Travel: Netherlands

Planes, Trains & Automobiles

I had the most convoluted commute in to work this morning. Starting in Rotterdam, in the Netherlands. I hopped into a taxi with an incredibly chatty driver, with whom I was having an in depth conversation about how quickly the Dutch language changes, seemingly on a weekly basis. Spelling changes overnight, grammar is completely revised and half the words are being anglicized. The immediate example being the Dutch word for airport, luchthaven, is now just simply, airport. Kids these days don’t even know the word luchthaven apparently. He went on to explain how kids these days can’t read written Dutch from just thirty or forty years ago. It’s just that different. English is the second national language of the Netherlands. It’s a small enough country to not have the cultural heft that identifies with strict language identity and pride like that of France or Germany.

From there I was on to the tiny and charming Rotterdam Luchthaven, only eight gates, two for international flights. It was one of the most pleasant airport experiences I’ve ever had, given how much we’ve traveled, that is saying a lot. Latte in hand, I settled in for a bit of people watching, even though there were only a handful of people there. Once on the plane after a brief delay I was sat in my window seat on the little dual prop plane. Even on this short fifty minute flight, the passengers were taken care of, complete with little cheese and tomato pita sandwiches and squares of chocolate with the coffee and tea service.

I landed at London City Airport on the east side of London (after circling the city half a dozen times and flying so low over Canary Wharf I felt I could reach out and touch the buildings). Right out of the terminal are the platforms for the Docklands Light Railway trains. My usual rail/travel card covered the transit on this train, although at no point did I need to pull it out until my final destination. From Canning Town station on the Jubilee tube line, transferring to either Circle or District Line at Westminster and on to South Kensington. I guess I could add “feets” to my list of transport for the day as well, for the walk up and into the museum :)

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Travel: Netherlands

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Netherlands: Amsterdam

We visited the famous floating Flower Market. You would not believe the variety and color of flowers and alien looking bulbs available to purchase. This was a case of photographer’s paradise, inspiration was overflowing. Once we catch up on some of that backlog of photographs I keep mentioning, I’ll link to some here.

We spent some quality people watching time at a cafe across from the flower market. Here we had the Dutch interpretation of a pancake. Much thicker than a crepe and more savory. Mine had thinly sliced apples on it, Mark opted for the the bacon pancakes (no surprise there). The syrup was a delicious caramel sauce. If it’s not raining tomorrow, we need to either hop on a canal boat or rent bicycles and do as the Dutch do in terms of transport.

Simple pleasures
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Netherlands: Amsterdam, Artis

Mark is working today so I’m up to my old tricks and entertaining myself in the city for the day. I had all these grand designs for visiting places, including the Troppenmuseum (the Tropical Museum), the Hortus (the botanical gardens) and possibly making it to Artis, the zoo. Since there wasn’t a deluge pouring from the sky, I thought I would start with the out of doors attraction and headed straight for Artis.

The walk was fabulous. Chilly, but at least sunny. It was nice to see the canals by daylight. Amsterdam is a city of concentric half circles of canals with radiating branches throughout. A watery spider web outlined with cobbled roads and impossibly narrow and slanting buildings. Every single road had a bicycle lane, I have never seen so my bicyclists, or bicycles, period. The city caters to and is designed for bikes. Crossing intersections, it’s not the motorists to look out for, it’s the people on bikes who will run into you.

I ended up spending my entire day there. It is not just a zoo. Inside its grounds is the University run Zoological Museum, the Aquarium, a Planetarium and an Insectarium (I kept thinking of the “orphanarium” from Futurama when I saw this!) complete with an enormous butterfly house, I’m talking thousands of butterflies, a photographer’s paradise. With so much on offer, it’s easy to see how I spent so much time here. After seeing some of my photos of butterflies, Mark actually said this is a place he’d like to go (this from a person who does not like museums or zoos). But there was so much else to do, maybe next time. Photos forthcoming, at some point, we are months behind in processing photos.

I found a “New York” bagel shop for lunch and was sat in a window seat with a latte for a session of people watching. I kept seeing the twins of a close friend’s mother, I don’t think they’re Dutch, but the resemblance was uncanny.

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My life with bugs
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Netherlands: Road Trip, Amsterdam

I am sorely disappointed that I did not get a stamp in my passport traveling through the Eurotunnel in to France. Although we did drive through France and Belgium, I don’t think I can legitimately include those countries on my list of those visited. High speed motorway travel doesn’t count. Eight hours after leaving our home in England, we arrived safe and sound in Amsterdam. Wearing ear plugs on long trips on motorways is key. They are an essential piece of kit in the Lotus.

We walked into Amsterdam for a late night dinner at one of the surprisingly abundant Argentinian (and even one Uruguayan) steak houses. Oh the beef was good! It tasted like American beef. Tired from the drive and our long late night walk through the city, full of food, we slept like the dead.

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Travel: Netherlands

I’m busy getting ready for a last minute trip to the Netherlands. Mark needs to be in Amsterdam and Rotterdam for work and I’m joining him for a long weekend. We are going to drive out and then I’ll fly back before him. The tiny boot will make for an interesting packing strategy too.

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