Saturday, December 3, 2011

Going Dutch

I love to travel.  I've mentioned before how my 2 best friends and I try to go on vacation together every year, both to spend time together and to visit a new city or country.  A few weeks few months ago (wow I'm so late posting this... *embarrassed*), Boyfriend and I spent 10 days in The Netherlands.  

Boyfriend and I have never gone on vacation together alone.  Never.  Seriously.
I KNOW!!  Crazy right?

I loved it there.  The people?  Wonderful.  The windmills?  Charming.  The bikes?  Inspiring.  The art culture?  Refreshing.  The food?  Meh.

Yeah, I hate to say it, and I hated admitting it to myself, but there isn't much of a "food culture" in The Netherlands.  Now, don't get me wrong, we ate some good stuff... but just not "dutch" stuff.  The bars are where you find the most "dutchy" foods, which was fine with me because to be honest that's where we spent most of our time.  What is this "dutchy" food you ask?  Well...  "-wursts," fried balls full of a hot gravy-like substance called "Bitterballen," and fried tubes of cheese called "Kassenballen" or something like that.  Lots of fried things that are like molten lava when exposed to the roof of your mouth, only to be quenched with a huge gulp of beer.... those tricky Dutch!  Making us drink more beer!!  For shame!!
Note the amount of fried foods and sausage on my "dutch sampler platter"
So, about that beer... The great news is that what they lack in food, they more than make up for in booze... HEINEKEN to be precise.  And I know what many of you are thinking, but honestly, the Heineken is SOOOOO much better there.  Honest!

We spent the first part of the week in Leiden, which is about 45 minutes southwest of Amsterdam. The city's logo is a set of keys and hence, it is called "the key city."  It is a major university city and is home to Leiden University and Medical Center, which resulted in a small change to the town's motto, now called "the key to discovery".  For me, this was the non-vacation part of the trip since I was there to attend a conference.  I'm not complaining though, the conference was amazing and I couldn't have asked for a better city to travel to for work.

Fun Fact: Leiden is where the Pilgrims first settled before eventually departing for the New World and landing here in Massachusetts.  At least the lack of timeliness of this post allows it to coincide with Thanksgiving and I can, at least in my mind, pretend it was on purpose.

We spent the rest of our trip in Amsterdam (obviously), which defied ALL of my expectations.  It was amazing.  I would live there in a heartbeat.  I expected it to be like a European version of Las Vegas, with the "coffeeshops" and red-light district.  NOPE.  I can't stress that NOPE enough.  Amsterdam was: Clean.  Friendly.  Safe.  Beautiful.
This is the "red-light district".... pretty nice, huh?
We did some of the classic touristy things like visiting the Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frank House.  I recommend them both, but the Ann Frank House was incredible and I highly recommend it to anyone visiting Amsterdam.  It was a sad reminder of how inhumane people can be, how far we still need to go and how far we've come toward equality for all.

The other thing I recommend?  Remember those two friends I mentioned that I always travel with?  And remember how I said that Boyfriend and I had never gone on vacation alone before?  Well.... I'm a big fan of compromise so Boyfriend and I took the first half of the week to ourselves, but couldn't possibly see a new city without throwing a Best Friend in the mix.

Yep.  I recommend having your best friend fly over from London to meet you in Amsterdam and spend the rest of the vacation Three's Company-style.  This was the icing on the vacation-cake.

So, in a nutshell, that was our trip to The Netherlands.  Anyone want to go back with me?  I'm thinking I could open a restaurant there and live a pretty happy life.... hell, they could use some better dining options, I think I'm a pretty decent cook and Boyfriend has his MBA.  Dream team!

With that, I leave you with two random yet adorable pictures from Amsterdam:

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