Monday, November 30, 2009

Utrecht: 4th Largest City in Netherlands South of Amsterdam


Utrecht is the fourth largest city in The Netherlands. "Large" because of the number of residents (300,000), but also due to its important central location in the country and its boundless ambition. Hidden behind Utrecht's well-known picturesque and intimate atmosphere, is the most innovative, talent-rich and creative city in The Netherlands. 

I recommend visiting the following websites for detailed information on food, dining, hotel, entertainment in Utrecht.

De Oude Muntkelder

This restaurant has over 80 different pancakes to choose from! YUMMY! 
Address: Oudegracht aan de Werf 112
3511 AW Utrecht

De Gondelier van Utrecht

You can take an authentic Venetian gondola to sail through the Utrecht canals and enjoy Italian snacks.
P: 0(6) 519 98 519

Broadway American Steakhouse

Address: Oudegracht 139 a/d werf
3511 AL Utrecht
P: 030-2312643
17:00 uur tot 21:30 uur

Colorbike Tours

Located 10 minutes from Utrecht Centraal Station.

You can take a bike tour from the following packages:

1. City Tour- Shows you the entire city of Utrecht
2. Multiculi Tour- will take you to food and drink of Utrecht
3. Fortress Tour- will show you the nature of Utrecht
4. Private Tour- will take you anywhere you would like to go
Cost: 21.50 euro per person- one drink is included
Time frame: 2.5 hours and a short break

Sunday, November 29, 2009

St. Nicholas and Sinterklaas Day Most Important for the Dutch Culture

The Netherlands Celebration of Christmas: (my information is cited from the following website:

In mid-November Dutch television broadcasts the official arrival of St. Nicholas and his helper Zwarte Piet live to the nation. Coming by steamer from Spain, each year they dock in the harbor of a different city or village. Wearing traditionalbishop's robes, Sinterklaas rides into town on a white horse to be greeted by the mayor. A motorcade and a brass band begin a great parade which leads Sinterklaas and his Piets through the town. Nearly every city and village has its own Sinterklaas parade.

In the following weeks before St. Nicholas Day, December 6, Sinterklaas goes about the country to determine if the children have been well-behaved. He and his Zwarte Piet helpers visit children in schools, hospitals, department stores, and even at home. The bakeries are busy making speculaas molded spice cookies of the saint. During this time children put out their shoes with wish-lists and a carrot or hay, or maybe a saucer of water, for the horse. When St. Nicholas happens by, the next morning children may find chocolate coins or initial letter, candy treats, pepernoten, and little gifts in their shoes. Everyone hopes for sweets, not coal or a little bag of salt.

The Dutch celebrate Sinterklaas on December 5th, St. Nicholas Eve, with festive family parties when gifts and surprises are exchanged. In the Netherlands, unlike other places, adults as well as children join in the fun. As the Dutch like an element of surprise, a small gift may be wrapped in a huge box, or it may be hidden and require following clues to discover where it is.

Gifts are prettily wrapped in special Sinterklaas paper or they may be hidden, for example, in a potato or an old sock. Each gift, anonymously signed "from Sinterklaas," comes with a clever rhyme that may point out a person's shortcomings in a humorous way. (For the less creative, there are books with suggestions for making rhymes and packaging disguises.) Originality, not value of the gift, is what counts.

Children sing traditional Sinterklaas songs while waiting for the saint to appear. A knock comes on the door and a black gloved hand appears to toss candies and pepernoten inside. Children scramble to gather up the treats. A large burlap bag, "de zak van Sinterklaas," also appears filled with gifts. At the table, decorated with speculaas and other sweets, guests may find their initial in achocolate letter at their places. Food is apt to include hot chocolate, Bishop's wine, and letter banket.

The Dutch feast of Saint Nicholas is about giving, for "it is in giving that we receive." The fun is in trying to surprise people, to tease in a well-meaning way, to make a good joke, to produce a rollicking rhyme. The gift itself is just a bonus, as the fun is in the doing.

Sinterklaas is the most important tradition for the Dutch, a 2008 Centre for Dutch Culture survey found. Celebrated the evening of December 5 with traditional tasty foods, it is the main time for family gift-giving. The second ranked tradition is decorating a Christmas tree, followed by Queen's Day, April 30. Blowing out birthday candles and eating raw herring were also in the top ten.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Doetinchem and Germany

The Gasseling family is very close to the German border. They drove me into the country and I couldn't even tell I was in Germany. We went over the Rhein River which is the main transportation river in europe.
Here are a few really rainy, over cast pictures from more of my trip with the Gasseling family.

I'm standing on the only hill in The Netherlands- literally, it is as flat as a pancake in Holland. In the distance you can see Germany and the Rhein River bridge. We were very close to Emerick, Germany.

Me, Ton and Dabbert

View of Germany and the Rhein River bridge.

There is the bridge from the car.

A castle in Holland close to the German boarder.

Name is: Kasteel Huis Bergh (over 800 years old)

The Eastern Netherlands: Arnhem and Doetinchem

I was very excited about my travels to the Eastern Netherlands. My mothers side of the family originated from Holland. To this day there are several family members of mine who live in Doetinchem.
My true family history of the Gasseling family started in Wehl, Holland which is about 5 min from Doetinchem.

I took the trein from Amsterdam Centraal Station direct to Arnhem Station. My family picked me up from the station and we drove 20-30 minutes to Doetinchem.

Here are some great pictures of my Holland family.

Family restaurant: Resto Gasseling. Has been in the family since 1982. The food was amazing. If you are in the area traveling, stop by and mention you know Whitney!

Here is the address:
Keppelseweg 20-26
7001 CG Doetinchem
Telefoon 08340-44279

Ton Gasseling- Owner/Resto Gasseling

Ton's family: (from left to right) Marnick Gasseling, Dabbert Gasseling, Irma Gasseling, Ton Gasseling

More Gasselings: (L to R) Vincent Gasseling, Ans Gasseling, Grandma Gasseling, Ton Gasseling, Riet Gasseling, Marnick Gasseling

Yummy Hamburger!

Ice Cream Sundae with hot chocolate sauce!

Chicken and mushrooms....

French Onion Soup

Helma Gasseling and her two boys who are 14 and 15 years old. Helma is married to Vincent Gasseling and they own a Gasseling Snack Shop with snacks, soups, sandwiches,etc.

Irma and Ton Gasseling- so cute!

Marnick (16 years old) and Dabbert (18 years old)

Group picture--where's Whitney?

I didn't get the chance to meet Pedro Gasseling but he owns a local business selling fruit and vegetables to large restaurants. 

This is the house my grandfather's dad lived in and was raised. William Gasseling.
This house is in Wehl, Holland where all of the Gasseling family originated from!

Catholic Church ahead of picture where all of the Gasseling family grew up going too! It was an extremely rainy day and this picture was taken from the car.

Here are a couple more images of the Gasseling family farm land back in the 1800's.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Keukenhof Gardens: Largest flower garden in the world!

Keukenhof Gardens

As of right now I am in the Netherlands in the winter months. Unfortunately I'm not going to be able to visit the tulip fields when they are in bloom.
Bulb growers have created a place called Keukenhof Gardens.

You can visit this location late March to late May daily from 8am-7pm. Cost is 12.50 euro for admissions.
The town the gardens are located is called Lisse, which is 15m north of Leiden.
This is the largest flower gardens in the world, dating back to 1949. Several million flowers are on show for their full flowering period. You can easily spend an entire day here!

Some interesting facts regarding the bulbs:

The Dutch call the bulb fields "pancake flat." Many fields stretch from Leiden towards Haarlem supporting over a billion euro industry with over 10 thousand growers. Bulbs have been around since the late 16th century. Carolus Clusius, a Dutch botanist and one-time gardener brought the first tulip bulb over from Vienna, where it had sandy soil and was highly looked upon--causing a massive need and want for them!

Here are a few images that I managed to pull from the gardens website.

You can rent bikes and take a tour around the gardens.

Even a nice boat ride...

Also- you are able to purchase bulbs at the gardens gift store.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Kinderdijk- Holland Windmills
Click on the ENGLISH icon and read all about Kinderdijk. Absolutely MIND BLOWING! (no pun intended) :-)

Some information from the website to give you an overview:

The Netherlands is famous for its windmills. Today there are still more than 1.000 mills. Nowhere in the world you will find as many windmills as near (the Dutch village) Kinderdijk. Around 1740 no less than 19 sturdy mills were built here. They have been well preserved to the present day.

The mills drain the excess water from the Alblasserwaard polders - which are situated below sea-level - after which the water is sluiced into the river Lek (the Rijn).

The powerful mill sails serve to transmit the force of the wind on to large paddle-wheels which scoop up the water. Nowadays power-driven pumping engines do the job, including one of the largest water screw pumping-stations in Western Europe.

Small Cities to visit In-between Den Haag and Rotterdam (Zuid Holland)



Leiden (in between Amsterdam and Den Haag)

You can purchase one ticket to Rotterdam for a day trip and stop at all of the locations listed above. If you are taking the train from Amsterdam you would purchase a round trip to Rotterdam since that is the furthest city away. Keep your ticket on you, they have security that comes to your seat to make sure you purchased a ticket.

Images from Rotterdam

Den Haag Holland- Region also known as Zuid Holland and Utrecht

Zuid Holland (South Holland) is the most densely populated area of the Netherlands.

You must visit Den Haag which is right along the coast of the North Sea. BEAUTIFUL!!!

Important information: You will need to take a train to this location from Amsterdam Centraal Station. There are two train stations in Den Haag and you need to get off at the Den Haag Centraal Station. (the other location would be Den Haag HS). The Den Haag Centraal is more convenient, and only five minutes from the center of the city. Round trip will cost about 25 euro.

YOU NEED to take the TRAM (Tram 9) the North of Den Haag (10 min. bus ride) and visit the beach called Scheveningen. You pronounce s-khay-ve-ning-uh. Very difficult. Cost for a bus ride is only 2.60 euro round trip!
Here are a few pictures. This small town is wedged against the seashore. This is the Netherlands BIGGEST costal resort. This location attracts more than 9 million people every year.

Casino and Restaurant right on the water!

Sea Life Center Aquarium

Friday, November 13, 2009

Museum Cards!

Of course there are hundreds of great museums in the Netherlands. When you arrive, before you spend any of your euro on admission fees I highly recommend you purchase a Museum card. This card allows you access to over 400 museums for FREE.
The cards are 30 euro for 1 year.

Name in Dutch: Museumjaarkaart

You can visit: You can purchase online or at any museum.

Netherlands: Fun Facts

The Netherlands has a population of 16 million people.
This gives you an idea of the largest cities in the Netherlands.

- 730,000 live in the capital- Amsterdam
- 600,000 live in Rotterdam
- 450,000 live in Den Haag (The Hague)

The country has a present Queen- Beatrix who was crowned in 1980. She turned 68 this year.

Hash..Marihuana...Weed...Cannabis..Whatever you call it, it's here in Amsterdam!

As you venture closer to downtown Amsterdam, you'll find several "coffee shops" ( haha) and individual mini-mart stores that sell a large variety of weed and other items. You'll have to see for yourself!
It is pretty mind blowing when you're not used to "legal" weed and it's sold in stores, along with pipes like no big deal. WOW!!!
Also- the term "weed" is not used over's HASH or CANNABIS.

There is a Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum in Amsterdam.

Address: Oudezijds Achterburgwal 130 Amsterdam (Next to the Sensi Seed Bank)
Open every day from 10:00 am till 23:00 pm ( 11:00 pm)

Sensi Seed Bank (Looks like you can learn about all the different cannabis seeds and grow your own!?!?)

The Bulldog Cafe

Dutch cities remain just about the only ones in the world where you can stand in a public place and announce in a loud, clear voice that you would like to buy and smoke a large, packed joint, while doing it right in front of the police. Many coffee shops offer discounted bulk purchases.

Funny fact regarding weed- it's illegal to advertise cannabis in any way, which includes calling attention to the fact that it's available at all. You have to ask to see the menu, which is normally kept behind the counter. The menu lists the different hashes and grasses they offer and how many grams you get for your money.

Read about the history of the Bulldog here:

You can buy your very own- Bulldog smoker package. (OMG!!!) This is just crazy!

I read this information in my travel guide so listen up!

Thousands of visitors come to the Netherlands in general, and Amsterdam just to get stoned. This actually has become a problem creating a "drug tourism" country.
The Dutch government's attitude on soft drugs is more complex than you might think!. The use of CANNABIS is tolerated but not condoned. You can only purchase very small amounts for personal use only. If you buy in bulk and sell to others you become liable under Dutch criminal law.

The Dutch law regarding MAGIC MUSHROOMS. You can legally buy and possess any amount as long as they are fresh. BUT, as soon as you tamper with them (boil, or cook them) they become as illegal as crack.

Cocaine, Heroin, Ecstasy, Acid and Speed are all ILLEGAL in the Netherlands as they are anywhere else.

Now, the big question- how do I know all of this? I've been reading some great books about the country and the Netherlands and in almost all of them they explain this. I thought I'd save you the money and you can read my notes instead. I tried to cover an overview of all the important stuff!