Life in the Dam

I’ve written a lot about all of the places that we went in 2017 (see earlier post for comprehensive list), but I haven’t really done a post about our Amsterdam visitors, or the activities we like to do in Amsterdam. So here is that post.

We were very fortunate to have so many friends and family members that wanted to visit us last year. The grand total was 22!
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Denice & Milton – March 2017
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Lauren & Vik – April 2017
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Hope & Raney – May 2017
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Mallory – May 2017
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Michelle & Dan – June 2017
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Jim & Sue – July 2017
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Brittany & Chris & Chelsea & Derrick – August 2017
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Austin & Catherine – September 2017
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Ed & Liz – September 2017
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Meghan & Josh – September 2017
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Jeff – November 2017
After so many visitors, we’ve perfected the top things to do in Amsterdam. Here’s my guide to seeing the city in a weekend.

Boating through the canals

By far, the favorite method of transportation around Amsterdam of our guests was boat. It’s a fun and easy way to explore the city, and we take our own snacks and drinks which makes it cheap too! Tyler has become quite the boat captain, expertly maneuvering down the narrow canals while simultaneously avoiding the large and annoying cruise boats. We usually take a route that includes seeing the beautiful houses on the Princengracht, hoping to catch a glimpse of the giraffes and elephants at the zoo, and stopping for a bathroom break at the windmill brewery, Browerij ‘t IJ.

Exploring Amsterdam by foot

If it’s a little too cold for boating, it’s also just nice to walk around the city. Amsterdam is a really walkable city that also has great public transportation options. We’ll often start by taking a walk around our neighborhood, De Pijp, before venturing to Museumplein to take in the beauty of the Rijks Museum and take photographs with the touristic IAMSTERDAM sign. Also located nearby is the Van Gogh museum. Although I have never been to the Rijks or Van Gogh (with the exception of MuseumNacht which is where there’s a DJ and booze at the museum and you don’t see any art), a few of our guests have enjoyed both places.
If our guests have some free time while we are at work, a free walking tour of Amsterdam is always a crowd pleaser since the guides know way more about Amsterdam than we do. There’s also a pretty good self guided tour in the Rick Steve’s book if you happen to have a copy.

Other musts

If you are brave, by bike is really the best way to experience Amsterdam like a local. I love taking a Sunday afternoon ride through Vondelpark when the weather is nice. It can be a little overwhelming and you will definitely have angry Dutch people ring their bells at you, but it is an experience.

Probably the most well known attraction in Amsterdam is the Anne Frank House. It’s so popular that you have to get tickets 3 months in advance or else stand in line for a few hours. They release a limited amount of tickets every day for the 3pm slot and that’s how Tyler and I ended up scoring a pair. It’s really fascinating to see the house and hear the history, even more so if you’re a fan of her diary. It is also very crowded and you’re basically just standing in a line the whole time to see the house, so I guess it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

There are several outdoor markets in Amsterdam that are fun to take a stroll around. The most conveniently located one to us is the Albert Cuyp market which has everything from fresh flowers, fish and produce to phone chargers and Elvis coasters. It also has some delicious homemade stroopwaffels, a local cookie. To do my ‘farmers market’ shopping, however, I like to visit the ZuiderMRKT which is only open on Saturdays. They have plenty of local organic fruits and veggies as well as fresh bread, meats from the butcher and cheeses. Another popular market is the bloemenmarkt which is a street filled with flower shops, mostly tulips. Here you can buy tulips to take home to the US with you.

Drink like a local

Here’s a list of some of our favorite bars:

Gollem – typical Amsterdam brown bar with a gezellig atmosphere. Bonus is that they also have a bar kitty.
Helst – formerly known as the Watering Hole, we love this bar with 32 rotating taps where you can always find something new
Arendsnest – this was actually the first bar we went to in Amsterdam on the day we arrived and we still love it! It has a big selection of local Dutch beers.
Cafe Brecht – jokingly referred to as the living room, this eclectic bar with mismatched couches as seating arrangements has some of the best gin and tonics in the city
Tales & Spirits – if you want a fancy cocktail, T&S is a must. Their drink presentation is funky and a favorite drink is the General Jackson that comes out in a car that plays the theme song from Dukes of Hazzard
Browerij ‘t IJ – the windmill brewery located on the IJ waterfront. They brew some of our favorite beers in town and if it’s a nice day outside the patio is the place to be

If you’re looking for more of a drinking experience than bar, the Heineken Experience is a cool place to go. It’s basically a brewery tour with interactive games. You can ride bikes while singing karaoke, make patterns on the floor when you dance, and learn how to correctly drink a beer.

Eat like a local

The food scene in Amsterdam is on point. There are so many places to try that we haven’t even touched the surface. While Dutch food isn’t exactly my favorite thing (i.e. hutspot and erten soup – aka meat and potatoes and pea soup), there are many other cuisines to try.

Blauw – a hip and delicious Indonesian restaurant. Indonesian food is huge in Amsterdam and this place is one of the best. We usually opt for the rijsttafels where you get several different dishes to share amongst the table.
Foodhallen – a food court type of place that has several different options so it’s a win-win for everyone. My favorite is the taco place.
Pancake Bakery – while in Amsterdam, you must try a Dutch pannenkoek. They are more like crepes and can be sweet or savory, but are always super lekker.
Little Collins – a cute place to go for brunch or dinner that has healthyish food
Orestis – a Greek tapas place that’s always a crowd pleaser. You can pick lots of different items for the table to share or pick the surprise menu where the chef picks for you.
Vinkeles – if you’re looking for upscale dining, Vinkeles at the Dylan Hotel is simply delicious. Their tasting menu is pricy, but probably one of the best dinners I’ve ever had.

Tulips

If you happen to be lucky enough to visit while the tulips are in bloom in April-ish, going to the Keukenhof is a must. It’s a park that has over 7 million tulip bulbs arranged in amazing displays. I didn’t know there were so many varieties of tulips! It’s also nice to just drive through the countryside on the way to the Keukenhof because there are fields of flowers everywhere.

Coffee Shop

We would be pretty bad hosts if we didn’t show our guests to one of Amsterdam’s top tourist attractions, the coffee shop. No, this is not a place where you get coffee, those are cafes. A coffee shop is home to Amsterdam’s favorite legal activity, marijuana smoking. Although there are many scattered around the city, we enjoy one in our neighborhood called Katsu. We’ve also taken a few visitors to the Bulldog, which was one of the original coffee shops.

Red Light District

While we’re on the subject of illicit activities, walking through the red light district is also a must. We typically just do a quick walk by with our guests as this area can get pretty crowded and a little gross.

Neighborhoods to visit

De Pijp – Our neighborhood which is about a 12 minute bike ride from the city center. It’s a neighborhood full of restaurants, bars, and a cool park.

Jordaan – Area near the Anne Frank House which has a lot of beautiful houses on the canals

Centrum – the city center where all the action is. Dam square is located here where there’s always street performers doing something, whether it be naked lady painting or dancing.

The nine streets – great shopping district

Amsterdam is such a fun city to live in and visit. If you’re planning a trip and want more information, feel free to reach out!

 

2018 – the year ahead

Happy New Year!

I wanted to do a quick post to recap all of the places we went in 2017 and to also update y’all on what’s been going on in Amsterdam as well as our plans for 2018.

2017

2017 was a great year of traveling to new places for us. We visited the following places (only including places where we spent the night):

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London, England (three times)
Copenhagen, Denmark
Bruges, Belgium
Nice, France
Barcelona, Spain
Mayrhofen, Austria
Dublin, Ireland / Doolin, Ireland
Paris, France (three times)
Bucharest, Romania
Edinburgh, United Kingdom (two times)
Capri, Italy / Positano, Italy / Sorrento, Italy
Florence, Italy
Reims, France
Croatia
Munich, Germany
Montreux, Switzerland
Vienna, Austria
Ghent, Belgium
Brussels, Belgium
Colmar, France
Tromso Norway / Alta Norway / Oslo Norway

2018

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We started off the new year with a bang (literally) by having a New Year’s Eve party at our house with our closest group of expat friends. New years in Amsterdam is pretty incredible, or dangerous depending on how you look at it. Adults and kids alike run around shooting off fireworks throughout the whole city. No matter what time of day. We have a rooftop at our new apartment and took the group up there a few minutes before midnight to watch the sky light up.

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In every direction you turned you could see fireworks. Our neighbors two roofs over were shooting off fireworks from their rooftop as well and the ash kept landing on us. It was pretty spectacular.

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After cleaning up from the party and nursing my two day hangover, it was time to start my new job. I officially quit my job at EY on December 31st after almost 5.5 years with the company. I made the move to Liberty Global, the largest international cable and internet company, mainly because they have a great expat culture. I’m now on a team where English is the main language spoken and everyone has been very friendly. I think it’s going to be a great fit for me!

Coming up next

We plan to continue our travels in 2018 and hope to cover as many new places as we did in 2017. Here’s our 2018 wishlist, we’ll see how many places we actually make it to!

Alicante, Spain
Berlin, Germany
Bled, Slovenia
Bordeaux, France
Budapest, Hungary
Krakow, Poland
Marrakech, Morocco
Madrid, Spain
Nashville, USA
Portugal
Rome, Italy
Stockholm, Sweden
South Africa
Valencia, Spain / Mallorca, Spain
Venice, Italy

We also plan to go to Disneyland Paris, Oktoberfest, and London for a Titan’s game. Also, we now have a car so we hope to explore more of the Netherlands.

Stay tuned…

 

 

Time Flies When You’re Having Fun

Time Flies When You’re Having Fun

Well, I can’t believe that we’ve lived in this beautiful city for over a month now! It is such a great place to call home. The other day while I was talking with my family on FaceTime they were asking me to describe differences between the Netherlands and the US. This inspired me to really think about things that I’ve noticed/learned over the past month and I’ve compiled a list of my random thoughts.

  1. The IAMsterdam sign is always ridiculously crowded (see above).
  2. It is possible to ride a bike AND hold an umbrella at the same time while wearing heels.
  3. Since it rains a lot, there is also a ridiculous amount of rainbows. My record sighting is 7 in one day!
  4. Since the weather is always pretty miserable, it’s not uncommon to sit outside at a restaurant when its 6 degrees C to eat dinner. I would have never entertained this idea back home. But when places are really crowded and there is no such thing as being put on a waiting list, you have to take what you can get. Literally, when you walk into a restaurant on a Friday night and it’s crowded they tell you to leave by saying “It is not possible”.
  5. Dutch people are only in a hurry when riding their bikes
    • not at the grocery (thank goodness because this one time I made the entire grocery line of 15 people wait while I got cash out of the ATM since they did not take cards)
    • not at restaurants (because tipping isn’t really a thing here)
    • not at the bank (because it took about 3 weeks to get a bank account opened),
    • not at the Comcast equivalent (because we still don’t have tv/internet and won’t be getting it until late December)
    • not the plumber who still hasn’t fixed the kitchen sink
    • etc.
  6. 68 sq meters really is enough space to live in, and as a bonus it takes less time to clean (for the non-metric folk, that’s about 700 sq ft)
  7. Speaking of cleaning, trash goes out on the street (literally on the street, not in a trash can) on Wednesday and Sunday nights – if you put it out some other time you might just get a knock on your door asking if you’re the Johnsons who put their empty IKEA boxes out on a Friday.
  8. When you go on an excursion to IKEA you’ll likely see 95% of the furnishings you already have in your pre-furnished house, because everyone loves IKEA. And don’t try to bike there, it’s just too exhausting.
  9. Traveling is easy, especially when other people plan it and you just tag along! (Thanks Utrecht, Hamburg, and Prague crews! Maybe one day we will get the hang of planning something ourselves, but let’s be honest, it’s more fun to travel with your new friends.)
  10. Liquor stores close at 5, which doesn’t make sense because I could really use a bottle of wine on my way home from work.
  11. The culture at work could be its own blog post of differences, but the big ones:
    • The Dutch don’t drink water, or really any liquid besides coffee, and you better ask them if they need something before you go fill up your own water bottle
    • Lunch is eaten in the cafeteria at 11:45 daily and you should be back in your room by 12:15. No field trip lunches.
    • Showing up at work at 9:30 is perfectly acceptable
    • Holidays can last 5 weeks with no consequences
    • Bringing gingerbread cookies to work is a great way to make new friends
  12. Dutch people are tall, so at concerts it’s advantageous to find a raised surface to stand on.
  13. While we’re on the subject of concerts, there are no man buns in Amsterdam. Coming from a town with man buns on every corner, this was quite a shock!
  14. Mexican food isn’t the same, and white cheese dip doesn’t exist. There is a fast food Mexican place that slightly resembles Chipotle, but it just doesn’t hit the spot. (Although, I have been there at least 3 times in the past 3 weeks.)
  15. And lastly, I have the best husband and I am so grateful that we get to embark on this journey together.

Well that’s all for tonight, I’m off to my next Dutch lesson. Dag.

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Step 2: Purchase Fiets

[Editors Note: It would have made for a great blog post to have a picture of said fiets, so I’ll try to remember to post one later.]

Once we secured an apartment to live in, we decided to go ahead and get our bikes. At first I was set on getting a bike with gears and hand breaks, since this is the type of bike I was most used to, but once I saw the price difference in just a regular old pedal break bike the accountant in me couldn’t spring for the more expensive option. The guy at the bike store picked out a good sturdy bike for me and I took it on a test spin. Afterwards we spent the equivalent of what we paid for one bike on two locks since bike theft is the number one crime here (don’t fact check me on this, it may be a tall tale that husbands tell their wives so they will in fact lock up their bike, even in the rain).

I felt good about my purchase and was confidently riding to our new house when the next thing I knew I was going too fast and couldn’t figure out how to break (dang pedal breaks!) and ran into a tree thing. The lady behind me almost ran me over with a string of what I assume was Dutch curse words. Only had the bike for 5 minutes and got into my first wreck! I was pretty sure I would never get the hang of it, but I tested my luck again two days later and decided to try the 15 minute bike to work. It definitely went better than my first try, and I am slowly starting to get the hang of it – minus getting lost on my way to work and somehow doubling the 15 minute bike ride into a 30 minute one. But oh well, it’s nice to have a means of transportation around the city now.

The only bad thing about biking being the main source of transportation is that it rains just about every day. I think I’ve had one dry bike to work in my two weeks of commuting, so I’ve decided that drying my hair in the mornings is somewhat optional – which is a great time saver!

Despite the sometimes crappy weather, we are really starting to adjust to the city and our new jobs. My Dutch is also slowly getting better, especially due to my coworkers instituting a word of the day program. We’ve covered a wide range from ladybug (lieveheersbeestje) to Friday (Vrijdag). I must admit my accent needs a lot of work, and I still have trouble following their conversations, but I’m trying!

Here are a few pictures from the first few weeks in the city

 

 

 

I’ll leave you all with the phrase I learned today…

Ik houd van je!

Kaitlyn

Step 1: Find a place to live

It’s been a crazy few days since we arrived in Amsterdam last week. The jet lag is starting to wear off, we’ve actually managed to get around by public transportation, and we started our house hunting adventure.

We had a call with our real estate agent when we were back in the States and told her our list of must haves, which I thought were pretty reasonable.

Our Must Haves

  • 2 bedrooms
  • Parking possibility
  • Updated kitchen and bathroom
  • Outdoor space (optional)

Our real estate agent secured 9 apartments for us to look at over a span of 7 hours (exhausting).

The biggest surprise, that I thought I was prepared for, but apparently was not, is that everything is smaller in Europe.

Apartment #1
We started our apartment search bright and early in the Oud-Zuid area in a place overlooking a canal. Aside from the gorgeous view and balcony, the most exciting thing about this place was the walk-in closet. I mean, it’s practically the size of an American closet. We really loved this place, and it came with a parking spot and elevator, but we weren’t sure if we loved the location/neighborhood.

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Apartment #2

Apartment 2 got off to an awkward start when we walked in on the owner who apparently did not know we were coming to see the house. The best feature of this one was the spacious and updated bathroom. The rest of the house was okay, but the lime green kitchen and refrigerator were a little strange. This apartment was also in the Oud-Zuid area.

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Apartment #3

Nope. Just no. I wish I had gotten a picture of this place that looked like a daycare from the 80’s.

Apartments #4 and #5

Things started to get a little blurry here, but both had updated kitchens and bathrooms, but were quite small. They also were not really in the part of town we envisioned ourselves being in, so we didn’t discuss these much further.

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Apartment #6

This was the first apartment we saw in the De Pijp neighborhood which is the area we were most excited about. It was actually in the same building as some of our friends who moved here in January. The location of this place was perfect, but the furnishings were a little lackluster.

Apartment #7

This apartment was beautiful! Probably the most nicely decorated place we looked at, and everything was brand new. As a bonus, it had a large roof terrace overlooking the famous Vondelpark. However, we really had our hearts set on finding a place in De Pijp. And, when we walked by the street the day before, I told Tyler that the street creeped me out.

Apartment #8

Despite this being the apartment we thought we would like best online, once we showed up to the place and saw how small it was and the terrible layout on the busy street, we decided this was not the one for us.

Apartment #9

Which leads us to Apartment #9. The last apartment we looked at after a long day of searching. This apartment was located in our preferred area, and actually had furniture in the second bedroom. Although it is one of the smallest apartments that we looked at, we both knew when we walked in that this was exactly what we had been looking for. It’s located in a beautiful building on a quiet, but beautiful street. Actually, when we were going to look at the place, they were filming a movie right outside of our door. I didn’t get any good pictures of the inside, but will share more once we’re actually moved in.

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Outside of our new home (no, the tiny car is not included)

We’re excited to move in tomorrow and stop living out of our suitcases!

Here’s a map of all of the houses we saw.

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Welcome to Amsterdam

Welcome to Amsterdam

Hallo!

When my husband learned that he would be doing a two year rotation with his job in Amsterdam, I immediately started dreaming about all of the places we could travel. I wanted to be able to share our adventures with friends and family back home, so I thought I’d try my hand at this whole blog thing, even though I’ve never really enjoyed writing. The next step was to try to come up with a name.

I thought that a name would just hit me one day, but I am not known for being very creative, so I enlisted the help of one of my most creative friends – Thumper. We tossed around a few ideas about something with Johnson/wandering/Amsterdam, and when nothing clicked, she said “Why don’t you just call it Boterham?” Boterham was the first Dutch word I learned with the help of Duolingo, an app for learning languages. For a few months I would tell anyone who would listen that this was my favorite Dutch word. I even brought it up to Tyler’s mom, who is Dutch, in an attempt to impress her with my knowledge. She couldn’t understand what my Southern accent was attempting to say and when I told her that the word I knew was sandwich, she taught me the correct pronunciation. I was slightly embarrassed that I had been saying this word I thought I knew incorrectly for months, but I knew it would not be the first time this would happen to me.

So, after I knew Boterham was destined to be part of my blog name, and knowing that everyone loves a good alliteration, I decided to name my blog Bikes and Boterhams since that will be my main source of transportation while over here. I hope you enjoy reading about our travels and life in Amsterdam.

Tot ziens,

Kaitlyn