Posts made in September, 2010

Our last days in London, Shopping, Ethiopian Food

Yesterday we took two trains back to London and spent some time in the train station in Brussels. Don’t worry everyone…even though we didn’t stay in Brussels, we made sure to pick up some chocolate from there before returning to London. We arrived at St. Pancras train station around 1:30 in the afternoon and checked our luggage into the left luggage counter so we wouldn’t have to lug it around the city. What a great service. Only a few bucks and you can leave your baggage behind. Haha. Sorry my sense of humor is a little shot because of the cold I am coming down with.

We headed onto the Tube to do some shopping. Andrew missed the Hard Rock Cafe which he collects shirts from the first time we hit up London so we had to go back there. Plus there was some other shopping stops we wanted to make as well. After a few hours of shopping we went back to the train station to sit and watch people as well as collect our luggage. In the evening, we met Mickey at his new place so we could drop our luggage off. The new place is really nice (the old one was great too), but this one has a really open floor plan and a great view. Coco the cat seems to like it too as she is currently glued to the window intensely watching the birds fly by. She’s so cute.

After having a quick drink of water, we headed over to an Ethopian restaurant that Mickey has been wanting to try. We have never tried Ethiopian food so we were pretty excited. When the food comes they bring you a large round tray of this spongy thin pancake-like bread. They also give you additional pieces. The idea is for them to dump all the food into the middle of the tray and you pull off small pieces of the bread and scoop up the food with it. It’s very family-style dining. We had a lamb and a chicken dish as well as some delicious spinach. It’s like nothing we have ever tried before, but it was great. At the end of the dinner we ordered the coffee service where they bring out a small strongly-brewed pitcher of coffee and you drink it out of very small cups while eating popcorn. It was very strong, but a great traditional experience.

After dinner we walked around the area and saw some of the London canals. We were here for almost a week and we never even knew London had any canals. They were beautiful and quiet at night. Really peaceful. Then we headed back to get some rest.

This morning we are just taking our time packing up so we can head to the airport a little later. We did in fact need another luggage because of all the souvenirs we bought. Oh well, we tried. Mickey and Cheryl were nice enough to let us borrow one of theirs that they aren’t using so we were really lucky there. We will be home in no time and I will do one final blog post when we arrive. We miss you all and can’t wait for the sunny California weather as it’s been a little cold and rainy here. For the final time from Eurpoe…Au revior, Chelsie and Andrew

P.S. We have seen all the Facebook complaining about the heat in LA, but we still can’t wait. There’s nothing like Autumn in California eh?

Read More

Back to our First Hotel, Amsterdam in the Rain, Private Canal Tour, Even More Indo Food

Back to our First Hotel, Amsterdam in the Rain, Private Canal Tour, Even More Indo Food

Andrew gave me his cold and it is now in full swing. I woke up this morning with a raging sore throat and had a hard time getting up. Because of this and the fact we were up late last night making travel arrangements, we slept in until 11:00 a.m. and then packed up. We enjoyed our first hotel and its location so much that we decided to move back there for our last night in Amsterdam. We also wanted to take advantage of their private boat for a little canal tour. In other news, our luggage is getting pretty tight with all the stuff we bought plus we have a small box waiting for us in London as well. We will see how it goes, but we may need to buy another bag to get everything home. At around noon, we took a cab back to our original hotel and checked in. The room wasn’t ready yet so we walked to a little Indonesian restaurant that was serving lunch. It wasn’t anything fancy, but it really hit the spot. Especially since it is cold and rainy outside.

Ignoring the rain we decided to do a little more shopping on one of the main streets. It was pretty much an area that had all the brand name stores we have at home so we didn’t end up buying anything, but we did get soaking wet because of all the rain. Oh well, a little water never hurt anyone right? We also visited this really cool vintage shop that has an awesome leather weekend bag I am thinking of buying to lug all our souvenirs home in. We will see.

After our little shopping trip we had coffee in the hotel lounge while they put the finishing touches on our room. This one is even better than our first room here. It’s huge with a second floor bathroom suite. Nice! After we scoped it out it was time for our private canal cruise. The boat was a little bit late picking us up because it was having some technical difficulties, but when it arrived it was just beautiful and our captain Nico was really great. He gave us information about the canal houses and lots of history on Amsterdam. He even took us out into the open harbor. It was a perfect way to spend our last night here. After the boat ride was over we broke our cardinal vacation rule and ate at the same place twice. We enjoyed Blauw so much two nights ago that we couldn’t resist another meal there. We even discussed it with the concierge, but he agreed that if we liked it that much then we should go back as they don’t have many other modern Indonesian restaurants in town.  They even remembered us and gave us the same table. This time we tried the 20 plate rice table which is basically 20 small dishes of all kinds of different things. There was gado gado (peanutty slaw), two kinds of sate, two fish dishes, two beef dishes, a pork dish, my favorite coconut shavings and lots of other things as well. We were stuffed at the end of it all, but Andrew still made sure to save room for the cendol dessert. We took a taxi back to the hotel and now we are preparing for an early morning. Tomorrow we get on the train to spend one more night in London before heading home on Wednesday. Tomtom, our London coffee shop, is calling Andrew’s name. Au revior, Chelsie and Andrew

Our last hotel in Amsterdam

Our bathroom

Ready for the private canal tour

Our boat "Kleijn Amsterdam" and Nico

View from the boat in the open harbor...and look, a huge floating Chinese restaurant

The canals from the boat at night

Thanks for taking our picture Nico

The "rice table" at Blauw

Blauw has the biggest mints in existence. Andrew likened them to bleach toilet tabs

Read More

Waffles, Van Gogh Museum, Pea Soup, Flower Market, Shopping

Waffles, Van Gogh Museum, Pea Soup, Flower Market, Shopping

Sorry about the late blog post. We are having such a wonderful time here in Amsterdam that we have decided to extend our stay until Tuesday and then head back to London for one night instead of going to Brussels. Last night I couldn’t post because I spent the time rearranging our train tickets and hotels. Overall we had a really great day…maybe our best yet. We woke up a little later (around 10ish) and walked down to Museumplein which is the area of town that houses most of the museums. We were pretty hungry at that point so we perused the carts that had setup shop along the park. One of them was selling waffles and that did it for me. I had the waffle with cherries and Andrew had the waffle with chocolate sauce. Both were piping hot having just come out of the waffle iron and sprinkled with powdered sugar. Mom, I thought of you because I know waffles are your favorite. It really hit the spot and we were off to the Van Gogh museum. We pre-bought our tickets from our last hotel so we go to cut the line and go right in. What an amazing experience. You can’t really get a full appreciation of Van Gogh’s work unless you are right there looking at the actual brush strokes. Plus we learned a lot about his motivations and tumultuous life that also gave us a deeper appreciation of his art. Overall it was a great experience and we didn’t regret it one bit.

After that we walked a while to the flower market which is setup on permanent barges along one of the canals. It was so beautiful. They had all kinds of fresh flowers. Some we had seen before and others that we had not. They also had hundreds of varieties of tulips bulbs for sale of all colors, shapes, and sizes. We even saw jet-black tulips. By this time we were getting hungry for lunch so we stepped inside a small cafe that was advertising fresh Dutch pea soup. We ordered a bowl along with some fluffy UFO-shaped pancakes. Both were delicious. The pea soup was great. It was more like a pea stew though with carrots and potatoes. After that we shopped in lots of the the little boutiques that lined the streets. We found some great stuff and I’m just hoping it will all fit into our luggage on the way home.

After all the shopping we walked about a mile back to the hotel and got ready for dinner. When we first got here I had the concierge make us a reservation at Fifteen Amsterdam, a restaurant owned by British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. It was all the way over by the train station we came in on so we had to take a taxi. It was a beautiful restaurant inside…part graffiti art part modern high fashion. When we first arrived they couldn’t find our reservation, but that was quickly resolved and we were seated. As a snack, the chef made for us chickpea fritters with a saffron mayonnaise. For starters I ordered the sweet corn soup with chicken liver pate and Andrew had mozzarella with pesto and roasted pumpkin. Both were great, but I liked my soup better. For our entrees Andrew had the venison and I had the gnocchi with red pepper broth. We finished everything off with an amazing chocolate tart. Everything was wonderful except the sour cream-like whipped topping on the tart. It was almost like whipped cream made out of buttermilk. I thought it was okay, but Andrew promptly pushed it off to the side of the plate. Buttermilk in general isn’t that uncommon here. One morning Andrew was given it instead of cream for his coffee. He had to make up for it with lots of sugar. :) Our trip is coming to an end soon and we will be home before you know it. Thanks for following our adventures on the blog. We miss you all. Au revior, Chelsie and Andrew

P.S. Andrew says I look very Dutch after seeing all the people here.


A random Kimodo Dragon installation in one of the parks we walked by

Wooden shoes for sale in a shop. People were actually trying them on get the right fit. Really??? I don't have a single outfit to go with those.

Flowers for sale at the floating flower market

Bouquets for sale at the flower market

Another canal, they are all so beautiful

Food vending machine with dutch croquettes

Andrew in front of the I am Amsterdam iconic sign

Ready to eat at Fifteen

Inside Fifteen Amsterdam, Jamie Oliver's restaurant

Read More

Anne Frank House, The Jordaan, Amsterdam Market, More Indonesian Food

Anne Frank House, The Jordaan, Amsterdam Market, More Indonesian Food

We woke up bright and early this morning excited to see more of Amsterdam. We had breakfast at the hotel where they put out a buffet of high quality fruit, smoked meats, cheeses, and breads. They also had one of Andrew’s favorites “De Ruijter” chocolate sprinkles. They are a Dutch invention. Basically they take an un-toasted slice of white bread, brush a bunch of butter on it, and layer on the chocolate sprinkles. We actually have some of the sprinkles at home as a special treat so we saw it and knew just what to do. It was tasty. We also had some smoked salmon for breakfast as well. I guess that is popular here as we have been eating lots of it morning, noon, and night. As soon as we left the hotel we headed for a fun neighborhood called The Jordaan. The concierge recommended it to us because it is a quaint neighborhood with lots of good photo opportunities because the canal houses are so picturesque in that area. As we walked along, we stumbled upon the Anne Frank House as they were opening. Since the line was pretty short, we decided to go in and we were really glad we did. You basically get to see the house as it was in 1944 (but without the furniture) when the Franks were hiding there from the Nazis. It really gives you perspective about how close they were living and leaves you with sadness that Anne never got to see her diary published as she always wished. The message of the museum is of tolerance and it gives you an appreciation for what a wonderful and wise young girl Anne was. It is an incredibly special place that we were lucky to be able to visit. As we exited the building, we saw hundreds of people standing on the block. Apparently we were lucky to arrive early in the morning, because by 10:30, the line was around two corners of the building. It was insane! Next we headed on to The Jordaan. As we started our neighborhood tour, we saw an amazing farmer’s market where people were selling all kinds of organic produce, flowers, meats, and cheeses. Of course we snapped a few pictures there which you can see below. We then continued on and saw all kinds of beautiful houses along the canals and got a feel for the area. It was amazing. We also stopped in a few shops including this really cool one called Kitsch Kitchen featuring Dutch oil cloth which is a vinyl-like material that is printed in really unique patterns and bright colors. We bought a few souvenirs there and finished our walk.

It was now lunchtime so we dropped off our goods at the hotel and looked around for something to eat. We found this great little lunch spot called Goodies which looked crowded with locals so we tried it. We ended up having a really nice lunch. I had a smoked salmon and egg bagel sandwich (see…there they go again with the smoked fish) and Andrew had a smoked chicken sandwich. Fun atmosphere, decent food, and friendly service…all at a low price. What more can you ask for? After lunch we headed back to the hotel to pack our bags and move to the new location. Our new place is just as nice as the last one except the service isn’t quite as good, but that’s okay because I paid less than half the price. With anything else, you get what you pay for. It’s definitely not bad, the people just aren’t overly helpful. When we checked in and the receptionist showed us for our room, she forgot to bring the key with her and she was looking at us like we had it. Haha, we were laughing. Especially since it is quite a hike to get to our room from the front desk. Apparently this hotel used to be a college and is really beautiful inside and out.

After check-in we explored the room and the hotel and then took a quick nap before heading out to another Indonesian restaurant. This one was called Restaurant Blauw and the food was just as amazing as last nights, without the fiery inferno experience. We ate goat satay, another version of rendeng, and shrimp in a coconut sauce. This place also gave us tons of little dishes to go with the main courses like they do at home in Korean restaurants. My favorite was the sweet coconut shavings with peanuts. We had a good laugh at the French tourists at the next table who had obviously never eaten Indonesian food before. Their eyes kept getting bigger and bigger with every dish that came out. They looked scared of everything. Haha, having just left Paris and being on the short end of the stick (and the victims of a little bit of snootyness) because we didn’t speak French very well, it was nice to feel like they were the ones who couldn’t speak the language. See what it feels like? Just kidding…it’s not like we speak Dutch either, but pretty much everyone here speaks perfect English and is more than happy to talk to you. They don’t speak very much French here from what we can tell. At the beginning of the meal, Andrew asked if they had cendol. The waitress said they did, but when we got the dessert menus we didn’t see it. We asked the waiter and he said that it was on the secret menu that no one knows about. We ordered it and Andrew was a very happy camper. It was a slightly different take on traditional cendol with melons and cendol flavored ice cream, but we loved it anyway. Makes me wonder what else is on that secret menu. Hmmm… We finished every last bit and hailed a cab to take us back to the hotel as we haven’t yet figured out the tram system. Maybe tomorrow. Oh and all throughout the day the weather has been rainy with patches of sun and has been unpredictable, as I write this I can hear the rain against our windows. Hopefully tomorrow will bring more sunshine. Au revior, Chelsie and Andrew

California-style rain

Anne Frank Huis Entrance

Andrew at the Frank residence

For those wondering, there are narrow-one-way streets on each side of the canals.

Us in Amsterdam

Biker in Amsterdam

Walker in Amsterdam

Beautifully back-lit array of fruits and veg

Some kind of math fractal cauliflower. Yay math!

Andrew at Goodies

Chelsie getting the goods at Goodies

Our room at The College Hotel

The Entrance. Vespa for rent.

The College Hotel under the moon

Chelsie at Restaurant Blauw

Delicious (head-on) tiger prawns. YUM!!


Cendol, a tasty Indonesian treat

Read More