We spent a lovely new year's eve with a bunch of our friends hosted by Megan and Ian. They really know how to throw a party with decorations, food, and fireworks. Megan likes to get pinspiration (play on words for pinterest for my non internet readers) and did such a fabulous job with the festive decor. Thanks for hosting such a great event!
We had a great time and rang the new year in style. We even had our own private fireworks show and Quinn took a little portrait of all the party goers.
Their snowy German Village.
The next morning we headed off for Amsterdam. It is supposed to be a 3 1/2 hour drive but it took us more like 4 1/2 with a thick German fog. There was sunshine as soon as we crossed over into the Netherlands. It was so beautiful. I really love the scenery and countryside of the Netherlands. We couldn't check into our hotel right away so we had a late lunch in a little breakfast place called bagels and beans. I had no idea how much I missed bagels until I had one. We had a bagel in London but it was with corned beef and dinner time. Breakfast bagels are really something to be appreciated. As I am writing this, I know I probably sound like a weirdo. Living outside of the US for a while is making me nostalgic or something.
Anyhow, after we checked into the hotel we took the city bus into town and queued up for the Anne Frank house. The line.
I had been told that people are sometimes waiting up to 5 hours in line so I guess we were lucky that we only waited two? It was a very cold two hours with the temps in the high 30's. What in the heck am I doing? The Diary of Anne Frank obviously had a big impact on me because I put mind over matter and stood in line waiting for my turn. By the time we got to the front we had a hard time moving our legs. All of these complaints seem very trivial once you tour her hiding place of two years and read the story of her life. The museum is very informative and contains documents, pictures, book excerpts, and videos. For those of you unfamiliar, Anne Frank's father was a Jewish business man and she and her family were born in Germany. They fled to Amsterdam when the Nazi party came into power. Just before the Nazis took over Amsterdam, her family went into hiding in a secret apartment that they prepared in the back of her father's jam making business. There were two families with 8 people in total who went into hiding for 2 years. There were also 4 people who helped them during that time to bring them food and books/magazines. All of the family died in the concentration camps except for the Father, Otto. This past summer, we visited one of the concentration camps where they were taken and eventually put to death. You are able to tour the apartment and even see the pictures that Anne glued on the wall to decorate her tiny room. It is a very moving and eerie experience to actually be where she spent time and wrote in her diary. We couldn't take pictures inside of the building so none to share here.
It is a little tough to transition to another topic after the weight of visiting the Anne Frank house so I will just carry onto our dinner. That night we went out for a typical Indonesian meal. The Netherlands has a long history with the Indonesian islands and many people chose to settle in the Netherlands after they gained their independence. So, eating Indonesian food is kind of a must do while in the Netherlands. We had the "rice table" which is a special meal where they bring you rice and about 8 little side dishes that go with rice. It was so filling and absolutely delicious. We were blown away by the service we received during the meal. Our server took our coats, greeted us like family, joked around with us, and generally made us feel very welcome. After we left and Quinn forgot our camera at the table they were so quick to call us on our cell phone (we left our number when making a reservation).
We woke up bright and early the next morning to make it to the Van Gogh museum. We have learned that when touring museums in Europe, you must beat the crowd or have reservations. This time we only had to wait about 30 minutes. When we left, I am sure the line was at least 2 hours long. Last summer we toured the hospital where Van Gogh stayed in Southern France due to his mental illness. We were able to tour the gardens and room where he lived. It really made seeing the Van Gogh museum more meaningful because we had seen many of the landscapes that he was painting. The museum is very well done with each floor being dedicated to a different period of time in his life. You can really see his work change, progress, and then spiral as his mental illness worsened. There were also exhibits about his family and friends and correspondence between him and other artists of his time. It was super interesting, which says a lot coming from someone with the attention span of a gnat. Again, we were not allowed to take pictures inside the museum so none to share but here are some pics from around Amsterdam.
It was such a beautiful and sunny day that we rode the tram over to the Amsterdam zoo. I just love zoos. I don't know if this is from the frequenting of zoos as a child with my mom (I think we went twice per week) or if I am missing my calling and should be working with animals. We spent about 4 hours at the zoo until our bones were cold and we couldn't stand outside anymore. The highlight was seeing the chimpanzees being let back into their indoor enclosure after the zookeepers had hid a bunch of snacks for them among their hay and bedding. It was so awesome to see them all lining up and then running around like maniacs foraging for food and hording the chicory and berries and lettuce. Each chimp definitely had their own personality and tastes for what they wanted and one little chimp was an absolute berry maniac!
This guy was looking right at us!
This lioness was really hunting this bird. We were all hoping to get a front row view of the attack but no such luck. The bird flew away.
Owls and a penguin picture for my mom. She loves penguins.
Dinner that night was at a quaint Dutch style pub. I hesitate to call it a pub because it was so much cozier and cuter than a pub and the food was wonderful. I had fish and Quinn had steak and he had the realization that he is not such a steak eater anymore and was envious of my fish. My how the times have changed. No pics at this place. Trust me, the food was gorgeous.
We decided that Saturday would be our shopping day to spend some of our birthday and Christmas money. Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful. It seems like whenever you have money to spend there is nothing to buy but when you are trying to save a few bucks, everything looks awesome. Oh well, we will call the dinners our birthday treats.
Some more scenes from the city.
Delicious lunch with mint tea. The open face sanwiches were pumpkin and also mushrooms with white bean paste.
We had one last delicious birthday dinner at a restaurant called Wink. The reviews on trip advisor were absolutely gushing and I was a little worried that it wouldn't live up to the hype. I was wrong. Upon arriving, we were welcomed by the host/waiter/maitre d' AND by the cook (who came out of the kitchen with her little dish rag on her head). Each course was described in full detail and the waiter/sommelier paired each course with a wine for us to try. He is a huge wine connoisseur and spends his off time going around to different bio/organic vineyards looking for the best wines to pair. Each course was so incredible and included: sea bass cevice, leaks with egg that I cannot possibly do justice with words alone, a fish kind of like a snapper, and guinea fowl along with the crowing jewel of the most whipped and airy panna cotta I have ever had. When Quinn told the chef it was my birthday and that it was the best birthday dinner we had ever had she gave us the recipe for the panna cotta! Isn't that incredible? Then we spent the next 5 minutes or so chatting about food and traveling. Doesn't this woman have food to cook? How in the world she can cook for an entire restaurant and have time to greet people and give them recipes is completely beyond me! Quinn commented as soon as we sat down about what a relaxing environment was created by the staff greeting us, and the open kitchen allowed us to watch her work.
On our drive home we broke a cardinal rule and ate at McDonald's. For those of you who really know Quinn you have an idea of what kind of insane situation this must have been to get him to agree to even stop at a McDonald's. I won't go into the details but just know that it involved being very HANGRY on my part of Quinn being a peacekeeper. The only reason I am sharing this story is because I was so surprised that McDonald's in the Netherlands gives out Speculoos cookies with their coffee. I couldn't believe it.
So that was our trip to Amsterdam. No red light district. No pot smoking. Just good old fashioned museums, animals, shopping, and eating. It was a great birthday.
My Mom surprised me with one last birthday present. The Savoy cocktail book. I have been talking about this thing ever since our cocktail experience in London where the bartender went on and on about this book published in the 30's in London. It is an awesome book and Quinn had been collecting all of the ingredients to make me a corpse reviver #2. He finally had all of the ingredients after we bought a bottle of small batch gin in Amsterdam. So sweet of them both to go the extra mile to make a girl a birthday cocktail! Love you both!