Smoke on the water

Moscow has been blessed with sunshine and warmer temps as of late. I’m becoming hopeful that spring will soon be on its way.

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Cross-country trails in Fili Park

I had the chance for a unique Russian experience this weekend when my school organized a trip to the Chaika Outdoor Pool. The pool is heated (28C/82F in the water) and within walking distance of my house.

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Blue skies over Moscow

With a beautiful day ahead of us, our small group headed to the pool. After nearly an hour of bureaucracy, paperwork, and a medical check (’tis the Russian way), we found our lockers and quickly made our way towards the pool entrance. The process would have been pretty tricky without a Russian speaker among us, despite the signs in English.

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A cafe, fitness center, and sauna are all available to visitors of the sports center.

To enter, I had to climb into a small pool and dunk under a carwash-like flap. Popping up outside, the sunshine warmed my face and I made my way into the lap lanes full of swimmers.

Owing to the 5C/40F temperature outside, steam rose off the water and gave the pool a bit of an ethereal feeling. The majority of the swimmers were babushkas, all adorned with swim caps (required), many with black and white flowers sewn on. I made my way into the center lanes and enjoyed the bath water temperatures.

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Moscow City in the background, the pool is just across the bridge from Gorky Park (Park Kultury)

Outdoor pools are definitely a great way to beat the winter slog. Some of you may remember that the Cathedral of Christ the Savior here in Moscow was, for a temporary 50 year period, the largest outdoor swimming pool in the world.

All in all, the Chaika Pool was a very cool experience. I hope to go back, perhaps on a snow day. Here’s hoping we won’t see another of those for a while 😉

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Have a Happy Easter, everyone!

Amsterdam

International Women’s Day is a national holiday here in Russia. To celebrate, everyone and their mother evacuates the country for a long weekend. Seemed like the perfect excuse to go meet my own mom in Amsterdam!

We marveled at the building facades, particularly the unique gables which adorned each one.

Mom, fearlessly traveling solo to a city foreign to her, arrived almost a day before I did. Impressively, she found the airport train easy to navigate (15 minutes into Centraal Station) and hopped the tram to our hotel without issue. When I popped up 12 hours later, she’d perused the neighborhood park, been to the grocery store (bring your own bags here, folks!), and stocked our room with food to guarantee we would not go hungry anytime soon.

Like Venice, everywhere you turn in Amsterdam is a postcard.

In honor of our special Mother/Daughter Trip, I made a few plans ahead of time. Knowing we would want to wander and not knowing how jet lag might affect her (she was a champ!), I’d made just one plan per day.

For our first outing, I booked us a special lunch at the Restaurant De Kas. De Kas is the Netherland’s top biologique restaurant at the moment and it is easy to see why. Located within a greenhouse in the picturesque Frankendael Park, De Kas boasts a localvore menu that cannot be beat. Monkfish, celeriac puree, and beet salad were on the set menu that day. Our meal was truly exquisite, capped off by the restaurant’s knowledgeable and genial wait staff. We were too busy enjoying each dish to take photos but I hope those below entice.

We loved the greenhouse nursery! Mom was happily surprised to find the meyer lemon trees seen behind us.
Solar panels only enhanced the physical architecture of the space, the bones of which date back to 1926.
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With a channel running past the restaurant, a family of egrets had made their home atop the retired smokestack in the distance.

On our second day, we made our way to the northwestern portion of the city, as I had made reservations at the Anne Frank House. Remembering the lines I’d experienced 12 years prior, I had booked ahead online. Turns out you have to as the house is under renovation. Our tour was as solemn as you might imagine. It was quite sobering to realize that Anne was just the same age as my students are right now. If you see nothing else in Amsterdam, this house and its history are not to be missed.

It wouldn’t be a Pendleton vacation without a boat ride. We hopped aboard a cruiser and floated through Amsterdam’s canals with ease. Peaking into the many houseboats moored throughout the waterways has to be a highlight.
The Tulip Museum was unexpectedly cool. My greatest takeaway was that tulips are not indigenous to Holland – they come by way of Turkey and the Caucasus.

On our last day, we visited the Van Gogh Museum and wandered over 8 miles through the city streets. My advice to future travelers – don’t overbook yourself in Amsterdam as you never know when an adorable little cafe or pub might beckon.

My favorite facade of the trip. I call it the zebra house.
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Another adorable neighborhood is Spiegelgracht. Nothing prettier than lights at dusk along the canal!

To me, Amsterdam has changed a great deal in the past decade. Once grimy and rough around the edges, it seems to have come into its own. Boasting an awesome foodie scene – especially in the De Pijp neighborhood we stayed in – you can find everything from Vietnamese to BBQ to local Dutch spots. But even with all that good food, the thing Amsterdam does best is to welcome visitors and feed the soul. It might just be my favorite European city.

 

Amsterdam proved the perfect backdrop for a long weekend meet up. Mom and I certainly enjoyed our time together – even a massive power outage couldn’t dampen our spirits! As much as I enjoy exploring new cities on my own, there’s nothing quite like sharing the experience with someone who knows you well. Very thankful to have had this special time together and already looking forward to our next meet up… Porto, perhaps??

Anne is a huge fan of the selfies 😉 Love you, Mom!