Wednesday, December 4, 2013


We are hoping to travel to lots of different places while we are living in Stockholm so I thought it might be fun to answer the same questions after every new place we visit.  At the bottom of this post see my questions and answers for Amsterdam.

Two of Jake's coworkers from Olathe were in Stockholm the week before we fly to Amsterdam so they decided to join us.  Josh got here one day before Dave.  Josh is renting our house while we are gone which is awesome and helps me be less stressed about it while we are away!  Dave is one of Jake's best friends at work and it was so fun having him here for two weeks!  I got to pick Dave up from central station. (I had been looking forward to picking someone up from central station since we moved here so I was pumped when I got to pick Dave up!  Josh and Dave were the first people from home that I had seen in about 3 months other than my husband.)

We took a taxi to the airport which turned out to be a good choice once we realized Jake left his phone in the taxi.  I called the driver and he drove back to the airport to drop off the phone for the cost of another trip to the airport :( but at least he had his phone back.

We flew to Amsterdam on Friday evening.  It was a nice two hour flight.  Once we landed we figured out what train and tram we needed to take to get to our hotel.  We stayed at Hotel Espresso which was about a 15 minute tram ride from downtown Amsterdam.  We dropped off our stuff and headed out to explore the city.

Our first stop was the oldest bar in Amsterdam

While we were walking around we saw this little guy trying to enjoy a late night snack.
The first of many hot chocolates I had in Amsterdam.
We stayed out until 3:30 am our first night in Amsterdam.  I do not stay out late and I am not a fan of going to bars but we found lots of great pubs to hangout in and since I hadn't seen friends in a while it wasn't so bad being out late.  The best part were the looks I got from Dave and Josh when I suggested we meet the next morning around 7!

Our first full day in Amsterdam was pretty laid back.  We started walking towards Anne Frank's house in search of a place to eat breakfast.
One of the many canals
I'm not sure this bike could have any other add-ons.

Our first pancakes of the trip.  I didn't realize how popular they were in Amsterdam.  I had one with bacon.
I also had to try a dessert one :).
Trying to figure out how they make them.
While we were walking around we saw a huge crowd of people and heard lots of cheering.  Khloe Kardashian was visiting a department store to launch part of her clothing line.
 We tried touring Anne Frank's house but the line was really long so we decided to just walk around the city instead.
Anyone want some cheese?
They also had toasties ( most had ham and cheese).

Hot Chocolate

We went on a Segway tour on Saturday afternoon.  This was the 4th time Jake and I have been on Segways.  (Some of you reading this are probably thinking they are really dorky but until you've tried them don't judge.  They are lots of fun and they are a great way to see a new city.)  All of the tours were sold out but I emailed the company and they arranged a private tour for just the four of us.  This tour was actually the best one we've been on so far.  We all had ear pieces and the leader had a microphone so as we were going places he was able to tell us about the area without us having to stop which was really nice.

We are in front of the Rijksmuseum and apparently we were really excited about it :).

I thought this was a cute idea, until I saw the picture and our guide in between us and now it is just creepy.
The tour was great but it was SO cold!

Dinner after our Segway tour.  

And another hot chocolate to try to warm up :).

They had these vending machines with hot food in a few different spots around the city.

The boys having some fun.
On Sunday, November 17th we headed to the canals to see a boat parade.
We watched Sinterklaas come to town
This was part of the boat parade.

We grabbed some breakfast after the parade.
This bike reminded me of the fundraiser we used to do at Gardner where the kids could earn a rubber duck.  

I don't like mushrooms and I guess we won't know if I like these because I didn't try them (and neither did the boys).  They do have charts to tell you the effects they have on you just in case you do want to try them.
It seems like everything is legal in Amsterdam.  We actually saw a couple of police officers standing around a guy and we couldn't figure out what he could have possibly done to get in trouble.  You can smoke marijuana, try mushrooms and then there is the red light district.  This was my second time to Amsterdam.  The first time was about 11 years ago with a group from my high school.  Our chaperones walked us through the red light district because they thought that would be safer than having a whole bunch of high schoolers walk through it on our own.  Walking through it 11 years later was different.  The red light district is a few blocks of the downtown area where girls stand in windows in very tiny "bathing suits."  I had a hard time walking through there.  My heart just hurt for those girls.  I can't imagine that any of them actually want to be doing that all day long.  I don't know how the red light district started but I think it is sad that it still exists.  While we were walking around we walked past a few girls and then about 10 feet later there was a kindergarten.  I can't imagine having kids see that on a daily basis and think that is it okay.  Those girls are still in my prayers.

Another thing Amsterdam is known for that is more positive:

Anyone need a bike?
They have tons of bikes in Amsterdam.  The city isn't very hilly and they have great bike paths with stop lights of their own.  
We have never ordered pizza we could normally get at home while on vacation.  However, when you aren't actually living at home it turns out ordering pizza sounds like a great idea.  It was so good!
A snack Jake and I shared one afternoon
This was like drinking melted chocolate it was so rich!
I was hoping to get another Salted Caramel Mocha but they didn't have them here :( so I settled for a cafe mocha.
 On Monday Jake and I went to the Vincent van Gogh Museum.  


On a walk through a park.

Apparently this chess board has reservations a year in advance.
 We went to see Anne Frank's house on Monday.  We tried touring the house with Josh and Dave but the line was really long on Saturday so we decided to come back with pre-purchased tickets so we could skip the line.  Wouldn't you know when we went back on Monday there wasn't a line. 

Outside Anne Frank's house

Jake went to a boat show on Tuesday and Wednesday which meant I had to explore the city on my own aka go shopping.  I went to a Titanic exhibit on Tuesday which was fun and then of course did some shopping.

It was a little harder getting around Amsterdam than Taipei since I didn't have a phone with internet access but I managed to find my way around using some apps that don't require an internet connection.  Jake found a great app, Maps with Me Lite, where you can download the map of a city and then you can search the map to find different things like restaurants, stores, atms, etc.  (This was the app we used in Beijing that had a pin on it for our hotel so we could watch as the taxi drove us to the hotel to make sure we were going the right way.)  We also used Transit World which gives you time tables of all the buses, trains, trams, etc.  We also used an app that had the tram routes and stops.  The last app that helped us find great food was Amsterdam City Guide by Trip Advisor.  I got pretty good at looking at the Maps with Me Lite app to figure out where we wanted to go, then I looked at the Amsterdam tram map to see which trams would get us closest to our destination and then the Transit World map to figure out what time the tram would get there.  I wasn't as fast as google maps but I got the job done.

Right before we flew home we had some Indonesian food.

As I was checking out of the hotel we stayed in for Jake's work trip I noticed the guy helping me had a button on that said "It's my birthday, give me a hug!" I thought that since I noticed the button I should at least tell him Happy Birthday even though I wasn't going to hug him.  Here is how it played out:
Kara: "Oh, today is your birthday?  Happy Birthday!"  
Guy at the front desk: "Thanks!  Can I have a hug?" 
Kara: (What? A hug? Just pretend you didn't hear that part and make a comment about how he has to work on his birthday.)  "It stinks that you have to work on your birthday."
Guy at the front desk: "It isn't too bad because I get to leave pretty soon.  One other person told me happy birthday today but they wouldn't hug me so will you hug me?"
Kara: (Seriously?) "Sure" (I walk towards him and hug him as I'm thinking "Yep.  This whole me turning into a hugger since I've moved to Stockholm really only applies to family and friends and this guy isn't either.  Maybe I should stop posting on Facebook that how excited I am to hug people when I get home.")

I would say overall our trip was great.  After this trip I would say five days is about the right amount of time to see a city.  We had plenty of time to see things but we were ready to head home at the end of the trip.  

Flying home was a quick two our flight which shouldn't be too bad but checking in and boarding were a little rough.  I'm guessing that since almost everything is legal in Amsterdam that security has to be extra tight which makes sense but goodness.  Jake and I both flew with carry on sized bags and small backpacks.  We didn't print our boarding passes so we had to go to the check in counter to get them printed which meant standing in a long line because they didn't have a self check in kiosk.  Once we got to the front the lady helping us made me check my bag because "it looked big" to her and was over the weight limit.  Weight limit?  Can we just be proud that I packed in a small bag?  I was annoyed.  I am an overpacker but with all this traveling I'm trying to be better about not bringing so much stuff so to hear that I had to check my bag made me frustrated.  I might have gotten a little bit short with her when she said Jake's bag was small enough even though ours are technically the same size.  

Going through security was also tough.  They made us take everything out of our bags . . . chargers for laptops, my wallet, my camera, etc.  Our boarding passes were scanned at the gate and while they were scanning Jake's they told him the flight was too full for him to have two carry-ons even though on most flights you can have a rolling bag and then a personal item like a backpack.  So they gate checked his bag and then I saw this sign below:
No weight limit.  Technically we flew Norwegian Air and this was EasyJet but still my bag would have fit and this says there isn't a weight limit :).

Here are my questions and answers about Amsterdam:
Where did we go?
We went to Amsterdam, Netherlands.

How long were we there?
We were there for five days, November 15th-20th, 2012. We were able to sightsee for 3 days and then Jake had to work for 2 days.

What language do they speak?
They speak Dutch but we actually heard more English there than Dutch. Learning Swedish did help when we were reading menus and other signs.

What currency do they use?
They are part of the European Union so they use Euros.

Were things expensive?
Things were more expensive than the United State but less expensive than Stockholm, which means we both bought souvenirs we could wear :).

Would we be able to live there for a year?
I really liked all the water, the bicycles, the easy public transportation and the food. I think if I lived far enough away from downtown and I couldn't smell the pot or have to walk through the Red Light District I might be able to do it.

What did we enjoy most about the trip?
The pancakes and seeing Anne Frank's house.

What was the food like?
The food was really good. I had lots of pancakes and waffles. I had some for breakfast with bacon, cheese, and ham in them. I also had several desert ones. They also had really good pear juice that I had with my pancakes.

Least favorite food?
I don't think I had anything that I didn't like.

Favorite food?

Would we want to go back?
I wouldn't mind going back to Amsterdam. I do think that 5 days was the right amount of time to explore the city before it felt like it was time to go "home." If we do go back I'd like to go when it is warmer outside. It was pretty cold while we were there.

What was I most surprised by?
Other than the red light district . . .the number of bikes we saw and that no one wears helmets.

Did we do anything we thought we wouldn't do?
The Sinterklaas parade was something Jake read about a while back but we forgot about it until our Segway guide mentioned it. It was really neat to see how other cultures celebrate Christmas.

What did I learn about myself on this trip?
I learned that I can explore a new city without the security of a cell phone with internet access.

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