Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Dutch Darlings - Flowers and Van Gogh

Because we live around the corner, we were lucky enough to get invited to the grand opening of the new Van Gogh museum entrance (did I mention what a great neighborhood we live in?).

It was a fabulous event, just a small group of invitees with champagne and hors d'oeuvres.  And they allowed us to tour the entire museum with lots of experts to answer questions.

The new entrance - lots of curved glass and open spaces!
The new entrance is fantastic - a big improvement over the current entrance, with lines that go around the block.  Evidently it's been under construction for a long time, so it's worth the celebration!  Can you find us in the photo below?  Somehow we ended up in their promotional photos!
Photo:  Courtesy Van Gogh Museum
But the best part of the grand opening?  They wanted to commemorate Van Gogh's 125th anniversary of his death - so they brought in 125,000 sunflowers and created a giant maze on the Museumplein.

But that was just one of the big events focusing on the Van Gogh anniversary.  On the day of his death, a group from his hometown came to Amsterdam to create a giant flower mural portrait.

All ages were included and the kids seemed to have a great time creating their own masterpieces!

The finished project!
This same group holds an annual flower parade (the biggest in the Netherlands) every September.  We drove down for the parade and were overwhelmed with the floats!

Can you see the individual flowers?

They were amazing....but also a bit disturbing.  The theme seemed to be the short, tortured life of Vincent!  The floats were all animated and included lots of creepy music, to highlight the effect.  The creepiness doesn't translate well with the photos.....but I'm sure you get the idea!

The purple buds open to these bright flowers
My favorite - a porcupine made of pencils!
They spelled out his name in blue flowers on each pencil

Anatomically correct - in flowers!!!

Possibly my second favorite - how did they assemble this with fresh flowers??

No matter which way you looked at this, there were faces staring at you

Somehow this celebration of Van Gogh expresses a lot of what we have found the Netherlands has to offer.  Great artistic talent, flair for the big events and lots of color and energy.  So exciting to be here!

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Monday, September 28, 2015

Move In Day

They were able to get our new apartment ready quickly and we couldn't wait to move in.  And while we know moving is always a challenge, we didn't quite know how exhausting it would be!

The taxi came to pick us up (dog, kennel and all!) first thing in the morning.  But they showed up with a station wagon taxi and we couldn't fit.  So he called for another one.  But we didn't fit in that one either.  But rather than wait for a van, we just filled up 2 of them and got going.

By now, we were 45 minutes late for 'check in' (in a country where everyone is amazingly prompt), which requires taking a series of photos (54 MB worth) and completing a thorough questionnaire on the condition of the property.  There was a daunting amount of paperwork to be signed (in Dutch), but thankfully our relo support folks helped with that, as we moved things in.

The taxis had dropped off our mountain of luggage and we started hauling everything upstairs.

Yup - 34 stairs to the front door.  Multiply that times 20 various pieces of luggage and - you get the idea - we don't need to go to the gym this week.

All our belongings fit on one wall!
The apartment was furnished, but the giant old sofa and chairs were too big for the space, so we asked the landlord to remove them - as well as this giant coffee table, but somehow that got lost in the translation.  

And on a bright note, they removed all those extra mattresses!

We also had them remove the Marilyn Monroe photos from the walls.  Seriously, I don't think I could look at her day in and day out!  Talk about creating an inferiority complex :-)  And while I'm not crazy about the sailboat photos, it's still an improvement

The apartment feels a bit sterile and empty, not very 'homey', so we plan to fix that quickly.  So one of the first things we'll need to do is some shopping. Ah yes, what a hardship!!!

We are so glad to have a place to call home!

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Thursday, September 24, 2015

And the Decision Is......

While we were agonising over which apartment to rent, the decision got made for us!  The owners of apartment 2 decided to sell, instead of rent it.

And it's funny, as soon as they said that, we agreed that apartment 1 actually felt more like home for us.  (I know, that's what you all thought as well!!!) So we'll be moving soon!

In the meantime, here's a peek at the new neighborhood.

Street view - complete with dedicated bike/scooter lane!  And yes, the tram noise will probably take some getting used to.

Oh and we checked, the bar next door is open until midnight on weeknights and 3 am on the weekends.  Yikes!  But the apartment owner has installed top quality windows that drown out a lot of noise, so at least in the cold weather months it should be fine.

The Museumplein is just around the corner.  This is the home to the top museums in Amsterdam.  The Stedelijk is the modern art museum.  It's nicknamed 'the bathtub' - ha ha, can you tell why???  The Van Gogh Museum is next to it and they are in the final stages of finishing the new entrance, which is the big round building you see in the photo.  And finally, the amazing Rijks Museum, full of Golden Age Dutch artists like Rembrandt and Vermeer.

On the other corner is the US Consulate General - which I hope to never need, but find oddly comforting!  

And at the other end of the Plein (aka Square) is the world famous Concertgebouw.  Which has a steady stream of amazing concerts, every day of the week.  We do feel a bit guilty that this is where we will walk our dog Daphne to do her business every day - but hey, she needs grass!

We will move in next week and can't wait to start calling this home!

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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

House Hunting - Which Apartment Would You Choose?

So after looking at a dozen apartments, we narrowed our search down to two.  They are in the same general area, with lots of amenities.  Both of the homes were built in the early 1900's and have that tall, narrow Dutch style.  I'd love to hear your thoughts!  Which would you choose?

Apartment 1 - Museumplein

This apartment is around the corner from the world famous Musumplein, home to The Rijksmuseum (one of the top 10 in the world per National Geographic), the Van Gogh Museum, the Stedlijk Museum (the Dutch version of MOMA) and the Concertgebouw.  It's a bustling location that exudes energy, next door to restaurants, trams/buses, and shopping.

The apartment is on the 2nd floor (3rd floor to our American brains - 34 steps to be exact!), faces south (so lots of sunlight) and comes furnished.  There are 3 bedrooms, two bathrooms, and two toilets.  As well as a rooftop deck and a balcony.

The living room is nicely sized - but the furniture is enormous, making it difficult to walk through the room.  There is a gas fireplace, which will be wonderful in the winter!  And the ceilings are really high, which makes the rooms seem even bigger.
Marilyn Monroe photos - yeah....I want to look at her everyday!!
The french doors open to a balcony which looks down on the cafe below.  The office is off to to the left of the living room.  

View from balcony to cafe below

What do you think of the bright red kitchen?  At least it has an American sized range!
Dining room with small breakfast room next to the windows
Office space - off of the Living Room
Don't you love this staircase?

Smallest bedroom - no idea why there are so many mattresses!
There are 3 bedrooms upstairs, as well as a sauna, a giant closet with a washer/dryer, and the staircase to the rooftop deck.
Sauna - which apparently doubles as storage for vacuum cleaner, cleaning supplies, etc.
Bedroom number two
Check out the light fixture over the bed.  It's blinding when it's on.  There is a nice balcony through the double doors.

This is the hallway bathroom.  I love the sloped walls/ceiling and the exposed timbers.

The front bedroom is really large and like the back bedroom, it has a king sized bed.  Isn't the chandelier gorgeous?  But again, why extra mattresses???

This Jack and Jill bathroom is between the two large bedrooms.  That's the shower off to the right.  And there is no toilet in either bathroom - that's reserved for the toilet room, which is in the hallway so everyone can access it!

The upstairs hall has these double doors with the washer/dryer behind them.  The staircase leads up to the rooftop deck.

View from rooftop - that's the Rijksmuseum in the distance
The Stedlijk Museum is straight ahead, with the Van Gogh museum on the right.
The rooftop deck is pretty amazing, with views of world famous museums and the concert halls in every direction.

Apartment 2 - Old Zuid

This apartment is on a busy tram line, but is a quieter location than apartment 1.  It has 2 bedrooms, two bathrooms (and a toilet in the bathroom - oh my, such a luxury!), and is unfurnished.  Now unfurnished is WAY different than what we are used to.  There is no such thing as a closet here - everyone uses a wardrobe.  So you need to supply wardrobes, light fixtures (yup, there are just connections at the ceiling), furniture, etc.  (Just be thankful this isn't Germany, you need to bring your own kitchen there!).  We need a reconnaissance trip to IKEA to figure out what it would cost to furnish it!

It's a bit bigger than the first one and very contemporary inside - which would be a fun sort of change!  I'm pretty jazzed about that idea.  It's also on the 2nd floor, with a confusing stairway that shares storage space with the neighbors.
The living room is huge, with a gas fireplace and beautiful parquet wood floors.

Look at this kitchen!  It looks like something out of a magazine with an oven, espresso machine and microwave all built in to the cabinetry.  And there is a big refrigerator and freezer (it's the unit on the right side of the cabinet wall)- Hooray!  The only thing I can't figure out is where you store your 'stuff' when you have a streamlined kitchen like this!  The only counter space is on the open island.  I'm not sure we're neat enough for this layout!
There isn't a balcony in this apartment, but the sliders off of the dining room open wide.  
This small office is next to the dining room.  A bit claustrophobic, but the french doors open to the railing.

 Upstairs, there is a decent sized master bedroom.  Again, doors open to a railing - so not as nice as a balcony, but still a great touch.

This is the nicest master bathroom we saw in any apartment, including a toilet, tub and shower.  Oh, and all the bathrooms have those nice wall mounted towel heaters.  That's a nice touch!!

 This is the front bedroom.  I love the angles and beams!  The only tricky part is where would you put a wardrobe?  There is only one blank wall that would really work for a bed - but wardrobes would need to go there too!  Hmmm.......

So these are both great apartment options, with different pros and cons.  Which one would you choose?  Apartment 1?  Or Apartment 2?

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