Amazing Amsterdam

May 13, 2016

For the first time since I opened Sweet Peas Design 13 years ago I took a two-week vacation - it was an art-centric tour of Amsterdam - and it was incredibly inspiring.

Photo Courtesy of Sweet Peas Design

For the first time since I opened Sweet Peas Design 13 years ago I took a two-week vacation last month - it was an art-centric tour of Amsterdam - and it was incredibly inspiring. It’s tough to step away from work for that long and go so far away  - you know what I mean - but I left the studio in my team’s expert hands and thoroughly enjoyed the break in routine. This beautiful and historic city is the Silicon Valley of Europe – it’s the hub of entrepreneurial activity and the culture, architecture and art are fascinating. I will be blogging periodically about what I saw and did there, but I want to start with some overall observations:

Photo Courtesy of Sweet Peas Design

Bikes, bikes bikes! It seems like everyone rides a bike everywhere in this city, unless they are walking. We saw bikes chained to every bridge and light post, and at the train station there is a garage four or five ramps high dedicated to bikes. The Rijksmuseum and the train station both have bike lanes running through their interiors! I heard that people ride 5 to 10 miles a day to work and think nothing of it, and I saw senior citizens as old as 85 still riding bikes. Why? The city is just not car-friendly - the streets are narrow, there are many canals snaking throughout and the parking fees are high at 5 Euros an hour. People even ride in the rain.

Photo Courtesy of Sweet Peas Design

Everyone is fit That’s no surprise given all that bike riding and walking. I didn’t see one overweight Dutch person. Not only do they get a lot of activity, but they eat less. Portion sizes are noticeably smaller in restaurants. You get what you need but nothing is super-sized.

Photo Courtesy of Sweet Peas Design

Canal Houses  You won’t see this on the Chicago River – dozens and dozens of floating houses moored along the banks of the canals. Why? They cost half as much as homes in downtown Amsterdam overlooking the canals, though they are taxed like other homes, and the residents get to live in the heart of the city. It would be so much fun to rent one for a month, though there’s not much privacy. Your neighbors on either side are really close, and of course there’s boat traffic up and down the canals all day, so if you’re laying out on your deck you’re in full view of a lot of people!

Photo Courtesy of Alamy.com

No To-Go Nobody walks around with a Starbucks cup in hand. Everybody sits and relaxes with their coffee in restaurants, cafes or at home, which is so typical of Europe. One morning I asked for a to-go cup of tea from our hotel to take on the bus and the server looked at me as if I had three eyes. She finally found me a cup but then everyone in my tour group caught on and within a couple of days the hotel ran out!

Stay tuned for future installments of my trip – I’ll be talking about art and architecture ahead.

 

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