Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Old New York?

If New York is the New Amsterdam then isn't Amsterdam the old New York? oh well, anyway after leaving Provence via Lyon and Paris we flew to Amsterdam where strangely neither Dayne or I had been before. On the flight over we were told (warned) by fellow passengers that the big match between Amsterdam and Spain was that evening so be aware if heading to the bars, and wear orange if you have it!

As soon as we stepped out of the airport we could see orange everywhere- flowers, posters, outfits. The cab drivers were all lined up and watching the pre game on a huge teletron outside the main airport driveway. One luckily offered to take us to our hotel as he said it was 45 minutes to game time and he would head home after. The ride into town was FAST and SCARY as this guy was serious about not missing a second of the game! I honestly think that if we didn't have money when he dropped us off he would have just shrugged and sped off to his tv.

We had picked a great hotel, it was small with just 8 rooms- all were quite large and off the main tourist area on a small canal called Liligracht. t'Hotel included breakfast and these super steep stairs to help you burn off the calories!

We had such a great time in the city, it is soooo beautiful! We did most of the typical things0 took a canal cruise to get a feel for the layout, went to the gorgeous Van Gogh museum, ate lots of Gouda, cruised through the red light district both day and night and visited the Rijksmueum, toured the Anne Frank House and ate amazing Indonesian food.







A couple things we did were maybe not as normal. For one we visited the Bols Museum a cocktail museum. It was really fun and at the end of it you go to a computer and pick out a cocktail, print out the recipe and take it to the bar. In the bar there is a "flair" booth where you can try your hand at flair bartending (think Tom Cruise in Cocktail). We learned that the Dutch really like flair!


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The other was spending some time with our friend Klary who lives in Amsterdam. Klary does market tours for visitors and took us to one of her favorites after meeting up for coffee. The market was huge! You could literally buy anything you wanted for your house, your cooking or your wardrobe. Of course we had to try the frites, this particular stand was selling Mad American Sauce which was like McD's secret sauce.


We also tried raw herring which was really good! Dayne and I had ours just cut up with raw onions and dill pickles that were strangely sweet. Klary had hers on a bun similar to a hotdog bun.

And on our last evening we had a wonderful dinner with Klary and her husband and another couple at a Moroccan restaurant. It was a great time, lots of laughing and story telling! We both decided we really loved the city and could absolutely see ourselves getting a couple of bikes, a little canal boat and an old canal house and living there!


The rest of the shots from Amsterdam can be seen here

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Eating in Provence

Would you believe me if I told you we didn't go out for dinner even once for the whole week in Provence? It is true. And strangely it was very nice! I think we all just loved watching the view each evening from our porch.....

A few nights, after Dayne's delicious martinis, we just continued snacking on French cheeses, charcuterie and funny snack chips like roast chicken crisps and bacon cheese puffs. One night we went down to the only restaurant in town and ordered the only thing they make- pizza- and brought it back up to the house. It was soooo good with interesting toppings and the best salumi and olives of course.

A couple of times we shopped at the local town markets, there is an evening one in the town of Valleron that we thought was quite good. This was mainly locals, and most not speaking much English which made it really fun. A few stands had these strawberries that you could smell almost from the parking lot!


Have you ever seen such gorgeous squash blossoms?

We had chicken for dinner on that night...

One of the nicest days of dining happened when we went to visit our friends Abra & Shel in Uzes. First we took a walk and shopped at the market (in these posts the term market refers a local farmers market vs a grocery store) for our evening cook together dinner, coming up with the dishes as we saw ingrediants. The market was small, in the center of town, and very cute with venders selling everything from seafood to olives and perfumes. There was a basket of kittens and even a snail farmer.















It took us a while to make it back home. There was bread to buy, pastries to pick out for dessert (and a brief lesson in how to inquire about nuts and/or peanuts as an ingrediant) and of course wine to choose. Once we returned Abra set the table with an amazing lunch she had put together. It was so nice to sit on the beautiful patio and catch up with our friends and hear more about the area.

After some pool time, nap time and a stroll through town we all started working on an amazing dinner. Dayne, Paul and Forest made up some cocktails using a cherry liquor Abra had made. We noshed on tomato slices, dressed with fresh garlic and squash blossoms stuffed and baked. Then the appetizer of duck breast baked in a salt crust and served with a meurette sauce studded with foie gras. Main course of melons du veau and sauteed baby zucchini. Lots of wine. Amazing cheese and then a chocolate torte. It was quite a feast!

There was one other big dinner event, at our very own chateau where all 26 guest teamed up to make a big dinner on the last night that we were all together.


There was an amuse of cold soup with chicken, salad chevre chaud, incredible deboned and stuffed chicken, ratatouille, tarts and lots of wine. Lots.