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The Netherlands, my second favorite country

A friend of mine has a son and a daughter-in-law who are planning a trip to Amsterdam in a month or so and she asked me for some suggestions or recommendations of places to visit.  I was not a tourist when I lived there in 1984 and 1985 as a missionary, but I have been back to visit three times since then, and now that she's asking about it,  I want to go again! Lucky! I'm jealous. They are going to LOVE it.  I have some ideas of how they can spend their time, and don't know if a real Dutchman (or woman) would agree.  They probably would because they're so easy going and love Americans.  At least all the ones I know do! I'm assuming they will be using mass transit. Here is my list of a lot of things they should do. There are a ton of day trips they can book. Even though it will be chilly and perhaps (most likely wet and/or snowy/rainy), a bike tour is so Dutch. They've got to do one. Just go prepared with rain boots and warm clothes. The weather doesn't stop the Dutchies! There's one particular bike tour in Amsterdam, I believe, that ends up at a cheese farm, and that's always a good place to be. There is a company called Joy Ride Tours that they can book their tour through, according to my sister, Julie.

They should go to the Van Gogh Museum, it's fantastic, I love it, and to the Rembrandt home, and Rijksmuseum (that's where the massive famous Night Watch painting is).  These are standard must-see places to visit. They should take a train to Delft, it's a cute little Dutch village and the place of the famous Delft Blue (Delfts Blauw) porcelain art. It's rather expensive if they want to buy the real deal, but worth going and picking up a piece as a souvenir. Also close by Amsterdam, there is a place called Volendam, a little Dutch tourist village where real people live, and dress in authentic traditional Dutch clothing. It's so darling and they can get some fantastic pictures there. I'd go there for sure. Again, the weather will most likely not be good in February or March, but don't stay in because of it. There is a place called The Zaanse Schaans that has all kinds of windmills to tour and is also a big tourist spot that is great to visit. My former mission companion, Carol, and I went to both The Zaanse Schaans, and to Volendam on our trip together there. Both places will give you a good taste of Holland in a nutshell, that isn't the artsy style of place like the museums.

In later months, like April, the must-see place is in Lisse, where there exists a tulip and flowers in general paradise, called Keukenhof, which translates to kitchen garden.  This incredible garden destination is a huge annual attraction. Depending on the dates that they travel, this may be an option. If not, it will be something to look forward to another time. It is one of the most beautiful places on earth. We had a mission gathering there about the first week of May, back in the day, and I'll always remember it. That might be the only time I've been there, regretfully! I've been back to "Nederland" a couple of times since my mission. Speaking of, the LDS temple is near Den Haag (The Hague), and is in a place where Carol was actually assigned to serve, called Zoetermeer. It's a small temple (it's "klein maar fijn," which means small but nice) and was brand new when I was there with my former comp. There's not a lot else to see around the temple, but if I were to go to The Netherlands, I'd for sure want to visit the temple, since I went there on my mission. If they do go to The Hague, they might want to check out the Corrie Ten Boom house (The Hiding Place) and the Mauritshuis Museum. I've never been to either, but my sister has and recommends both. That's where many international events take place, anything political. There is also a place in The Hague that has miniatures replicas, kind of like dollhouse versions of many of the country's most famous places that you can walk around, and get an overview of.  I can't think of the name of it, but will edit it in when I do.

So back in A-dam, (that's what you might see sometimes for Amsterdam), there's also the home where Anne Frank and her family hid out. It's a very interesting historical place to tour and to actually stand in and picture what life and the struggles may have been like during that time.   I certainly recommend going there if time permits.

Food!  Some food that they must try in my second favorite country in the world includes poffertjes, frites, pannekoeken, and last but not least, Indonesian cuisine. Poffertjes are little bite-sized pancakes that street vendors make on big griddles that have little divets in them, and then they douse them with butter and powdered sugar and serve them hot. They are soooo good. Frites are basically french fries and will rock your world. Tell them to not be afraid to have them served with pindasaus (a flavorful, spicy peanut sauce) or mayonnaise, and are so incredible. It sounds odd, but is delicious. They serve the hot frites (sounds like freets) in a cone made out of a piece of paper, good and hot. The best.  The pannekoeken are tasty too. They serve these thin pancakes (pannekoeken) that cover an entire big plate or platter for one person, and you can have various interesting toppings cooked into them. Yummy. Oh, be sure to have some fresh bread from a bakery (bakerij), and a gevuldekoek, which is a tiny bit like a sugar cookie, filled with almond paste.  Those were my weakness when I lived there, in addition to the chocolate filled croissants.  I probably just gained a kilo thinking of them.

As far as the Indonesian food goes, it is about as mainstream to the Dutch, as Mexican food is to Americans, or at least to Texans! There is (or was) an excellent Indonesian restaurant called Sama Sebo. They should go there and order the rijs taffel, which means rice table, for two. They will get a variety of food brought out to them and it is such an adventure in eating.  Go hungry. The food is plentiful and amazing. One more thing that I would eat is a schwarma, another foreign food that is typical Dutch, similar to a gyro.  It's for sure more of a fast food item, than the rijs taffel is.

DO NOT go to the red light district, near the Centraal Station in Amsterdam, regardless. It's idiotic to waste time to go there, even if out of curiosity, it's disgusting. Drugs, sex, pure evil. The areas by the train station have really gone downhill so badly since I lived there. So gross. Many of the buses and trains and trams go through there, so you'll be in the vicinity, but don't veer off far from there. 
My sister and her family visited Alkmaar and had such a great time. They got their poffertjes fix at a stand in Alkmaar, but you can get them in many places. On Fridays, there is also an entertaining cheese show where the handlers dress in traditional clothing and transport their giant wheels of cheese and make a big deal out of their fabulous cheeses.  Oh, Dutch cheese! It's a little slice of heaven. You can take a train to Utrecht and go on a bike tour that goes out and back to a castle, which is supposed to be fabulous, although I've never tried it. Amersfoort is another place to visit, and not quite as far.  I'll share some of my photos from when I was there last, in 2002, after the temple was built.

Above is outside the chapel in Amsterdam, where I attended church when I was assigned to live in Amsterdam, companions with Carol!  We both enjoyed visiting our old ward together.
All this talk about The Netherlands makes me want to go back! Above is the beautiful home of our friends Margot and Axel, whom I love getting a Christmas letter from every year.  Ik hou van Nederland! (I love The Netherlands!)  Kelly and I need to start planning our next trip back.


Mom in training said…
Kelly, I think you may have mistaken Scheveningen with Volendam. Scheveningen is where the locals go to the beach and walk along, eat frites, and play. Volendam is where you can get your picture taken with dutch clothing on. Haarlem, Delft and Scheveningen are great places to go to in one day. The Mauritzhuis is where you can see the lovely Vermeer painting, Girl with a Pearl Earring and loads of other marvelous paintings.
Mom in training said…
You mentioned the Corrie Ten Boom house, it is so great if you are familiar with her and her wonderful family who hi Jews in their house during WWII. Her book, The Hiding Place, is one of the best books I have ever read, and being there in her house seeing for myself where they lived was just awe inspiring. DO NOT, as Kelly says, go near the Red Light district. She is totally right, I lived there for 2 years and never once went. Why poison your mind if you don't need to? Go on the bike tour if you do anything in Holland.
Kelly said…
Obvious that my brain is jumbled! Yes! Scheveningen IS the awesome beach area love it. And Volendam is the other cool place. I will edit this later to straighten things out. Thanks, Julie!

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