Saturday, December 17, 2011

Winkeling for house supplies

Today was a big day for shopping....We did most of our shopping at IKEA. We bought a trundle bed (it can be pulled out and made into a double bed)  and two mattresses for the guest room, a small nightstand, a dining room table and four chairs, couch and chair along with many home items: ironing board, hamper, starter set of dishes (serving for six), glasses, eating utensils, etc. It's enough for a good start to making the house livable!  We're planning on going to the Media Markt tomorrow to get electric appliances. The landlord will be giving us the key Tuesday, so we are having the furniture delivered that day!

By the time we were done at IKEA we were starving, so we headed to downtown Haarlem. We had a huge hamburger and yummy fries at:

After lunch, we walked around a bit and saw some of the sights:

And yet another unusual bicycle!

Andrew found a cigar shop where he could sit and smoke "with the guys", so I went off exploring while he stayed and had a smoke!  Afterwards we went to a movie-"Sherlock Holmes, Game of Shadows". It was subtitled in Dutch, of course!  We walked around a little more after the movie before heading back to the apartment. Isn't this the coolest "tree skirt" you've ever seen?!?!?

This is the canal right outside of the center of the City:

Then back to the apartment for a glass of champagne to celebrate getting the house!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Today I watched Dora the Dutch!

This morning I decided I'd better start trying to assimilate into the Dutch culture...A big part of that, of course, is learning the language! So I took a friend's advice and watched a kid's show. I watched "Dora the Explorer" and learned that ferris wheel is "reuzenrad" and large pinata is "grote pinata" in Dutch. Boy, do I have a lot to learn!

After watching t.v. for about an hour, and getting the ironing done (yes, I had the iron out again!) I went to the nearby shopping center to look for a winter coat. I didn't end up buying one yet, but I did get a few gifts and some baked goods-"appeltaart"-Yummmm!

It's confirmed-we got the house!  The contract was signed yesterday and we can move a few things in next week before we leave. We will be going to IKEA this weekend to order a bed and a dining table with chairs to have delivered Tuesday when we receive the keys!  We spoke with the landlord a few days ago and they have agreed to allow us to plant some things in the garden-we can make it look so pretty!  We did notice there is already a hydrangea bush it!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Rain, rain, rain and some wind too!

Today I decided, despite the wet and windy weather, I was going to go to Haarlem. It's about 15 miles west of where we are staying in Amsterdam.  I set out at around 1030hrs. I walked about 3 blocks to the Metro Station to catch the #5 to Central Station Amsterdam. It took about 20 minutes to get to the Central Station. While on the train I met Marjorie. She was raised on Aruba, which she told me used to be part of the Netherlands Antilles, so she grew up speaking Dutch. Marjorie told me about an English speaking Presbyterian church in Amsterdam and invited Andrew and I to join them on a Sunday morning.  We parted ways at the stop prior to Central Station....What a lovely lady-she made my morning!

At the Central Station I had to find the "big" train that connects different cities. After finding the ticketing office, the woman there was very helpful and I ended up buying a ticket on the Sprinter Train to Uitgeest, which goes via Haarlem. The ticket cost me EUR 7 and 50 cents. I thought that was quite expensive for a 20 minute train ride, so next time I will try to find an alternate way to get there!

Once there I walked and walked around Haarlem. I went to Haarlem Centrum:

I popped into several stores, looking for furniture we can purchase for the house. I found a cute desk:

in this beautiful store (this is the ceiling!):

I walked and walked down some very quaint streets in a nice small town:

While I was walking it started raining, then raining harder, then it started to hail. With the wind gusting my umbrella turned inside out a couple of times!  While walking I remembered why I stopped wearing my glasses when I was a kid growing up in Minnesota.....the rain was getting on my glasses making me wish I had "windshield wipers" and my breath was fogging up my glasses!

I have found everyone in the Netherlands to be quite friendly and helpful. Though I am trying to speak at least a little bit of Dutch, as soon as people realize I only speak English they will speak English with me.


Today we signed a contract for our rental house! We got a two year contract for the house in Haarlem. It's two bedrooms and has a garden, which will be perfect with the dog!  So, this weekend we will be going out and buying a few things for the house to get a start on furnishing it!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Visited Joods Historisch Museum, Amsterdam

Today the realtors are hashing out the final contract negotiations for the rental house in Haarlem. Nothing is in writing, so we're "holding our breath". Looks like we'll be renting it "semi-furnished" which means there is a kitchen, appliances and some lighting, but we have to provide all of the furniture.

At around 1100hrs. I set off to see the Jood Historisch Museum (Jewish Historical Museum) in Amsterdam.  I caught the #51 Metro towards Central Station and got off at the Waterlooplein stop. Before going inside, I walked around a bit:

Walked down the street and around the corner:

Then back to the Museum to enter:

Inside you start with a display dedicated to the name Cohen.  The exhibition "My name is Cohen" shows portraits and personal stories of Amsterdam with this surname  that means "priest". As you continue upstairs you come to the "Great Synagogue" where you will find many religious and ceremonial exhibits. Many of the items displayed are quite ornate and were donated to the museum.  As you work your way upstairs to the "New Synagogue"  the atmosphere in the building changes. The displays tell the history of the Jewish people in the Netherlands through pictures, handwritten items and stories of what happened.  Here are a couple of boards posted:

The persecution of the Jews has always upset me and makes me wonder how there could be so much hate in this world. I pray that humanity has learned from the past and this will never happen again....


After going through the museum, I had a "kosher" lunch in the cafe. I ordered an egg salad sandwich on "challah" bread. And yes, that is pronounced with the "h" gargling sound.....not "ch"!


Now that we know we have to buy an entire household full of furniture, we took another trip to IKEA. We ordered a couch and chair, and found a dining table with chairs and a bed for the guest room that we will order when we know for sure when we will have the key to the house to accept delivery. As we were leaving we noticed the place to return shopping carts--take a look!

Till tomorrow.............tot ziens!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Lazy day in Amsterdam...

It's 0800 hrs. and it's still dark as night outside. It's pouring down rain and windy.

Yesterday we received our bank ATM cards in the mail from ABN/AMRO. While we were at the bank last week opening our account they gave us each an E.dentifier2. It's a card reader that is tied to the computer via USB cable, and is needed to use to use on-line banking. Everything here has been digitized. They haven't used checks here in over ten (10) years!  All of the instructions to use it are in Dutch. So, Andrew took the cards and the E.dentifier2 to work today to have his coworkers help with translating the instructions!

Last night we received a call from Natasha. She and the two realtors (ours and the landlord's) are working on the contract for the rental of the house in Haarlem. They should be getting back to us today to let us know if they accept our offer of EUR 1400 semi-furnished or EUR 1600 fully furnished.


Today I decided to spent the day at the apartment and just "hang out". I've been reading a book lent to me by my sister-in-law called "My Life in France" about Julia Child's adventures in France. Not often I have the chance to do nothing!

This morning I received an e-mail from Natasha telling us not to worry, that we should hear something by the end of the day about the rental house. It is now 1700 hrs. and we have heard nothing back from the realtors about the rental property. So, needless to say, we are getting worried. Andrew and I will be going shopping at IKEA tonight after he is done working to see how much furniture would cost to buy and how quickly they can deliver it.  Since we will be leaving the country on the 21st to go to the U.S. for Christmas, and Andrew is coming back alone on January 2nd, we have a lot to get done!

At 1745 hrs. I left the apartment to meet Andrew at the train station next to where he works. I took the #51 Metro to Station Zuid, then got on the #50 to the Bullwijk Station, and arrived right at 1830hrs. He showed me his new office, then we drove over to IKEA. We want to be prepared in case we need to buy  a household full of furniture. We got a pretty good idea of what we would need to get started.

While we were at IKEA Natasha called! She said it's looking good for us to get the house, fully furnished, for the price we would like to pay. She said the reason we hadn't heard anything was because the landlords were checking into the tax implications of renting. It looks very good for us getting the house!  We should have a contract to sign in the next day or two.

After we purchased a few small items (some hangers, a pillow, and a makeshift humidor for Andrew's cigars!) we went back to the apartment for dinner and a nice glass of wine!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Amsterdam....Bicycles, bicycles everywhere!

Today was cleaning day in the apartment, they come once a week to clean. So, I thought I'd make myself scarce for a good part of the day and go exploring! The weather was perfect for that, sunny with some clouds. My plan was to get to Utrechtstraat in Amsterdam where I had read there are some nice shops and restaurants. So, I took the #5 Tram towards Central Station and got off at Leidseplein. As I was walking I saw bicycles everywhere!  Here are some pictures:

The owner of this one is brave-2 child seats and a basket on the front!

From the Leidesplein stop I thought I'd just walk around and see what I found! Here are some pictures I took along my walk:

The Bloemenmarkt (flower market) is a series of permanently moored barges that contain flowers from all over the world!  Here are some pictures from the canal and from the street side:

After walking several blocks more, I found Utrechtsestraat!

This, believe it or not, is a block of cheese (kaas)!!!

This tree is in the window of a chocolate shop-it's decorated with chocolate candies!

This is in the window of one of the many bakkerijen (bakeries) in Amsterdam-sooo beautiful!

I went inside the "Kom" store where they sell home goods and bought a few gifts!  It's a very nice store and the woman working there was very helpful! While she was wrapping the gifts, she sneezed and I said Gesundheit (the German pronunciation, which is how we pronounced it in Minnesota when I was growing up). I asked her how to say "God Bless you" in Dutch, and she said Gezondheid making the "gargling" sound  for the "G" in the Dutch language (I'm working on that!). The Dutch language seems to be close to English and German.

By this time, I was hungry. So, I decided to walk along Ultrechtsestraat till I found something interesting-and look at what I found!!! It was such a beautiful display of sandwiches....I chose a seafood sandwich, and I splurged and had a small cup of black coffee. It was delicious!

On I walked.......I found a shop called Dekunstboer on Vijzelstraat where they sell cute children's clothing. The woman there was telling me she just moved to Haarlem six months ago from the UK, and she loves it! She has a shop in Haarlem also on Gierstraat, I will try to stop by sometime this week.....

And then I walked some more....

Yes, this is a "Coffeeshop" where people go to smoke pot!

Back to Museumplein where I caught Tram #5 back to the apartment!

Ahhhhh......and now for a cup of tea and some stroopwafels!