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Holla Holland

See all my photos here or in a slideshow

A few rain drops is no worry for the bikes in Amsterdam.

 

While abroad, I took an Anderson Tours trip from London to Holland for Easter weekend.

It was definitely a unique experience for a somewhat guided tour.

From London, we took a bus to Dover and boarded SeaFrance ferry, while still on our coach to Calais, France.

The port at Dover.

 

Overlooking the Channel towards France.

 

The French, unfortunately, decided to strike, which I guess happens a lot at the port, and the under two hour ferry ride took six hours as we couldn’t enter the port until some people ended their demonstrating. From Calais, we drove the coach off the ferry to Holland.

We stayed at a noncommercial style hotel called Lake Land in Monnickendam. The area is, obviously, flat and a beautiful country scape. It’s quiet and a nice change from the city of London, which we had been staying in for three months. While the hotel’s buffet style dining may not be for everyone, it’s a fun atmosphere for seniors (who were dancing to the beat) and young people.

The view at Lake Land.

 

Holland is wicked flat. And by wicked, I mean very. No mountains or even hills, and there are canals big and small everywhere. Some are few feet wide and some are several yards wide. Canals are also used like fences. It’s common to see a simple gate and canals used to keep sheep and cows on a plot of land.

Heading into the city – Amsterdam – there is more flat land and a lot of construction going on whether it’s of buildings or on roads and highways.

Once you hit the city, you will know it. There are rats nests of bikes everywhere, and everyone is on a bike.

I'm guessing there are miles of bikes lined up if one counted.

 

Because the city and country is so flat, it’s easy to walk or bike everywhere and anywhere. Amsterdam also has a good public transportation system, which there are tracks for the above ground seemingly everywhere.

The city itself isn’t a skyscraper city or even quite like London. Things are more small and cute. But the essence of Amsterdam is an openness and cool that no other region can compete with.

One of many canals.

 

Yes, prostitution is legal and there are coffee shops (they don’t sell coffee) on ever corner. But the fact that people don’t seem to judge you when you walk down the street is quite impressive. 

It’s easy to rent a bike and tour the city or even take a boat cruise through the winding canals.

Not quite what I was hoping for, but it beats getting rained on.

 

You can visit the red-light district and it’s perfectly safe, or that’s what it seemed. Prostitution is some people’s career. It’s viewed as nothing to poke fun at and has been a huge part of Dutch culture since the times of great painters like Johannes Vermeer. One thing that is frowned upon is taking photographs of the district’s doors and windows where women and men might be at work. And, if you are wondering, according to our guide, if the light is red and on, the room hosted by a woman is open for business. If the light is blue, it usually means there is some sort of “mixture” or male element.

Not really sure what this was about but no one seemed disgusted.

 

There are many kinds of museums and attractions for everyone alike. One day we checked out the Anne Frank House, where for a 20 minute wait in line, visitors can tour the house where Frank and her family went into hiding. 

Outside of Amsterdam, tourists can tour clog and cheese factories such as the one we visited in Monnickendam. Clogs are still made and worn today, though it may seem they have become a bit of a tourist attraction. The idea behind clogs is that they are lightweight, water proof for those canals, and hard to protect worker’s feet.

Right down the road from Lake Land.

 

A demonstration. Apparently, it's not that hard but takes practice.

 

I could never figure out if these were mechanically produced or person produced.

 

Another Dutch cultural excursion to take is a trip to a tulip farm, like Keukenhof. The tulip has historically been a part of Dutch cultural and very much is today. Visitor’s can tour tulip field’s, gardens, and greenhouses filled with the most amounts of tulip arrangements you might ever see.

Keukenohf: Spend a good portion of the day if you love flowers.

 

It's a bit overwhelming, but so colorful.

 

Field farmed tulips.

 

There are a few alternative arrangements, much like a painting.

 

The openness of Dutch culture is truly remarkable. We met a group of Dutch guy friends who we thought were our age or much older. In fact, they were all younger than us, but because of their casual normalcy of alcohol and acceptance they seemed so much older. We chatted with them and it seems because they are “so experienced” with these “things of life,” alcohol, drug use, and the like are not as big a deal as they are in the U.S. They said, some people they know haven’t ever smoke marijuana because they know it’s there and they can do it any time they wanted. The Dutch guys also told us we weren’t spontaneous. I won’t defend myself and say that’s true. I like to consider myself spontaneous when I decide to randomly go on a bike ride and take photos. But I’m not sure I can compare myself to these guys who say, when they want to enjoy life and have a good time, they will. As an American, my night ended with me feeling like I should “enjoy life more” by going mini-golfing at random or hang out with people I’ve just met.

Pillow fight!

 

Holland is definitely a culture that people can learn from, not just have an exciting and beautiful trip to. I will definitely be back to Holland, soon, I hope.

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The Ambush Interview: Emil Lager

If you follow my video  and documentary work, you might know I happen to do a lot of ambush interviews. If I see something interesting and I can get a camera ASAP or have one in my bag, I will more likely than not, start interviewing the subject.

I try to be nice and unthreatening by all means. I don’t want to scare the subject off. I haven’t had an ambush interview go extremely wrong or get out of hand. But one day in London’s South Bank, I definitely stumbled upon one of my most unique subjects and perhaps awkward interviews.

What resulted was the following video costarring musical artist Emil Lager and his friend Amy.

Lager has a number of well-recorded, yet raw recordings on his MySpace music page and has a few shows set up for the summer. He is also an actor, playing a role in a French indie film called Cassie and playing in a fringe theatre company called Scandimaniacs.

And, according to his biography, he, “Is currently appearing in season IV of SKINS on E4 and as the lead guitarist in the Japanese mega star Ayumi Hamasaki’s two latest music videos MICROPHONE and SEXY LITTLE THINGS.”

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London’s Docklands

The average tourist might not realize it, but, having its roots in the Roman and medieval times, London’s Docklands is historically known as a port region. As the shipping industry fell out of significance in the middle 20th century, so did the region of the Docklands and the communities it fostered. The region direly needed regeneration. In the last 20 to 50 years many issues were solved by revitalization planning, however some social issues remain and are continuously being addressed as infrastructural changes are still being developed.

The Museum of London Docklands.

 

The Docklands is a region of East and South London consisting of the boroughs of Tower Hamlets, Southwark, Newham, and Greenwich. The area served as the Port of London, which was once one of the world’s largest shipping ports. The land has always been immersed in water and swamp marshes thus unsuitable for agriculture and posing particularities for architecture. The area was an isolated part of London, as few roads existed linking the area to central London. The Docklands was a divided community between the poor ship workers and the wealthy ship insurers.

Some small boats in the water ways.

 

By the mid 20th century, shipping and shipbuilding fell out as new technology and containerization, or cargo transport, was implemented. Ship builders lost work and competition significantly increased, as the docks were not able to accommodate many new carriers. When the docks began closing in the mid 1960s, workers were continuously laid off throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s. The land was left empty, social classes divided, and communities suffering from unemployment and severe poverty. Warehouses and large-scale facilities became obsolete and deteriorated.

Just one of the many Docklands' canals.

 

Redevelopment plans began shortly after the dock’s closure. In 1968 the Port of London Authority sold the St. Katherine Dock to the Greater London Council, launching a competition to find a developer to regenerate the region. The idea was to develop the urban area and secure the physical, economic, and social aspects of citizen’s lives. However, it was applying the actual plan that took nearly a decade. Things were not being built as quickly as initially projected and people were still losing their jobs. Between 1978 and 1981, 10,000 jobs were lost and 9,000 people left the area.

Soon many landowners were involved, such as the Greater London Council, the Port of London Authority, British Gas, Central Electric Generating Board, and British Rail. By 1981, the London Docklands Development Corporation was created out of the Government Planning and Land Act of 1980 and by Secretary of State for the Environment, Michael Heseltime. The LDDC now had to upgrade and use the current buildings, encourage industry and commerce development, ensue housing and social facilities, and create an attractive and peaceful environment. Improvements that took place between 1983 and 1984 were improved roads, buildings, and travel ways. But remaining issues pertained to chemical pollution, and other health and safety hazards. Sewage, drainage, and sanitation systems were soon updated. Tax incentives made way for the development boom.

Controversy came as the developments taking place were about creating luxury housing, aesthetically pleasing office spaces, and industrial buildings over affordable housing. Communities were suddenly being gentrified, as people were still facing unemployment, poverty, social issues, and struggling with the negative construction environment.

London's shipping history goes back several centuries.

 

While private investors and local governments worked to revitalize the area, it was the small communities that organized for change. The Association of Isle Communities, the Joint Docklands Action Group, the Docklands Forum, and more community organizations were set up in the 1970s to create change. These community action groups tried to bring tenants, workers, and businesses together to work with local planning councils to transform the policies based on what local citizens actually wanted. 

What further came from community organization was a niche activist culture consisting of people voicing their concerns through news articles, self-published magazines, pamphlets, and music, such as the song “Give Us Back Our Land” by Tough Cookies. They also organized public screenings of films, demonstrations, and concerts, as well as memorabilia such as coffee mugs and posters to spread the message about the Docklands not developing to their needs.

Teens and young adults hanging out in Greenwich.

 

While it was the LDDC that was largely instrumental in planning and beginning construction, it was the community organizers that made the push for appropriate physical infrastructure in the Docklands. Substantial development began taking place in the mid 1990s. Poor transport into the rest of London was relieved with the construction of the Docklands Light Railway and the London City Airport underwent needed upgrades. Finally, the LDDC began a campaign to bring office spaces and jobs to the area, however, faced criticism because it was still outsiders who were taking the open jobs and commuting in. But, similar to how buildings were transformed into office space, some buildings were transformed into large art spaces and places for artists to live, thus attracting a culture the current community was open to. Affordable housing became abundant, attracting more people to the Docklands.

Aesthetically artistic bridges.

 

The Docklands faced several ups and downs in the following ten years because of recessions and various monetary shortfalls. But development continued bringing the much needed resurrection to the Docklands. On March 31, 1998 the LDDC’s role came to an end. The Docklands was transformed with a new culture, new jobs, and a new way to travel. From the mid 1990s into the early 21st century, the working population nearly tripled bringing a thriving atmosphere to the region.

Still under construction.

 

Tourists and Londoners alike can learn more about the Docklands at the Museum of London Docklands, located near the West India Quay DLR stop. To learn more about the history of shipping in London a trip to the Docklands’ museum, the National Maritime Museum and the Royal Observatory located in Greenwich will do the trick. And to get a holistic education of London since the dawn of human civilization, check of the Museum of London.

The National Maritime Museum - you will be surprised how cool it actually is.

 

At the Royal Observatory in the Greenwich region of London.

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London’s Markets

London’s Markets

If there’s any way to get to know London, get away from the sites and start exploring its side streets. The best side streets to start with are those that host markets.

My Top 4:

  1. Portobello Road Market
  2. Brick Lane Market
  3. Camden Market
  4. Borough Market

Portobello Road

Many would agree Portobello is the mother of all markets, which caters to the young and old. The best day to go is on Saturday as even on Sunday less than half the street vendors set up shop. Go in the morning beginning at the Ladbroke Grove (tube stop) end and work your way south towards Notting Hill Gate (tube stop). Much of the road is filled with old flea market items and some antiques that could be your favorite London souvenir. This is also the best place to get fresh produce, fish, meat, pastries, goodies – and lunch. Several giant pans of paella, gourmet sandwiches, crepes, sausages, African foods, and French goodies is just some of the dishes you have to choose from. Crowds are massive but tourists and locals mingle alike, just be cautious of pickpocket. Have your camera ready to shoot as you never know who or what you will see. Check out the Banksy graffiti at the top, note the road gets more posh as you head south, and don’t forget to check out a flat where George Orwell once lived.

There will be several performers.

Food for lunch, food for dinner, food for later.

 

Brick Lane Market

Brick Lane in east London (Aldgate East tube stop) is home to many Indian and Bangladeshi restaurants and businesses. Go any time of the week for good curry, spicy samosas, and other sweets, but Sunday is the best day to visit Brick Lane as the street and side streets boast flea market goods, delicious unique food made right in front of you, and the best used and new fashions. While many of the vendors are Indian, there is a huge young British twenty-something hipster culture. You will find clubs and bars pumping danceable music even in the middle of the day. The street also has to remarkable graffiti art. At the southern end of the market is the Whitechapel Art gallery – small but worth a pop in.

Brick Lane.

 

Paste and paper street art.

Spray street art.

Camden Market

If you are or you like punk-hippie-young-earthy cultures check out Camden market (Camden Town tube stop) on Saturday or Sunday. You can get a tattoo, piercing, eat delectable food for cheap, catch a show, buy some spiked leather, trendy clothing, or some of your favorite hits on vinyl. It’s definitely worth a visit, even the architecture is like nothing else in London. Definitely don’t go during the week as nothing is really happening.

Borough Market

Borough Market is the best place in London to grab a healthy, cheap, gourmet lunch, fine meat, wine, and produce on a Saturday afternoon. Nestled between brick buildings and archways on the south bank, this is definitely on hot spot for locals and tourists alike. Take the tube to St Paul’s cathedral, cross the millennium bridge, maybe pop in to the Tate Modern, make your way past the Globe, and dig in.

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100 Words For London

 

Parliament - see it at all times of day.

 

There are hundreds of words to describe London, but here are 100.

  1. Posh
  2. Poverty
  3. Clubbing
  4. Diverse
  5. History
  6. Fashion
  7. People
  8. Buildings
  9. Dance
  10. Films
  11. City
  12. Gardens
  13. Tourism
  14. Fast
  15. Cobbled
  16. Business
  17. Hip-hop
  18. Newspapers
  19. Rich
  20. Food
  21. Aesthetic
  22. Dark
  23. House
  24. Noise
  25. Big
  26. Languages
  27. Warm
  28. Pop
  29. Wet
  30. Digital
  31. Theatre
  32. Late
  33. Tea
  34. Dreary
  35. Free
  36. Expensive
  37. Parks
  38. Poor
  39. Television
  40. Graffiti
  41. Riding
  42. Trendy
  43. Clean
  44. Seeing
  45. Museums
  46. Culture
  47. Dirty
  48. Watching
  49. Punk
  50. Old
  51. New
  52. Fresh
  53. Hip
  54. Delicious
  55. Loud
  56. Close
  57. Underground
  58. Far
  59. Quiet
  60. Trees
  61. Beautiful
  62. Ugly
  63. Reserved
  64. Awake
  65. Centered
  66. Gated
  67. Photogenic
  68. Canalled
  69. Hills
  70. Buses
  71. Pavement
  72. Grass
  73. Cabs
  74. Accents
  75. Shrubs
  76. Lonely
  77. Passion
  78. Fountains
  79. Collective
  80. Biscuits
  81. Pubs
  82. Monuments
  83. Proper
  84. Open
  85. Humorous
  86. Protective
  87. Accepting
  88. Fun
  89. Hard
  90. Easy
  91. Love
  92. Poetry
  93. Traffic
  94. Rude
  95. Eager
  96. Wild
  97. Kind
  98. Mighty
  99. Proud
  100. Exceptional

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Photos of the Day – Last Days In London : (

April 23, 2010

A grainy moonlit Hyde Park.

 

April 24, 2010

A performance of Macbeth at the Globe. Photography not permitted during performances.

 

April 25, 2010

Parliament at dusk.

 

April 26, 2010

Welcome to Harrod's 'Egypt.'

 

April 27, 2010

This is what London's telephone booths look like.

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Photo of the Day – Feeding Birds

April 22, 2010

This woman at St. James park was saying how she only feeds certain kinds of pigeons, while others are dirty.

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