Days 4 & 5- December 7 & 8, 2005

Well, I missed the posting last nite (Weds.) due to just being very tired. We have been hitting the ground running every day since we’ve arrived at pre 8AM start times. The chances to sit and take a breather, a drink or sometimes even a bite to eat have been slim. We’ve still managed to find time to talk about what we’re doing, actually non-stop and round the clock. My head hit the pillow Weds. nite at 10:30 however, which puts our posting update today covering the last TWO days.

The sun sets on our househunting journey-

For those who can’t quite wait, the photos are here for Day 4 and Day 5 !

Summary-

The summary is that we have secured verbal options on 2 primary canal front homes. (324 Singel, and 586 Herengracht) We have a 3rd pending and up in the air as we prepare to fly home. (435 Keizersgracht) This means that we have several days to commit and then we enter negotiations, which will be handled via liaision by our Relocation consultants at foursquare, b.v.

The Revelation-

We’ve learned that the 2 most sought after locations in Amsterdam are the Old Canal area and Oid-Zuid (Old South), which includes the area around Vondel Park. The canal houses are almost all much smaller. 1-2 bedrooms is the norm. It is relatively unheard of for a whole house to come on the market. The one whole house we did see was over on the Amstel river, on the edge of the old canal area, but unfortnuately quite close to the Rembrandtplein, which is more of a loud tourist area. The house was also kind of dysfunctional for our use (long story).

Another thing we’ve learned is that our requirements, despite our desire to downsize, really put us at the top end of the market for Amsterdam. We were told by everyone that “you’ve seen everything.” After hearing this from all the Markelaars (realtors) independently, we started to agree that maybe we had. The inventory for larger places is just very thin.

The biggest revelation we had was a reaffirmation about why we are doing this. We already live in a big wide open space. Treetops is huge- the views, the property, the houses, everything. Example, the Vondel Park, on whole, is approximately 10 acres. The field at Treetops is 12 acres alone, and the yard between the house and the pier is almost 5 acres. So, having a house fronting on the Vondel Park, albeit a goal for Amsterdamers used to confining spaces, is not one for us. Our raison d’etre for this adventure is to try to truly live as the Dutch do, to fully experience the lifestyle. Vondel Park abuts shopping areas akin to Rodeo Drive in Beveryly Hills, or Park Avenue in New York. It’s impressive and gorgeous, but not quite the world of the Dutch culture at large. Although Vondel Park is awesome, it’s not the locus of our trip. Thus, we swung back to the Canal areas. Finally, with that, there are really only 3 places the fit the bill for various reasons.

One event I must pass on- a house we passed on was located on a VERY narrow alley-like street in the Center, near the Centraal Station called Sint Nicolaasstraat. After Sinter Klaas day on Monday I guess I’m just in the Holiday spirit.

I have to say that I felt that the omen of living in a Dutch house on Sint Nicolaasstraat was magnetic. The house was the prototypical Dutch house, absolutely perfect- so small, so yacht-like, so custom. The only issue was that we felt it may not have been the most kid-friendly area. Some photos of it start here.

Synchronicity-

The one final thought I’ll leave you with is one of synchronicity. This is a concept originally conceived of by another major influencer for my life, Carl Jung.

Many completely unrelated events inexplicably connect to the unique “at home” feeling I’ve always had in Amsterdam, the reason I chose the Pulitzer for our hotel (due to it’s location in the Jordaan area), how Caren has also felt “at home” in Holland, how our kids jumped feet-first into the idea of the Netherlands sight unseen, and finally, the full circle connection to my professional life and the relationship I’ve developed with one of my most trusted advisors, friends and mentors, Andy van Dam.

About 5 1/2 years ago Andy introduced me to Dick Bulterman, then the founder of an interactive web media sofware firm called Oratrix, based in Amsterdam. Oratrix did stuff quite similar to my prior work at Netscape and Insoft. Dick and I had similar interests, etc. Our intro resulted in Context Media OEM’ing source code from Oratrix. The wheel rolls forward almost six years- I go to Andy’s house during our “Project X” phase of the M&A process for Context Media. As I arrive it’s to find that Dick is a guest, and….yes, he’s here visiting from Amsterdam. So at this phase we reconnected over a great dinner with Andy and his wife.

To roll the story up, completely independently, Caren and I have surveyed the whole market for fine canal houses this week in Amsterdam. One area we’ve continued to be drawn to is the area of the Jordaan on the Singel Canal commonly called “The Nines.” The Nines is an area of 9 streets that form cozy personal neighborhood oriented shop spaces between the larger canal thoroughfares. This area feels about as right as any urban area could ever dream of feeling. Finally, 324 Singel winds up as a finalist for us.

Caren and I had planned to meet Dick and his wife tonite. Because of various scheduling snafus we missed each other. Upon arriving at the hotel I see I have a voice mail. It is Dick saying, “Hi, why don’t you stop by our place, it’s at 324 Singel….”

Wow ! How’s that for a Carl Jung moment ! Of all the times spent here, all the feelings of “at home,” all the events in our disconnected lives, all the people we’ve met, in a city of 800,000 +, Caren and I select a house in the very same canal house as Dick Bulterman and his wonderful family !

At any rate, we hope that this becomes the one we can ultimately strike an agreement on for our January 2006 move. The next week shall see where we’ll ultimately live in Amsterdam. But….that’s for a future storytelling !

Love to all !

Day 3- December 6, 2005 Househunting Extreme !

Today the show was “on the road” from the moment our feet hit the floor. All of today’s househunting pictures are here.

Here’s how it went-

We started at 8AM and looked at some great places; (a) a canal house right on the Amstel river adjacent to Rembrandtplein- a major location with awesome views, (b) 2 houses over near the upscale Vondel Park, which is akin to living on Central Park in New York. Today was the 1st of the next 3 days in expanding our search into the Museum area near Vondel Park, known as Museumkwartier, which is in the area known as “Old South,” or Amsterdam-Oudzuid. This is the area just outside of the canal ring that was built up by wealthy merchants in the late 1800′s, thus their creation of the Vondel Park.

Vondel Park Mansion
Vondel Park Mansion Hacienda- Great Potential !@!

Then our real estate agent, Igor Plont, drove us to the Amsterdam World Trade Center where we took Tram #51 directly to Sportlaan in Amstelveen. The tram stop is right across the street from the girl’s new school, The International School (www.isa.nl). We spent a few hours there and trained it back to Waterlooplien, which is about two blocks away from the Rembrandtplien Canal house we started with this morning.

We then hit a couple more, heading over and seeing a place on the Singel Canal that we had actually already seen, then, back over near the NW edge of Vondel Park. After this we took a nice neighborhood walk with Igor over into Vondel Park and had a drink at the Nederlands Filmmuseum. It’s nice to note that if we take the other big place right on the park at Van Eeghenstraat, we’ll by a five minute walk from this wonderful venue with an outside cafe (yes, even in the winter, with heaters)

A nice walk back through “The Nines” neighborhood near the Keizersgracht canal and an excellent dinner at a hip small Chinese place brought us back to our temporary home at the Pulitzer. All in all a very tiring, yet productive day.

Love to all !

Day 2- December 5, 2005 It’s Sinterklaas Day !

We’re here on a momentous day- Sinterklaas Day ! We’ve seen people riding bikes around with kids dressed as Sinterklaas or Black Peter. It’s funny when you see a tyke dressed like the pope, only in a red outfit. Sinterklaas comes tonite and leaves small gifts for all good boys and girls. He takes those naughty types back to Spain with him ! Christmas is also celebrated here on the 25th. It’s interesting that there are Christmas trees for sale at various places and that no Christmas lights are strung here. People reserve Sinterklaas for just him. We’re told that tomorrow (December 6th) starts the big run on Christmas trees and decorating, etc. Seems much more civilized than how our stores now put everything up for decorations the day after Thanksgiving.

We are constantly reminded of how different it is here. Although a major city, the inner city has very few cars. There are traffic jams in the morning (on bikes !) with parents riding their kids to school. Often you’ll see one kid on the handlebars, one riding on the back, and the mom (or frequently, dad) pedaling while holding an umbrella. It’s quiet, efficient, and so very different from what we know. Jumping in and living this way is part of this journey. Our goal isn’t to necessarily be comfortable, but to be challenged. We’ll mostly be on foot or on bike while living here. We won’t buy a car, at least that’s the plan.

Future place for the Treetops flag ? Is this new the flagpole for the Treetops/Sans terre flag ?

So, time for an update. Despite a severe case of jetlag (at least on my part), we got up and got the show on the road this AM. First things was a taxi over to Oud Zuid (Old South) to meet our relo consultants at foursquare, b.v. They’ll be assisting us with the legalities of being in the Netherlands, essentially meaning we’ll apply for a residency permit under the umbrella of the “US-Netherlands Friendship Treaty,” which will allow me to execute on Entrepreneurial activities in the Netherlands. They’ll also assist us with leases, bank accounts, setting up utilities, etc., (what they call “settling in”) here. A very excellent connection and super people.

The pictures for all the houses we looked at today are located here.

Next, we were off to see 4 properties and then back to foursqaure for another round of meetings. The first two properties were in a canal house on Keizersgracht in a house built in 1678. This area is often considered the best area in Amsterdam for location if you are looking for a classic canalfront house. Both were quite impressive and perhaps the largest properties on the market in the whole city. It’s quite hard to find something of 3 bedrooms or more. One of these was 5 and one was 6 which included a guest house behind the house. Note that when you walk the canals you would never know that they had “gardens” behind them. So, there is actually a lot of privacy. We’re keen on at least one of these. We need a min. of 3/4 bedrooms, so if we can find 5-6 we’ll have mucho room for other family and friends to come and stay with us- which is exactly what we’d want to occur… !

The next was a nice place on the Singel canal (which was the next canal to be built outside the medieval protective wall). A great place but unfortuneately too small.

The next was a smaller place, although spectacular on the Oudezids Voorburgwal, which is the oldest canal in the city. It’s the first canal to front the docks after the entry in to Amsterdam through the dam. Thus the houses on this street are the oldest and most historic. A sign of wealth on these old days was how high you made your ceilings. This is because the houses were taxed by their width, which is why the canal houses are narrow and deep. This place was gorgeous but the layout would not suit us, as it really was only 2 bedrooms. There were extra rooms that would have been suitable for bedrooms if the layout was revised. So, this one won’t work either !

At this stage, 1 of the 4 today is the direction, that’s the Keizersgracht with 5 bedrooms- spectacular 3 story entry with chandelier, etc. It sounds grand, but in reality it is multiple times smaller than where we live. Everything here is smaller, well thought out and efficiently put together. I guess that’s why the Dutch are such well known boat builders.

Tomorrow ? Another marathon day. Houses in the morning, then off to the kid’s new school, the International School.

Until then, we love you !
Dad

Day 1- December 4, 2005

Well we actually got on the plane to travel to the Netherlands and take the first steps on our longheld dream to live in the Netherlands.

Mom and I made it fine to Logan and flew KLM/Northwest into Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. It was a red eye and we arrived on time at 7:10 AM Amsterdam time. (This was really 1:10 AM to us- which meant that I couldn’t sleep at all because I usually go to be even later). Nevertheless, Caren and I watched a movie and I listened to my ipod while she slept a bit. Upon arriving we took the tram into Amsterdam Centraal. Pretty cheap, 6.4 Euros total. Also fast, we got there on the “Snel” train in less than 15 minutes.

Walking out of Centraal station it felt like I hadn’t really left. I seem to remember lots about the lay of the city, etc. We took a cab to the Hotel Pulitzer, our home away from home on the Prinsengracht, in “the Nines” area of Old Amsterdam. Check out the photos from the day here.

Tomorrow we kick it off by meeting with our relocation consultant and then a series of meetings all week with real estate people. This morning since we got it so early our room wasn’t yet ready so mommy and I walked around. We’re looking at a great place on Keizersgracht, whis is right here-
New Home on Keizersgracht ?

That’s it for now, we’ll update our adventure tomorrow. Miss everyone !
Love,
Mom and Dad