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After a flight delay in Toronto and circling around the airport for a while, my connection from Amsterdam finally landed in Detroit a couple hours late. It made for a longer day. It's always a long day when it starts with an eight hour flight. But it ended well, and I got to sleep in my own bed.

Often, after a vacation, I arrive home and it seems like the visit to the far away place was a bit fantastical. Home is the same as it was when I left. Everything is in the same place. It seems like nothing has changed. Except that I was gone for a week or two or three. I had the same kind of feeling unloading the car and unpacking my bags. There were the books, CDs, chocolates, and stroopwaffles that I bought but I was back in the same place. Except there were the alterations in how I think and my outlook. So here are a few of those changes. In essence, they're the things I'll miss about being in Amsterdam.

Bicycles: I love cycling but it's a different proposition when bikes ar…

Homeward Bound

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In an hour, I'll be on an airplane headed west. I have a layover in Toronto then on to Detroit later this afternoon, well, later tonight Amsterdam time. Schipholis quite the airport. There is a big mall on the arrivals level and many, many stores on the way to the gate.

I'll miss Amsterdam. It's been a great visit, one that I'll reflect on for quite some time. Many memories of the many sites I saw and people I met.

The highlight of the trip, of course, was spending a week with Amanda and having her along for the ride. It was much emptier when she left.

Of the sites we saw, the visit to the Anne Frank house tops the list. It was a moving experience. To see the place that I read about just a few days earlier brought home how harrowing that time and place was. It's hard to imagine the courage it must have taken to go into hiding and stay there for more than two years. 

There are a bunch of small moments that stand out:
The afternoon in the Two Swans when the Belgian …

Biking, part 2

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I think everyone in the world knows that bicycles are very important to Amsterdamers. Without bikes, Amsterdam would certainly have a lot more cars and that would simply be awful. The city would be nearly impassable, I think. With bikes, it's easy to get around, and because it's such a compact city, going from one diagonal to the other is pretty quick with a bike. That is, as long as you know where you're going. Me, I never know where I'm going and making a bunch of wrong turns and ending up completely turned around is par for the course. Still a bike is an essential way to get from here to there in Amsterdam and during the trip, I came to rely on my rental bike a lot.

As it turns out, it's also important in other parts of the country. Groningen is a university town so it's not surprising to find bikes there. But I can't think of any American university, even in bike friendly college towns like Portland, Oregon, where you would find the number of bikes that…

Genever

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When it comes to adult beverages, it's not just about the beer in Amsterdam. Genever (pronounced yuh-NAY-ver) is also known as Dutch gin. It's origins are not completely known, but it goes back to at least the Dutch golden age in the 1600s. Genever is a distilled liquor, similar to unaged whiskey, and like whiskey can be mixed or sipped on its own. On my list of "must do while in Amsterdam" was a genever tasting. A few establishments that specialized in jenever turned up on several websites. I ended up at De Admiraal. It wasn't too far from the apartment and had good reviews from previous visitors.

Walking into the tasting room was like taking a step back in time. The place is lined with dark wood and the light is dim. Most of the light coming in was through the open door, which led to a small seating area next to the sidewalk. I sat inside at a small table.

The tasting was of four different genevers although all came from one distillery, A.van Wees distilleerde…

Out of Amsterdam

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Since arriving on September 28, I've been out of the city a few times. One of those was the trip to Delft with Amanda. I also took the train up to Groningen. Groningen is the name of a city and a province. The ride to the city was a couple of hours from Centraal and was enlivened when I got on the wrong train at one of the stops I was supposed to change trains. Fortunately, I ended up where I was supposed to; it just took longer. Explanation: There are two types of train lines: Sprinter and Intercity. Sprinters have more stops and are more like the "local". Intercity trains have fewer stops so theoretically get to the further destinations quicker. When I was supposed to change, I jumped off my intercity onto a sprinter. It was headed in the right direction and I managed to connect back an intercity train in Zwolle. The train system in the Netherlands is great. The trains seem to mostly run on-time or only a few minutes later and there are a lot of them. Going to Groninge…

Museums and old buildings, part 2

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The Van Gogh Museum is near the top of most Amsterdam "must see" lists and after my visit, it's easy to see why. The museum is housed in a modern building that helps to emphasize Van Gogh's modernity and continuing influence on art.

The museum is arranged more or less chronologically with the exhibits from his early years starting on the first floor and his more mature works appearing on the second and third floors. Van Gogh seems to have been a prolific letter writer and his correspondence, especially with his brother Theo, is showcased on the second floor, too.

I spent an easy two hours at the museum. It's not hard to get lost in these paintings. Several of them I went back to a couple of times. These are a couple of my favorites. Head of a Prostitute is from 1885. I found this portrait striking for its vitality and humanity. Van Gogh showed the woman with a great deal of dignity. And I just like the way that Van Gogh uses those wide brush stroke and distinctive…

Royal Concertgebauw Orchestra

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Sunday I attended an afternoon concert at the Concertgebouw. It was without a doubt one of the finest concerts I've ever heard. Not only is the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra one of the top orchestras in the world but the grand hall has astounding acoustics. I was sitting stage left, quite a bit left, in row 11. The cellos were over on the far right and I felt like I was sitting right in front of them. I've always thought that Orchestra Hall and the Opera House in Detroit have excellent acoustics and I think they do, but the Concertgebouw seems to be on another plane.

The soloists were two young pianists who happen to be brothers and Dutch. Arthur and Lucas Jussen, only now in their mid-twenties, have been playing for more than 10 years. I think it's safe to say that they are at the beginning of what will be a stellar career.

They played Poulenc's Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra. I've heard some very good pianists over the years but no one has played as enthu…

Old Buildings

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Museums

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High on my list of museums to visit was the Rijksmuseum. It is one of the "must see" sights on everyone's list. The museum recently re-opened after a significant renovation and it is very impressive. The collection is housed on four floors, although most everyone seems to congregate on the second floor where the Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Steen paintings are hung. These aren't them. I guess it does show that cute cat pictures were popular before the Internet. And what can you say about pugs? Great dogs.

And yes, the Rembrandt and Vermeer paintings were also great. I was also taken by this  picture of the Dutch countryside. It's by Paul Joseph Constantin Gabriel and is called "A Windmill on a Polder Waterway." I was struck by the way he used the canal to reflect the rest of the picture. Quite a captivating picture I thought.

We also took in the Amsterdam History Museum. Altough it doesn't get the top billing of places the Rijksmuseum or the Van Gogh Mus…

Touristy things

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Today felt like "Let's play tourist in Amsterdam". I let Amanda sleep in, which means that we didn't get started until about 11:00. Today was the day for Dutch pancakes, and we opted for The Pancake Bakery at Prinsengracht 191, which took only about 10 minutes on bikes. I tend to be skeptical of places that say "Best in Town" since those places most often are catering to the tourist trade and places that really do the the best whatever in town don't need to proclaim on their signs. But this place came with the recommendation of our waiter at De Pizza Bakkers last night. (Sidenote: who knew that pizza and prosecco went so well together? Our waiter also said that the best pancakes in Amsterdam are the ones he makes at home. But that didn't seem like it was in the cards for us. So we settled for one of other places he mentioned.) 

The Pancake Bakery has much to recommend it. Walking in you would never mistake this for a US greasy spoon. It's in a …

Biking

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After a very soggy weekend, the week started off with pleasant autumn weather.

As I look back my time in Amsterdam, I'm sure that Monday morning's trip to the Anne Frank house will be one of the highlights. It's an incredibly moving experience to walk through the Secret Annex, as Anne called it, and see the cramped living space where Anne, her family and four others stayed in hiding for more than two years. Almost immediately upon entering, the house exerts an emotional impact. The sense that this is hallowed ground is palpable. Although so much of it is about Anne Frank and her companions, I kept thinking about the others who went into hiding during the Nazi occupation and wondered about their stories, too. We are fortunate to have the diary and other writing that Anne left behind. They signify not only the physical and emotional development of a young girl and the promise of a hugely talented writer, but also the humanity that couldn't be denied even in those dire d…