Aug 29, 2014

Europe 2014: markets

Went to several different markets while in Amsterdam : book market in Spui, Albert Cuypmarkt, the Flower Market, and a local organic market.

I stumbled upon the book market in Spui while walking back to my host, Merijn's place. Spent more than a hour walking and browsing through the stalls. The stalls have some really interesting stuffs, other than books. There are lots of old and obscure books. Most of the books are in Dutch so it was good as I would be tempted to buy them if they are in English. :) Wanted to get some old posters but decided against it as I don't have a proper case for them and this was just my first destination of my trip. I don't want to carry them all over only to get them crumpled and/or torn. There are also some very nice old wooden/metal signage from the 1960s and 1970s which would make very nice home deco items. Again, had to resist my urge to buy them due to my already heavy luggage. :(

For me, it is so refreshing to see people being (still) so passionate about books in this electronic age. Although I bought a Kindle 2 years ago, I still prefer to read actual physical books. Reading is still very much a pastime that many in Europe engaged in. All of my CS hosts have at least 1 shelf filled with books. In fact, a few of them have wall-to-wall shelves that are lined with books of at least 2 different languages!

My 2nd host, Amy, lives near Albert Cuymarkt so she took me there after I reached her place. It was like a mixture of 'pasar pagi' and farmers' market. Lots of stores selling clothes & accessories, cheese, fresh produces, flowers, traditional Dutch food, etc. The weather was good, so the place was pretty crowded. Again, I didn't buy anything. Just browsing and taking in the sights, sounds and smells. 

After Albert Cuypmarkt, we went to the flower market. We took a slow walk there, since you can practically walk to anywhere within Amsterdam city. The stores there are selling lots of seeds, seedlings and grown plants. Lots of tulips and other types of flowers which as a non-flower person I don't really recognize much less name them, but they sure are very nice to look at. :) 

The local organic market was also another pleasant place I stumbled upon while wandering around Amsterdam. It was a small market with just a few stalls selling fresh agriculture produces and a few more selling snacks and drinks.

Really love visiting these open-air markets.. ^.^

Aug 26, 2014

Europe 2014: bicycle and rembrandt

Borrowed jacket & scarf cos of the drizzle
How could I have stayed in Amsterdam for 6 days and NOT cycled? So my 2nd host in Amsterdam, Amy, took me riding along Amstel River, all the way to one of the many Rembrandt statues within Amsterdam and a nice windmill (actually, this is outside Amsterdam 'city').

It was drizzling and we almost didn't want to do it. But in the end, I decided 'what the heck!' cos how often do you get to have a local willing to take you bicycling, right? We avoided the city area because the bike I'm on was high, even for me. It belonged to a family friend of my host. I've always thought of myself as being tall, but being in The Netherlands, I'm short! The bike seat is higher than my waist! For the first time, I can't reach the ground with my foot/feet while seated on a bike. I tried to lower the seat but it was already at the lowest. Anyway, since I need to 'jump off' every time I stop, we decided to take the bikes to the outskirts and avoid the crowds. I've seen several bike crashes and accidents involving tourists in the city center, so I'm not going to be one of the statistics.

statue of Rembrandt & windmill

It was a fun and leisure ride, we chatted during the ride as the roads we took were pretty deserted. We were the only ones on most of them. Nice scenery along the way, with trees, farms, canals and wide fields lining the sides in intervals. Along the way, we talked about lots of things, from religion to education to relationships to FB 'friends' to everyday stuffs.. Think it took us more than an hour to get there. There was a tourist bus there but left just as we were reaching. So we kinda had the entire place to ourselves.

The place is nice and quiet.. no place to actually sit down and chat, so I just took some photos and we left. We then took another route back, going through all the neighborhoods and small roads.. it was really fun cycling in the rain. This is definitely something you'll never get to do if you're staying in a hotel/hostel! ^.^

Aug 24, 2014

Sunday Serenade: how they want me to be

First I must admit that I was attracted by the song title before everything else. Then comes the lyrics which did not disappoint. :) Hope you will enjoy this song by Best Coast and NOT be what people want you to be. :) :)

How they want me to be
All of my friends stick up their noses
They ask me where my money is
And where does it go once I've spent it?

But I don't want to be how they want me to be
I don't want to be how they want me to be x3

Even my own mother asks me a lot of questions
I tell her I don't wanna talk
But she doesn't stop, she's just wondering

But I don't want to be how they want me to be
I don't want to be how they want me to be x3

I want you, you, you, you
I want you, you, you, you

Cause when I wake up in the morning or the middle of the night
I wonder who's there, and what they've said
Yeah, when I wake up in the morning or the middle of the night
I wonder who's there, and what they've said
But when I wake up in the morning or the middle of the night
I look at you and I know it's alright
I wake up in the morning or the middle of the night
I look at you and I know it's alright

Cause you don't want me to be
How they want me to be
You don't want me to be
How they want me to be

And I don't want to be how they want me to be
I don't want to be how they want me to be
You don't want me to be how they want me to be
I don't want me to be how they want me to be

Sorry, no official music video, just real good audio from Youtube.

Have a productive week ahead! Health first!

Aug 23, 2014

Poetry Solace: of life (part II)

The next few Poetry Solace entries will feature poems taken from Series Two of  'Poems by Emily Dickinson'. Hope you will like them as much as I do..

I'm nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there's a pair of us - don't tell!
They'd banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog! 

Surgeons must be very careful
When they take the knife!
Underneath their fine incisions
Stirs the culprit, - Life!

Faith is a fine invention
For gentlemen who see;
But microscopes are prudent
In an emergency! 

Except the heaven had come so near,
So seemed to choose my door,
The distance would not haunt me so;
I had not hoped before.

But just hear the grace depart
I never thought to see,
Afflicts me with a double loss;
'T is lost, and lost to me.

Have a fun summer weekend! Stay safe!

Aug 21, 2014

Europe 2014: stations

With my plans to visit 8 cities in total, there was no way for me to avoid stations of any sort. And with Europe being a continent big on rail transport, I was more than happy to rely on them as a mean of travelling between cities, especially with my big suitcase..
Rotterdam Centraal Station

Amsterdam Centraal Station

Gent St-Peters Station
Brugge Centraal Station
Most train stations are also trams and buses stations so it was very convenient to change between these three types of transportation. Big or small, all stations are unique. Some are easy to navigate while some are kinda mazes. Some are modern while others are majestic architecture wonders - case in point: Antwerp Centraal Station. 

All counters staff speaks English, so no worries about communication. But one thing is for sure, you need to do your own homework first before approaching them. Most of the stations are crowded and queues are long, so always go early and allow time for queues. 

Overall, I can say that it's not difficult travelling between cities but you need to make sure you know the exact name of the station you need to reach as they tend to be fairly long.

Also, do not forget to verify your ticket before boarding. I made this oversight on my way to Schipol Airport from Utrecht and it cost me very very dearly.