Monday, April 26, 2010

Here Comes the Rain

The Saturday and Sunday of our Easter weekend trip were filled with intermittent rain showers.  As I said before, we tried to take cues from the weather.  We paused frequently in bars and cafes for drinks or snacks.  I tended to not take notice of cafe names during the downpours and as a result, I have a sparse trip report.  (Quite impossible when it's raining the entire time as in November.)  We noticed that the rain doesn't slow down the Dutch one bit.  They are a hardy bunch and push on, soaked atop their bicycles.   

Saturday morning we explored the Western Canal Belt and the Nine Streets District on our way to the Jordaan area for their Saturday morning organic market.  Unfortunately, our arrival to the market was perfectly timed with a downpour.  We attempted to dart between the awnings of the vendors but eventually gave up.  Another time I suppose....

Later that afternoon we had a better stretch of sunlight with spots of blue sky here and there.  The following are some photos we captured along the Western Canal Belt and the Jordaan areas.

Our afternoon wanderings led us to the Infamous Red Light District.  The timing of the visit to this area is crucial.  Late afternoon to early evening is best, around 5 o'clock.  Why?  There's still sunlight but it's starting to fade.  There were some ladies stationed in their red-lit windows, dressed scantily in their underwear. So we got some sense of the RLD's scenery.  Some posed seductively.  Some danced to music we couldn't hear.  Some sat looking bored atop their bar stools.  Some were texting on their cell phones.  At this time of day, something or someone was missing- the creeps you would expect to find lurking around.  In fact, the only people on the streets were the hordes of other curious tourists like ourselves.  I imagine a visit during the later hours would be a little more raucous.  It definitely feels a little bit grittier than say the quaint and lovey Jordaan or Western Canal Belt (the locales of my previous photos).  There were sex shops, coffee shops selling marijuana, peep shows, and lots of neon lighting, but it's a unique and one-of-a-kind travel experience if you time it right.  But it's not for everyone.....I don't think I would want to be there too late in the evening or too early in the morning either.  It's forbidden to photograph the ladies and not advisable within the area in general so the only photo I have of this neighborhood is the top of clock tower.  (I think it's the top of Oude Kerk - Old Church, but I'm not completely sure.)          

Saturday evening we had dinner at a quaint French bistro in the Jordaan area.  We both ordered the Halibut special, covered in beurre blanc - a French white butter made with white wine.  (A small digression - Julia Child raves about learning how to make this type of sauce to her sister in the movie Julie & Julia.)  For dessert, we had the most amazing lemon cheesecake.  We were truly sad when it was over.

On Sunday, we had  Easter brunch at a place called Pancakes!.  I give you one guess as to what we had.  I'm truly in love with Dutch pancakes.  They are thin and crispy around the edges and actually remind me a little bit of crepes.  Mine had bananas and Michael's had a coffee liqueur sauce with whipped cream.

Afterwards, since it was raining.... we made an impromptu decision to go to the Rijksmuseum (pronounced "rikes" like "bikes") to check out the Dutch masters.  With it being Sunday and Easter, the line was around the block.  The museum is actually under an extensive restoration so we decided to skip it this time.  We did visit the Van Gogh and Riksmuseum gift shop though.  There are many neat things that feature the artwork.  We made a purchase for Eddie, a print he requested that he failed to buy on our last visit.

We dropped off our purchase and had a little bit of down time at our apartment.  I found it through Trip Advisor, of course.  It was a self catering rental- one bedroom and bath with a full kitchen and small private rooftop terrace.  I really enjoyed this setup as it made me feel like a local.  Plus, we saved some money as the price was much lower than the hotels and B&Bs and we were able to stock up on breakfast, snacks, and drinks at the grocery store.  I really liked that when we came in for a break from our city treks or at the end of the day, we were able spread out and relax on the couch in front of the TV.... or use the internet to plan and map out the next restaurant for dinner.  Here are some pics I snagged from the Trip Advisor website.  Once again, I failed to take any myself...


Later, we went to a local pub, Cafe Gollem, especially for their selection of Belgian beer.  We were excited to see that they had Brugge Zot on tap!  (It's a beer from Brugge, Belgium that we sampled in November.  We also toured the Half Moon Brewery where it's made.) 

For dinner we went to Brasserie Harkema.  It was a highly recommended place and we were pleasantly surprised.  I loved the atmosphere.  The restaurant is housed in a renovated warehouse giving it an open and airy feel with a ton of natural light.  Again, we enjoyed more delicious food.  Michael ordered a tuna steak with wasabi mayo while I ordered a grilled portobello with a savory ratatouille (chunky veggies) sauce. 

Funny how I can remember every detail of our meals including what we each ordered.....Like I've said time and time again, I'm in love with good food and it's one of my favorite things about traveling.

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