Sunday, April 29, 2007

DJ Porny

The song and dance craze that's sweeping the nation is DJ Porny's "Me So Horny" along with it's signature "jumpstyle" dance move. The first time we saw this video, we were on the floor laughing. Now we think it's the coolest thing since Febo.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Zaanse Schans

We got itchy feet yesterday and decided to take a tour out of the city. We caught a train to Zaanse Schans, a nearby village. On the way to catch the local tram, I discovered that my camera had died (RIP Canon PowerShot A70). After several years of service, and many, many trips - a chip processor died. According to the local camera guy, at least. Regretfully, and in a haste, I bought a new camera: Nikon CoolPix L6... so far so good! The photos here are from the new camera.

Chrystal is posing with a jar of mustard we bought at one of the windmills, which grinds the mustard! The other windmills grind different things, like peanuts into peanut oil, pigments for dyes, etc.

We watched a cobbler make a pair of wooden shoes! It was pretty fascinating. They start with a wet, soft piece of poplar. The block is put into a machine that grinds out a duplicate of a perfect model - the exact way a copy of a key is made. The inside of the shoe is then ground out with a carving spoon - again, like a key with parallel blades following the "pattern" shoe.

(The "keymaking" device is on the right.)

Once done, the cobbler carves off the last bits. He put his mouth to the shoe and blew out about a cup of water that was in the wood(!), to demonstrate how wet it was. He demonstrated how tough they were by slamming the shoes he was wearing, saying the could withstand 75kg of weight - ideal for construction and other tasks where feet need protection. He also said they keep field workers' feet very dry, and that the arch (I tried on a pair, and felt this benefit) was pronounced and was ideal for people standing on their feet all day because it promoted good posture. I can tell you after trying them on, and seeing how comfortable they actually were, I was tempted to buy a pair!

Spring is definitely in the air! There are LOTS of mother ducks milling about with their ducklings... I had to stop a car the other day in town to let a Mom cross the street with her babies!

Chrystal feeding a sheep some dandelions.

All in all, it was a nice relaxing day spent outside of the city.

What up, cuz?

My cousin Mary and her friend Jackie came to visit us Sunday night! We took them to a squat restaurant* (de Peper) for dinner... Chrystal and I were disappointed with it (it had been much better the previous time), but the girls didn't seem to mind... too polite, I think! ;-)

(from left: Remie, Mary, Chrystal and Jackie)

Afterwards we spent a night on the town and had a blast! It was great to catch up with her.

Their visit was too short, but they did manage to see quite a bit of Amsterdam before they ventured off to Rotterdam.

*Squat restaurants are run by hippies, like a commune. The chefs are volunteers, and the food is all organic and vegetarian. Very cheap and healthy. We really enjoyed it the first time... unfortunately it all depends on the chef in the kitchen!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

We had a great visit in England!


Remie and I left for England on Thursday. The flight was less than an hour long. We arrived into Birmingham at about 9:20 am. It was great but also weird to see every sign and posting in English followed by more English.

My friend Reshma met us at the airport with her new bundle of joy, Armaan Ali. Despite driving on the wrong side and the crazy round-abouts we arrived at Solihull (the city she lives) quickly. We stayed at her and her husband Shabar's house. Her sister Ferhana was down visiting from Toronto as well.

Armaan Ali is not yet a month old. Remie and I were quite excited to be part of a family celebration while we there. Lots of family and best of all some great authentic Asian food and sweets.

The next day Remie, Ferhana and I decided to take a 3 hour bus trip to London. We headed out early to the coach station. We arrived in London at about 12:00. So we had the whole day to look around. Ferhana and I took off for the shopping district while Remie went to a business meeting.

Map in hand, Ferhana and I strolled by Hyde Park and made our way to Oxford Street. There were lots of great stores and shopping opportunities. I found the clothing to be very expensive. Items were priced the same as they are back home but in British Pounds.

After Remie finished up he rejoined us and we went for a proper pint at an English Pub. Its a common site to see the Brits gathered outside with beer in hand if there are not enough tables. After our drinks we did some more shopping.

We found a busy restaurant called Garfunkels and decided to eat there. Our last stop of the day was suppose to be Buckingham Palace, but before we knew it we had to race back the coach station. We hopped into one of those old fashioned looking cabs and made our way back to the bus.
(From left: Ferhana, Armaan, Shabar and Reshma)

Our last night we decided to take out Reshma and the family for dinner. We wanted to take them to the Custard Factory (a recommendation Remie received). The Custard Factory is just that. Its an old factory that has been closed down and has been made into restaurants, clubs and art design studios. The restaurant was closed but we were able to take some great shots of the art court.

(This is Rem climbing a heap of crushed cars!)

We headed to downtown Birmingham and decided on a great award winning italian restaurant, San Carlo. While waiting for our reservation we went to a Pub around the corner. The British know how to do it right. It was great scene with lots of people. We headed back to San Carlo's and chilled at the bar. Despite a long wait the food was delicious.

Afterwards, we drove to a courtyard to take some pictures. We didn't think we would run into these guys! It was a great a night out.

We left the next morning to head to the airport with plenty of time. So why did we almost miss our flight you ask? Remie and I travelled with a carry-on bag, my purse and a bag to carry the laptop. As soon as we entered the area to go through security the officer told me I can only have one bag to bring on the flight. I then explained that one bag is my luggage and the other is my PURSE. He rudely advised it doesn't matter and that I need to check one or the other! I was annoyed and explained that I came here with these two bags and have been travelling through more than one airport with both. He told me to check it. Remie and I went around the corner and managed somehow to stuff my purse into our carry on.

Okay, so that's settled we are now on our way through security and have all of our liquids and gels in a clear zip locked bag with the proper amount of no more than 100ml. I went first - no problem. I turn around and Remie is being asked to take out his liquids. The security officer takes out Rem's contact solution which is in a 355ml bottle. The contents were way less than 100ml. She advises Remie she is going to have to confiscate his contact solution unless he checks it. He explains we only have carry-on, and that the bottle is not full. She advises that it doesn't matter its the amount the bottle has written on it. She wants to know if he can empty it into another bottle. Remie patiently explains once again that its contact solution for his EYES and it wouldn't be sterile if he does that. Next item up is a small container of crude clay not gel, clay to style his hair. Nope, can't take that either it exceeds the allotted amount. Remie explains that its CLAY... it doesn't matter. Contact solution and styling clay gone.

Okay, so now we are both fuming and make our way to the boarding area to wait for our flight.We look down at our boarding pass and we are leaving out of gate 11. Why then is gate 11 not posted anywhere? I ask a gentleman who I think works there. He tells me not to worry we are in the right area the gate numbers are on an electronic board and change once your flight is called. Remie and I sit and wait 2 seconds before we here the FINAL boarding call for our flight at a completely different gate. The 11 had been a MISPRINT - on an airline ticket! We both had to run to catch our flight. I guess I can say we did not enjoy our Birmingham airport experience!

35 minutes later we find ourselves back in Amsterdam. Its funny how its starting to feel a bit like home. We grab our carry-on and head towards Customs. Before you can get there you have to go through two automatic gates. Once you enter one, you can not go back and if you try to - the thing lights up and an alarm goes off. Somehow Remie manages to go through both sets of gates but our luggage didn't make it. Our bag was trapped in mid air between the doors. When Rem tried to pull it out, the alarm went off. It was hilarious! A bunch of people were standing around laughing asking how he managed to that. We had to wait for someone to come through on the other side so the gate would open and release our bag.

Once we got our bag back it was easy breezy the rest of the way. We had a great time but I think we are both done with airports for the moment.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Still waiting for my tax #!!!!

Dag all its Chrystal,

So I have been to the Aliens Police and am cool to work in the Dam. The last item to complete my job profile is a Sofi number (tax number) so that I can get paid. Its a weird system to obtain one. You have to call a call centre and then they relay the message to the tax office to call you back to set up an appointment. Apparently it takes 7-10 business days. I called on Thursday before Easter!!! They were on strike last week so I am really hoping I will get a call sometime soon.

I was out job hunting last week and have some great options working in some restaurants and outdoor cafes but they need my tax number. Stay tuned for more ....


Monday, April 16, 2007

Squat Restaurants

We were bbqing this week, and yesterday was another day of sunshine. We went for a loooong walk to find the beach. We didn't find much in the way of a true sandy beach, but we did happen upon some nude sunbathers.
Yesterday evening we went to a "squat restaurant" named de Peper (pronounced duh-Pepper). Squat restaurants are run like a commune by volunteers, including the chefs. The menu is organic, and vegetarian. They're non-profit, so everything from your meal (ours was 6 euros each) to the booze (1.50 euros for a glass of wine, 1.80 per beer) is very cheap! We got heaping platefuls of food after a hearty daal-type soup.
We had enough leftovers for me to have a full meal for lunch!

Here's the article I found online which led to us dining at de Peper

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Get Down!

Is this song also popular back home? or is it strictly a Euro thing? We love it!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Further Bookings

Today we booked our train tickets to France and Italy! We depart May 14th, returning May 20th.
Along the way we'll get to spend time in Paris then Rome, with a quick stop over back in Zürich... because we need to stock up on cheese and chocolates!!!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007



Snow?! I think we picked a good time to leave...


As we walked back from the Centrum, we took a detour down Museumplein, where the Van Gogh museum is. We haven't hit any of the museums yet... we were going to visit Anne Frank Haus, but the line-up was unreal... I presume it's because it was a holiday weekend.

View of Museumplein on Google Maps

And you can also view our place on Google Maps (click on satellite view). Notice how close we are to Vondelpark. We cut through the park to walk to the Centrum.

The Piano Man

There's someone above us playing their piano every day... far from annoying, it's actually quite pleasant... even though most of it just sounds like practice playing...

This is the view of our garden I have while sitting at my desk. It's actually much brighter and green than this... It's a bit too cool to sit out there in the mornings, but when the sun hits it in the afternoon we can sit out.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Centraal Amsterdam

Happy Easter!

We booked our flights to Birmingham today! We'll be there from April 19 to the 22nd... just a short visit with some of Chrystal's friends.

Riding a bike here is a serious business. There are dedicated bike lanes, and they follow strict rules, just like cars. There's even bicycle "rush hour". Locals get annoyed if you bike too slow. We have yet to try it... we need bikes first! Renting bikes looks like it's going to be too costly (approx 6 to 9 euros per day), so we'll most likely end up buying 2 used bikes... hopefully for around 75-80 euros each.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

More pics...

This is the view right in front of our place... this is Bike City!

Chrystal and I crossing the bridge by our house, heading to Vondelpark. It was very sunny and warm today, we ended up walking around in our t-shirts!

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Our Address

We are living at:
Legmeerstraat 10, huis
1058 ND Amsterdam

Legmeerstraat is pronounced, "Leh-meer-straught", but you have to make the clearing plegm from your throat sound when you say the "Leh". I've figured out that any time there's a double-a (aa) it becomes "augh", as in "draught". The airport taxi had no idea where I wanted to go when I requested, "Leg meer strat"!

10 is our apartment number, and "huis" means we are on the ground floor. 1058 is the postal code, ND for Nederlands (Netherlands), and lastly the city of Amsterdam!

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

I love Europe!


So we arrived in Switzerland 6:30am (12:30am our time).
As soon as we were checked into our hotel we had breakfast. YUMMY the Swiss do it right.
Cheese Cheese Cheese :) Fresh Bread and the most delicious chocolate I have ever tasted.
If it wasn't for all of the walking we did I would be in some serious trouble.

After we had a short nap we hit the streets of Zurich. (Ladies the Swiss men are fine and well dressed). The city was super busy. There was a lot going on! People everywhere you looked. We had a great time sitting out in the sun people watching and eating of course.

Once we figured out the main train route we were back and forth between our hotel and the city centre regularly. There are no public washrooms (I had to pay two Swiss francs) and anyone who knows me will know that those 2 francs added up quickly!

On our second to last day we went our adventure to the Swiss Alps. The view was breathtaking.Once we arrived alive! (See Rem's Post) We had a great day and were both exhausted when we got back to our hotel.
We are now in Amsterdam! Dag!
I find this city to be more relaxed and casual. We have settled into our apartment (which I love) and have toured around our area and the city centre.

Tomorrow I am going to visit the Aliens Police (Vreemdelingenpolitie) to get registered so I can begin looking for a job in a coffee shop! I mean Cafe lol! Stay tuned for some more pics and stuff.
I am off to enjoy my Heineken!

Groeten from Amsterdam!

It is now 9:00pm (3:00pm Ottawa time) on Tuesday night. Chrystal and I are settling into our apartment with only minor problems. The past few days have felt like weeks... we packed so much into them!

We arrived in Zürich last Friday morning, and spent the afternoon wandering the downtown streets of Hauptbahnhof, aka Zürich HB. There was lots to see, and food to enjoy! The food there was very fresh (as it is here) - and we were tempted everywhere with the smell of chocolates, baked goods and cheese!

The Swiss Franc (CHF) is worth approximately the same as a Canadian dollar... a little less, in fact... but generally everything was costlier.

Here I am with my morning coffee... little did I know that ordering a large coffee would come in a big tumbler...

Saturday we shopped and toured the city... that evening we attended Palm Sunday mass at an old basilica in the city. Sunday we took a tour bus to Grimelwald through Interlaken which ran into some bus trouble (video) along the way! The video really doesn't show much... but the bus broke down on the side of a mountain... would have been a really steep drop...

We drove past an abandoned amusement park called, "Mystery Park", which ran into financial trouble after the owner sank millions into it trying to keep it afloat. Seeing this abandoned park was fascinating to me... in a Twilight Zone sort of way.

ANYWAYS, once we arrived in Grimelwald it was absolutely breathtaking... just unreal how immense the alps are... the tallest (Jungfrau - pronounced, "young-frow") is 4,200 metres high.

Check out this panoramic video I shot... watch for Chrystal (on the bench) at the 3 second mark!

We had lunch and a couple beers here... I got a sunburn on my face... just the reflection from the mountains was enough to do it. Looked like I had been skiing all day!

Liz and Rose: That cookie I'm eating tasted exactly like the kind Aunt Emma used to make at Halloween... remember the ones with Strawberry jam? Delish!

That's all for now... I will write more later, and will take a video of our apartment from inside and out.

Please feel free to add comments!