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Trip to Amsterdam made richer by new friends.
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Visit the Photo Place
The walls of the restaurant are covered with photographs of mothers, and the menu is mouth-watering.
We settled on a Dutch
We stuffed ourselves, took a 10-minute break, then stuffed ourselves again. Still, there was so much food left by the end of the meal that it looked like we hadn't eaten anything.
I topped it all off with a glass of mint tea, a Dutch specialty that isn't actually tea at all. It's fresh mint leaves covered with boiling water and sweetened with honey. So simple and so delicious.
Though we lacked bicycles, we rolled ourselves home.
THE FAMILY TREATMENT
I couldn't visit Holland without seeing tulips, so the next morning, we headed south to Leiden. Our half-hour train ride took us past fields so colorful they look as if they're wrapped with red, yellow and purple ribbons.
Another 20 minutes by bus and we were strolling through Keukenhof, an 80-acre public garden filled with tulips, hyacinths and other exotic flowers that look like they've been beamed from alien planets.
Some of the blooms were the size of a fist, and the fragrance of the park was indescribably beautiful. Marijuana may be legal in Holland, but the best place to inhale is most definitely Keukenhof.
That evening, back in Amsterdam, we received a call from Newsha. Her friends Wassily Khudyakov and Ella de Rijke were having a dinner party. Did we want to join them?
A home-cooked meal was entirely unexpected--and something we were not going to pass up.
Wassily is a third-generation painter from Russia who specializes in restoration and conservation of artwork. He met Ella when he was 22 and she was 12 and her neighbors were hosting a showing of his paintings.
They ran into each other again 10 years later during a bike ride--I guess that's the Dutch way--and married soon after.
They welcomed us like old friends and served plate after plate of delicious food: beef stew, rice, salad and a casserole of zucchini, mozzarella and artichoke.
We were joined by Newsha's husband, Thomas, and his best friend, Jan-Dirk van der Burg, a photographer whose latest book is my new favorite.
It's called "Olifanten Paadjes," or "Desire Lines" in English, and it's a collection of images shot throughout Holland of shortcuts--those barren footpaths we carve into the grass when we repeatedly avoid the "official" sidewalk or staircase because our path is quicker.
You've seen them everywhere, but it's unlikely you've seen a collection unless you already own van der Burg's book. My favorite part is that, with each image, he includes the meters saved by using that shortcut.
Stuffed to the gills again, I leaned back and listened to the conversations swirling around the table, alternating from Russian to Dutch to English to Farsi.
Being a tourist in Amsterdam is wonderful. But nothing beats being treated like family.
Edie Gross: 540/374-5428
Most of the new friends I made in Amsterdam are artists or photographers. To see their work, check out:WorldPressPhoto.org features work by some of the world's most incredible photographers. Winners of this year's awards were recognized at a ceremony in Amsterdam in April. StephanieSinclair.com is photographer Stephanie Sinclair's website. You can also view her award-winning project on child brides at National Geographic.com.
Iranian photographer Newsha Tavakolian displays her work at NewshaTavakolian.com.
Sander Goudswaard's latest project, bringing the world together through photography, can be viewed at ADay.org.
Russian-born painter and art restorer Wassily Khudyakov hosts a site at Conservart.nl.JanDirk.com features work by Dutch photographer Jan-Dirk van der Burg, whose book "Olifanten Paadjes" is my new favorite. TOURIST TIPS Moeders.com: For an amazing meal in Amsterdam, do not miss Moeders Restaurant. A reservation is recommended. Ambassade-hotel.nl: Ten 17th-century canal-front homes were linked to form this beautiful hotel in the heart of the canal district. Charming rooms, friendly staff. Keukenhof.nl: A short train ride from Amsterdam, this 80-acre public garden is a treat for the senses. Lovers.nl: Several companies offer canal cruises in Amsterdam, but we enjoyed an afternoon trip with this company. Transportation: You can reach every major city in Holland by train from Schiphol Airport. The trip to Centraal Station in Amsterdam takes about 20 minutes. Once in Amsterdam, we found the tram system very easy to use, especially if you pick up a week's pass at an office conveniently located just outside the train station. Visitors can also rent bicycles, Amsterdam's main form of transportation. Importing flowers: You can bring Dutch bulbs back with you, but be sure the bags you buy carry a special stamp indicating they've been preapproved for import to the United States or they'll be confiscated. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the bulbs must have "a certificate bearing a serial number, the scientific name of the bulb, the country of its origin and a date on which the special certificate expires," which is usually six weeks from the date of issue.