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Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Queen's Day

April 30th is a little like the Dutch National holiday as it is "Koninginnedag", which means Queen's day. It is the day the whole country dresses in Orange and celebrates the Queen...at least that's how it should be...if you click here and read below you will find out more about this popular festivity in the Netherlands.

This is actually my 7th Queen's day. My first was back in 98 when I did my traineeship in Mannheim Germany and that was my first time EVER in Amsterdam...little did I know then that I was going to end up living in this city.

This Queen's day has actually felt more like a Queen's week. As the day itself was on a Monday, we had a long weekend to celebrate and as the weather is still really nice to us, lets say that the anticipation of the long weekend and the wonderful weather made it all more special.

Warmondstraat 148hs' maiden 2007 BBQ

After checking the weather forecast earlier last week, Laurent (my flatmate for the ones that don't know) decided that it was about time for us to do the first BBQ of the year. We first decided to have something small but somehow we ended up being 12 persons as apparently everybody was excited about being able to have a BBQ.
We had an interesting combination of people: 3 Spaniards, 4 Dutch, 3 Peruvians, 1 French and 1 Mexican...everybody except 2 knew how to speak Spanish...so that language was widely spoken through that nice evening.

Ruben, my really good Spanish friend, decided to make Sangria for the occasion. Little did I know that he was going to get so carried away. He made about 7 liters of Sangria...but as we were all really responsible people who had to be at work the next day. We only drank half of it...without counting the wine of course.

If you keep reading, you will find the link for the photos of that really nice evening!

The Start of the weekend: Farewell, Beach and another BBQ

The long waited Friday came and it started with some nice drinks in the bar of the "Hotel Arena" where Ruben hosted his farewell drinks as he will be moving to the South of the Netherlands where he will start working in some weeks. We had a really nice time, sitting outside, having a nice chat and having some drinks.
After 1am some of the guys went to the disco but I decided I wanted to take it easy that evening as I had an important date the next morning: me and the sun in the beach ;-)

Indeed at about 9:30am Aissa sent me an SMS letting me know that she and a friend who was over for the weekend were already getting ready for the beach...so I jumped out of bed and got ready for it. This time we decided to go by train and not by bike as I had to be back not that late that day- Italo was landing about about 6pm and I had to be home to welcome him.

We had a really beautiful day in the beach. It was not as warm as the last time but it was warm enough for us to enjoy a beautiful time lying and getting tanned and just relaxing. And it was not that hot that it was too crowded. This time we went to Zandvoort which is a little closer than Bloemendaal.

What to do that evening? That was the question that everybody was making themselves...my phone kept rining the whole day. It was Saturday but everyone wanted to take it easy as we still had 2 whole days ahead of partying. So finally we decided to have a BBQ at my place. As I was at the beach Joost and Geert Jan were really nice and bought all the stuff for the evening. We spent a really enjoyable evening in my garden with Joost, Geert Jan, Aleks, Italo, Johannes (a friend that was visiting Aleks) and me of course.

The other interesting thing is that we still had the Sangria left from the previous BBQ...you can imagine that after 3 days in the fridge the fruit had absorved all the alcohol and the Pisco that Ruben added for an "extra taste" did the thing to it...otherwise ask either Geert Jan or Italo who became very healthy and finished all the fruit ;-)

For a video of that evening click here and for the photos of the 2 BBQs and some of the beach click here.

Queen's Night - DAY and NIGHT

Queen's night is the start of the Queen's day celebrations, however, as it was Sunday we started celebrating early that day. Joost invited us to go with his boat around Amsterdam once more. And we were more than happy to come along. There's not much to say as you can just see it for yourself in the photos.

I will add though that we had quite some beers and wine...and we were almost 4 hours under the sun...so you can imagine the results. By the time we were back on steady floor Italo and me actually still had to visit some people in the Vondelpark. Our first stop was by the "Picasso fish" where Petter and some friends were also enjoying the sun with some more wine and beers and finally by the exit of the Amstelveenseweg where Stephi and some friends were doing the same.

When we got back home at around 18:30 we were rather tired...even though I hadn't had as much alcohol as Italo (you must have seen his photos) ;-) haha we just had time to get ready (Italo managed to have a power nap) and we headed off in our bikes into town.

We met Joost, Aleks and Johannes in an Indian restaurant close to Nieuwmarkt for dinner and then we headed in to the stage in that area where we met some more friends. There was a really cool group playing 70s music, for a taste click here. There were 2 main singers a girl and a guy...the way was an unbelievable showman...he made us laugh with his dances, movements, the way he sang. We had a blast until after 1am. You can view the photos here.

When the music finished we had quite some discussions whether we should go ahead and keep partying. However after the confussion, the people, the beer, the bikes, the amount of people and the fact we wanted to enjoy Queen's Day...we decided to get home. Which was a good thing cause we only got to bed at about 2:30am

D Day: Queen's Day!
And we made it to the climax of the weekend!!! It was Queen's day! Queen's day is a very particular celebration and even though I'll describe it here, you will see the pictures and the videos you won't be able to get a full grasp of it unless you live it...so all the ones that have never had the chance to live this are very welcome to come and visit me on April 30th 08!

First of all there's the market. This is the only day of the year where everybody can sell whatever they want. Dutch people sometimes even sleep on the floor in the streets to make sure that they get good spots where they can sell their stuff the next day. You can find some rather interesting things, like old books or CDs, but you can also find SO much crap. And the most amazing thing is that things are sold!!! One of my Dutch colleagues even told me yesterday that the guy selling next to her sold a bike for €5 and she bought it and then sold it for €15! It's really funny to see all these things.

Then there's the amount of activities going on. Every single bar, pub, restaurant has a big party in the street. Everybody wears orange which is the national colour (as the Dutch royal family is from the House "van Oranje"). There are stages almost every block with musicians, bands, singers, DJs...it's very hard to describe that a whole city becomes like a big fair.

It is not only the streets and every single square that are really crowded. The canals are impossible. People organise parties in big boats that cruise the canals throughout the days with drinks and DJs.

I read on the news that 500,000 people attended the celebrations in Amsterdam. 215,000 of them actually got to Amsterdam by train...so you can imagine the mobilisation. However it is also unbelievable how well behaved and how peaceful Dutch people are, I also read on the news that they only arrested over 100 people which is the average in a normal weekend in Amsterdam.

I started the day by cycling to Joost's place with Italo and there we met some more people and we made our way to Westerstraat and the Nordermarkt in the Jordaan area. We then walked along the Prinsengracht following the big crowd and stopping in almost all the stages to finish in the Amstelveldt close to Rembrandtplein where there was the "Chemistry" party where about 8 different DJs played from noon until 9pm. We really had a blast!

We somehow walked all the way back to Joost's (it took us about 1.5 hours with a small stop for some food) and there we picked up our bikes and we cycled back home.

Another Queen's day, another wonderful celebration. You should definitely try it sometime!

View the photos and a video of the party!

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