Friday, September 26, 2014

Netherlands Adventures!: A Weekend With Marie!

Last weekend, I had the honor of hosting my French sister, Marie, in the Netherlands!  She arrived Friday afternoon and we wasted no time looking around.  We walked to the Rembrandtpark and while we were in that area, we ran into the museum of ethnology.  This was a super cool place to visit. It's a museum that covers a number of cultures from each continent (although not Europe, since the museum is in Europe, and not Antarctica, since there are few people living there).  I don't have a lot of picture proof, but I have these two:

We went into the exhibit on Oceania and there was a photo-booth of sorts where you could insert your face into a picture of someone dressed in the traditional clothing of one of the islands there.  It was good fun for a while!

Saturday was a much busier day for us.  We woke up at 7:30 in order to get ready and catch an early intercity train to Amsterdam!  There we rented bikes to move about the city-- it was really a good idea.  There truly is no better way to experience the Netherlands.  We met a nice guy there who happens to be a fan of Minnesota.  I think he's Dutch, too.

Our first stop was the Sexmuseum.  It's kind of a ridiculous museum, but one that you have to see once in your life if you happen to be close by.  This museum is filled with examples of how people in ancient Rome and Greece practiced sex all the way to how people do it today.  The picture I have below is quite tame, compared to what else you can see in this museum.  I'll just say that.

After we finished with the Sexmuseum, we biked over to the Tulip Museum.  This was neat, since we can't go and see Keukenhof (the very well-known fields of tulips).  At this time, the tulips have been uncovered and are probably in the process of being cleaned and split to make more bulbs.  I don't think that they'll have been placed back in the ground yet.  Tulip bulbs are supposed to be planted right before the first frost, I believe.


Fun Fact: Tulips aren't actually Dutch!  They come from practically everywhere BUT the Netherlands.  They're so famous in the Netherlands though because of how obsessed people were with them.  Tulip bulbs were more valuable than gold, more valuable that property... that is, until the tulip market crashed.  Now tulips are just a sort of a beautiful reminder of a crazy time in the history of the Netherlands.

I tried to buy my own tulip bulbs while we were there, but I learned two things: 1) as someone who lives in the U.S., I have to get specially certified tulip bulbs.  Otherwise the bulbs will be taken away from me.  2) I couldn't get my tulip bulbs that Saturday because the certification only lasts 6 weeks.  So I'll have to come back to the tulip museum and get my bulbs in December before I go home.  But I don't want to think about that now.  I have too much I want to see and do before December comes.  

After the tulip museum, we went to go find lunch.  I wanted to visit the Vondelpark and we knew that there was at least one place to eat there, so we biked over to the park.  It was a beautiful day, despite the forecast of rain (which turned out to be incorrect).  We found a cafeteria, got sandwiches, and ate lunch next to the river/canal thing that ran just outside of the cafeteria/restaurant.  After that, we found a fountain/swimming pool and decided to step in.  It felt incredible, since we'd been biking all day and our feet were hot and gross (TMI, sorry).

After lunch, we were in the general area of the Museum Quarter, so went to a small museum called the Diamond Museum!  You know, why now?

How diamonds are polished and ground-down to be the pretty and sparkly things we know and love.
Van Gogh's 'Starry Night' enhanced with diamonds.

World-famous diamonds.
Diamond encrusted gorilla skull.
They made the room with the gorilla skull make it feel like you were standing inside a diamond.
Needless to say, Amsterdam is the city of Diamonds.  I didn't know that before visiting this museum though.

These photo booth places are so much fun!  Every museum needs them, seriously!
Our final step was the palace situated in Dam Square.  This palace used to be the town hall, but was later a palace.  

I think I will need to visit the palace again one day.  Having been to so many museums before this one, I was impatient with the audio tour.  The audio tour was long though... there was a lot of talk about the art on the walls and I just wasn't that interested at the time.  But it's an incredibly beautiful building, inside and out.  I can appreciate beauty no matter how tired I am, I think.

We caught the train back to Leiden after this.  I thought we'd be in for the rest of the night, but after dinner, people on our floor were going pub-hopping and Marie thought that sounded fun, so we went along.  I discovered that pubs are not so bad.  It's the clubs that I'm just too nervous to try.  I do not mind pubs.  I went to two that night.  That was my limit (and Marie's too, it seems like) after going through such a busy day.

Sunday we passed a quiet morning.  We both slept in (Marie had woken up early two days in a row) and then we hung out until Marie had to catch a train to Rotterdam (where she would catch her train to Paris).  It was a busy and incredible weekend with my French sister.  I can't wait to see her again in November, this time in France and this time with my family!  It'll be the first time we'll all be together since Marie last visited the U.S., about two years ago, I think.

That's it for now!  Tot Ziens!


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