Friday, August 28, 2015

Europe: Day 9 (Netherlands again)

Dear readers,

We had such a great time in Belgium yesterday. The Grand Place is indeed very grand. Best to go during spring or Christmas or you will find the square empty. Anyway, today is the last day on the ground. We had a cruise ride through Amsterdam canals, learning how diamonds were cut in Gassan, fighting the freezing cold sea breeze at Volendam and learning how to make cheese and clogs in the factory.

Like the scene in The Fault in Our Stars. Goal achieved!

Good morning from Park Plaza Amsterdam! We woke up at 8am and breakfast at 9am.

Based on observation, hubby told me most angmo rarely picks up their dog's feces. Maybe they think it's biodegradable and good fertilizer for the grass idk. But I think it's filthy and smelly and nobody wants poop stuck under their shoes.

Warm my hands at the lounge's fireplace. So suaku coz we don't have fireplace in Malaysia. The only apartment I've stayed that has fireplace was Fraser's Pine Resort. The balcony was super huge, great for BBQ. I've had many day trips in Semenanjung during my uni years. Do you think its a good idea to share my old cuti-cuti Malaysia trips? I have shared Redang but yet to share Perlis, Lagkawi, parts of Kedah, Perak, KL, Melaka, Pahang, N9 etc.

The buffet breakfast spread was like the first time we stayed here.

After breakfast around 9:10am we took vain pictures before getting up the bus.

Wah yau yeng lor...

 Goodbye hotel! Truly a pleasant stay here.

We are here again... Notice there are bicycles everywhere.

 Is this Rijksmuseum? You will find IAMSTERDAM sign at the other side for you to take selfies.

 Love the sophisticated Dutch architecture.

Our bus dropped us in front of Heineken Experience. Yay! It's finally open. Opening hours are 10:30am - 9pm. I've explained quite a bit in my previous post. I've been eyeing on this fine hotie for a minute.

Finally manned up myself to ask him for a picture. What a cutie, right? Too bad I didn't get his name but if you ever know this guy do inform him that I think he's hot and would like to get to know him as a penpal. Even dad said he looks pretty decent.
First activity is to ride Amsterdam Canal Cruise. The station is opposite of Heineken Experience.
Erm...who is this dude? Do I know you?

Daytime City Canal Cruise is a 75 minute ride for €16.  The cruise ride operates daily every half hour from 10am - 5:45pm. There are also evening and dinner cruise available.

You'll get a discounted rate when you book online or you can just call the number above the souvenir store in this picture.

Our route is depicted in the red dots.

Heineken Experience > Rijksmuseum >Holland Casino > Westerkerk > Anne Frank house > Central Station > Gassan Diamonds

Nicely decorated in blue ornaments. As you can see here the whole boat is covered in glass but I prefer to be totally outdoor...of course not in this weather.

Personal Audio System enables you to listen to the guide in your preferred language. Audio commentary is available in 19 languages.

 Taken using SJ4000. Not bad right?

The first landmark we saw is Rijksmuseum. So we really did pass by the museum just now. Here is where you will find the famous IAMSTERDAM sign located at Museumplein. Translated to English as The State Museum, it exists for more that two hundred years. It is in 1800, that it opened first its collection at The Hague to the public as the Nationale Kunstgallerij (National Art Gallery) then moved to Amsterdam in 1808. It is open daily from 9am - 5pm and tickets priced at €17.50.

It's just a random apartment but very splendid one.

After this you will see Hard Rock

Second landmark according to our route was the Holland Casino. Well most of us including me assumed that Holland = Netherlands. We are wrong! My tour guide explained the difference between Holland and Netherlands. To begin with, Netherland is the country and Holland is one of the provinces. So calling Netherlands Holland is like calling Malaysia Selangor. Holland is divided into two; Noord Holland (North) and Zuid Holland (South). The two Hollands are the most populated provinces and have some of the biggest attractions like Amsterdam and Keukenhof.

I believe this is Amsterdam American Hotel, a subsidiary of the luxurious Hampshire Hotels.

If you turn to your left, just opposite America Hotel is a huge Tommy Hilfiger store.
Our cruise turned right into another canal. If you look at Google Map, Amsterdam looks hexagonal.

Boats used as homes everywhere. Kinda cool!

We went below a hell load of bridges.

Third landmark was Westerkerk (Western Church) built between 1620 and 1631 in Renaissance style. Westerkerk was not the first Protestant church built in Amsterdam, but it was the first biggest in the world for sure. This church is open to the public on weekdays between 10am - 3pm and on Sundays for services only from 10.30am -11.45 am. Anne Frank's house is somewhere next to the church.

While I was standing in front, the captain told me we just passed Anne Frank house. I was like whoops! We missed a picture. Definitely will return to Amsterdam for a thorough visit coz this virgin trip was just a touch and go.

Anyway let me tell you about Anne Frank. Born in 1929, she was a German born diarist and victim of Holocaust. She lost her citizenship and had to move to Amsterdam with her family. By May 1940, they were trapped in Amsterdam by the German occupation of the Netherlands. In July 1942, the family went into hiding in some concealed rooms behind a bookcase in the building where Anne's father worked. She received a diary on her birthday in 1942 and continuously writing till 1945. The exact dates of Anne death is not recorded but research indicated that she died around February 1945 at a young age of 15.

The background looks so picture perfect like I'm sitting in front of a painting.

After running around the cruise we went back to out seat. Wefie all the way...

How cute and lovely are these pair of swans?

After almost 45 minutes of ride we reached the waterfront. It looks like the sea but we're actually in a river. This river called IJ flows from Ijmeer, a gigantic bordering lake.

That long red boat looks like a restaurant

Conservatorium van Amsterdam is a Dutch academy of music. The building was built in 2008 but  the oldest predecessor was founded in 1884.

 Seriously Dutch are so artsy. Everywhere there's art gallery or stuff like this.

Ooh, looks unique...what's that?

It's NEMO! But not that Nemo fish. NEMO is a science center in Amsterdam. The museum has its origins in 1923 and is housed in a building designed by Renzo Piano since 1997.

A visit to NEMO costs €15 per person. It is typically open from Tuesday to Sunday 10am - 5:30pm.

Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ is a concert hall built in 2005 for contemporary classical music on the IJ.

Another unique building which I don't know.

We reached another side of the canal where the apartments and offices are more contemporary looking.

It was actually a 75 minute ride where the cruise will take you back to the starting point that is opposite Heineken Experience. However we got off at Gassan Diamonds HQ. Gassan offers free tours daily from 9am - 5pm.

We were welcomed by a Christmas tree just like everywhere else. Gassan Diamonds was founded in 1945 by Samuel Gassan. The factory here is mainly occupied with sharpening of diamond, import export of both rough and polished diamonds, gems and jewelry. This company also acts as wholesaler and retailer.

 A map showing location of rare black diamond mines around the world.

 Tools for diamond cutting.

 The diamond displays are not the real ones. Some signs are in Chinese maybe coz they receive lots of Chinese visitors. It's a very touristy place to begin with.

A live demo of diamond cutter carefully refining his masterpiece.

 The uniqueness of Gassan is that you can put together your own jewel. Just choose a setting and diamond cut and it can be assembled within 30 minutes. A unique cut here is Gassan 121.

That huge diamond is unreal for sure...

Next, a retailer explains about the diamonds. I forgot the joke but we definitely had fun.

So expensive! Each costs more than 100,000 euros.

We spent around an hour in this area. Before you come out of this building there is a big store selling luxury watches and jewelries including Rolex, Swarovski and Mikimoto. So for you branded product shoppers you might be very interested in this place and you can claim for tax refund too.

Right opposite of Gassan Diamonds HQ is Delft Blue Store, a building that sells souvenirs and also our hang out place at that moment. 

 Nice spacious store but due to tourist trap the stuffs here can be quite expensive.
With my free tea. Now you see why I like to hang out here besides avoiding the cold weather.


Very cool hop on hop off bus like those in Penang.

By 12pm, we embarked on our next journey to Volendam. It takes only half an hour just in time for lunch.

An old and very short drawbridge.

Aha! Saw a sign of Volendam. Sudah sampai!

Welcome to Volendam! Originally it was a harbour of IJ bay. After forming reclaimed land farmers and local fishermen settled here forming the new community of Vollendam which literally means filled dam. To me, it's the coldest of all places we've been in Europe. Negative degrees plus strong winter sea wind did not help at all. You really got to come here in December to know how we felt. I literally skipped while walking and sometimes jogged coz it was so cold.

My goodness I've never seen a kampung so clean and beautiful in my life.

Sorry I got to spam a few house pics. The residents really kept their plants and decorations to a minimum.

Couldn't get over their pretty garden. Who says you need a big space to look amazing?

Jemput masuk...

Walk a little further and you'll come to to commercial area.

Again this is another very touristy place. You ca dress up in Dutch costume like milkmaid or milkman and take photos.

I think this is a Labrador. The owner must be in one of the shops. He or she was very calm and gentle.

Would you like to have lunch here?

 Or would you like some fish and chips? Like duh seafood is a must when you are in a fishing village.

You can visit Cheese Factory Volendam for a complete cheese experience. Opens daily from 9:30am till 6:30pm. The cheese factory provides excursions in groups and individuals where you will get involved in cheese making process.
The Cheese Factory provides visitors with small excursions around the factory where you will get involved in the cheese making process. The excursions, which are available for groups as well as individuals, are held in Dutch, English, Spanish, French, and German. During the excursion you will get to taste several types of cheese wit - See more at:
The Cheese Factory provides visitors with small excursions around the factory where you will get involved in the cheese making process. The excursions, which are available for groups as well as individuals, are held in Dutch, English, Spanish, French, and German. During the excursion you will get to taste several types of cheese wit - See more at:

Came to a turning to the right and another long stretch of shops.

If ony we have more time, I would love to go into the bar and experience like a local.

I think this is the jetty.

Someone is jealous of my new buddy.

Then he found his mate...ewww...

Towards the end of the street you will see this snack stall. I recommend you to try the paella here.

The sandwiches are very cheap. Don't convert to our messed up ringgit la.

Seriously I dare not try haring but in the next shop where we had a second round lunch (lol) we were offered to try a piece. Raw haring obviously tastes fishy but soft and salty with a little hint of sourish from the onions and pickles.

This paella is much yummier than the one in the shop which I will show you next.We bought a box to share coz I planned to dine at the tempting store we saw where we first came in.

Having lunch with my buddy whom I don't get his name.

 So cold dammit! I've never seen him shivering before.

We walked back to the starting point. This is where we had our lunch again for the second time. Did you see the church behind? We aimed to go there later on.

This is the first shop you will see when you enter the commercial street. Those shrimps looked so juicy I can't leave this place without trying.

The paella is not as nice as the seaside stall.

Our friends from the tour group who sat next to us offered us a piece of haring but I totally forgot to take picture due to the overwhelming taste.

Ok, the shrimps did not disappoint me. Oh ya be careful when you go down to the washroom coz the staircase is very steep and narrow.

 We hopped into a few souvenir shops later on to purchase gifts and also berteduh from the cold wind.

Knus is the name of a shop opposite of where we sat. I remember running into the store and pretended to be interested of the items when they obviously aren't my taste just coz I need some warmth.

Somewhere along the pretty houses we found a lorong that will lead us to the church.

 Here's the courtyard of the church.

 A statue of dunno who...

Saint Vincentiuskerk or St. Vincent's Church in Volendam. Built in 1860, the church recently celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2012 and is the second oldest church in Volendam.

Can't help to take some pics of someone's house.

Can you believe it that house is overlooking a beautiful longkang!

We came up through the stairs next to this cute little house. Pinjam kejap someone's lawn coz its so quaint!

Hubby's fav garden.

This corner is my fav.'s already 3pm and it's time to leave for our last pit stop.

Bus took us for on a short 10 minute distance to De Simonehoeve Cheese and Clogs farm. We were here for an hour.

This pretty lady explained to us how cheese were made, storage and a lot other info.

The tools and machine to make cheese.

Next session, she showed us how to make wooden clogs. The carver was kinda noisy and shreds of wood carvings flew everywhere so be prepared lah. Do you know why people back in the olden days wear such a hard wooden shoe? Actually they ain't really heavy. She told us that farmers and less privileged working class folks cold not afford leather boots so wooden clogs are the best alternative. The oldest wooden shoe ever found dates from 1230 found in 1979 at Nieuwendijk, a historic street downtown Amsterdam.

OMG this white pair is so pretty but impractical to wear in our time. Will end up covered in dust if I ever purchase them.

She also showed us that names can be carved on the clogs. In fact, it's up to your creativity on how to design it. Just open up your hipster mind and you might create something viral.

 Wooden shoes are now true symbol of Netherlands like tulips and windmills.

We get to taste different flavours of cheese ranging from smoked BBQ to nutty ones. Most famous are Edam and Gouda cheese.

One of their national food is stroopwafel. Basically it is crispy waffle in the texture of a wafer biscuit.

Every visitor receives a free glass of fruit wine. Dutch fruit wine tasted sweet and mild.

When we were about to get out of the souvenir store we spotted some creepy dolls. Can you spot Annabelle lookalike?

It is recommended to come here if you want a complete dutch experience. You can check out other workshops and packages in their website. I don't know why we missed to try the traditional costume coz it's only €5 per person.

Since this is a farm, they own cows, sheep, goats and some chickens inside this cute little barn. Ok, that's all for today...see you in Schiphol Airport on the next post.

11th April is our 11th Anniversary
11th April is our 11th Anniversary.. A special dedication to my wife.. Love Love..
Posted by Keong Da'Great on Friday, 10 April 2015

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