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Category: Travel Europe (page 1 of 16)

Tot Ziens, Amsterdam

Robin and I knew that the day we leave Amsterdam and the Netherlands would eventually come. Well, today is that day.

Our time in Amsterdam has been a grand adventure, deeper, richer and more vibrant that either of us ever imagined. We repeated the phrase “We’re still living in Amsterdam” almost weekly because we never wanted to take the experience for granted.

We have so many people to thank:

  • Our neighbors on Reijnier Vinkelskade, who took us in when we first arrived there in 2008. They all went out of their way to make us feel part of their little community;
  • Bernard, our neighbor upstairs at Plantage Muidergracht, who looked after us a number of times when the apartment was not behaving itself;
  • Our friends from around the city, in particular Blaine Hamrick and Peter Waltz, for helping us see and enjoy all the city has to offer;
  • My work colleagues in the Amsterdam, the Hague and Rijswijk offices have always been supportive, passionate and professional. Leading these teams has been a honor and a pleasure;
  • All the family and friends who have visited us. We’ve loved taking you to all the places we’ve discovered here.

We’re not quite sure where life will take us next, but Robin and I both are ready for the adventure.

One Photo – Frosted Leaves

I took this photo about a month ago when Robin and I stepped out of the house one Sunday morning to go for a run. The temperature had dropped significantly over night and the trees and plants around the house had a beautiful rime of frost on them. We returned to the house to grab our cameras and this is one of the first ones I took.

A nice reminder of the time of the year.

Camera: Sony DSC-RX100
Lens: Zeiss 18-100mm f/1.8-4.9
Focal Length: 10.4 mm
Exposure: 1/30 sec at f/9.0
ISO Speed Rating: ISO 320

One Photo – Artisplein

While my main focus for the little photography I did in December in Amsterdam was the Light Festival, I did take a few minutes to shoot one of my favorite places near our current house: the Artisplein. This little square is tucked in at the west end of the Artis Zoo and is especially picturesque at night when the lights strung from tree to tree are lit and the glass veranda of the the Café-Restaurant De Plantage is full of people and light.

I used a GorillaPod tripod  permitting a low ISO, using one of the tables for support.  The biggest challenge was trying to a spot where the various garbage cans did not overwhelm the scene. Processing the photo in Silver Efex Pro gave me the look I saw in my mind when I took the photo.

Oh, and De Plantage is a very nice place for dinner.

Camera: Sony DSC-RX100
Lens: Zeiss 18-100mm f/1.8-4.9
Focal Length: 10.4 mm
Exposure: 1.3 sec at f/5.0
ISO Speed Rating: ISO 125

Amsterdam Light Festival 2016

The 2016-2017 edition on the Amsterdam Light Festival represents the fifth consecutive year the festival has run over the Christmas and New Year period. Robin and I walked the Water Colors circuit on the first Friday of the festival.  This year’s edition once again impressed both of us with the ingenuity of the installations. After Robin left for Canada, I walked around the remaining sculptures that we missed on our Friday night walk, including the one pictured here: NEST by Studio ALBA.

The tight graphic construction of NEST combined with an interesting light pattern design (a full cycle is about 5 minutes in duration) made it stand out from the others for me this year.

Camera: Sony DSC-RX100
Lens: Zeiss 18-100mm f/1.8-4.9
Focal Length: 10.4 mm
Exposure: 1/160 sec at f/1.8
ISO Speed Rating: ISO 200

Here are our previous posts about the Amsterdam Light Festival: 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. We also have a Flickr album with pictures from all five years here.

Photo Set: Durbuy and the Ardennes

Visit the photo set 2016: Durbuy and the Ardennes on Flickr.

Our friends Peter and Blaine have been asking us for more than five years to join them in visiting the Ardennes. Their favourite place there is the city of Durbuy. Looking at our combined schedules, we agreed that, if it was going to happen, we had to do it soon.  And so we set up a quick trip in mid July, starting on Sunday and finishing on Tuesday.

Robin and I rented a car in central Amsterdam, and picked Peter and Blaine up at their place in southwest Amsterdam. We then headed south, stopping in Maastricht for lunch at Harry’s. We headed on to Durbuy, and our hotel, Hotel Le Clos des Récollets. After checking in, we wandered through the village for a while before meeting up with Blaine and Peter’s friends, Stuart and Laura, who joined us from Germany.

The big plan for Sunday evening was to enjoy a five-course dinner at the hotel.  The weather was so nice that we ate in the courtyard in front of the hotel.  The food was terrific and the matching wines particularly good.

After a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, the six of us packed up our two vehicles and headed southeast to the village of Achouffe, home of the Achouffe Brewery, makers of one of my favorite beers, La Chouffe. We walked around their grounds, admiring the care that they have put into creating a little gnome world in the middle of the Ardennes.

Heading a bit further southeast, we visited the town of Houffalize, where we had lunch at the Café Rallye, owned by friends of Peter and Blaine. After lunch, Stuart and Laura started back home, while the rest of us returned to Durbuy. Seeing it was Monday, I had to make a few phone calls for work, so Peter had a nap and Blaine and Robin took Jessie, Blaine and Peter’s dog, for a walk. Coming together as a group again after 7 pm, we had a couple of drinks and a nice dinner at the Vieux Pont.

The next morning, after another leisurely breakfast, we packed up and started heading for home.  We stopped in Den Bosch for lunch at Zoetlief; Peter sent a number of years working in Den Bosch. A short drive later, we were back in Amsterdam.

It really was great that we got the opportunity to join Peter and Blaine in visiting one of their favourite places. Thanks guys!

Photo Set: Baltic Cruise

Visit the photo set 2016: Jewels of the Baltic Cruise on Flickr.

With a change of jobs on the horizon for us, Robin and I agreed that there were many places we had yet to visit and it would be good to get a. So once again we looked at cruises for our summer vacation. Given that we had not yet visited Sweden, Finland and other Scandinavian countries, we focused the Baltic Sea. Once again, Holland America had several options and in the end we decided on the 14-day Jewels of the Baltic, which would take us all the way east to Saint Petersburg, Russia and back.

This particular cruise also gave us the opportunity to travel on the newest ship of the Holland America fleet, the ms Koningsdam. This video gives you an idea of the size of the ship.

Certainly one of the highlights of the ship was the dining; we had great food and wine throughout the cruise, and particularly in the speciality restaurants. We even had the Culinary Arts Centre all to ourselves on the last night of the cruise and had a great dinner with two chefs and two wait staff cooking and serving just the two of us.

Itinerary-wise, the highlights for us were Saint Petersburg, Stockholm and Gothenburg.  We’ll have to go back to Helsinki sometime; the weather the day we were there was atrocious, but the little bit that we did see was impressive.

All in all, Robin and I were happy that we had the opportunity to sample a little bit of the area and have a better idea now of places we would return to in the future.