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  • Writer's picturekiehart

Updated: Aug 1, 2023

Thank you for continuing with me on my Amsterdam vacay. Here are the last five bullet points, as promised. In case you missed July's post, click here:

6. Keukenhof Gardens

We planned the trip so that we'd be in Amsterdam during the tulip blooming period (March through May) and purchased tickets to the Keukenhof Gardens long before boarding the flight from the Pacific Northwest. Our timing was great! During the first week in April, about 95% of the tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths were in bloom. Did you know there are over 800 tulip varieties?

In the course of about five hours, we leisurely walked the park -- about the size of 80 football fields (using the map to guide us through the seven miles of intersecting paths). Attempts to capture the meticulously landscaped and manicured flower beds with my little camera did not do justice to the approximate seven million flowers surrounding us for as far as the eye could see. The park's lakes, fountains, and streams as well as various flower shows in specialty buildings added to the perfect-weather day's enjoyment.

7. Holocaust Monuments and Memorials

I don't think there are many places in Eastern Europe that don't have some reminders of the horrors of World War II. Tours of monuments and memorials are offered with knowledgeable guides in Amsterdam. We took advantage of one detailed advertised walking tour, combined with a good city map purchased online, to spend a day on a DIY walking tour. We eliminated most of the museums because time was limited.

We spent quite a bit of time at the Nationaal (sic) Holocaust Name Monument, completed in 2021. It commemorates the approximately 102,000 Jewish victims from the Netherlands who were arrested by the Nazi regime during the German occupation of the country (1940-1945), deported and mostly murdered in the Auschwitz and Sobibor death camps, as well as 220 Roma and Sinti victims. If one were to look down onto this monument from above, a bird's eye view would be similar to this photo. The monument's brick walls spell, in Hebrew letters, "In Memorium." Chills traveled up and down my spine as a light rain drizzled and footsteps on the concrete pavement, the only sound.

Thousands of bricks -- imprinted with a name, birth date, and death date -- are stacked alphabetically, by family name.

One of the youngest souls, Anna Steinbach. Bricks honoring families were mounted together.

Other more subtle memorials were the brass plates embedded into the concrete at the front entrances of structures. These were at the entrance to our VRBO,

displaying the names of the family who lived in that building during WWII with their birth years and date of death in Auschwitz. A solemn daily reminder of the atrocities during that time in history.

8. Walking the neighborhoods, Shopping at The Albert Cuyp Market

There's a lot of activity in the Amsterdam neighborhoods. Eateries and specialty shops galore. But to get into the Dutch Way of Mall shopping, one must explore the neighborhood outdoor flea markets. Vendors arrange clothing on top of bedspreads spread across the streets for shoppers to sort through. Some set up tables for easy access to shoulder bags, hats, and shoes. More elaborate booths contain jackets and coats on hangers and scarves on eye-level racks. Bicycles, books, vinyl records, jewelry, household items, and of course, tulips! Probably anything one needs, with some searching, can be found at one of the neighborhood outdoor markets in a country where no Walmarts exist.

Hand-crafted woodwork, lambs wool scarves, leather gloves, or used books and second-hand furniture, can be found at one of the neighborhood markets.

The Albert Cuyp Market is one of the more popular tourist destinations. At Albert Cuyp we purchased a bag of assorted Gouda cheeses, a wool scarf, and two souvenir magnets. We sampled sweets and purchased a small rotisserie chicken to enjoy later. We were able to walk to this market from our VRBO apartment; although I will admit the walk back seemed much, much longer! It was fun shopping and we were glad we included it on our 'DIY walking tour' of the neighborhoods.

9. Coffee Shop or Cafe and Dining

We discovered there is a difference between coffee shops and cafes in Amsterdam.

If you'd like to smoke marijuana, it's to a coffee shop you go (note the red neon sign). However, if you're looking for coffee and a croissant, a cafe is for you!

It is said that people in the Netherlands aren’t all that fussy when it comes to food. In fact, it is not uncommon to hear Dutch people state ‘it all goes into one stomach’ when presented with a selection of apparently, interchangeable dishes (from Wikipedia and personal observations and yes, my dad often said it).

The Dutch use both a knife and fork at mealtime; they eat with purpose and with speed, shoveling food into their mouths without lapses in conversation.

If someone in the group can't finish his meal, another will reach across the table and clean the plate. Leftover food, sure to be wasted, is an infrequent sight in Amsterdam.

As a youngster and even now, I separate the food on my plate so meat juices don't touch the vegetables and a stray pea or corn kernel won't be sucked into the mashed potatoes. Doesn't matter which meal.... pickle juice is not allowed to run into the sandwich on my plate and my runny egg yolks better not touch that piece of sausage (however, it is acceptable to sop the yolk with buttered toast).

While dining in Amsterdam, I did my best to 'adult' even when presented with what I thought would be a simple chicken sandwich. And, following the pattern of other diners, I used both knife and fork for one of the best chicken sandwiches ever (pictured above).

10. Houses that Float and Dance

Residences, office buildings, and multipurpose structures line the Amsterdam canals. This former appraiser enjoyed learning about the houseboats which are tethered to city sewer and power lines and occupied year 'round. Some are available as VRBOs. The houseboats remain stationary; unlike the motorboats.

The structures along the canals and in most parts of the city are built on wooden pilings that are pounded into the sand and can withstand the weight of a structure. Over time, the changing water level causes the piers to shift and the buildings to slowly slant.

A particular group of residences is known as the Dancing Houses. Note especially the house in the center (5th from each side). Now when you see drawings of structures in Amsterdam, and if the buildings seem wonky, you'll know the whys and hows.

I hope you've enjoyed my Amsterdam vacation vicariously through today's and last month's post. Check out my Facebook page (scroll back to April 2023 postings) where more photos can be viewed. Most of my posts are 'public' so, enjoy!

Safe vacays to you and yours as we enjoy the final month of summer. See you in September!


In case you haven't heard, the ebook version of Calico Lane is now on sale for 99 cents. Calico Lane is also available on Kindle Unlimited. Calico Lane has 79 reviews on Amazon. If you haven't posted a comment or star rating, please, please do so! Reaching 100 reviews works magic with Amazon's algorithms in getting Calico Lane to more readers!

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  • Writer's picturekiehart

Updated: Jul 4, 2023

The phrase 'When in Rome, Do as the Romans Do' refers to the importance of adapting yourself to the customs of the people who are in a certain place or situation and behave like they behave. It is said Saint Ambrose is credited with first uttering the expression, and his words were preserved by his more famous pen pal, the Christian philosopher Saint Augustine, around the end of the fourth century AD.

However, it's not Rome that I'm writing about; it's Amsterdam.

To celebrate 25 years together, Eileen and I planned our first (and most likely our only) European Vacation. We decided on ten days in Amsterdam, the capital city of the Netherlands. We planned for April 2023 to include peak blooming at the famous Keukenhof Tulip Gardens.

Planning has always been a fun part of any trip we’ve taken over the 25 years together. We like to research the neighborhoods and central locations, the workings of the public transit systems, popular sites, and eateries.

Accommodations are key. While we enjoy the smaller mom-and-pop establishments almost as much as the Marriotts, we decided on a VRBO in the University District in this exciting city. (Another option would have been a houseboat on a canal.) The Metro was a half block away and a grocery store was within a five-minute walk of our ground-foor apartment where we prepared several meals after long days of doing touristy things; and when we needed a nap break, there were no interruptions. The VRBO was the perfect choice.

Ten bullet points to sum up our Amsterdam Vacay:

1. Oh, the People You'll Meet

I imagine there are street performers, artists, and musicians in cities all over the world. We enjoyed chatting with this gentleman from Budapest who sold me his painting of the Homomonument*. He said he'd been to the United States once to see a game as he had a relative who played for the Chicago Bears.

Best $10 Euros Ever Spent.

*The monument is a cluster of three 10mX10mX10m granite triangles and recalls persecution by the Nazis who forced gay men to wear a pink triangle patch.

One of the granite triangles steps down into the Keizergracht (canal) and is said to represent a jetty from which gay men were sent to the concentration camps. Others interpret the step-up from the canal as a symbol of rising hope. The topmost granite triangle is flush with the ground and can easily be missed at first glance.

2. The Dutch have Interesting Gizmos

Take the drain stoppers, for example. Took me a few moments to figure out the purpose of this item at the sink. After placing it, and hand washing dishes, it's easily lifted out of the dirty water by the little hook. How clever is that?

No "Mister Coffee" coffee pots, either. The machine -- similar to the Keurig with one-serving pods.

Our host was puzzled when we asked for a couple of washcloths. After describing the purpose of this item, we were told that the Dutch don't use them, they wash with their hands. And while we're on the subject of bathrooms, all toilets have the water-efficient flush options: a small button and a large button -- depending....

3. The Dutch have cool Signage

A condom shop in the Red Light District

Don't pee in

the canals.

Bicyclists Cross Now

4. Plastic Bottles and Cigarette Butts

The convenience store cashier recognized us as tourists and as I handed over four Euros; he encouraged us to leave the plastic bottles next to the waste cans located on just about every street corner. The street people collect bottles and receive 15 Euros (about 17 cents in US) for each one returned to a supermarket. It's a way for those folk to purchase food. Plus, rather than having them dig through the trash bags, they can collect the plastic bottles that are next to the trash cans or left on benches. Such consideration! I placed an empty bottle on the chair in front of our VRBO and within a minute, even though I had not seen anyone pass, it was gone.

There are grates in the sidewalks for depositing cigarette butts.

We noticed a street person kneel and remove the grate and then pick through the discarded pieces selecting those with some tobacco remaining.

The man walked off leaving his mess on the sidewalk instead of pushing the butts back into the designated trash area, but still.

5. Metro, Trams, Ferries, and Trains

Getting around the city is super convenient. Trams and buses on the streets, the metro underneath, Ferries that run regularly and on time, and the train system for excursions beyond city limits and into the adjacent country! A seven-day metro pass got us from neighborhood to neighborhood easily, and we still managed to walk several miles each day! On Easter Sunday, we took a thirty-minute Sprinter (train) ride out to Zandvort Beach on the North Sea shore for a lovely day trip.

Pedestrians must be aware of the signage and markings on the roadways as well as the difference between bicycle lanes and pedestrian lanes. If the yield sign is pointing at YOU, you must yield. Bicyclists and drivers have mastered this. Tourists, not so much.

I think it’s understood by all residents that bicycles have the right of way. (I nearly got clipped when stepping into a bicycle lane!) According to their most recent census: there are two bicycles for each household in Amsterdam. Street parking for cars is permitted with a $ 30-a-day permit and there's no guarantee you'll have a spot on the block you live.

Here’s a good example of the pedestrian walkway, bicycle path (rust-colored), and then the roadway. A divided road, the pattern is repeated on the other side: roadway, bicycle path, and then the sidewalk.

It was amazing to watch young mothers with a baby in the front basket and a toddler on a back seat as they peddled past. When it rained, full-length waterproof coats hung or the bicyclist held an umbrella. It wasn't unusual to see folk eating croissants while biking in heavy traffic.

Businessmen cycled next to students, each with determination and purpose. The activity on the pavement was electric and exciting. Both bicyclists and pedestrians push a button for the green crossing signal at the intersections. Bicyclists ride in the same direction as the vehicle traffic, and it's first come, first served for parking for both vehicles and bicycles! Bicycles are parked everywhere: chained to the bridges across the canals, set in front of houses, leaning against trees, and in bicycle garages.

I hope you enjoyed these bullet points about our Amsterdam Vacay. I'll continue with the last five next month!

In the meantime, enjoy every moment wherever travels take you!


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  • Writer's picturekiehart

Ahhh yes...summertime. Lazy afternoons in hammocks or poolside, berry-flavored iced tea; a time for family gatherings, picnics at the lake, drive-in movies, hikes with your dog, bird watching, and lots of barbecuing. And, a wonderful time to visit your local library and pick up a new release by your favorite author. Every now and then I look at my library's website and search for Calico Lane. Usually, the stats show that one copy is available, with 0 holds. But this week there are 4 holds on it! Imagine my surprise! People are still waiting their turn to read Calico Lane! This month’s posting is a request to each of you. Will you help to get Calico Lane into as many libraries as possible? For Indie Authors, the BEST way to start is by asking friends and family to take a few minutes and ask the librarian if they would order a copy of Calico Lane to add to their inventory? The librarian will google it or search on Amazon, so all you really need is the name of the book and my name, and perhaps the ISBN # 978-0-578-34083-8. Chances are, when the librarian sees Calico Lane is a two-time award-winning book, with a 4.9 Amazon Rating, they will be happy to order it. And to all of you on the East Coast, especially in the mid-Atlantic region, the book is set in your region – another reason a library would choose to shelve it!

What also would be fun, if you have friends in some faraway places, and if they are readers, ask them if they’d do the same at their local library. Wouldn’t it be fun to see Calico Lane in say, Fargo, ND or Anchorage, AK or Toronto, Canada or London, England or Sydney, Australia? I’ve walked into several libraries within driving distance of Olympia, and have handed over a copy as a donation. It’s daunting for one person to accomplish much doing it this way. And, since authors do not receive free copies of their books, it can also become a fairly large expense. For me, it’s not about the SALES as much as it’s about having Calico Lane available to anyone who would like to read it! Let’s see how many libraries will agree to shelve my book by the end of this year! Tell me it's in your library and I'll add it to the list on my website. Can I count on you? Let's work on getting Calico Lane into a library near you! Thanks and enjoy the remainder of the summer! Stay Safe! Stay Healthy! Judy P.S. Remember to leave a comment/review on Amazon or Goodreads so that other readers can decide if Calico Lane is a book they'd like to read!

Calico Lane: a memoir about family and breaking through social and cultural norms 2022 Best Indie Book Award 2023 Firebird Book Award

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