May 3, 2012

Springtime In Holland

One day we were sipping Pisco Sours in Peru, and the next day we found ourselves cheersing with Amstels in Amsterdam. When we made our flights to Europe 8 months ago, we had no clue that we had picked to land on the Netherlands' biggest holiday, Queen’s Day. So when we arrived, we were immediately greeted by a city full of partiers dressed in head-to-toe orange.

Amsterdam is a biker’s dream come true! Bikes outnumber people and cars. At intersections, there is a symphony of bikers that somehow always successfully weave around each other. These people have bike bells and they’re not afraid to use them.

In Amsterdam we rented a little studio apartment right next to a canal in the trendy neighborhood of Jordaan.

 Half a block away was our cute little neighborhood pub, The Lauierboom.

In Peru it got dark outside at 5:30pm. We were pleasantly surprised to learn that up here in the Netherlands, it stays light until 9:30pm. Amsterdam is also a small city, which made it easy for us to pack a lot into a short number of days.

We strolled among the canals and over the bridges of the Old Center and Canal Ring.

We visited the Anne Frank House and picnicked in beautiful Vondelpark.

We tried not to stare in the Red Light District. 

Amsterdam’s professional soccer club, Ajax, won the Dutch national championship while we were in town. We drank local Amsterdam beers – Amstel and Heineken – along with other Dutch brews like Grolsch and our favorite, Wieckse Witte. We visited a brewery that’s inside of a windmill and we rented bikes for a day and rode like the locals do. Ding, ding!

It was classic springtime in Amsterdam. The birds were chirping, spring chickens were waddling around, and the trees lining the canals were just starting to sprout their leaves.

Ever since I was a little girl playing with paper dolls dressed like Dutch girls, I have always wanted to come to Holland. We took to the countryside to see the classics – windmills, tulips, clogs and cheese.

In Zaahse Schans we learned how the 10,000 windmills that used to dot this country helped the Netherlands become a global superpower 400 years ago. Coupled with the Netherlands' wildly successful Dutch East India Company, the windmills helped kick-start Holland’s industrial revolution by grinding all sorts of goods like grains, mustard, tobacco, and herbs, which were brought back on ships from the East.

The Netherlands is the largest producer of flower bulbs in the world, and the fields were easy to spot as we flew into Amsterdam. Their vibrant patches pop off the countryside.

Just outside of Amsterdam, Keukenhof Gardens is a beautiful showcase of 2,200 different kinds of tulips. The drive to get there, through the flower fields, was stunning enough.

Every year the royal gardeners plant 7 million fresh bulbs in a “lasagna-style pattern” to ensure that the tulips are always blooming from the end of March to the middle of May.

We stopped in the small and traditional fishing village of Volendam and visited a wooden clog maker in Marken.

And we ate a lot of cheese. Dutch cheese is traditionally firm and formed into wax-covered wheels. We sampled all sorts of Gouda – pesto, cumin, herb, sheep, goat, cow, young and old. We loved it all!

Here are some of the other Dutch delicacies that we sampled…

Hutspot – smoked sausage with pureed potatoes and carrots.

Bitterballen – meat and potatoes fried into little meatballs.

Herring Sandwhich – it’s local so we had to try it, but there were tons of little bones. How could a fish this small have so many bones! We could not get the fish smell off of our fingers.

Fries – the crunchiest steak fries we have ever tasted.

Pannekoeken – Dutch pancakes that come in many sweet or savory forms. They are thin and massive. This picture does do it justice because it does not show the proportion. This pancake was the size of a large pizza. We tried the apple and bacon pancake. Yum!!!

Super Stroopwafel – two super thin waffles heated and sandwiched around a layer of caramel. It tastes like pure gold.

Dutch Apple Pie enough said!

We are slowly adjusting away from South American living. Walking through the Amsterdam airport we were wonderstruck with how nice everything looked. We salivate walking by restaurants and bakeries because we’re not used to the food looking and smelling so appetizing. We’ve gone from being the tallest to the shortest. Instead of taking buses we take trains. We keep accidentally speaking Spanish to people.

We also got too accustomed to the lackadaisical attitude of South America, where we could book our hotel rooms the night before we arrived. We’ve quickly learned that that when you try to pull this stunt in Europe, you end up with the worst and most expensive rooms ever.

We took our time and traveled slowly through South America, but Europe is going to be a whirlwind tour through 10 countries in 15 weeks. Watch out, Europe! The Griswold’s European Vacation is coming to town!


  1. I look forward to your updates every time I check my email. Amsterdam was one of my favorites places that I visited while traveling. I only spent a long weekend there but I fell in love with that city & the Netherlands.

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