Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Netherlands

I am off again on yet ANOTHER adventure as I travel back to the ole USA to visit family and friends (mostly my grandson).  I am hanging out in The Netherlands for a week taking a photography workshop with nationally acclaimed landscape photographer Efrain Padro in conjunction with AWAI (American Writers & Artists Inc).  They have a travel division that hosts photography expedition all over the globe.  I chose this one as I could stop over while enroute to the US.  I have been a member of their organization for a couple of years and never been on one of their expeditions so this is a trial for me.  Yesterday I met the organizer as she arrived the same day as I did to do some scouting for the photography ahead of the participants arrival on Sunday.

I spent the day yesterday strolling around the city, checking in my hotel, taking a canal boat tour, and being....well....cold.  Since I live in 100 degree weather, I am a little sensitive to weather below 80 degrees!  Had to regroup and bundle up a bit to enjoy the rest of the day after arriving at 6:00 a.m. into Amsterdam.  Uneventful train ride in to the old city of Leiden,(pronounced Lye-den) the home of Rembrandt----you know that famous man who put the Dutch on the map as great artists---along with that guy Vermeer---of The Girl with the Pearl Earring fame.  (which happens to be one of my favorite works of art of all time)

Weather is overcast and wind chill has been a factor.  Now, I have been in colder weather....and really this is not bad.  I am just not used to colder temperatures.

I've enjoyed lounging in the cafe in Hotel Rembrandt, my residence for the next week.  Tiny room but with a wonderful street view. I can even play peek-a-boo with the canal down the street.  Wonderful little cafe with a great breakfast.  Town square is with in eye view of the door.  Bicycles, bicycles everywhere.  Dutch use bicycles like we use cars.  Not much vehicle traffic on the roads here.  Bicycles and boats are the norm.

I saw a young lady riding a bike like the one above with four little children riding in the cart on front.  I couldn't manage to get a photo of them before they coasted off around a corner.  Then, later I saw this bike just like it.  It might even be hers empty of the children.  It was parked in front of the pannenkoekenhuis which would make sense.

The local market is right next door to the hotel and it is bustling with people all day long.  The local grocer is busy all day moving the fruits and vegetables around and helping the customers who stop by to shop.  

 The main square is located on a canal and has boats moored.  It makes a very picturesque scene.
This week the photo group is heading to Alkmaar Cheese Market.  I am excited to see it.  It dates back to 1622 and the original method of selling cheese is still exhibited every Friday in Alkmaar. (click on the word Alkmaar and see a video demonstration)  The cheese is suppose to be delivered by boat and sold in the old traditional style of the Dutch. 
I found the flowers!!! Tulips in particular.  Of course I already have a hundred shots of the tulips in the town square.  They are planted in big pots hanging out with rose bushes.  After a small misting of rain, they had water drops on them.  Makes for incredible photos!  Particularly like this photo.  Can't wait until I go to Keukenhof Gardens this week.  Oh my.....I just can't imagine what bliss!  I love photographing flowers. You can watch a video of the gardens by clicking here.  Lots of preparation goes into getting the gardens ready to open in the spring.
I love the architecture.  Much of the architecture of New York is greatly influenced by the Dutch.  The typical New York "brownstone or walk up" is a Dutch style.  The one thing that strikes me the most is the lack of shutters.  When you are in the countryside and seeing stand alone houses, they look rather plain because they have big, beautiful windows without shutters.  

 The Pancake House is a staple in The Netherlands.  They serve delicious pancakes all day long.  Not our typical American variety.

These damn things are EVERYWHERE.   I found as I travel that more countries have them trolling around.  This driver was scooting along so fast I couldn't get a good picture of him quick enough.  Just his backside! 

 And these are EVERYWHERE too!!!  The Golden Arches are familiar now to all cultures.  This one is right on the main square!

Found a great Greek restaurant just a few doors down yesterday. You can see it in this photo on the far right.  It's called Rhodos.  Scrumptuous is all I can say.  Extremely friendly staff.  Met the manager and chatted with him a while.  And know me...I met a charming couple sitting next to me having a late lunch.  They live around the corner.  She's American and he's Dutch.  They have lived here in Leiden for 7 years.  She works for an expatriate company who has an online website devoted to expat living around the globe.  Fate is awesome is all I can say about that!

Will continue to explore Leiden for a few days and then on to Amsterdam for the rest of the week.  Tulips, windmills, boats, canals, cheese, the grote markt, the vis markt, houses, countryside, and typical everyday life in Holland await me.

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