares, yum. Back to the pig-out, suffice to say, bread, cheese, salmon. canned, for Bruce, olives and stilton cheese, which a friend said, English cheese in France? and he’s undoubtably right, there are over 200 varieties of cheese here. It would be fun to take a cheese tour, but the local shop could probably guide us through, must ask.

All for now, Cheers, Bev, Bruce and Lexi Cat who can now open a patio door for a stroll outside, not good!