Category Archives: Leisure

The Netherlands – Zan Schans

Zan Schans is a quaint little traditional Dutch village less than half an hour away from Amsterdam. It is characterised by windmills and little stores selling trinkets, clogs, chocolates, cheese and other little goodies. There is also the interesting Zan Schans Museum. We had a relaxing half a day out in Zan Schans. Below are a few pictures:

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Amsterdam – Canals, Boat-houses and Bikes

A good way to capture the unique sights around Amsterdam is to take a boat cruise along the many canals. I expected to see many bridges, boats and bikes – but what I found most interesting were the boat-houses along the two sides in the river. People actually lived there, and seemed to be having cozy house plants, family dinners or get-togethers and audio-equipment in them! Here are a few photos from the boat cruise:

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Amsterdam – The Heineken Experience

In the centre of Amsterdam next to the roundabout amidst a hive of activity, more beautiful gardens, pancake houses and a river, is an imposing building – the Heineken brewery. Having passed by the centre of town a few times and seen this inviting building, our curiosity got the better of us and we decided we had to have the Heineken experience.

We were given a tour around the brewery and shown how beer is made from the 4 main ingredients – water, barley, hops and yeast.

There was a section relating the history of how Heineken started with an entrepreneurial beginning and how very scientific techniques were applied to improve the quality of the beer, with many exhibits.

Horses have been very much a part of the story, being used for their strength to transport the beer – we saw real live horses in the building.

There was also a section called “Brew you ride. Be the beer.” This was a 4D experience  where we were given the experience of “being the beer”. This included a little water being sprayed on us and the experience of being shaken in the room just like beer when it’s brewed!

Here are just a few photos:

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Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum – Starry, Starry Night….


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The Van Gogh Museum celebrates its 40th year in 2013. We understood that it just re-opened it’s doors to the public on 1 May 2013 so it was perfectly timed for our visit. More can be found here about Van Gogh’s life and works.

I was reminded of a lovely video a friend of mine sent below with the famous song Starry, Starry Night, the tribute to Van Gogh. The video contains some of his well known works of art. The link is below, following the words (called VanGoghSong1). Just open it, click on slide show and enjoy.

You probably know the song “Starry Starry Night” by Don McLean, written by him in 1971 as a tribute to Vincent van Gogh. The song describes various Van Gogh paintings. In 1972, McClean’s record was No.1 in the U.K. 

For several years, the Van Gogh  Museum in Amsterdam played the song daily.

In the museum’s security safe is a copy of the sheet music, a set of  Van Gogh’s paint brushes,

the hat he wore while painting Starry Night  and various other items.

It is said that ‘Starry Night’ was painted while he was in an asylum.

He sold only one painting during his lifetime, as his genius was not recognized. 

That may be what caused him to fall into an abyss of depression which led to his suicide…….

tragic for one so gifted to have felt so non-understood.

Open the attached  and enjoy the video.  Make sure you have the volume turned up!

( if you want to print off the pictures, you’ll have a set of Van Gogh’s 32 best-known paintings.)


Amsterdam – Artis Zoo

Artis Zoo was named as one of the top ten attractions in Amsterdam, so we spent a few hours there. It was a nice day out – very pleasant. We had a good impression of the zoo. The place was well maintained and all the animals healthy looking. There were many interesting animals, a place for kids with tame farm animals that they could get close to and touch and another area, a “Forest House” with freely roaming animals. Of course, the landscaped gardens were beautiful with pretty flowers including tulips. Below are a few photos:

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The Netherlands – Heavenly Keukenhof

Before visiting Keukenhof in early May this year, I had thought to myself – “Flowers – they’ll be pretty, but well, they’re just flowers…”. While I walked around in Keukenhof however, the sights were mesmerizingly beautiful everywhere I turned. I could not help but keep thinking that this was what I could imagine heaven to look like. We were blessed with pleasant weather that day too – temperature in the low twenties and lots of sunshine. There was the pleasant light scent of flowers to top it off.

There were seven million bulbs of tulips there this year in Keukenhof, we were told. Many were on beautifully landscaped gardens; there were also fields of tulips that we could get a view of from above, standing on a windmill – seas of red, yellow, orange, white… rows of flowers one after another into the distance. Do enjoy just a few photos below.

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Happy Deepavali!

Deepavali or Diwali is on Tuesday, 13 November this year. Deepavali is also known as the ‘Festival of Lights’ and is the celebration of the victory of good over evil according to legends. Celebrations are with oil lamps and other light, colours, decorations, fireworks and of course lots of goodies to eat!

The photos here were taken when I went to an Indian restaurant during Deepavali a couple of years ago. The decoration on the floor (known as ‘kolam’) is made with coloured rice grain. Different, very creative designs of kolam are seen in various places during this festival.

To all Hindus around the world – a very happy and prosperous Deepavali to you, with lots of light, happiness and good fortune.

The Moon in Broad Daylight


It was 7am and I ventured outside. The morning being pretty bright already, I expected to see the sun rising. Lo and behold – what did I see instead? The full moon in all its glory!

The moon is beautiful to look at, and I usually admire the full moon at night. I have to say, it’s pretty interesting in broad daylight too. Although not visible in the photo, I could see little blobs and contours – blue, grey and yellow. I was intrigued.

Hello, Moon! 🙂

Arghhh! Stuck in Train Doors

No apologies if your head gets stuck in train doors!

The Writer’s Digest recently announced a very short story contest called The Shortest Short Story Contest which requires a story to be told in 132 characters or less (in Twitter) or 140 characters or less in its website. In an impulsive moment, I thought “why don’t I write any little story that comes to my mind?”.

Here’s what I wrote in 132 characters:

The train doors crushed me. Stuck, struggling, I prepared to be dragged viscously to my death. Suddenly, the doors opened. Oh god!

Someone made a nice comment about this little story, so I thought I’d tell the full story here. Yes, it’s a true story – it actually happened to me!

I had landed in London, Heathrow in a snowy, very cold winter one January, after a good six weeks in the tropics. It was obviously a shock to the system, besides, I was very tired after the 14-hour flight. Taking the underground train (or tube as it’s called in London) to Central London, I was half asleep when I realised my destination had arrived. I rushed to pick my suitcase and bags up.

I was wearing leather gloves, and struggled to lift the suitcase handle which had a spring that flapped it firmly down when not being lifted. I took out my gloves but my fingers were numb in the freezing weather a weather that I really hadn’t gotten used to just then. I could hardly feel anything with my fingers. By the time a managed to lift up my suitcase and gather my other bags and speed out, it was too late. The train doors slammed hard with me stuck in between them clutching all my bags with my numb hands! I was absolutely terrified.

I had visions of being dragged by the train, crushed against the walls of the underground tunnel and being torn to pieces. Arghhh! Horror of horrors! Thankfully, oh, so thankfully, a few seconds later, the doors opened and I walked out, my blood circulating properly again at last. Only at that moment did it occur to me that these trains must have sensors and safety features built in that prevent them from moving if the train doors are not shut properly. Of course – it makes perfect sense! Silly me! Nevertheless, technology is not always reliable and there is always a chance of something going a little awry, so I have to admit, I would still be a little scared if it happened again, if not as terrified.

Well, that’s my little story! I wonder if someone could have imagined it from the shorted 132-character version!

Quotes from ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’


I was travelling yesterday and re-watched a couple of old movies that I had seen a long time ago. One of them was ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’. There were a couple of charming quotes in the movie that made me smile.

Advice from Mother to Daughter on Influencing Dad:

The man is the head of the house, but the woman is the neck… and the neck can turn the head in any way she wants.

Wedding Speech by Bride’s Father on the Coming Together of the Two Families (Greek and American):

(The bridegroom’s family name was said to mean ‘apple’ and the bride’s family name meant ‘orange’.)

“Apples and oranges…they are different, but in the end, we are all fruit.”