Tag Archives: bikes

Amsterdam in a Weekend

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Can I just tell you how much I love Amsterdam? Like I’ve been back a few days, but I’m still on a high from the loveliness that I experienced love. Like I wanna pack up and move there right now love. Like I can’t stop talking about how amazing it was love. Seriously…when can I move there?

Last Thursday, I headed to Amsterdam for a work conference, and decided to stay the weekend. It was a last minute trip, so I didn’t really have time to look into what I would see or do, nor have I ever really given much thought to traveling to Amsterdam. It was one of those “if I go, I go. If I don’t, I don’t.” situations for me. The only thing I had really heard about it was that you could do drugs there. Well, that’s not appealing to me at all, so I didn’t think much about it. Boy was I wrong! There’s so much more to Amsterdam that the drugs and the Red Light District!

My favorite things about Amsterdam can be summed up in these categories: Bikes, Food, Cheese (yes, I realize it’s food, but let’s be honest, it really needs its own category), Canals, Flowers, and Architecture.

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Bikes. First of all, they’re everywhere! All around town, you can find them chained to bridges and fences, crammed into parking lots (just for bikes), crowding sidewalks, and of course, being ridden. I love their sturdy design and the front apparatus for attaching all sorts of baskets. There are separate bike lanes on all roads, and they always have the right-of-way. I would be in heaven here!

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Food. OMG! If you are a foodie, Amsterdam is for you! I have to go back just for the sheer fact that I didn’t get to try all the foods I wanted to with the limited time I had. Not only can you get amazing cuisine from around the world (I had some pretty bad ass Thai food!), you can get some local delicacies only found in Holland! Two of my favorites were the poffertjes, pillowy little pancakes that are tasty with just a touch of butter and powdered sugar, and the most delicious cookie I’ve ever had, a double-chocolate confection that, when broken in half, reveals a melted white chocolate center. Both are pictured above. Apologies if your mouth is watering now.

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Cheese. Seriously, this was one of the highlights of my trip! I love good cheese, and I did not come across a cheese I didn’t like while I was there. In addition to my cheese plate for dinner, I visited the cheese shop three times to sample and purchase the variety of cheeses and sauces you see above. I brought home a spicy chili gouda, pesto gouda, 6 month and 12 month goat cheese, 4 month and 24 month gouda, apple cinnamon gouda, cranberry gouda, Maxima, and Old Amsterdam cheese. Additionally, I picked up some whole grain mustard, balsamic mustard, and pomegranate jam to go along with them. I cannot wait to break into them! Yumm!

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Canals. Who doesn’t love the novelty of beautiful canals running through the city? Amsterdam’s canals reminded me of Venice. I didn’t have time to take a cruise around in a boat, but next time, I’m definitely going to do it!

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Flowers. I missed tulip season by a few weeks, but that didn’t matter, flowers were everywhere! Beautiful blooms dotted the city in planters, vases, flower shop stalls, gardens, and balconies. The vibrant colors and gorgeous varieties caught my eye everywhere I went!

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Architecture. The old European feel of the city came through in the architecture. I loved the ornate designs on the old churches, the rows of townhouses and shops that lined the canals, and even the occasional leaning building. Amsterdam is definitely charming!

Overall, I highly recommend putting Amsterdam on your list! This beautiful, surprising city has catapulted to my top 5 cities around the world!

Broken Chinese + Charades- SOL #17

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Ring, ring, ring…”Ni hao,” I said as I answered the phone that’s connected to the front door of my apartment building. I had just ordered dinner, and although it seemed too soon for my food to be here, I was hopeful.

A frantic voice on the other end began shouting something in Chinese, desperate to get me to understand what he was saying.

“Sherpa’s ma?” I questioned, wondering if this was my food delivery guy.

More shouting, without confirmation that my food was here.

Thinking that maybe this guy just needed in the building, I pushed the key to let him in. About a minute later, there was a knock at my door. Opening it, I found a security guard yelling in Chinese about something, but I had no clue what he was trying to say.

“Shenme?” I asked, like even if he told me what was going on, I’d actually understand.

At this point, the Chinese was accompanied by charades. I got that he was talking about a bicycle or e-bike by the handlebar gestures.

“Yes, I have a bike,” I said as I nodded, wondering if he was trying to tell me that my bike needed to be moved or that it had been stolen.

Then, he began making the “crazy” gesture, you know the one, where you spin your finger around and around near your ear. Alternating between charades for a bike and crazy, I was so confused. My bike is crazy? You think a crazy person stole my bike? I’m crazy for having a bike?

Realizing he wouldn’t leave, I put on shoes and a coat and followed him downstairs. Once outside, I pointed to my bike, letting him know it was, in fact, still there. And nope, it didn’t look crazy to me. Another security guard joined the party, pointing in the opposite direction, yelling something I couldn’t understand. I continued pointing to my bike saying, “Wo de.” Mine.

Then I heard it. The annoying sound of a bike alarm blaring, over and over. Ohhhh…they thought the bike alarm incessantly going off was mine. The crazy gesture must have had something to do with the sound (or was it that they were going crazy because of it? :)).

Realizing that he called me outside for nothing, I was waved off with a “Dui bu qi.” Sorry.

“Mei guanxi.” No worries. It happens.

And this is why I really should learn more Chinese.

 

My Morning Commute- SOL #10

My morning commute is probably very different from yours. Most likely, you drive your own car, carpool with friends, or take public transport, such as a taxi, a bus, or the metro/subway. Sometimes I take a taxi to work, particularly when it’s raining, but now that my new school campus is so close to home, it’s great for me to be able to ride my e-bike in to work.

Today’s commute was sooooo cold! With the temperature at 1 degree Celsius, I made sure to bundle up! In addition to my sweater, I wore a thin down jacket, my big down jacket, a scarf, hat, gloves, and my new favorite thing…my bike blanket! I’ve embraced the local Shanghainese culture and succumbed to the bike snuggie look. 😉 Yes, I look ridiculous, but I like to think of it as ridiculously warm. Not only does it protect my hands from the wind and cold, the blanket keeps the wind off of my legs, too.

On my ride to work, which takes about 10 minutes, I tend to drive like the locals do, meaning that traffic laws are more suggestions than rules. The light’s red? Well, let’s slow down, look both ways, and proceed through the intersection if there are no cars in the way. Someone’s in my way or about to be in my way or looks at me funny, BEEEEEEP! Honking your horn is just what you do here. Turn signals are rarely used, but horns…those are a necessity used many times a day.

Today, I passed the man making jianbing from his shack on the corner of Wuzhong Lu and Zhongshan Lu, several buses stopping just long enough for people to hop on and off, many Chinese shops lining the streets selling all manner of goods, the little old Chinese lady who is always on her morning walk, the security guard having a smoke break on the corner, and lots of commuters, bundled up against the cold, dressed all in black, like an army walking, heads down, toward the metro.

I long for warmer days, where my face doesn’t burn from the cold wind, but I’m thankful for my little e-bike and the freedom it gives me! 🙂

New Bike- SOL #27

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As mentioned in another slice, I bought a custom-made bicycle a few weeks ago. I was finally able to pick it up, and I love it! I love that there’s not another one just like it in Shanghai. I love that it’s “me”– bright, colorful, and fun! I love that it’s very lightweight and easy to ride. I love that I will be able to exercise again in a fun way, because, let’s face it, if I’m not having fun doing it, I’m not going to exercise.

Riding home on my new bike filled my heart with joy. Maneuvering between the other bikes, scooters, cars, and pedestrians got my adrenalin pumping. Listening to my music and pedaling to the beat, I was able to drown out everything else and enjoy the ride. The feeling of sweat on my skin was a pleasant reminder that I need to do this more often. The high I felt when I returned home from my ride got me through the night. I’m so excited to have a bike again, and I hope that I can keep this one for a long time!

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Falling in Love With Shanghai- SOL #9

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Today was a *perfect* Shanghai day. The sun was shining, the temperature was in the 70-80F (20-27C) range, and I refused to stay at home. Melissa and I set out to enjoy the day and ended up falling in love with this amazing city all over again!

11:00 am- Brunch at Larder, an Australian restaurant in Tianzifang that boasts fresh ingredients, bold flavors, and an ambiance that reminds you of your mother’s kitchen. I enjoyed fresh orange juice, vegetable quiche, and chunky chips (with a side of goat’s cheese of course).

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1:00 pm- Walking aimlessly, Melissa and I explored the French Concession along Julu Lu. We couldn’t help but smile as we encountered a man selling gum on the side of the road while playing incredibly loud Chinese music from his boom box. Who sets up a gum stand? Laundry, shoes, and stuffed animals hanging on a rope stretched between two trees may seem odd to you considering we’re in the city center on a busy road, but that’s typical here in Shanghai. We couldn’t help but giggle when we realized how much we’d miss this when we were gone. And who couldn’t love the dog in the sweater sitting on the counter of the cigarette shop?

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2:00 pm- Stumble across a bicycle shop and purchase a custom-made bike. I have been without wheels for too long and decided to remedy that situation today. I cannot wait until I can pick up my bike that’s sure to turn some heads! I’ll post pictures when I get it, but trust me…it’s pretty bad ass.

3:30 pm- I love finding hidden gems. I’d heard lore of this “art street” where one can find any type of art supplies imaginable at incredibly cheap prices, but I’d never been able to pinpoint the exact location. Well today, Melissa and I found it! Bombarded with loads of art and office supplies at every turn, we kept exchanging, “How did we not know this was here?!?” “We gotta tell our teachers about this!” and “We don’t have to import our own Post-its anymore?!” We also quite enjoyed reading the notebook covers. Now that’s one thing I’ll never get tired of- reading the ridiculously Chinglish sayings on the covers of notebooks here. Here’s an example of one for your reading pleasure:

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Here’s what it says if you can’t read it:
“Maybe God wants us to meet a few
wrong people before meeting the right
one, so that when we finally meet the person,
we will know how to be grateful
TELL THE PEOPLE YOU LOVE
THAT YOU LOVE THEM,
AT EVERY OPPORTUNITY
Keep Learning. Learn More About
The Computer, Crafts, Gardening
Whatever. Never Let The Brain Idle
“an Idle Mind Is The Devil’s
Workshop. And The Devil’s Name
IS ALZHEIMER’S
And Always Remember; Life Is
Not Measured By The Number
Of Breaths We Take, But By The
Moments That Take Our Breath Away
The worst way to miss someone
is to besitting right beside
them knowing you can’t have them”

Bet you didn’t know the Devil’s name is Alzheimer’s, did you? 😉 You learn something new every day!

4:30 pm- Find my new favorite spot! Remember, that’s one of the things that make me happy. The next place we found made our hearts skip a beat! When we stepped into the Foreign Languages Bookstore on Fuzhou Lu, my soul breathed a sigh of relief. After nearly three years of living in Shanghai and accepting that the closest I would ever get to a bookstore is the small English sections of Chinese bookstores whose selections were limited to classics, NY Times Bestsellers, and a handful of children’s books, I had discovered a place that made my soul sing! Thousands upon thousands of books were at my fingertips. Fluttering around the stacks, I picked up books and read the blurbs, turning to Melissa to read her a new one every few minutes. We both smiled when we realized that we now had a place to come where we could surround ourselves with good, quality literature. I purchased four new books to add to my stack. Yippee!

6:15 pm- Foot massages at Subconscious Day Spa. When I say I’ve never had a better foot massage experience in my life, I mean it!

7:30 pm- Dinner at Dr. Wine. My unnatural obsession and love for goat’s cheese was satiated by our amazing dinner tonight. We shared the goat’s cheese bruschetta: crusty slices of baguettes topped with a mountain of goat’s cheese, 2 olives, and a drizzle of honey…yum! I also ate the tastiest goat’s cheese salad ever.

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9:00 pm- Melissa and I ended our night with a walk to Jing’an Temple, stopping along the way to window shop at Gucci, Ralph Lauren, Burberry, and Coach. It was the perfect end to a perfect day. You know you love your life when you’re constantly asking yourself, “Do I really live here? Is this really my life?” and pinching yourself to make sure it’s real!

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Thank you Melissa for a lovely day. I’m going to miss these when you’re gone, but I will always have today’s memory to savor.