Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Leashes for dogs, overrated?

In the past, I have had  2 dogs and am the owner of 2 dogs in the present. I have always lived in a city and have always walked my dogs on leashes.
Why?
Well, simply because they are dogs. I can understand them to a certain limit, but I certainly can never be a 100% sure of their reaction. What would happen if they are faced with a new dog in the neighbourhood? There's a squirrel, will they chase after it? There is a kid throwing firecrakers, how will my dog react?

To all these questions I simply do not have the answer, as many other dog owners. Yet, I seem to be one of the last people walking her dogs with a leash in my neighbourhood.
I must have been absent when it was declared uncool to leash your dog while walking it in the city streets!

Thus, while walking my dogs, I have had many dogs come all the way up to me, bark at me and my dog as they did not have leashes. The owners would casually walk up, not say they were sorry and take the dog back. Yes, this is not at all rude.

When riding my bicycle, I come accross many dogs walking around without leashes, in public areas. Most dogs are scared and move to the side, but on a regular occasion, I have been barked at and almost chased after a dog on my bicycle.
I understand that there is a noise with bicycles, skateboards or rollerskates that upset dogs, but then why not put a leash on the animal when you walk it in a place where you will encounter all those types of mobility.

I just do not get it.

Up until now, whenever I discussed this with my boyfriend, he would treat me like the mean old lady, ranting about like a crazy person.
That is, until last night.

We were walking the dogs, with their leashes on, minding our own business, when this dog charged at us. Literally! There were no warning signs like usually, the growling, the hairs going up on their backs and the stares. No, that dog ran right at our dogs.

At fist, it attacked my boyfriend's dog. After my boyfriend kicked it, the cocker spaniel started to attack my dog. The thing is, when I tried to shove it out of the way, it bit me down hard!
My boyfriend had to kick the dog 3 times before it went away.

Where was the owner?
She was about 20 meters away, had waited until the fighting was over. Then she called her dog, which took it's time to understand, talked to it (yes, real sentences as if the dog could understand something other than "wouaf, wouaf, wouaf"!), then tied her dog, walked it to her house and finally came over to see if we were allright!
At no point did I hear her utter the word "No".

I had to go to the E/R and get the wound cleaned up and a prescription for antibiotics. My leg is triple it's normal size, and I have to admit, I am pissed.

Don't get me wrong, I love dogs, otherwise we would not have 2 at home. I am not angry against the cocker spaniel either; it's a dog with instincs of a dog, perhaps not very well adjusted socially, but a dog nonetheless.
No, I am really angry with the owner of the dog! She lives, like 3 houses down from my house, she knows her dog has a problem with our dogs, she also knows she has no authority over her dog, it does not yield or come when she asks it to, yet she walks it with no leash.

I really do not understand. What is the problem with a leash? Is this not a security measure for walking your dog? Are people too confident with their dogs and think that the animal will understand what the owner wants telepathically? Do they think that only big dogs can bite and hurt people? Are they too lazy to put on a leash on their 4 legged companion?
I am really trying to understand here.

The worst part is that this is not the first incident we have had with this dog. The first time, it had escaped from it's house, again ran right at us, but this time it was the husband who came after the dog.
He strapped the dog down to the ground until it had calmed itself a bit. He did use the word "no" and admitted being at a loss with his dog's attitude and said that it was quite agressif.

So why leave it free with no leash?
Imagine if I had been a kid, my leg would been in really worse shape and might have needed surgery.


I have been advised to file a complaint against the owners of the dog. The thing is that :

1. I do want the dog to be put down, which may very well happen since there was a bite
2. I do not want to have the owners of the dog against me


I just wish people had more common sens. Shits happens, yes, but many accidents could be avoided if people used their brains a little.

So people, please use a leash for your dog if you are walking it in city streets where the dog might come accross other :  dogs, cats, children, elderly people, elderly people with canes, wheelchairs, bicycles, skateboards, rollerskates, surfboards, cars, other pedestrians, boogieboards, people with crutches, firecrackers, balloons that can pop, drunken fools, buses, mailmen/women, scooters, loud music, etc...
This is not unfair to your dog or yourself. Trusting your dog 100% is unfair to the dog because you never know, and it is also unfair to the person who could get bit.

Leashes are cool!
Leashes can be fashionable!!
Leashes can save lives!!!! (ok maybe a bit overboard, but you get the idea)
You can even attatch your poop sack to the leash until you find a wastebasket, instead of carrying the think by hand.
Think smart, think leash!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Holidays!

 
And do not forget to ride safe!
 
 

Bicycles in Amsterdam




Of course I coud not go to Amsterdam and not write a post on bicycles in that city.

First, a little history...


HISTORY OF THE DUTCH BICYCLE

The Dutch did not invent the bicycle. Instead, this contraption has been the evolution of many different "bicycle" inventions throughout time and in many different European countries, going from the German "dandy horse", to the French "vélocipede" and finally to the "safety bicycle" in England.

The vélocipède

Contrary to popular belief (and what a salesman may tell you in a bicycle shop) there have not been many changes over these 100 + years. You would still be able to take a 100 year old bicycle and instantly be able to ride it.

With the Dutch bicycle, you can almost say this. Indeed, though there have not been drastic changes in the wold of cycling, there have been some, the materials used, the design & colour, the breaks... Manufacturers in the Netherlands, like Batavus or Gazelle realized that their competitors had started changing the design of their bicycles.

The safety bicycle

Light weight racing bicycles were popular, as were the diamond frames ones. These Dutch companies decided to continue as they were and not move along with the popularity phases. They continued to produce steel black bicycles with step-through frames and ding-dong bells. Well, I am not too sure about the bells!


This was a winning strategy. The bikes were cheap and quite sturdy which is what the Europeans were looking for, especially with the 2 World Wars coming right around the corner. Indeed, though Europe was at war, bicycle companies were still making profits. Some were even sold to armies! A bicycle was to last you a lifetime, provided you took a bit of time to care for it.

But the popularity in the bicycle took a crash after World War 2. Europe was being rebuilt and little by little Europeans were earning more and wanting more comfort. They paved the road for the automobile and the bicycle became a weekend passtime.

This lasted until the late 60's and 70's when there was the first oil crisis. The Dutch government thought that if it had happened once, it could happen again, and in the great Dutch tradition, wanted to protect the people and offer a better alternative. Plus, there had been massive protests in the streets against the car killing-machine. Dutch people demanded safer roads for their children through the construction of bicycle lanes / paths. In a way, you can say that the Dutch "invented" critical mass.



The Dutch got their bicycle paths / lanes and went back to their traditional "Dutch" bicycle. From what I saw in Amsterdam, this traditional bicycle is still the most popular and used type of bicycle. It is sturdy, simple to ride, cheap and a classic.


BICYCLES IN AMSTERDAM

Even though I had read that Amsterdam was one of the bicycle capitals in the world, I still had not imagined so many bicycles or cyclists. It takes getting used to looking, really looking on both sides of the streets, not only for cars, but for bicycles also. Not to fret, bicyclists will alert you of their presence with their bells if you are not cautious enough. Though I did see one crash between a bicyclist and a pedestrian. The pedestrian was a tourist and had started crossing the street without looking, because he had not heard a car coming. Thankfully, no one was hurt.

Heineken is one of the biggest companies in Amsterdam. It even has a museum, and bicycle crates!


Bicycle lanes / paths are everywhere making it easy to ride around the city. I did not see anyone wear a helmet, so the Dutch must consider these lanes quite safe.
Many cities have trouble for spaces to parks their cars, in Amsterdam you get the impression there are not enough places to "park" you bicycle. People lock their bikes everywhere, on the bridges, in the parks, against a side pole. Everywhere there you look, you will at least see one bicycle!

One thing surprised me quite a deal, the fact that most of the bicycles in Amsterdam were in pretty bad shape. most of them were rusted and many times, when a cyclist passed you by, you could hear a rattling sound coming from the bike.


I found this to be quite ironic. In one of the bicycle capitals, people do not treat their bicycles very well, it is just a contraption that brings you from point A to point B, but in many blogs I have read or follow in which people do not live in such a bicycle friendly environment, bicycles are attended to regulary, protected from harsh environmental conditions and components changed regularly.
I also wondered if these rusting bicycles were not symptomatic of something else, perhaps a lot of theft. Indeed, after a quick search, over 54 000 bicycles were stolen in 2005. So it makes sense that people do not want to spend too much money on an object that can be stolen easily. (Though there is something to say about the way they lock their bikes).

One of the few beach cruisers I saw in Amsterdam, but please DO NOT lock your bicycle like this. Too easy to steal.

I did not see many baskets on the bicycles, mostly plastic crates and panniers. Again, I was intrigued by the fact that they leave their panniers on their bicycles, "parked" outside. I may be missing something, but I would be afraid some one might steal my panniers...

Also, weather in Amsterdam is unpredictable and it did rain a little bit during our stay. A majority of the bikes had seat covers, though I hardly saw any leather seats. More surprising, companies have publicity bicycle seat covers made and hire people to put them on bicycles.

A Lee publicity seat cover distributed free!

Most bicycles have a frame lock paired with a chain lock to keep them safe. According to law, they have to be equiped with a front and a rear light. I spotted a cyclist who has those, as well as little dangling blinking lights hanging from her basket and from her backpack. She went by me too fast for me to take a picture. :(

Please don't jump, we love you little bicycle!

Though Amsterdam is considered a bicycle-friendly city, there is still the occasional bicycle which wants to commit suicide by jumping of the bridge. By chance, its owner had attached it so that it would not go off the deep end!

To sum it up in numbers:
- 60% of the trips inner city by bicycle
- 40% of the trips in larger city area by bicycle
- 400 km of bike paths
- over 450 000 bicycles in Amsterdam alone (wow!)
- 18 traffic deaths, all types included, in 2007
- 54 000 bicycles stolen in 2005

And now the pictures I took in Amsterdam. Hope you enjoy!

 


A crazy decorated front basket, and a lock to match.
 
 


 



Badass pink wheels!                    

Many bicycles are spray painted. I suppose too many black bicycles makes it difficult to recognize your own.
 

 
I adore the colour of this crate and the stickers on it! My personal favorite.


 

The OV Fiets is the Amsterdam bicycle sharing system, though it is not for tourists. Minimum rent is 1 month I think.

Group photo! Say cheese.
 
 
 
 

 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Little trip to Amsterdam


I have delayed posting my thoughts on my trip to Amsterdam, as I wanted to be as objective as I could be, though I do not know how this will work out.



First of all let me just state that I adored my little trip. My boyfriend and I left from Biarritz to the Toulouse airport early on the 15th of December, so we arrived in the middle of the afternoon in Amsterdam. This gave us time to do some sight seeing to get the feel of the city. The following day, we visited Anne Frank's House, the Bible Museum, the Amsterdam Museum and finally the Rijks Museum, with a lot of sight seeing in between. We left early Monday morning as it was the first time we had left our 2 dogs to a kennel and when organising the trip, I was a bit worried about their adjustment.
Hold on to your horses, because here comme my thoughts and impressions of one of Europe's capitals.


THE TRIP

From Toulouse, we took a 1h40 plane ride to Amsterdam with KLM. The journey was pleasant, and I got all excited when approaching landing, I spotted a windmill! Since the Netherlands are part of the European Union, there were no customs for us, just present your passport, and you are good to go.
At the airport, we were greeted by the KLM orchestra. They played when we arrived and when we departed. Such a nice touch to greet tourists, especially during the winter holidays. They played some holiday songs, but I also heard the Darth Vader theme and other amusing songs. In front of the airport, I caught the famous I Amsterdam sign.

 
 

We then took the train from the airport to the Central Station. This train station is beautiful and was lit by many Christmas decorations.

 
From there, we took the tram to our stop near the hotel. The trams are spacious, white & blue, and they have a little bell to warn people to get off the road. There is the driver, but also another man from whom one can purchase tickets. The cheapest tickets cost 2€60 and last 1 hour, which I found to be a bit expensive. (During our visit, we did everything by foot, as the city is not that big).

video


THE FEEL OF AMSTERDAM

Of course you may all know that Amsterdam is surrounded by canals. I was a bit anxious on how it would feel to be in a city with water everywhere, especially after having read Albert Camu's "La Chute". He described it as an almost claustraphobic sensation.

I did not feel that at all. On the contrary, having the canals gives more open spaces and room to breathe. Plus you can hear the noise the little waves make every time a boat goes by. I found the canals to bring peace of mind and showed an always living city.

Amsterdam is always moving, yet people were not in a race to see who was the fastest, there was no stress; just people walking about enjoying themselves. I lived in Paris for 3 years, and the difference between the paces of the 2 capitals is extraordinary.
In Paris, people are always in a hurry to get everywhere and then in a hurry to get out. This Parisian stressed state of mind is invading all of France; it has even invaded the city I live in. In Amsterdam, the people were polite and taking their time to enjoy the moment. I felt relaxed and accepted.



The population in the Amsterdam streets is very diversified. There were many tourists, of course, but also many nationalities and / or ethnic groups represented in the habitants of the city itself. I saw Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindous, whites, blacks, browns, asian though no green people yet! No one was staring at one another, and I did not see any offensive graffiti.
That felt really nice, especially that where I live, there is a lot of discimination against Muslims and Black coloured people. Though people do not state it overtly, you feel it. Especially when I fist came in 1993 and in my entire school there was no other colour than white, coming from the United States, it was one of my first cultural shocks.

In any case, I felt really well in this city. While looking for our hotel, we got lost and a women in the street escorted us almost to the front door. Though it was dark and we were strangers, she was not at all afraid and nicely gave us some information on the history of Amsterdam. What a great welcome! Plus, everyone speaks English! I do envy them, though I speak French and English fluently, I which I knew a "harder" language. Hum, perhaps I'll pick up Dutch!


THE INFRASTRUCTURE

I was very curious to see how the city had organized itself with the canals as an obstacle. For example, there could be no metros (subways) as they would have been flooded. What would the streets look like? Would they be narrow or large? And the buildings? Would we see skyscrapers?

Here is a map of Amsterdam:



It looks bigger than it really is. Our hotel was near the Vondelpark in the south west part of town and we walked all the way to Anne Frank's House, which is on the same side, but more to the North, and it took us about 30 minutes.



The majority of the houses are built using brick. Some have been repainted in red, dark grey, or black. The contour of the windows are usually white and many of the entrance doors are painted in black. This gives the city a sober but classy look. Also, the buildings are not very high up, so wherever you go, you can see the sky.
What was mostly appreciated, was the fact that there were always plants or trees, giving the city a natural and sweet decoration. The contact with nature was one of the things I greatly missed while living in Paris, where I found everything to be grey, but Amsterdam keeps plants alive.



The street are not very wide. In the smaller streets, there is room for 1 car lane, 1 tram lane, 1 bicycle lane and a sidewalk. Though narrow compared to roads in the Americas or Australia, there is always sufficient room for everyone. Again I will compare to Paris where some sidewalks are so narrow that it is even difficult for one person to walk on it because the city has favoured cars.



Bicycles are everywhere and the city has been accomodated with bicycle lanes and paths to favor this transport. I had never seen so many cyclists in one place, even when I saw the Tour de France! They are parked all around the city, so you really do not have to go searching for them; they will come to you. Sometimes I would hear a ding - dong bell of a cyclist warning a pedestrian of his approach. Apart from me using my ding - dong bell, I had never heard one before.
We did not have the time to rent a bicycle and I would have felt nervous riding in busy streets in a city I do not know and that has different codes from which I am used to. Nevertheless, if you are feeling up to it, there are many bicycle rentals in Amsterdam, and most hotels have a form of rental right in the entrance.

The bicycle rental in front of our hotel

So it is quite easy to move around in Amsterdam. We wanted to walk to take in the vibe and the features of the city as much as we could.


THE FOOD

This has to be the most disappointing aspect of the city. The first night, we wandered around for an hour in order to find a restaurant that would offer traditional Dutch specialties. Having found none, we went to an Indonesian restaurant. The food was allright, but a bit expensive for what we ate.

We only found foreign restaurants, Tex-Mex, Italian, Burger King, or south american. I have nothing against these foods (I love Italian), but in the netherlands, I at least wanted to taste some traditional Dutch cuisine.
When we asked a waiter at a pub, he told us that Dutch food was not good; it was greasy and everything was fried. This surprised me quite a deal, the Dutch cook like the Americans in the south! Who would have thought?

The view from the Blue Restaurant

The next day we had a bit more luck. For lunch we went to a small shopping center with a restaurant at the top, called Blue. The restaurant had a great view of the city, and we ate a bit more traditional: a sandwich. Mind you these may not be the the sadwiches you are used to. Indeed, the bread is cut from an "oval" loaf rather than the classic Harry's squared loaf. There is a choice of white or brown bread. Then you can top this bread with whatever you like. I chose mozarella and pesto.
Strangely enough, there were no tourists in this restaurant. I do hope that they did not all go to Burger King!

De Blauwe Hollander

Diner was much better. We finally had found a restaurant serving traditional Dutch cuisine called De Blauwe Hollander. The food was delicious and the service incredible, really nice people! For starters, we got the homemade cheese croquettes and as a main course I chose the vegetarian hotch potch because it came with the homemade cheese croquettes and butter sauce. And, since I am a sweet tooth, for dessert, I ordered the chocolate cake from Aarde. It was delicious.
The hotch potch is a sort of mashed potatoes with carrots or other vegetables in it. Usually there is some meat mixed in with the mashed potatoes, but I could not get enough of the cheese croquettes.
I found the food to be very tasty, yet simple, and the restaurant served fresh food, not heated up frozen things.

Also, the restaurant played nice soft music which was in real constrast to the techno pounding in the tex-mex restaurants!

We regretted not having found this little restaurant sonner. I highly recommend it if you ever go to Amsterdam.


THE MUSEUMS


Anne Frank's House



I had read the Journal of Anne Frank when I was 12 years old and it had made a large impact on me. So much that I had even asked my father to buy me a book with her little tales in it, which were very amusing. But there was no Internet at the time, and I was only left with my imagination as to what the Annex looked like or even what her diary looked like. So as not to spoil the visit, I did not look anything up prior to our visit.

This is the view in front of the Annexe.


Thus, I was very eager to go. The house is situated in the north part of "old" Amsterdam right in front of a canal and a busy street. An addition has been made for a restaurant and a gift shop. Before you get at the entrance of the house, you come accross a little statue representing Anne Frank looking at the famous chesnut tree, though you will have to wait your turn to take a picture.

Anne Frank's statue surrounded by bicycles

This was the first museum I wanted to visit as the travel guides pointed out that many people all year round went to visit it, and I wanted to avoid queuing too long. We arrived at about 9h30 or a quarter to 10 am and did not have to wait in line. When we came out though, a bit more than an hour after, there were already many people waiting in line for the visit. (This was a little triumph, as I am not an early bird!).

The visit was very moving and interesting. You get to visit the whole building. In the Annexe  none of the original furniture has been put back as the SS had taken it all and Otto Frank, the father, did not want to replace them. Instead, they built a doll house with furniture inside to show you how the Annexe was decorated. The windows are all blacked out, as they would have been during the war, giving a horrible oppressing sensation.

Anne Frank's House

It was really sad to see the measurements of the sisters on the wall, to know that they had both perished so young. Then, of course, the thought of the countless people tortured and killed during that period... I was pleased though to experience this as Anne Frank was a big influence when I was a young teenager. I wanted to be a writer like her when I grew up.

I ransacked the gift shop and bought the Definitive edition to Anne's Journal which has 30% more that the later aditions, a collected work of her fiction and a BBC documentary entitled "Anne Frank Remembered". I did not go so far as to buy a replica of her own journal, as I have my own which suits me perfectly.

Anne Frank's Journal


My father, born in 1923, had lived the war. He managed not to go to a concentration camp by having the whole family move to the south west of France, in a region called the Gers. Still he told me stories of the ration tickets, the fear of the Nazi soldiers of going to Russia, that he would ask his little sister to pick up all the cigarette buds in order to have a little to smoke and on and on... Many people from all over the world died because of that war, and I do feel it is our duty not to forget.

In Anne's own words

The museum has been well thought of because at the end of the visit, there is a big room where you can sit down and watch little extracts of situations showing discrimination and asking how you would react to a certain situation. For example, some countries in the European Union have banned the wear of any religious signs when working in a public place, like a hospital or a library. Then you vote if you find this measure good or bad. There is no judgment to any of the questions. We saw many Dutch children writing report cards in the museum, so I suppose the memory will go on living.


The Bijbels Museum



We thought this would be an interesting attraction, but we were very disappointed.

The visit starts out nice with a collection of Egyptian art and a replica of how Jerusalem was at the time the Bible was first written. It was interesting to see what everyday life could have represented at the time.

Then there is a nice collection of Bibles. Some are leather with silver lockets, others where all silver with engravings or sculpted. There were also several portraits of people posing with their Bibles, showing how important this book was to them.

Afterwards, the visit becomes less interesting. There is a collection of little sculptures representing famous scenes from the Bible, more portraits, an example of what a traditional kitchen looked like (?!?) and at the last bottom floor, a collection of Bibles, from the oldest they have to the most recent.

It is a shame, but I did not find this of much interest. There was no reference to the feuds between the Protestants and the Catholics in Amsterdam, and the starting idea of putting the writing of the Bible in context was not followed up. It would have been interesting to understand what the beliefs of the people were before Christianity appreared in Amsterdam, what caused the rise of  the Protestants, how and why they drove off the Catholics, what changed in the Bible during that period, how were the other religions treated, how the Bible was dispesered, how it was taught (was it like in France, all Latin for the "educated aristocracy" or was there a translation for the people? )
If the museum wanted to focus on the book itself, then it should have expained the different versions, what they had in common, and what was different. How the printed press changed the view of the Bible. How it came to be only written in Latin and then translated in all the languages of the world. Why was it translated in Latin when some parts had started out in Greek etc...
All these questions should have been answered in this museum, at least it is what I think.

I found it to be a superficial museum that was inconsistent with its collection and the message it tried to convey. Perhaps in the future this will change, but for the moment, I recommend that you NOT go to this museum.


The Amsterdam Museum

At first my boyfriend did not want to go to this museum. Our feet were killing us and we did have planned a lot of cultural time and not a lot of "fun" distracting time. Nevertheless I insisted and we did not regret it, though the collection could be better.



The museum has a collection of paintings, sculptures and little films you can watch explaining the history of the city. For the most part it was very interesting and we has a good time. At one point though we asked ourselves how much longer could we look at portraits of people with white collars and black clothes!

Still, we learned that the city was built on some sort of pillars that maintain the city above the canals, that Amsterdam is largely below the sea level at some points, that the Catholics had been driven away from the Protestants. We learned of the great commerce the Netherlands were doing around the world through the Dutch East India Company.
What I found the most interesting was how Amsterdam revolted against the Spanish who had ruled them. This revolt was led by William the Silent from the Orange family. The Orange family is still honored once a year on the Queen's birthday, known as Queen's Day and everyone has to dress in orange.


This revolt lead to a change in the mentalities of the Dutch, or at least the people of Amsterdam. While most rulers, kings and queens, in Europe were spending all the tax collected money on castles and big impressive monuments, the rulers and bourgeois of Amsterdam were more interested in their people and having good housing for the poor, developing economically and favoured humility and being sober rather than showing off. Even the bourgeois elite prefered having portraits painted of themselves more than sculptures erected in their honor as they did not want to show off.
The largest monument constructed at the time was the Royal Palace of Amsterdam on Dam Square which was at first to be town hall.

















I find fascinating to see how modern the government in Amsterdam was, preferring good housing and taking care of the whole population and their health rather than wars of expansion or castles.
Although I really enjoyed this museum, I wished there had been better transitions between the periods of history. There was hardly anything about the Middle Ages, the Enlightenment was not represented, the great philosopher Spinoza hardly mentioned, the Napoleon occupation was brief, and not much on the Industrial Revolution.

Though there are some holes in the timeline, I do recommend this museum and skipping a few portraits of people with black robes and white collars is not a problem.
I was disappointed with the gift shop though as there was no book on the history of Amsterdam, no book summarizing what we had just seen. Instead, I bought a book on the history of the Dutch bicycle!



After this visit our legs and feet were really killing us, so we stopped at a café and had something to drink, but mostly a place to sit down and rest. We were both enchanted by this city and were quite happy of our visits.


The Rijks Museum

It was unfortunate that at the time we came, this museum was undergoing considerable rennovation, thus most of it was closed to the public. Still, I did not want to miss the chance at glancing at some of Rembrandt's or Vermeer's work.

This building is enormous and quite beautiful. At the entrance, there was a huge model boat, a replica of the ones used by the Dutch East India Company.
Even though most of the museum was closed off, we got to see the most famous paintings, Rembrandt's Night Watch, Vermeer's Milkmaid, or Jan Asselijn's Threatened Swan.
There are 2 painters that I discovered and quite enjoyed.

The first one is Aert van der Neer. He mostly paints landscapes. What I find interesting is the movement in the paintings, almost like a photography, you can imagine very well the people going about their occupations. The artist does not look to paint an ideal, but rather depict the everyday life and occupations of the people.



The second artist is Jan Havicksz Steen. From what I saw, he mostly painted groupe pictures and there is always a bit of humour or irony in his paintings, which I find quite amusing. Who ever said that the Dutch were cold people?


What about the dogs in the kennel?

Well, the dogs were found alive and unharmed, thankfully, but the bigger one, Narco (who looks like an orange labrador) did not adjust very well. He was quite disoriented and hardly left his box all the while being there. The little one, Cracker Jack a Parson Terrier, did ok and he had a hard time going back in the box when the walks were over, but I do not know if he ate much as I found him skinnier.
This has left us with the conclusion, that leaving them too long, say over a week, would not be a good idea.


Conclusions

I regret not having taken the time to buy some tulip bulbs or visit a bicycle shop. I wish we had had the time to visit the Van Gogh museum, go on a trip on a ferry on the canals or even ride a bicycle through Vondelpark which was right next to our hotel and considered one of the most beautiful parks in Amsterdam.

Though I have these little regrets, I simply adored my visit to Amsterdam and would gladly go back any given day, provided I had the time and money. The ambiance is so agreable and there are so many things to see and do.
I did not think this entry would have been so long long, so I thank you for your time and patience for bearing with me, and hopefully this will have given you the desire to go to Amsterdam.

I will leave you with this little strange fact: in the neighborhood we were staying at, there were buildings / hotels, named and decorated according to different countries in Europe. Here you go: