Apr 24, 2012

Grocery shopping and Alsmeer

The next day we took it a bit easy again, still getting over jet lag etc.
It's amazing though, how simply biking around and grocery shopping can be an adventure when you're in a different country! 

This is a very, very common sight in Holland. Most bikers have seats in front or back for people to hitch a ride on. 
And notice the cars? Yes. They're waiting for the bikers.
Most of the time bikes have the right of way.
Oh, yes.

Grocery shopping at Albert Heijn! 
Want a cart? You have to put in a euro to unlock it. Return the cart, and you get the euro back. 
This is a good example of every day life that the Dutch don't think twice about, but it seems so different to me. I love how even the "normal" things are different when you travel! :)

And everything in the store is different.
Eggs come in sixes or tens, not dozens.
Yoghurt comes in what looks like paper milk cartons.
Koffie melk (coffee milk) comes in glass bottles.
There's real cheese and fancy breads.
Pop bottle sizes are smaller.
Dropjes line the candy aisle.
Packaging is different on everything.
And ketchup. You can get it in a tube. :)

I'm sure we looked ridiculous, photographing ketchup, but hey. 

Oh, and one other thing that I find funny in a different country is the phrasing.
For example, here we say "peanut butter", whereas they say, "Pindakaas" which translates as "Peanut cheese." 
Which makes you think ... why do we say "butter" anyways?? It's not like it's dairy, people! 
Cheese? Butter? Phrases so similar, but so different for no apparent reason.
Another phrase difference; we say "sleep in" they say "sleep out". But in Dutch, of course. ;)

The next day we went to Aalsmeer to see the flower auction! 
This is the biggest flower auction in the world, and it goes on year round.
People come here to buy flowers for companies all over the world.

Dad has a cousin named Jaap who used to work there, so we got an amazing tour from him! 
The building is incredible. There are thousands and thousands of carts full of flowers being towed this way and that. The carts make a huge racket, rattling around the massive rooms. There is a damp, cool smell of fresh plants, and vibrant colors recede in all directions.

Yes, those are my conversed toes. :)

My cousin:

Ok, one thing I should explain. This building is massive. Like, whoa, massive. Like, the fifth largest building in the world, massive. Like, 10.6 million square feet, massive.  
Umm, yeah.
They use bikes to get around inside. 
No joke.

Does anyone else find it ironic that this massive hulk of a building is in tiny Holland? Tiny Holland that could fit over five of its whole self into my state??
Moving on.

This is one of the many auction rooms.
We actually got to go in, (past the "no tourists" sign, *snicker*) because of our in-the-in family member tour guide! 
It's nice being in-the-in...

Here you can see the big "clock" (the circle) on the left of the screen, and which flower they're bidding on. They show a photo of the flowers on the screen, as the carts full of that particular kind roll by below. There's an auctioneer in a booth who sets the highest price. And then the price goes *down* from there. The longer you wait, the cheaper it gets, but there's the possibility of someone else snatching it first.

The price is per bloom, so when you're buying tens of thousands of flowers, one penny difference can save you literally thousands of dollars! (Or euros. Whatever.)

This is a testing lab, where they test the longevity of the blooms and then rate them accordingly.

And then we got to go down into a different room, which was full of potted plants instead of cut blooms. In this room they sell smaller quantities to individual plant nurseries etc. So if you owned a plant shop, you could come here and buy just one or two of each plant, instead of thousands.

They had traaaays of air plants.
I almost died.

This pitcher plant almost killed me, too. Gah! 

Sorry. I have a bit of a thing for crazy plants ...

And they also had another section of cut blooms, but smaller quantities again. That's my sis, taking pics. I'm afraid we both looked like this for most of the vacation ... ;)

Mom, Dad, sis, me & bro

And then we went back to Jaap's house, and had lunch with him and his wife, Jopie, and my aunt and cousin.

My bro Ben, me, Jopie, sis Kris, Jaap, cousin Michiel & aunt Andrea

Being welcomed into Jaap & Jopie's house, getting to know my relatives more, exploring a fantastic building, plants and flowers galore...
I'd say it was a smashingly good day! 


  1. Wow. That is soooo cool. All those flowers! Gorgeous! Nice photography, too. :)

  2. DAMMIT, my comment just got deleted :( I'm such a loser.

    Just wanted to say that the building of that flower auction indeed looks massive! And I must admit I've never heard of it before, but that changed thanks to you ;) And the AH is lovely! We have 1 here in Belgium too (they're planning to get some more I think), and it's not too far from my house, so I visit the store sometimes as well. So funny to see how everything can be so different in our countries. For example the bike thing, having the right of the way really is that normal. (However in Belgium we don't have roads for bikes E-VERY-WHERE.)

  3. Sleep out? Really? That's sweet! I'm jealous of you seeing all those flowers. They need to have flower auctions in TRF so I can see them. Lol or maybe I just need to betake myself to a plant nursery.

  4. You didn't happen to sneak a pitcher plant in your suitcase and bring it back for me, did you? Cause I think I need one of those... :)

  5. i miss the tranquility and silence. . . only the sound of the wind, the flat landscape and cute farm yards seen from the trains...


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