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Sweet Summer Days in Amsterdam

When summer descends upon Amsterdam, the whole city is transformed. The trees are green with foliage, flower boxes are brimming with colorful perennials, the canals are abuzz with boats and partying passengers and terrace umbrellas line the sidewalks for the best of people watching.

This houseboat is cooling off under the shade of its own green plants. There are no limits to growing a garden. All you need are a green thumb and good weather.

One of the important things to remember while walking around Amsterdam is to look down at the sidewalk to check if you are on a bicycle lane. Stay away from these lanes or risk being scolded by angry bikers (Motorcyclists also use this lane.) The other reason to look down at the cobblestone streets is sometimes there are surprises to behold. Like this bronze breast on the Oudekerksplein, outside the Oude Kerk (Old Church). A nod to the ladies of the night? Maybe. It's in the red light district.

There are many options for sightseeing in Amsterdam. …

Favorites from the Rijskmuseum

Random Amsterdam

The Bulldog
Amsterdam has always thrived on its notoriety which has brought many visitors eager to see its offbeat attractions such as the Red Light district. Another popular curiosity is The Bulldog (The Name with a Heart!) which, as the sign on its colorful façade indicates, has been around since 1975 serving some things you wouldn't normally see on a regular café menu. They claim to be the first coffee shop in Amsterdam where they now have several locations including this one at Oudezijds Voorburgwal 132 in the Red Light District. And to quote their Palace branch website, "If there is more than coffee or juice you crave, The Bulldog cafes have all the offerings". Yes, they have Karaoke too! (lol) The Bulldog has also branched into the hotel business both in Amsterdam and in Canada. 
The Night Watch, Rembrandtsplein
The Night Watch is considered one of Rembrandt's masterpieces and it's possibly the most precious painting in the Rijksmuseum.  The Night Watch ha…

The Begijnhof, Amsterdam

Behind this nondescript door is an enclave in the center of Amsterdam. This was once the home of the Beguines, single women whose mission was to care for the sick. The first recorded document of the Begijnhof dates back to 1346 when a certain Cope van der Laene gave the Beguines the Beghijnhuis (house of Beguines).
Courtyard of the Begijnhof
The door from the Spui leads into a courtyard surrounded by traditional 17th-18th century houses which were completely renovated between 1984-1987. It's a different world as you cross the threshold. But for the noise created by the visitors, it feels as if Amsterdam is miles away. Though just outside the door, depending on the day of the week, there are outdoor cafés and musicians playing to the crowd. Or if it's the weekend, there might be a book or art fair on the Spui. 
Het Houten Huys, 1528
One of the oldest houses in Amsterdam, the Houten Huys (black façade) dates back to 1528. Many of the earlier buildings in the Begijnhof were made…

Our Lord in the Attic

In the years following the Alteration in 1578 when power was transferred from Catholics to Protestants, an ordinance was passed in Amsterdam prohibiting Catholics from openly celebrating the mass. Jan Hartman, a rich merchant, bought property on Oudezijds Voorburgwal in 1661 and started rebuilding the three houses on that property to accommodate a hidden church on its top floors. 
View of the organ from the first gallery
Ludovicus Reiniers, a priest, acquired the property in 1739 and kept the church open for worship. Our Lord in the Attic remained the parish church of Catholics living in the area for over 200 years until St. Nicholas Church (in front of the Central Station) was consecrated in 1887. Soon after a group of Catholics bought the property to save it from demolition. It was reopened in 1888 as a museum, one of the oldest museums in Amsterdam. Masses are still celebrated on first Sundays of the month from October to May at 11 a.m. (Check their website for dates of masses.)
The…

That Perfect Photo Eluded Me

I know very well that to take the perfect photo of the iconic I amsterdamslogan, I must wake up at 5:30 a.m. and run over to Museumplein (at the back of the Rijksmuseum) before the tourists and visitors arrive in droves. But it was too cold to get up that early and besides, I kept late nights with friends sipping my favorite fresh mint tea leaves in one of many cafés on the Leidseplein and Rembrandstplein. So I shouldn't be disappointed at all with the images below since these were taken in late afternoon at the height of the King's Birthday weekend celebrations.

5:30 p.m. 
Everyone is hanging out in front of the slogan or should I say, all over the slogan. There's absolutely no way of getting a clear view of it. Notice the colorful orange accessories worn by many. It's the theme color of the House of Orange from whence the new King descended. These folks had been partying on the streets of Amsterdam all day long.

I have an almost unobstructed view from the back. 

Not …

The Hermitage Amsterdam

The Union of Earth and Water (Scheldt and Antwerp)
by Peter Paul Rubens and Frans Snyders c. 1618-1621
Amsterdam is home to some of the best museums in the world - the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum and the Stedelijk to name a few. And now it has the Hermitage Amsterdam! I was lucky to view the Rubens, Van Dyck and Jordaens, Flemish Painters from the Hermitage exhibition which has been extended to June 15, 2012. The exhibition includes 75 paintings and 20 drawings from the Antwerp School of Painting. Many of these oeuvres d'art came from the collection of Catherine the Great.

The museum is in a former home for the elderly. It originally housed women who were at least 50 years of age when it opened in 1681. Elderly men were welcomed in the 1800's when a new wing was added for them. The home became known as Amstelhof. At the close of the 20th century it was decided that rather than rebuild and update the home, it was better to move its residents to more comfortable and mode…

Scenes from Amsterdam

Cafés on the Leidseplein
What I like most about Amsterdam is that it's a compact city and therefore, easy to explore. With two days to roam around and bright sunshine to boot, I was able to cover quite a bit of territory and still had plenty of time to sit at the cafés with good friends.
DHL Express
So how does DHL Express deliver packages in canal lined Amsterdam? By cruise boat, of course. I thought at first this was one of those boats used for canal tours along the waterways of Amsterdam. But the color gave it away.


One fun way for adventurous visitors to see the city when walking is not an option is by taking a three wheeled "smart" tricycle.
Apple Store

Have problems with your I gadgets? No worries. There are a number of service people wating to help you at the new Apple Store on the Leidseplein. But the hightlight here is not the IPad nor the IPhone, rather it is the gleaming glass staircase. This store is in the old AMRO building on the Leidseplein and from what I hear…

Postcard from Amsterdam

Images by Rosario Charie Albar

NEMO Science Museum

At the NEMO Science Museum in Amsterdam, there are a many discoveries to be made. It's great to see the museum full of schoolkids from grammar school to high school. The younger kids were busy running around from one exhibit to the next. Budding scientists were seriously experimenting in the lab. Not surprisingly, teenagers were queued up at the booth that tackles the subject of sex. A neon lit sign asks teens, "Am I my hormones?" Personally I was mesmerized by a giant robot that could sense my presence and greet me. This hormoneless robot has a lot of potential. The rooftop terrace with its fountains and great views has become the hot summer destination. It's okay to sunbathe here. How apropos to combine scientific learning and relaxing in one venue. Maybe it's easier to retain knowledge when the brain is at ease.

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Images by Rosario Charie Albar

Houseboat Living

Living in a houseboat may take some getting used to. But one thing you can count on. You will be rocked gently to sleep. Today's houseboat has all the modern conveniences. The bed is no longer in a claustrophobic box. The bathroom is roomy and the plumbing up-to-date. The living area is spacious. Some houseboats even have a nice terrace.


Parking a houseboat on one of Amsterdam's canals entails paying a monthly "parking" fee based on the size of the houseboat. Add to that the maintenance expense. And buying a houseboat is as expensive as buying a condo or a house on terra firma. At the Houseboat Museum I noted the asking price for houseboats currently on the market. The lowest price was 199,000 euros for an older houseboat. There were several listed at 300,000 euros and up. Of course it's possible to have a new houseboat built to your specifications but before you proceed, check first if there's an available mooring space and secure it.

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Photos by Rosario Ch…

Best Eats/Cafés in Amsterdam

Restaurants: Café de Jaren - behind the Hotel de L'Europe Dinner starts at the salad bar where you can get generous helpings of cucumber salad, lettuce, sliced tomatoes, potatoes and other vegies. My order of Victorian perch was served on a bed of buckwheat noodles with mint salsa and watercress. Good food + ambience=my favorite restaurant in Amsterdam.
Thai Company - on Rosengracht 9 I had their steamed sea bass in light soy sauce. It was divine. It takes a little bit longer to prepare than other items on the menus but worth the wait.
Japan Inn - off of Leidsestraat; reservations necessary as this restaurant is small and often booked.
Oriental City - near Damrak Square
Restaurant La Ruche - 2nd floor of De Beijinkorf Dept. Store; choose from grilled meats/fish, soup, pasta, sandwiches, desserts
Cafés: L'Opera on Rembrandtplein - check out the art deco decor Heineken Hoek on Leidseplein Belgica, next door to Heineken, less crowded Cafe Luxembourg on the Spui
Candy Shop: Jamin with several …

Top Ten Amsterdam

1. Explore 17th century canal homes
2. Take photos of the colorful flower market on the Singel
3. Bicycle around town like a native
4. Sit at an outdoor cafe and don't rush 5. See Rembrandt's masterpieces at the Rijksmuseum 6. And don't miss the Van Gogh Museum
7. People watch at Damrak Square 8. Check out NEMO, the new science museum and get a tan from its rooftop terrace 9. Walk along the romantic bridges on the Amstel 10. Join the crowd of shoppers on the pedestrian only Kalverstraat

Praful

Good things come in threes, I think. Shortly after seeing Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands up close and shaking hands with the Prime Minister, I met one of my favorite jazz artists, Praful, at the Akhnaton Club in Amsterdam where he launched his new CD, Remixed 2. Not only did I get to chat with him, I also enjoyed immensely listening to him play the sax and flute and sing in a foreign tongue with his band. What a talented man and quite personable too!

Some of the selections in his new album include his big hit, Sigh. I love Inspiraçao with its samba rhythms and Yalda Night, a new piece. It was a revelation to hear the influence of Indian, Brazilian and Iranian music in his work. I told him I wish we could hear more of these exotic sounds in the U.S.

At the end of the concert, he asked me if I wanted him to sign my own copy of his latest CD. I was delighted when I read what he wrote,

To Rose
With Love from Amsterdam
Praful

I could only Sigh!

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For more on Praful, check his website at www.…

Only in Amsterdam

Today is Liberation Day in Holland. The whole country was celebrating with hip music on three stages at Museumplein. My friend André who is the best host one can only dream of, took me to the park and we walked and watched the performances in bright sunshine. Afterward we went to the Amstel River to enjoy another concert with Amsterdam's own Metropole Orchestra. The temperatures plunged but we kept warm in the company of thousands who came to listen to the music and wave their flags when the Queen Beatrix arrived and sat on a floating platform across from the stage. When the concert was nearly over, Andre called me, "Rose, please hurry if you want to see the Queen". And I followed him though I didn't believe we could really get close enough to see her.

At the Opera House, we found her car with the AA license plates and sure enough she came by boat with the Prime Minister and Mayor of Amsterdam. She waved at the few gathered there and entered her car and was whisked aw…