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Amsterdam Series: British Airways from Amsterdam to Vancouver

Hey all, hope you enjoyed my series on Europe as much as I had enjoyed blogging about it. This is my last on the series and will focus on the flight back home.

I took the British Airways flight from Amsterdam with a transit at London. I was really glad to be on my way home.

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I like British Airways — definitely more than Air Canada which I took the last time I went to London. Oh yeah, I forgot to share about some weird thing about the Brits on flights — at least on the flights I was on. When the plane landed on Heathrow, people actually claps! I guess it’s something they do … so of saying the pilot did a great job or something … *shrugs*

What I like is having your own video display on your seat. That way I have a choice of movies I wanted to watch. Forget about the computer games … they were crappy.

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So, bye bye London and Europe. I think I’ll be back again as long as I am in the same job. Although the hours were irregular, one of the perks of this job is that I get to travel.

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My fav drink … tomato juice. One thing I notice … my Asian friends mostly does not like tomato juice. I can’t really figure out what it is. Asians will drink orange juice, watermelon juice, but not tomato juice. Just the other day in a friends gathering, I made Bloody Caesars for everyone and guess what, none of them were even half-finished.

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The main meal … same old stuff. At a glance they look like a feast because the tray looked so busy.

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The bread is terrible … you see, I am now comparing this to fresh French Baguettes. I broke off a piece, spread some butter, ate it and left the rest untouched. Really, they are cold, hard and dry.

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I did not drink the wine they gave. I kept it to-go and thought I let Suanne try if she likes it.

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The salad looked colourful and pretty. It’s good cold but definitely not so cold that you see condensation all over the bowl. I’ll score 1 out of 5.

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Now, the curry rice is much much better. The rice is fragrant and the curry gravy was rich. I like it and finished it off.

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Suanne loves Cheesecakes … so I kept this for her too.

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There is only one bar of chocolate. I could have kept this for Nanzaro and Arkensen but no … they’ll only fight after that one piece. It’s a boy thing I think … they seem to need to assert themselves on one another these days.

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Ain’t Canada beautiful? This is over the BC-Alberta border … somewhere around where Banff is. It is still spring and there are still a lot of snow in the mountains. I can’t help by thinking that with global warming, one day all these will be much different.

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This is so familiar. I like window seats and have always made sure I get one. I have always enjoyed the view of Vancouver from the air. It is so beautiful … and the city looked so different from the sky.

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So here I am … home in Beautiful British Columbia. The hardest part is always waiting to clear immigration, and wait for my luggage. It always took so long. Suanne and the boys were there waiting for me. If you have never been to Vancouver’s International Airport, I can tell you that it’s one of the most beautiful airport in the world. It is not a big bust airport but certainly very beautiful.

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There you go … the end of my series. I had more than one month of blog. Again, I hope you enjoy this blog as much as I enjoyed sharing it. I can’t help feeling that I am so fortunate to have a chance to travel to Europe largely on company’s expense.

So, for the next three to four weeks, it will be mostly Suanne who will be blogging … about recipes and other food related topics.

Thanks for the feedback and taking time to read … [getting off my soapbox]. :-)

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Amsterdam Series: Schiphol Airport

Well, it’s time to go home. I was becoming homesick and just can’t wait to get home. Don’t get me wrong, I had a great time but I am missing terribly home cooked food, my own bed and the family. The last day in Amsterdam was just spent downloading my pictures, post process them and plan out the blog entries. Boy, that was a lot of work — I had thousands of pictures and sorting them out was no mean task.

I got to Schiphol about two hours before departure.

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Schiphol is one of the best airports in the world having won numerous international awards. It is not only an airport but it is also has a major train station underground. On top of that, Schiphol also has a large shopping plaza with a supermarket.

Did you know that Schiphol actually lies on a lake? It was once a lake but over the years have been drained of the water (yup, major part of it was done using windmills).

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Checking in was very fast. I was somewhat afraid they would charge me for excess weight for my luggage since my first leg of the way home was to London. British Airways are very particular about the luggage weight for flights intra Europe. They only allowed the excess baggage weight because I had an onward ticket to Vancouver.

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I knew there would be meal on board, I just stopped by a kiosk for some snacks. There are a lot of choices in the airport.

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I had Fries with gravy — very much like the Canadian poutine except that it does not have the cheese curds.

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I got a Kroket too along with a bottle of chocolate milk.

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With some time to kill before departure, I went up to the viewing platform. Not many airports these days have such an area where the public could see the planes taxi, takeoff and land. It was a sunny day … and a great day for photography.

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This is not the last in the series … I’ll have one more tomorrow.

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Amsterdam Series: City of Canal and Bicycles

Two things that you will never fail to notice in Amsterdam is canals and bicycles. Being an avid cyclist myself, I had always known that Amsterdam is the most bicycle friendly city in the world but what I learned was an eye opener.

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More about canals and bikes after this short commercial about food.

Almost everywhere I go I see fast food outlets called Febo. This is a chain of self-service fast food. The food is cheap and just perfect for tourists who just want to grab a quick bite to satisfy the hunger pangs.

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Their food is sold in a coin operated machine. You just drop the correct amount into the slot and which releases the door. It’s a very simple concept and an excellent idea for a high traffic tourist spot.

Hmmm … I have never seen this in Vancouver before. Maybe it’s a good idea for someone to introduce this in some place like Gastown.

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I think this is called Krokets but I know it’s a very popular snack in Holland. The food here is warm and freshly made. It is deep fried with a crunchy breadcrumby outsides and cheesy insides.

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The name Amsterdam came from the word Amstel Dam — Amstel being the river that flows through the city. The city centre is made up of concentric canals. It’s confusing for me navigating the place, often going one direction when I should be going the other direction. It doesn’t matter because almost everywhere I turn I come across something interesting. Amsterdam is a very walkable city.

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I also took a river cruise which was a welcome chance to sit down. These cruises are great to view the city from a different angle. There are narratives on the cruise but some tourists were yaking away that I could hardly hear anything.

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I had never seen so many bicycles in one place. This is a multi-storey bicycle park near the Amsterdam Centraal station. There must be thousands of it there. If you park your bike there, don’t forget where you put it or else it’ll be impossible to find it.

All the bikes here are old, rusty and beaten up bikes. I have not come across Treks, Giants, Specialized, etc … and no road bikes, no mountain bikes.

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Oh yeah, I did make a trip to the famous Red Light District in Amsterdam. Oh wow … I have never seen so many sex toys stores and of course the “workers” in front of the windows. It was fun just being there. He he he … there was this guy who was standing in front of a “theatre” telling me that he “knows I am a pervert and it’s OK because everyone is one”! LOL! Oh, I try not to have eye contact with the “workers” … once I did and she flipped her bikini and invited me in. BTW, how much do they normally charge?

Oh, another weird thing about Amsterdam — there are PUBLIC (!) urinals. I initially did not realize those were urinals but there are men who actually do their things right there in broad daylight and in the middle of a square.

I love Amsterdam.

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Amsterdam Series: Pannekoeken Breakfast and Museums

I did not know exactly where I was this morning. I was on a tram trying to get to the city centre when I spotted a bustling flower market. I thought I just spend a few minutes here to check out this place. It’s still early spring and so one could hardly see any tulips around. However, there were quite a lot of bulbs on sale — some of which are bigger than a fist.

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There were quite a few restaurants along the street where the flower market is. My only impression of a Dutch breakfast is the pannekoeken (or known as pannekoek in Canada). We had once tried these dutch pancakes in De Dutch here in BC.

So I guess this is where I could get the real dutch breakfast.

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The interior is dim and cozy. It was early and I was their only customer.

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I ordered coffee as usual … always coffee with milk. And there’s the piece of cookie like they always give you with coffee in Europe.

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I ordered the Pannekoeken but can’t remember which one I ordered. I thought it was banana but looking at this picture now, it does not look like it. Unlike Canadian pancakes, these are quite large but thinner.

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I think the Dutch likes sweet food. On the table was three types of sweeteners. It’s easy guessing what they are even though you can’t read Dutch right?

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My first stop of the day was at the Anne Frank’s House. The Anne Frank House is a museum dedicated to the Jewish girl who wrote a diary during World War II. She and her family hid from the German soldiers as they rounded up all Jews. There was a long line of people.

The museum is the actual house that Anne Frank hid in for a few years. We get to see the secret doorways that her father built and a glimpse of how life was during those few hard years leading to her eventual death in a concentration camp. It was a very moving exhibition. When we got to the final display, everyone was so silent …

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I next went to the van Gogh Museum which is dedicated to the most famous dutch impressionist artists. This museum has the largest collection of van Gogh’s paintings and drawings in the world. It chronicles the stages of his life until his death. I am no expert in van Gogh’s paintings but I could not see some of his most famous paintings here. I guess most of the better ones are in either private hands or in other museums in the world.

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I enjoyed the Rijksmuseum immensely even though a large part of it is closed for renovations. Of all the exhibits, I enjoyed those that showcased the Dutch golden age and how for a short span of 100 years, the little Dutch country dominated the world trade and culture. I also enjoyed the paintings, especially Rembrandt’s complex Night Watch and the simple Milkmaid painting by Vermeers.

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Brussels Series: Eurail from Brussels to Amsterdam

I woke up very early and tried to get the earliest train to Amsterdam. The Zuid/Midi station was pretty quiet at that time of the day. I had just spent two nights in Brussels. I like Brussels. It was not as exciting as London and Paris for sure. However, they have some of the best food around. The streets are safe and the people are helpful. Even in this station, I do feel safe even though it was so early.

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Many cities in Europe are linked by rail under the InterCity train service. The InterCity train between Brussels and Amsterdam is not high-speed. Because of this, it took three hours to reach Amsterdam.

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There is a run every hour. The coach are very comfortable and there were hardly anyone on board on this first run of the day. I managed to get a private room with six seats — comfy!

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Arrived at the Amsterdam Centraal station at about 9:30am. Gosh! I feel at home already. Between all the European cities I have been too, the people in Amsterdam are so similar to the people in Vancouver. They are so friendly and patient. Each time I stop people asking for directions, they will actually stop and take time to tell me.

I wanted to start the tour of Amsterdam early and check into the hotel only at night. So, I left my baggage in the Left Baggage area and start plotting my day.

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My first stop was the Visitor Centre where I got myself a 48 hours pass to the tourist spots. This pass, called I AMsterdam, came with a Guide Book and a plastic card which I can use for transit, free admissions, canal boat, discounts and believe it or not, free snacks and drinks.

I like this … this is a 48 hour pass not a 2-day pass. The 48 hour starts from first use.

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More about Amsterdam tomorrow.

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