Amsterdam: Biking in the countryside

While in the Netherlands I stayed outside of Amsterdam in a small town called Alkmaar. My original motivation was to avoid the high prices and bad reviews of the hostels in the city but I quickly got excited about exploring more of the Dutch countryside.

My last full day I woke up free of a headache (yay!) and to a morning full of sunshine. I stopped by the grocery store on my way out of town for some snacks and hit the road with a bicycle map. (Side note: visiting the grocery store is one of my favorite things to do in any new place. So many interesting things and gives you a small glimpse of how other people live.)

Holland is beautiful. I biked through green meadows full of horses and cows. I biked past windmills still in operation. I biked down shaded side streets with alliums in the front yard. And everyone bikes. Parents with two kids strapped to the bike. Older couples enjoying the scenery together. Two middle school aged boys biking side by side joshing each other.

I biked to the North Sea where I sat on the beach and read for a while.

I took a different route home. Instead of biking through the trees, I biked back through several kilometers of dunes. When I first heard about the dunes I imagined the big, rolling piles of sand I just to play on along the Washington coast. These are, instead, covered in heather and have a wild and unworldly quality to them. The bike path also rolls gently so for a good portion of the time you can just coast along and admire the landscape. It was biking through these dunes that I saw two cows wandering around and chomping down on their dinner. Truly free range!


Amsterdam: Bike it, eat it

My second day in Amsterdam I rented a bike from my hosts and explored the city like a real Netherlander. Biking in Amsterdam is awesome. With so many bikers the bike lanes are wide, the signage is great and cars aren’t nearly as aggressive as at home. The only probably with biking everywhere is that I didn’t get many pictures! And by that I mean all the pictures I have are of food. You don’t mind, do you?

20130715-221042.jpgClockwise from top left: stroopwaffle, Dutch mini pancakes, gouda sample pack

The highlight of the day came from my buddy Rachel, who studied abroad in Amsterdam and gave me lots of tips. I enjoyed a cool, refreshing Wit sitting outside a brewery in a windmill. Holland, you rock.



Amsterdam: Van Gogh Museum

Loyal readers will remember that I love love love the Impressionists. Van Gogh is, of course, a master and the museum dedicated to his life and work was my first stop in Amsterdam.

The permanent exhibit opens with a map and a timeline. I’m a big fan of basic context and overview as I think it makes art more accessible.


The museum’s collection is extensive (the biggest collection of Van Goghs in the world) and laid out to roughly chronicle his life. It opens with sketches and still lifes completed during his brief fling as an art student in The Hague and Antwerp then continues with his experimentations with color and process while living in Arles before finishing with his extensive work while in a sanatorium in Saint-Remy.

This tree was one of my favorites and highlights several of the things I find so fascinating about Van Gogh. The painting is part of a series that Van Gogh willed to be displayed together. The colors are incredible, one tree trunk alone has greens, pinks, blues and purples all mingling with the obvious browns. The brushstrokes for which he is famous are evident and individually confusing but unite to form a cohesive form.


Van Gogh was troubled but not without many friends. He was close with his brother, Theo, an art collector. They exchanged many letters, often with Vincent’s sketches and preparations for upcoming paintings, that are displayed in the museum. Van Gogh was also good friends with Paul Gauguin and Emile Bernard. In one of the more cheeky parts of the exhibit two portraits are displayed side by side. Apparently Van Gogh had asked Gauguin and Bernard to paint portraits of each but instead they each painted self-portraits with the other in a smaller picture in the background. Gotta love a good prank. 🙂

Van Gogh produced many sketches that he considered separate and distinct works of art. While many of them were done with an eye toward a later painting, many more are experiments with technique and form. This sketch was my favorite because you can really see where his brush technique comes from.

The museum was really wonderful. Well laid out with an easy to understand progression. They even had a great museum shop. Check out this limited edition Van Gogh skateboard. Never too early to start your Christmas shopping!


Amsterdam: Sicky

I woke up with a headache. I slept a while and thought I felt better. I biked into the town I’m staying in and had lunch. Felt worse. Watched many episodes of Parks and Rec. Amy Poehler cures all. And then I found lots of cool stuff on the internet. Like…

Mudhoney preforming on the top of the Space Needle. (GAH, the weather at home looks fabulous!)

Sesame Street preforming Daft Punk. (Internet, I love you so much.)

This insane twitter feed from inside the Goldman Sachs elevators. (Because you didn’t hate these people enough already.)

An interesting piece on reconciling your politics to your pop culture guilty pleasures. (Or how insanely embedded misogyny is in our societal outlook.)

And finally….

Sign this petition! Show your support for Texas women and allies standing up to deadly abortion restrictions.

(Speaking of which, how cute is my uterus shaped lamb chop bone from last night’s dinner?)