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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

Cube Houses of Rotterdam

Markthal, the Queen of Markets

Markthal

Upcoming Posts

Been traveling in Europe these last few weeks and will be posting soon about my journey to the Netherlands, Croatia and Italy. It's been cold except in Dubrovnik where the temperature hovered around 18°C. Here are some images of the places I visited.

    The Markthal in Rotterdam is the queen of all markets

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…

"Tiptoe through the Tulips"

Though I've visited Amsterdam many times, I've never been to the tulip fields. During this recent trip, I made it a point to go to Lisse to see the profusion of colorful tulips at their peak. It was beautiful to stroll around the 32-hectare Keukenhof Gardens. While it was overcast, it wasn't cold at all and a few sprinkles didn't warrant an umbrella.


There are more than 7 million tulips, daffodils and hyacinths grown at Keukenhof. The incredible variety of tulips and amazing colors are every photographer's dream. This is truly a feast for the eyes. 

The flowers are artfully planted in diagonals, horizontals, verticals, patchwork, and many elaborate patterns. There's a windmill on site, a Japanese garden, a stream running through the gardens, fountains and playgrounds and so much more. You just need comfortable shoes and well rested legs for the long walks.

"And if I kiss you in the garden, in the moonlight Will you pardon me? And tiptoe through the tulips…

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…

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…