Category Archives: Amsterdam, Bruges, Paris 2016

Van Gogh, Anne Frank and More

More than twenty years ago Paul became fascinated with Van Gogh when he first saw his work at the Musee d’Orsay in Paris.  Ever since, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam has been on his  list of must-see places.  It took awhile, but today we got to the Van Gogh Museum, home of the world’s largest collection of Van Gogh art.

The museum is beautiful  and extensive.  After a couple of hours, we took a break and had a yummy pastry in the coffee shop (a real coffee shop.)  A little sugar and a little rest and we were ready to see the rest of this fabulous museum.


We were so lucky to be able to see the special exhibit, On the Verge of Insanity, which focused on the last eighteen months of Van Gogh’s life.  Using letters, art, timelines and narration, the exhibit addressed questions about Van Gogh’s mental health such as why he cut off his ear, why did he commit suicide, and what illness did he have.  Van Gogh’s last painting, which was unfinished, was at the end of the exhibit.


Anne Frank House

After lunch we went to the Anne Frank House.  Because the line to get in is so long without advanced tickets, we wanted to get tickets ahead of our trip.  Their web site is a little unpredictable, and every time we tried to get tickets, they were sold out.  After doing a number of trial runs, Paul was pretty sure he had figured out their system and got up at 2:00AM one morning and was able to get us tickets.


I read The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank when I was young and still remember how hard it was to understand what happened to her.  Going in to the rooms where she and her family hid, seeing pictures of how the rooms looked when she lived there, watching interviews with her father and others who knew her and reading quotes from her diary created a powerful and emotional experience.



Paul had a very Amsterdam experience today-a bicycle ran into him.  Paul and the cyclist went down, but luckily no one was hurt.  Bikes are everywhere here, and we have really worked at being aware of them.  I love seeing women in dresses and heels and men in suits biking to work.  Children usually sit in little metal seats in the front, and no one wears a helmet.


We walked by a cheese store that was hosting a cheese tasting.


We went to the Red Light District and saw women in windows.  There seemed to be more coffee shops (the marijuana kind) in this part of town, and people were sitting outside smoking marijuana.  Some of the shops sold marijuana candy, cookies and tea.


On the way back to our apartment we found a great outside table on Rembrandt Square and ended our day with a light meal and some great people watching.


Exploring Amsterdam

I was in breakfast heaven this morning, sitting outside enjoying a plate of poffertjes.  Sometimes called Dutch doughnut holes, they are little baby pancake balls smothered in butter and powdered sugar.


After breakfast we strolled through the lovely Jordaan district, reputedly the most famous neighborhood in the Netherlands.  Developed in the seventeenth century, it is a maze of little streets, art galleries, restaurants and specialty shops.


We visited the Stedelijk Museum whose collection includes examples of every significant movement in art and design in the 20th and 21th centuries.  Dream Out Loud, a special exhibit showcasing twenty-six designers trying to solve complex social problems, was a special treat.  We saw a huge design made from cocktail umbrellas and a neon chandelier that turned at the same speed as the earth.  The museum was amazing, but I would not recommend lunching there.


Vondelpark was on our itinerary today, and we thought we were there and weren’t too impressed.  When we got home and checked our map, we realized we hadn’t gone far enough, so we missed it. The park we thought was Vondelpark didn’t even have a name on the map.  We’ll try again another day.

Afghani Dinner

While exploring the Jordaan district, we walked by Mantoe,  the Afghani restaurant Farid, our taxi, driver had recommended.  The universe was definitely telling us to try this place.  Luckily, we were able to get reservations.  We weren’t disappointed.  Our five-course meal was one of the best ever.


Mantoe’s is owned by an Afghani family and is the first Afghani restaurant in the Netherlands.  Our waitress told us that it is part of her culture to offer guests a feast.


Arrived Amsterdam

A warm, sunny morning welcomed us when we arrived in Amsterdam today. Driving to our apartment, our Afghani taxi driver, Farid, talked with us about life in Afghanistan and his family’s experience moving to Amsterdam.  He said Kabul is safe, but the outer areas experience daily bombings and both the Taliban and ISIS are gaining ground and adamantly stated that they are not Muslims. Farid told us he chose to live outside Amsterdam because he did not want his three children being close to the coffee shops, which sale marijuana, not coffee in Amsterdam.  Coffee ship patrons must be eighteen, and I had that it was mostly tourists who patronized the coffee shops; local people were not very interested.

Our host, Edwin, met us outside our second-floor apartment in a seventeenth-century building.  Thank goodness he was there to help get our luggage up the incredibly steep “Dutch stairs”.  They look more like a ladder than stairs.  Because houses used to be taxed based on their width, older  Dutch houses are very narrow and tall; they have nice size rooms but not much space for stairs.  Edwin assured us that in a few days we would be so accustomed to the steep stairs that we would go up and down without giving it a thought.  Right now we are holding on to both railings and stepping slowly both up and down .


Our apartment is a block from the flower market.  Stall after stall sell bulbs and flowers.  We didn’t realize until we walked past the flower market that the stalls are built over the canal.


Edwin recommended that we visit the Brouwerij”T IJ brewery located next to the De Gooyer windmill, the only remaining windmill in Amsterdam. Thanks to his great recommendation we enjoyed a sampling flight of their five original beers and met a lovely couple from Cleveland who gave us a great Paris restaurant recommendation.


Along the walk to the brewery we passed many of the more than 3,000 houseboats on the Amsterdam canals.  Some of them are available to rent.  Prior to 2008 very few of the houseboats were connected to the sewer system. Now, more than 2,000 boats have connected to the system, and the goal is to have all boats connected by 2017.


After a wonderful Indian dinner at Indian Shiva, it’s early to bed for us.

Off to Amsterdam! Fear of Traveling?



Husband Paul and I are leaving soon for our next adventure-four days in Amsterdam, four days in Bruges and seventeen days in Paris.  I am looking forward to enjoying art and beer in Amsterdam, waffles and chocolate in Bruges and everything in Paris, my favorite city in the world.

When we were planning this trip, Brussels was the first choice for our Belgium stay.  We booked an apartment one block from the Grand Place, the central square of Brussels and started planning our excursions and day trips.  Three days after we confirmed our Brussels apartment, suicide bombers set off three bombs in the city.  Although the bombings got us thinking about safety, we decided to stay with our plan.  Two weeks later our Brussels landlady called to tell us she had to cancel our reservation because she was selling her apartment and leaving the city because of the bombings.  After that, we decided the universe might be telling us to go somewhere else in Belgium.  Loving the film In Bruges and reading about the beauty of Bruges, we had no trouble changing our Belgium home from Brussels to Bruges.



Some friends and family have asked us if we feel safe traveling to Belgium and Paris.  One family member half-jokingly referred to this trip as our “ISIS tour” and asked if we were also going to Nice.  A few people have told us safety concerns caused them to cancel their Europe travel plans in the last year.  I understand their concern and have discussed travel and safety with my husband.  But really, we feel like we will be as safe on this trip as we were on previous trips to Europe.  Data supports this feeling.  According to one data scientist we are sixteen times more likely to die from being hit by lightning than from a terrorist attack. Other than trying to avoid train stations during rush hours and being more vigilant, we don’t really plan to do anything differently on this trip.

Why do we worry about our safety in one travel destination and not in another?  We didn’t hesitate to book our Paris apartment just a few months after the tragic Paris attacks.  Our lack of concern about safety in Paris may be because we have been to Paris numerous times and know and love the city.  We have never been to Brussels, so it was harder to imagine what might make us feel unsafe there.

Part of the joy of travel is visiting new places and having new experiences.  I want to be both a wise and a fearless traveler.  So, we leave for our next adventure with as much excitement as ever and maybe a tad more caution.