Home Sweet Home...
We've been in our permanent home now for 2 weeks. Valeriusstraat 280 HS. HS means house or ground floor. We were very fortunate to find this place. We have the ground floor with a garden out back and our bedrooms are on the first floor above. People are on top of us, right next to us, all around us. It's always a bonus when you can find a spot to lock up your bike right in front of your house. Now that we have a car, you're lucky if you can find a parking spot on your own street. It's totally different but we are totally loving it. We've met some very nice people and we have great neighbors who have been extrememly helpful. The children on our end of the street don't speak english, (they start learning english in the 5th grade) so Kiley and Quinn have a lot of opportunity to practice their dutch.
We were warned that if we ever had a need for construction workers in Amsterdam to be patient. Well, let's just say we've been practicing patience. Just before we moved in we had a walkthrough and the owner made a list of things that would be fixed. The process was started on the Monday we moved in. When we showed up that evening, there was dust and dirt all over the kitchen, a light hanging from underneath the cabinet and a latter in the middle of the hallway. We just expected that they would show up and finish the job on Tuesday, but that didn't happen. Wednesday was Queen's Day and the entire city is shut down so we thought maybe they would show on Thursday. Nope... so placed a call and we were told that it was PARTY WEEK and no one would be there till the following Tuesday. Wow, party week, okay we'll see you Tuesday. Tuesday rolls in. No one shows, no answer on their phone, no call back. Now these are not major repairs, but they do need fixing. A call was placed again on Wednesday..."We can't seem to get ahold of you, our next step is to call the owner." Within 10 minutes there is a call back. "I am out of the country, please call Ralph, he will come and help you." Okay, let's call Ralph. Friday Ralph replies and says he will be there next Tuesday. He shows up at 8am...looks at the work and says he will be back in one hour. At 3pm he calls and says, "There is a problem with work today. The problem is I can't come back to do the work, so I see you tomorrow. Ya?" At this point we just have to laugh. "Uh ya okay...see you tomorrow." So over two weeks later they are here, right now! It's getting done!
Our local neighborhood market is about 100 yards down the street. Very convenient, but very small and very expensive. We just found Dirk's, another market just over the canal about a 3 minute bike ride away. It's much bigger and has better prices and a better selection. Right now when we shop, you basically buy what you can carry. Tomorrow while the kids are in school, Jacqui is going to stock up a bit and use her friends bike with a huge wheelbarrow like box attached to the front to go shopping at Dirk's. We'll report later on how she does steering the bike back filled with groceries.
There are many cafe's and restaurants all around our neighborhood with seating out on the sidewalk. The weather has been amazing the last 10 days so the sidewalks have been packed with people sitting and eating. It's a very relaxed atmosphere and no rush for you to vacate your table so someone else can have it. This is partly due to the fact that you don't tip, so the waiters and waitresses are not trying to turn tables over. It feels odd initially, but you begin to get used to it. It's very common to be at your table at 6pm and still be there at 10pm just hanging out and chatting.
Go Tom Tom or don't go at all
Travelling by bike, tram or train...a piece of cake. Watching an American drive a car for the first time here...priceless. It's a bit stressful watching out for pedestrians and bikes travelling in packs strung throughout the streets like christmas lights. Not to mention the oncoming tram heading straight for you. Then there is tne way streets that seem to sneak up on you and you can't make a right on red. Like anything else, it gets easier the more you do it, but we owe the survival of our first two weeks in a car to our trusted new best friend...the Tom Tom. Plug in the address and city and her voice (you choose male or female) gently guides you to your destination. She doesn't even yell at you if you make a wrong turn. She patiently picks a new route and gets you back on track. She makes you feel and drive like you've been living here for years. It makes it much easier to pay attention to that oncoming tram.
Tip Toe Through the Tulips
A short 20 minute drive from our house you'll find the town of Lisse, the home of Keukenhof. They claim to be the most beautiful spring garden in the world. We went last weekend and not only is it absolutely gorgeous, it's huge. Among a varienty of flowers they have every color and shape of tulip you can immagine. The kids even enjoyed walking through the garden and then we hung out at the playground and the kids played on the zip line. If you are planning a visit durig the end of March throught mid May, this is one of the places you will have to visit.