What my friends think I do…
What my family think I do…
What I actually do…
What my friends think I do…
What my family think I do…
What I actually do…
So my wife and I recently visited the world renowned Keukenhof World Garden and Tulip Festival in the Netherlands. Finding information on getting there using public transport wasn’t incredibly easy so I’ve written up a quick guide to make your life easier:
Firstly… planning your trip. Don’t go at the start of the season. We visited during the first week following a particularly cold winter and all of the tulips are still deep in the ground or just starting to poke out some greenery. I would advise that visiting towards the end of April to Mid-may would probably be your best bet, unless of course The Netherlands has been unseasonably warm during January and February, in which case, it’s probably a great time to go.
Secondly… you do not need to buy tickets up front. They’re easy to buy on the day 7 days a week and reasonably priced.
So for the rest of this guide, I’m going to assume you’ve made your way to Amsterdam and you’re standing outside Amsterdam Centraal Station.
From Centraal, you want to get a a train to Schiphol Airport. You can buy return tickets for around €7 per person from the yellow machines in the lobby or from the handy ticket booth. Once you have your tickets, head down to the end of the platforms – usually platform 15a – and jump on the next train Schiphol. They run around every 15 minutes so you shouldn’t be waiting long. The train takes about 20 minutes and will drop you off beneath the airport.
From Schiphol station, proceed up the escalators to the Airport main lobby and head inwards. You’re looking for the tourist information desk – it’s well signposted, between arrivals gate 1 and the big red and white checked meeting point box. If you find the KLM shop with it’s big jet engine and landing gear displays you’re in the right area – just look around a bit and you should see it.
Pop into the tourist information shop and ask the staff for a Keukenhof Combi Ticket. This will grant you entry to the park (and let you skip the queues to buy tickets) and includes free return bus fair from Schiphol to Keukenhof. In 2013 this ticket cost us €22 each, but prices may vary by year. You can pay with cash, Dutch bank “chip” cards and most major credit cards.
Once you have your Combi Ticket, come out of the shop, turn 90 degrees to your left and keep walking past the KLM shop, towards the exit doors near arrivals 3. Outside you should see bus number 858 waiting (usually decorated with pictures of Tulips) – they depart around every 5-10 minutes and the journey takes around 30 minutes. Make sure you get your ticket stamped by the driver, if you don’t you won’t qualify for the return journey.
Once you’re there, proceed past the ticket purchasing queues and get your ticket scanned by the park entry wardens and be prepared for a day of beautiful tulips in one of the worlds most beautiful parks. Coming back, is as simple as jumping back on the 858 to Schiphol then getting a train back to Amsterdam Centraal Station. Easy peasy!
I hope this guide has been useful for you and you have a great time at Keukenhof!
So tonight was a big night for us. My wonderful wife and I had our first “date night” in almost a year. This last year we’ve either been busy moving house, getting down to work or living abroad without access to a trustworthy baby sitter, but tonight we had some family over to visit and they kindly offered to babysit while we went out for a meal.
We eat out all the time, with Jack in tow, but tonight was a special night and since we were completely childless we decided to push the boat out and give Jamie Olivers Fifteen restaurant a try, here in Amsterdam. By some fluke, Fifteen Amsterdam is just around the corner from where we live and easily walkable in 15-20 minutes at a leisurely pace (not that we did, one of our local bus services travels practically door to door and it’s been bloody freezing of late!).
Anyway… on to the restaurant.
When we arrived we were greeted politely by a very friendly waiter who took our coats and asked if we would like to be seated or have a drink at the bar first. We opted for the latter and had a nice glass of rosé while we soaked in the ambiance of this neo-classical-urban venue. Chandeliers, exposed iron work and graffiti aren’t things you usually see in the same place, but it seemed to work well here. Sadly one of the glasses that came out was a bit dirty and my wife insisted that I get it changed. The staff handled the change quickly and graciously with lots of apologies. Just a shame they didn’t check over the glasses before they dished up.
Shortly after we were seated at our table and were handed a rather classless A3 paper menu. Some arty farty designer had decided that the best way to present the menu was with a grungy font and by spreading everything across a single huge page rather than splitting it up by course. Frustrating but we managed to get by.
We skipped the starters and instead opted to have a platter of olives and some breads. The breads were clearly made in-house and were soft and tasty and fresh as you like. Can’t fault a thing. The olives were also wonderfully fresh and tasted awesome. There was a bit of a strange size difference though, the olive platter was a combination of great big-honging olives and teeny-tiny baby olives that weren’t much bigger than a raisin.
Just as we were coming to the end of our appetisers the waiter came and delivered the main course. No chance to breathe and the waiter didn’t even remove the old plates, just shuffled everything around and went on his merry way. That said… the main course was amazing. I had the rib-eye steak with mushrooms and a herb and truffle butter and Steph had an Irish Rump Steak with Salsa. As is to be expected with a restaurant inspired by Jamie Olivers cooking, both were liberally covered with olive oil and dished up on a bed of Rocket. We also had a side of green veggies and “funky” roast potatoes. I couldn’t fault a thing about my meal but Steph was a bit disappointed that the salsa was cold and felt it reduced the overall temperature of her meal. It couldn’t have been that bad though because she still ate it all
Not long after we finished the mains, a waiter came and swooped in and took our plates away and asked if we would like to see the dessert menu. We obliged and sat back and relaxed while we waited for the yummies to be arrived. We waited, and waited and waited but nothing arrived. Eventually I grabbed the attention of the head waiter and after about ten minutes more the dessert menu finally arrived.
I went for the Vanilla Pannacotta with Caramel Syrup and crushed Hazelnuts and Steph had the Chocolate Brownie with Black Cherries and Vanilla Ice-cream. Both were made to perfection and tasted absolutely amazing. We also had a coffee to round off the night which was lovely, but we had another dirty glass incident which we just shrugged off and ignored.
Overall our experience at Fifteen Amsterdam was a good one. The food was nothing short of excellent and the staff were incredibly friendly. The only downside was that the waiters were very “passive” in their service levels, only coming to our table if we tried really hard to grab their attention. Now, we’re fully aware that Fifteen is effectively a training restaurant for young would-be waiters and chefs but they seemed to be left to their own devices. We didn’t see any sign of a senior staff member overseeing the training of the front-of-house staff, either that or we have made a mistake by judging the staff against UK restaurant standards which may be considerably different to those in The Netherlands.
(side note… to be honest, I’m not even sure which I prefer – I quite like that the waiters left us alone and didn’t pester us every five minutes to see “if everything is ok”, like they often do in the UK). At no point was the service *bad* they just weren’t as attentive as we’re used to.
If you go to Fifteen with a relaxed approach and don’t expect too much from the front-of-house, then you’ll have a great time. Just be prepared to put in a bit of effort if you want attention. The food really was excellent though and well worth waiting for. We’ll definitely be returning again in the future!
… and I’ll be waking up for my first full day in Amsterdam. Well… my hotel is in Amstelveen, but it’s only a short hop away from the ‘Dam on the Metro.
It’s going to be a really interesting few weeks as we try to find somewhere to live, adjust to the move from nowhere-ville to a vibrant city, get used to being back in a BigCorp and getting used to my new job and colleagues. Certainly, just getting out of our house was a stressful experience. Trying to pack up your life and reduce it to a series of boxes is never fun, especially with a toddler on the go and a moving out date looming ever closer, but we managed it and I’m sure we’ll cope.
I’m going to miss the gang at Stinkyink too. I’ve only been here for just under two years, but in that time, we’ve done some great things, including moving from an off-the-shelf e-commerce package, to a bespoke hand crafted beauty of a rails app. There have been ups and downs, and the daily drive to work has been getting a bit tiresome of late, but I don’t regret a minute of it. I’ve learnt some cool new things, refined my design skills considerably and had the chance to work with some brilliant people.
Oh… and there was this video, which I produced on a whim for one of my colleagues under the “Creepy Coworker” brand
If you need ink cartridges I honestly can’t recommend them enough. From first hand experience, I can tell you that the guys at Stinkyink go out of their way to make their customers satisfied. You might end up spending a couple of pennies more than you would with competing companies, but I can say for certain, you’ll have an awesome experience along the way and be much happier at the end of it.
After reading through my recovered blog posts from our time travelling, it occurs to me that apart from the videos I posted, we didn’t actually post much about our time in Hong Kong, Thailand or Oz. There’s a reason for that. Shortly after we arrived in Phi Phi, we discovered Steph was pregnant! It came to a massive shock to us as we had been trying for over 18 months with no luck at all. Working the dates out, we think that Jack was conceived in Xi’an, China. It just goes to show that if you want to conceive and it’s just not working for you, sometimes the best thing to do is to get away from life, de-stress and let nature take it’s course.
Unfortunately for us, Nature was a cruel mistress and Steph was extremely ill with a severe form of morning sickness known as Hyperemisis which basically takes the fun of morning sickness and makes it a 24/7 arrangement, usually leading to severe dehydration amongst other things. This led to Steph being hospitalised a number of times by time we got to Australia.
Anyway… here’s a few pics that I never got round to uploading:
Sadly, due to Stephs sickness, most of our time in Australia was spent in our hostel or a hospital in Sydney. Sights wise, we didn’t see a lot (unless you count the inside of hospitals). I did manage to drag Steph along to the Darling Harbour IMAX to see Avatar though! I’m sure we’ll make it back to Australia at some point, so we can actually go and enjoy all the country has to offer. I have a feeling, next time we’ll have Jack walking along side us, rather than inside Steph causing his own unique brand of biological mayhem.
Back in 2009 the Steph and I took a break from life to go travelling and experience life outside of the UK. For that journey we decided to setup a joint blog which we hosted over at warburton.me. By time we returned, that blog contained about 20 posts, mostly covering our travels in China and Thailand. Sadly, I forgot to move that blog when I migrated servers last year. I thought they were gone forever, but then I remembered about archive.org which keeps copies of old websites. I didn’t think my site would have had enough traffic to warrant the backup, but I thought I’d checked it out and sure enough – they had captured the site and enough posts to allow me to recover everything!
Once I’d got the text content back from The Web Archive, I then had to sort out the images as previously they had all been hosted on my Flickr account which I deleted earlier this year after becoming fed-up of the service. Luckily, I had a local copy and was able to restore the pictures using WordPress’ built in gallery functionality.
Here’s a list of all the posts I have restored from the archive – check em out!
The only thing I haven’t restored is the comments. There weren’t very many, and to be honest, they weren’t worth the effort.
Be sure to check out the posts from China and Thailand – it’s crazy to think Steph was pregnant with our Jack by that point!
So… continuing the deluge of posts about my upcoming move to Amsterdam, I’ve been doing some research about internet speeds in the Netherlands and it seems that they’re way ahead of what we have in the UK. According to this broadband speed test My download speed here in the UK is currently about 6Mb down and 1Mb up. From what I can establish, speeds in excess of 20Mb are very common in the Netherlands and come at reasonable prices too! I’m hoping that being in Amsterdam we might even be able to get fiberoptic broadband packaged with phone and TV through whatever the local equivalent of Virgin is (for some reason, Virgin hate my home town and have never felt the need to roll out here).
Having come from the days of 28Kb dialup internet and having memories of of 128kb ISDN being considered fast enough to supply a whole office, I’m more than satisfied with my 6Mb (which often goes at much faster speeds during off-peak times), but the thought of being able to get realistic 20Mb+ connection speeds makes me really excited!
In just over a month, my family and I will be moving from our home in sleepy Worcestershire to the slightly less sleepy city of Amsterdam in The Netherlands! It’s somewhat scary to know we’ll be leaving behind our nearest and dearest, but it’s not every day you get a chance to go and work abroad, so we’re grabbing it with both hands and seeing where it takes us!
I was flown over by my new employer for a couple of days for my interview and when I wasn’t being interviewed I spent many many hours walking aimlessly around the city and I love it – it’s such a beautiful city, more canals than venice, gorgeous buildings and bikes everywhere. I was blown away by how few cars there are – for a thriving city it’s actually quieter than the little town I currently live in!
We have so much to do before we leave though – we have to find someone to come and rent our house, get all of our stuff sorted, tidied and dispose of all the crap we’ve accumulated. Then we’ve got to get a new kitchen fitted and generally tidy the house and we’ve got to pack all our stuff and get it shipped to Amsterdam!
Once we’re in Amsterdam, we get a couple of weeks free accommodation courtesy of my new employer but then we need to find somewhere to live. We’ve never rented a place before, so it’s all new to us, and from what I can tell, renting in The Netherlands is a slightly complicated process with many pitfalls and strange little rules. For example, from what I can work out, rental properties are price controlled by the government, but what you can rent depends on your earnings (to stop the rich folk renting all the cheap places).
Then there’s health insurance, finding my wife a new job, a nursery and education for our son, working out where to buy food, learning the language and then of course, there’s starting a new job, in a new city with new colleagues!
We’re very excited but feeling a bit overwhelmed at the moment just because we have so much to do before we can get settled and start enjoying our new life in Amsterdam!
So… in a couple of weeks my little boy will be turning two. He’s a great little guy and a lot of fun to be around, but in the past couple of weeks we’ve started to run into the no word. We’ve always tried to give Jack options and let him express his desires, so he picked up the head shaking and nodding quite early on and it seemed to work fine – he seemed to honestly communicate what he wanted without being all toddler-ish about it.
Then, last week it all changed as Jack uttered his first ‘No’. Suddenly he seemed to be empowered by those two little letters and now he seems to answer every question with a big loud ‘No’. He even knows when he’s being facetious because he laughs after saying it!
I have to admit, it didn’t take long from his first utterance to it starting to drive me insane. I love that his communication skills are coming along, but hearing ‘no’ as a reply to every question is starting to grind my gears just a tad.
Luckily, this week he’s also started with the occasional ‘yes’ so I’m hoping that this will be a turning point and we’ll get back to him making decisions in a more genuine manner, rather than harassing us with a constant barrage of ‘no’.
Ahhh… The joys of parenting
Up until recently, I’ve been streaming video from my Mac to my HDTV via my trusty old XBox360 Elite which I bought on release day. Unfortunately after 3 repairs and 4 years of service, it recently succumbed to the villainous Red Ring of Death and I decided it was time to trade it in for something new.
My first thought was a new style Xbox, but I don’t really play games much any more and I’m sure we’re probably only a year or so away from an all new breed of XBox (the Xbox 720?). With that in mind, I decided to look into some sort of network media player.
Because I have an old Philips Ambilight TV that we purchased just before the industry standardised on HDMI, our TV has no HDMI. Philips instead opted for a combination of DVI and stereo inputs for HD content, this means that any device I purchased would require a HDMI out (which I can convert to DVI with a handy dongle) and separate red/white RCA stereo outputs for the audio.
My first thought was the Apple TV. The latest version plays full 1080p HD content, but I quickly dismissed it because it only streams content in a few Apple approved formats and because it had no RCA outputs on the back of the unit. I have a large library of media in a whole bunch of formats and I just couldn’t be bothered with the hassle of converting.
So after a bit more searching I came across the Boxee Box by D-Link. The Boxee software seemed perfect for what I needed and the device itself was small, but looked pretty cool, so I stumped up the cash and decided to give it a whirl.
Within half an hour of plugging the Boxee Box in, I had already decided it was going back. The software interface, while pretty, was laggy and unintuitive and seemed to crash every time I tried to adjust a setting. The unit refused to play at 1080p (something my 4 year old Xbox did automatically) and indexing the content took an age, even though I had already set up the shares via the Boxee server app. Worst of all, the Boxee would freeze constantly and require a hard reboot to get it going again.
I managed to briefly get into the web browser (after a software update which also caused a crash) and the experience there was terrible. It’s literally the worst internet experience I’ve had since Opera mini on the Sony Ericsson K800i. Forcing you to move an onscreen cursor using the d-pad on the remote just feels utterly ridiculous in this day and age.
After about half an hour of freezing, crashing and laggy behaviour I decided enough was enough and packed it back into it’s box and arranged a return with Amazon, who were awesome, and always a great choice if you have doubts when buying a product as they cover all the return costs.
Sorry Boxee, maybe next time.