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Archive for June, 2008

Bike and Boat Tours in Amsterdam

June 30th, 2008

Bike and Boat Tours in Amsterdam

Locals riding by on bikes is very common in Amsterdam, see the city as the locals do by renting a bike. You can tour the city on bike or take a tour on a boat through Amsteram’s canals. The boats provide the best views of the city.

Review of Mike’s Bike and Boat Tours

Mike’s Bike and Boat Tours Amsterdam - Offers two separate tours throughout the year, the Daily Bike Tour and the Bike and Boat Tour. The Daily Bike Tour meets everyday from May until September and travels the entire city and countryside visiting sites such as a windmill and a cheese farm/clog factory. During the June, July and August months the Bike and Boat Tours are avaliable. These tours depart 3 times per week for about 5 hours for both the bike and boat tour. The bike tour goes through town and passes by sites such as Dam Square, the Nieuw Markt and the Anne Frank House. On the boat tour the group has the boat all to themselves. The tour lasts about an hour and takes you through the Amsterdam Canals including the Red Light District. Beer and soft drinks are served on the boat and are included in the tour price. On the way back, the boat will stop for snacks and sandwiches in Vondel Park. You can purchase snacks and sandwiches there or bring a packed lunch. For more information visit Mike’s Bike Tours Amsterdam.

Tips for getting the most out of your bike or boat tour

  • Make sure you are well equip with mosquito spray if you plan on taking these tours in the summer months.

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Playa Tortuga

June 27th, 2008

Playa Tortuga

With lots open-air cafes, restaurants and bars to choose from, Playa Tortugas in Cancun Mexico’s white sandy beach is a great beach to visit. With shopping and tons of watersports, you can definitely make this beach a day trip.

The water at this beach is clear, calm and deep which is perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving. Playa Tortugas means Turtle Beach in English, here’s a perfect example as to why it is named this:

Diving in Playa Tortuga Reef 2007

If you want to rent snorkeling equipment head over to the northern end of the island. You can also rent sailboards there as well.

Tips for visiting Playa Tortuga

  • No entrance fee.
  • There is a public bus you can take that will drop you off right in front of the entrance.
  • This is one of the local’s favorite beaches so expect crowds.
  • Restrooms and changing areas are located along the northern end of this beach.

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Playa Delfines

June 25th, 2008

Playa Delfines

Playa Delfines is one of the less crowded beaches in Cancun Mexico, if you are looking for a Spring Break hot spot, this beach is not for you. This beach is more for avoiding the crowds, tanning and relaxing. Not the best place to swim because of the strong currents, swimming in these waters is dangerous. One of the highest points in Cancun, this beach has some of the best views. See a more relaxed side to Cancun and visit Playa Delfines.

Tips for visiting Playa Delfines

  • Free admission.
  • Restrooms at location.
  • Pack a lunch or bring a snack as there are not many places to eat near by.
  • Parking is limited so it would be a good idea to take a taxi or to take the bus.

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“Exotic” Travel in Helsinki

June 23rd, 2008

If you are a savvy traveller and you know that there is more to Europe than London, Paris and Rome why not including one of the more exotic European capitals in your next trip in Europe? Helsinki – the capital of Finland - will definitely have a top ranking on this list.

 

 

There is a lot to explore although the city is only a fraction of the size of Paris or Berlin.

Luckily most of Helsinki’s people speak English very well otherwise you would have problems. Unlike a trip to France or Germany you will not be able to pick up a few catchy phrases from a guide book during your flight time. Street names and words with seven “i”s will make you look into your guidebook or on the map the same number of times before you memorize the words. This makes a taxi ride as exotic as in Japan so you better point on the map or on the street name in a book. Otherwise it may happen you land in a totally different neighbourhood. Speaking of taxis: the basic starting fare when you board a taxi at Helsinki’s Vantaa airport is EUR 6.80 (and you are not gone any mile for this)….

 

 

The number of typical sightseeing targets (think: mum is standing with hanging arms in front of Eiffel Tower) in Helsinki is not high. That does not mean you cannot spend 4 or 5 days for a visit. It’s more about the full picture of Helsinki and Finland: what are the people like, what are their habits, what is the fashion, what are they interested in, where do they go for their weekend, what is the food like…

 

Hotel Kämp

Hotel Kamp

So while you visit you may include classic spots like the Senate Square with its neo-classical Cathedral; Esplanade Park with elegant shops and the posh Hotel Kämp; the “Rock” church with modern architecture, quarried out of the natural bedrock with excellent acoustics for concerts; the orthodox church with its golden cupolas showing the Russian impact of former times.

Helsinki

During a summer trip you can enjoy long days and a 20 minute ferry ride to Suomenlinna, an island with a maritime fortress and beautiful views of other sides of the city at the sea.

 

 

 

Suomenlinna

Suomenlinna

If you travel in winter time you should not miss a visit to your hotel’s sauna (you do not need to stay in a spa hotel to have that) or much better: to Yrjönkatu, an amazingly restored swimming hall from the 1920s.

 

A cheap and fun way to see different neighbourhoods is to jump on a tram. One of the most interesting neighbourhoods you will see then is the Design District with many shops, galleries, design hotel Klaus K and the Design Forum Finland showing most of the country’s big names in design and art. You will find all the classic top-class brands and trend-setting young designers for objects and furniture.

 

 

Hotel Klaus K

Klaus K

 

But one of my favourite things to do in Helsinki is: checking out restaurants ! I do not speak of traditional so-called-typical Finnish food like elk. Not that it’s bad but admit it: it is rather to show off next time when your friends compare what exotic meat everybody ate on his trips than to enjoy a fantastic dinner. There has been a development in Helsinki’s restaurant scene that brings very creative chefs from all around the world into this city’s kitchens. The food is very fresh and of high quality, the meals are creative and restaurants offer various atmospheres. Try “Sasso”, a Tuscan restaurant with fantastic food and an exceptional wine list. The service is outstanding and you can dare to ask for details of a wine and you will get the full story including who created the label on the bottle. Similar situation at “Fishmarket” , situated below “Sasso” in the same building and has the same owner but different approach and style. Despite its location in a cellar it is very bright and crisp in style. The fish is a well. Both restaurants can be found at the end of Esplanade street towards the port.

Another favourite is “Mecca”, a cool lounge/club goes restaurant goes club. The atmosphere is as you would expect it from a stylish club. Regular guests match this style – without the attitude you know from New York or Paris.

 

Mecca

Mecca

For another Mediterranean top restaurant I recommend “La Cucina” - with Catalonian and Basque cuisine. Located at the Palace Hotel’s second floor directly at the port. The restaurant welcomes guests with dark black and red design, stylish, modern but cozy. They offer pintxos (tapas) and main dishes of great variety and combinations. Fantastic dark blood coloured red match perfectly. I had my best deserts at this restaurant (chocolate varieties with sea salt) and would not fly Helsinki if I knew this restaurant was closed during that time (almost…).

La Cocina

 

La Cucina

I did not expect the great food and sophisticated interest for architecture and design before I came to Helsinki for the first time. Be surprised if you are going.

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Utrechtsestraat Amsterdam

June 20th, 2008

Utrechtsestraat Amsterdam

Known for it’s trendy, hip fashions specifically for women, this street is typically less crowded than De Negen Straatjes or Kalverstraat. Lots of places to eat to choose from and excellent shopping basically sums up this place. You can find anything from fashionable clothing to gadgets and good food.

Two places to check out in Utrechtsestraat Amsterdam

  • Be sure to check out Pasja for some funky clothing fashions
  • de Keuken offers specialty kitchen products and a small, quaint restaurant

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De Negen Straatjes ‘The Nine Little Streets’ in Amsterdam

June 18th, 2008

De Negen Straatjes ‘The Nine Little Streets’

In the heart of Amsterdam you can find ‘The Nine Little Streets’; Amsterdam’s prestige shopping. Located between Raadhuisstraat and Leidsestraat, you can find anything from vintage stores to specialized theme stores. The coffee is amazing and the shops have a variety of specialty items, here are some examples:

  • Like shoes? Shoe designer Yvette Riemersma has a shop called Antonia by Yvette filled with this seasons latest fashions.
  • Enjoy the artwork of Bilal Chahal at BIHP, the Bar and restaurant that offers lunch, dinner, high tea, fine wines and cocktails.
  • Onitsuka Tiger Store Amsterdam carries imports from Japan such as sport shoes, clothes and accessories.
  • Marlies Katy Smit’s store, MK Jewelry has must see Designer Jewellery and Bespoke Jewelry. There are also Jewellers and Diamond Specialists.
  • Claire V is a designer boutique of designer silk and embroidered silk bags in the season’s best colors.

Interactive Google Map of de Negen Straatjes ‘The Nine little Streets’ in Amsterdam

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Canal Ring in Amsterdam

June 16th, 2008

Canal Ring in Amsterdam

In the 17th century, the Canal Ring became a very wealthy place. Famous merchants, extremely wealthy bankers and other very wealthy business owners built their magnificent homes here. The most prestigious residents built their homes on the Golden Bend or the Gouden Bocht. This area is located where all three canals intersect with Nieuwe Spiegelstraat. The Canal Ring is located Soutwest of the city center of Amsterdam. Also know as Grachtengordel, there are three main canals that make up this ring of canals:

The Princes\' Canal (Prinsengracht) Amsterdam

The Princes’ Canal (Prinsengracht)

The Emporer\'s Canal (Keizersgracht)

The Emporer’s Canal (Keizersgracht)

The Gentlemen\'s Canal (Herengracht) Amsterdam

The Gentlemen’s Canal (Herengracht)

The Canal Ring offers shopping, dining, museums and many other attractions.

 

Tips for visiting Canal Ring in Amsterdam

  • Bring an umbrella and a wind proof jacket as the weather in Amsterdam is known for changing often and very quickly.
  • Wear a good pair of walking shoes that will withstand the cobblestone streets.
  • There are a lot of people on bicycles, watch out for them when crossing the street.
  • Use a good map. Below is an interactive map of the Canal Ring by Google Maps:

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Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam

June 13th, 2008

Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam

The Van Gogh Museum is located on Paulus Potterstraat 7 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. The museum is home to more than 200 of Vincent van Gogh’s paintings. In fact, it is the largest collection of Van Gogh’s paintings in the world! Drawings and letters from the famous artist are also on display. Guided and audio tours are available through the museum.

Tips for getting the most out of your visit

  • Go to the information desk and pick up a free leaflet (available in 8 languages: Dutch, English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese and Russian). The leaflet contains a biography of Van Gogh’s life and can be used while watching the presentation on the first floor of Van Gogh’s life in chronological order. The leaflet also contains a map of the entire museum by floor.
  • The audio tour is offered in 9 languages including Dutch, English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Russian and Mandarin. If you are going to be visiting in a group you will need to make reservations in advance. If you are visiting with children ask about the Children’s Audio Tour (for children ages 7 to 12).
  • The Van Gogh multimedia tour uses PDA technology to take visitors on a tour through the museum featuring reproductions, stories, photos, letters, drawings, interviews, film clips, music and games. This tour is available in English and Dutch.
  • Don’t forget to stop by the Van Gogh Museum Shop. They have tons of informative books and magazines about Van Gogh and other artists from the 19th century.
  • The museum is accessible for disabled visitors.
  • To get to the museum take tram number 2 and 5 from the Central Station. Here is a map of the location below:

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Kalverstraat Amsterdam

June 11th, 2008

Kalverstraat Amsterdam

Kalverstraat in Amsterdam is the busiest shopping street of the entire street. Starting from Dam Square and ending about 750 meters down Munttoren, this street is the longest shopping street in Amsterdam packed with people! See the image below.

Kalverstraat Amsterdam

Tips for getting the most out of your Kalverstraat Amsterdam visit

  • Kalvertoren is a small shopping mall open 7 days a week. This mall stores such as features shops from department stores to boutiques. There are also many places to eat here as well.
  • It is most crowded on Saturdays and Sundays. Tuesday mornings are said to be the least crowded.

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The Heineken Experience in Amsterdam

June 9th, 2008

The Heineken Experience in Amsterdam

The Heineken Experience

This museum features rides, interactive exhibits and three bars. Learn about the evolution of the company’s history and brewing processes. The museum is currently closed for renovation until Summer of 2008 for expansion. Here is an overview of what the Heineken Experience has to offer prior to the expansion.

The Life of a Heineken Bottle Ride

Guests follow the path of the life of a Heineken bottle from making the bottle to filling the bottle to labeling and shipping the bottle. The floor of this ride moves for a better effect and the process is pretty cool to watch.

 

3 Free Heinekens

Heineken Beers

As you walk along the factory you will be given 3 free, fresh Heineken beers.

Souvenirs

At the end of your self guided tour of the factory visitors receive a complimentary souvenir from the Heineken factory

Other Attractions

  • Create your own music video and e-mail it to your friends.
  • Watch old Heineken commercials

Tips for getting the most out of your experience

  • Give yourself about 3 hours to take this self guided tour
  • Bring a camera as you will have many fun photo taking opportunities

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