Amazing Amsterdam, Netherlands, 5-2017

A shout and a blurred flash sped past as a suited man atop his bicycle stopped me in my tracks as I stepped off the sidewalk without bothering to look out for the whizzing wonders. Not a good move. One simply cannot escape the hordes of bikers who do in fact own the streets of Amsterdam. After several near misses I trained myself to be on the lookout for the two wheelers, whether racing or leisurely pedaling down the avenues. I came across one lovely cruiser as a woman rode past singing opera alongside the canals and bridges in the fading evening light. Such is Amsterdam. Cultured yet gritty a bit like the Rijksmuseum and the red light district. It is a city of many facets, flowers, fabulous food, and friendly folks.

And did I mention food? (my favorite subject of course) In this department Amsterdam does not disappoint. After a long day we opted for a local eatery and our expectation were not high. But were we surprised. Strolling our Jordan district neighborhood we happened upon the Noordwest. The place was stylish but informal and had we not made a reservation for the following night I would have happily returned. I chose a tender baked Dover Sole with almonds in a creamy beurre sauce and Franz inhaled a succulent duck breast with a beetroot macadamia jus. The service was friendly and the food was fresh. What a find!

The next evening we ventured out farther afield to the restaurant Chez Georges that had lured us by its cozy French interior and tempting menu. For starters I began with scallops in a hollandaise sauce and a goose liver tureen followed by our main course of succulent lamb with a duxelle of mushroom, nuts, and herbs. Franz opted for the five course menu of wild duck with venison, followed by a rabbit ratatouille, stuffed guinea fowl, and a venison steak with a cognac chestnut sauce. And naturally our meal was accompanied by a rich Burgundy wine. Dessert was a creme brulé and a Chez Georges speciality. The chef definitely lived up to the review’s expectations. It was a euro well spent for an intimate dining experience.

One never tires of Amsterdam but beyond the requisite tours to the Van Gogh, the Rijksmuseum, and the Anne Frank House there is so much more to explore. One museum that had been on my list was the stunning EYE Film Museum. The museum graces the north bank waterfront with striking silhouette. Designed by the the prestigious Delugan Meissi architects the masterpiece houses a collection that boasts 37,000 film titles, 60,000 posters, 700,000 photographs, and 20,000 books. Just experiencing the interior itself is “eye opening” and if only for that its worth a visit. During our tour we viewed the film The Other Side of Hope and it was just one outstanding example of the works represented in their cutting edge collection. The story delved into the paths of Syrian refugees and a Finnish travelling salesman who cross in Kaurismäki’s latest deadpan work. This EYE is defintely worth a visit and I will surely be back to enjoy this architectural gem that graces the exquisite Netherlandish waterfront.

Keukenhof Gardens

A light rain was falling and tiny droplets of water reflected light from the delicate petals of the rows upon rows of tulips that adorned the spectacular gardens. I was in floral heaven. Tulips of every color, variety, shape, and smell assailed my senses and this former florist was happy as a daisy for I was visiting the 2017 Keukenhof Flower Show just outside Amsterdam, Holland. I thought I had seen many kinds of tulips in my day but I was just a beginner. The show boasts over 7 million tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths and covers 32 hectares just bursting with beautiful blooms. My late seasonal visit combined with the weather turned out to be perfect due to the wet conditions that deterred visitors and I was lucky to have had such solitude for hours as the gardens remained quiet and crowd free.

The inspiration and theme for Keukenhof 2017 was Dutch design. Floral masterpieces were recreated throughout the grounds in the numerous pavillons, historical gardens, and most spectacularly in the inspirational gardens. Famous Dutch works such as Mondrian’s De Stijl abstracts in red, blue, and white and Vermeer’s Girl with the Pearl Earring in blue and white including Delftware pottery were brought to life in this artistic celebration of spring. What a glorious way to spend a day and this is one floral extravaganza that I will most certainly be back again to experience.

The Tranquility of the Hortus Botanicus Garden Amsterdam, Holland

The oasis of floral beauty was balm to my soul as I meandered through the quiet paths of the Hortus Botanicus Gardens in Amsterdam. One simply forgets that the busy Platage district is just outside this relaxing refuge. Nurtured within its walls is one of the oldest botanic gardens in the world dating from 1638 and holds over 4000 plant species including historical elements, speciality greenhouses, and a fantastic butterfly greenhouse. Although the garden covers only 1.2 ha it holds a diverse collection from all the continents and from seven different climate zones. The collection is “scientifically curated” and boasts a medicinal herb garden cultivated since 1638 and other “special plant groupings such as cycads, South African plants, palms, conservatory plants, Fuchsia, and carnivorous plants.” The crowning glory of the collection is the Eastern Cape giant cycad that is over 300 years old and is simply enormous. The de hortus Garden is one small but mighty jewel that is a must see for any gardener or admirer alike.

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