Friday, May 7, 2010


While we were in the Netherlands we stayed at the Ambassade Arena Aparthotel  located in Scheveningen, just minutes from Den Haag and the beach.  This small but lovely hotel is just a 2 minute walk from the tram.  The owners were friendly and Kate, the lady of the house, is American so we really enjoyed chatting with her over breakfast every morning.  Kate was even kind enough to put us into a small apartment instead of a double room as it was available when we checked in!  We really appreciated the extra space because we bring travel cots for the girls to sleep on and it is usually a tight fit.

We did not walk to the beach from our hotel however because it was freezing cold and windy.  On our way back from Keukenhof we drove along part of the North Sea and James stopped so I could take a few photos.  It was so windy that it seriously made my teeth hurt when I opened my mouth.  The cold weather apparently does not deter hardcore wind surfers though!

On our last full day we took the tram to the train station in Den Haag and then rode the train into Amsterdam.  The girls love riding on trains and I am glad that they do because the 45 minute train ride would drive them crazy otherwise.  When we arrived in Amsterdam the first thing we noticed were all the bikes parked outside the station.  I have never seen such chaos in my life.  Sometimes I have a hard time finding our vehicle in a large parking lot so I could only imagine how one might panic if they were to forget where they parked their bicycle.  The bikes don't have panic buttons to push to help you find them!

We walked through a large part of the city along the canals to the Anne Frank House.  We read that the lines can be incredibly long but we didn't wait more than 30 minutes to get in.  You can purchase tickets in advance and skip the lines but you have to select a time in which you plan to be there.  The Anne Frank House was a touching and grim reminder of the past.  There is no furniture in the secret annex as it was removed after the hiding place was discovered.  Otto Frank decided that it should remain empty.  There are quotes from the diary scattered through the museum with video and pictures to guide you through the house and provides a timeline of the 2 years the Frank family lived in hiding. 

After we left the Anne Frank House we walked to the Van Gogh Museum.  I have been a Van Gogh fan since I was in elementary school.  His bold paintings and tragic story have always interested me.  I wrote a book report on Van Gogh in junior high and really came to appreciate his works.  I know nothing about art and I am not going to pretend that I do.  I just like Van Gogh.  It is simple for me.  His paintings are interesting and seeing them up close was amazing.  Nearly everyone knows of Van Gogh's dramatic brush strokes and the texture of the paintings is lost in pictures in books and online.  The museum is arranged so that you follow a timeline of Vincent's paintings and see his style develop and change through the 10 years he spent as an artist.    Along side his paintings are those of his mentors, friends and those who influenced his style.  It was a very interesting to see the artists at during this time in the late 19th century. 

Here is a little tidbit of info that many people may not be aware of, and after reading some posts from James' favorite travel sites I feel like I should add this, is that while this is the Van Gogh museum and they do own the largest collection of Van Gogh's paintings they do not own them all.  I did not expect to see all of his most famous paintings so I was not disappointed but if you want to see The Starry Night you will not see it here.  That painting is owned by the Museum of Modern Art in NYC.  But if you want to see one of the Sunflower paintings this is the place to go.   I discovered a new favorite painting, Landscape at twilight while James liked Wheatfield with crows.  We had a nice time wandering through the museum and learning more about my favorite artist. 

Once we left the museum we made our way back to the train station.  The entire city is really beautiful and easy to walk through.  The streets are flat and lined with trees and canals.  We walked through a small part of the Red Light District because you can't really go to Amsterdam and not have at least a peek.  One street was more than enough for me though. 

James found this store window amusing.  When we were there I noticed the Jiggy-Jig Massage sticker on the window but as I was editing it I noticed the mug shot on the right.  I zoomed in and it is from Tallahassee Florida.  

This now concludes the series on our trip to the Netherlands.  I loved it here and I wanted to give each day its own blog entry as I felt there was a lot to tell.  I hope that maybe you may think of Amsterdam as more than just prostitutes and "coffee shops".  We traveled with our toddlers and felt completely safe and at ease wandering the side streets of this old and grand city. 

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Keukenhof Holland

Keukenhof Holland is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.  There are beds of tulips and sweet smelling hyacinth everywhere you look mixed in with blossoming trees, statues, windmills, and water features.  We spent hours wandering through the gardens.  I really enjoyed taking photos as there was so much inspiration around every turn.  So much attention to detail is placed in these gardens as they are only open from mid-March to mid-May.  Two short months and they have millions of visitors during this time.  I can totally see why so many people flock here, you don't even have to really like flowers to find yourself amazed at the sheer beauty of it all. 

The theme at Keukenhof this year is "From Russia, With Love" so there were many little symbols of Russia scattered throughout the grounds.  I loved this display of the matryoshkas and was excited to have a picture taken with my girls standing next to the dolls. 

This is a lovely and sweet smelling field of hyacinths planted just across a small canal from the gardens.  One can actually take a tour of these fields by boat at a very reasonable price but confining two toddlers to a very small boat for 50 minutes did not appeal much to James and me.  So we admired the stunning view from across the way. 

There are so many of varieties and colors of tulips and hyacinths I could not pick a favorite.  I only wish the sun wouldn't have been quite so bright as I found many of my photos getting washed out.  I have not mastered my camera out of auto mode so I try not to mess with the settings when I only get one chance for a good photo.  I am glad that I have Photoshop to help me adjust the settings on some of the pictures when we returned home.

The cherry blossoms were the finishing touch around the grounds. 

Keukenhof is an amazing place with so many things to see.  The girls enjoyed the petting farm where they mingled with baby goats, calves, bunnies and even a turkey.  They also enjoyed the playground and we had a hard time convincing them that we had to leave.  After a long day we piled into our vehicle and left with the scent of the flowers still lingering and hopes of returning again next year.