Archive for January, 2012

lesser-known Amsterdam

Sunday, January 15th, 2012

We had a good day on Friday; Ted had to go to the US Consulate in Amsterdam to get more pages added to his passport (again) so I took the day off, too, and went with him. We had an appointment at 10:15, so we took the train from Eindhoven, and then the tram to the Museumplein, where the Consulate is located. Dropping off the passport went surprisingly fast, then we needed to kill time until afternoon, when we were told to pick up the passport between 2:30-3:30.

It was a bit tricky to figure out what to do; we’ve been to most of the best-known attractions there, the Rijksmuseum is still undergoing renovation (their ‘greatest hits’ are on display, but we’ve seen them) and the Stedelijk and several other museums are closed either for renovation or for the month of January. The Royal Palace wasn’t open this week either (I’ve seen it but Ted hasn’t.) Luckily, we found all this out the day before, when we did a little research.

After dropping off the passport, we hopped back on the tram, this time to the vicinity of the Rembrandtplein. We actually got off near the floating flower market, and walked from there toward the Rembrandtplein. There are a couple of canal house museums we were aiming for, but on the way there, we came upon one we didn’t know about: the Tassenmuseum, or Museum of Bags. They have handbags, reticules, purses, workbaskets and such dating from te Renaissance – the oldest item we saw is a silver bag frame dating from the latest 1400s. They have everything from petit point bags to Lucite and plastic ones – homemade, designer, you name it. There are also a couple of period rooms. We went from there to the Museum Willet-Holthuysen, a canal house that was owned by a wealthy couple of art collectors. (I find it interesting that the museum hyphenates their names, referring to him as Abraham WIllet, her as Willet-Holthuysen, and the pair of them as Mr. and Mrs. Willet-Holthuysen. It isn’t clear if this is just a modern usage or if that’s what they actually called themselves. The house originally belonged to her and she was an heiress, so it’s possible.) There are four floors to see, and the rooms are beautifully furnished in the late 1880s style, but I think it will be better in a couple of years because the museum is renovating to better match the Willet-Holthuysens’ own decor. (Apparently the last several years have been renovation time for Amsterdam museums in general. It may be because next year is the 400th anniversary of the Amsterdam canal ring.) The oddest thing there was not an historical exhibit; the W-Hs never had children, but had a number of pets. In one room there was a “cat” curled up on a pillow in front of a fireplace; it was both breathing and purring (at least, we think it was supposed to be purring).

We over to the Rembrandtplein and grabbed some lunch, then walked back toward the Museumplein, stopping near the Leidseplein at Penelope Craft, a yarn store I wanted to check out. (Yes, yarn was purchased. Lots of yarn.) We got to the Museumplain and still had some time before we could pick up the augmented passport, so we peeked into the Diamond Museum there and saw a diamond cutter, then went to the House of Bols, which has been making genever (a Dutch alcoholic drink that is the ancestor of gin) since the 1600s. It was well done; they discussed their history and different products, including the Delft houses (containing genever) handed out to people in business class on KLM flights. We have 18 of those, from various flights when we’ve gotten upgraded; there are 92 different ones. Then you go through the World of Flavour, where you taste different strips to see how the sense of taste works and try to identify the smells of all of their liqueurs, everything from banana to Curacao to peppermint to ‘Parfait Amour’. Finally, you get to choose a cocktail to try, as well as shots of some of their liqueurs. Ted had a Buttercup, while I had an Original Collins, which is basically genever, lemon juice, sugar syrup and soda. I’d definitely have that again; it would be a good drink to sip on our balcony on a hot summer afternoon. We also tried their yogurt liqueur (better than it sounds, but I’m not rushing out to buy a bottle) and a few others, though we tried not to get too, er, elevated before heading back to the Consulate. Picking up the passport was again surprisingly fast. After that we took the tram to the main station and the train home, stopped for a steak dinner once we got back to Eindhoven, and arrived home to get some good health-related news from my parents. All in all, a good day.

Beats workin’.

River Trekking in Taiwan

Saturday, January 7th, 2012

I was browsing through our 2011 iPhoto gallery and noticed that I had not written about river trekking yet. During the summer I went river trekking, for the second time, while on a business trip in Taiwan.

River trekking is basically hiking/swimming/climbing up a rugged stream, and some sliding back downstream – see photos. This is a great way to get out and see the rugged Taiwan terrain, especially when it is hot. Not only do you work your way up the stream experiencing the beauty of the jungle, but you can also jump off rocks into deep pools, slide down natural chutes, and swim in the stream.

River trekking is very hard on your ankles, shins, and knees. You’re either walking/climbing on very slippery rocks or wading through the stream with surprises that you can’t see waiting to trip you up. This means you are always on the edge of twisting your ankle, banging your shins on hidden rocks under the water, or tweaking your knee as your feet slip around. While trekking you don’t think of the danger since you’re so focused on moving forward, all the obstacles just adding to the challenge.

I highly recommend river trekking as a fun outdoor activity. However, guided trips may only be possible in countries where lawsuits are uncommon.

Note: These photos were taken by the trekking guide, not by me.

Just one more post on our trip, if you can bear it.

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

Here’s a link to the map of our travels:

View Driving Trip to Spain in a larger map

Also, this is the beginning of what we expect to be our last year in the Netherlands – plans are to go home at the end of 2011 / beginning of 2012. Dates are vague yet, and I don’t want to be too emphatic about all this as things could always change (as with our previous three(!) extensions, but I think it will happen this time. So here’s a counter:

….the world just exploded

Sunday, January 1st, 2012

Last time we were here for New Years’ Eve, we had a perfect seat to watch the fireworks, with windows in three directions. This year, our only view is of our own terrace, which is shielded so we can’t see the street (and the street can’t see us). This meant we had to go out on the patio to see the fireworks, so ironically our bad view ended up making them seem even more overpowering, just because we were outside. Since we’re in the center of the city, they were all around us, including some from our neighbors’ balconies. And they were everywhere, not little firecrackers but big sky-filling fireworks, from Roman candles on up. We’ve heard bangs steadily since afternoon, and constantly since about ten, but just before midnight the show began and it went for quite a while. It’s almost one and still going, though now I’m mostly hearing bangs and not seeing stars.

Happy new year! Here’s hoping 2012 brings much happiness and prosperity, with fewer disappointments and less sad news all around.