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Trip Report Looking over my shoulder - an Amsterdam trip report

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I returned on Tuesday from a wonderful trip to Amsterdam. I also visited Paris (Thanksgiving Day), Delft, and Den Haag (The Hague). Trip report forthcoming this weekend.

TR

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    Wow, thanks for the replies. I kept a journal on my netbook instead of a handwritten journal this time around.

    A bit about me and how this trip came to pass. In the past years, I've traveled to Paris for the Thanksgiving holiday. In trying to decide where to go this year, a couple of colleagues told me that I shouldn't go to Paris since I *always* went to Paris. A part of me didn't like that idea, but I thought, perhaps they're right. So I chose Amsterdam. I can't recall exactly how I happened on this city, but I did. Perhaps it was the airfare price. I booked the ticket via Aer Lingus for $675 RT from Boston with a 4 hour layover each way in Dublin. I didn't think it was too bad. I had originally thought about flying to London and leaving the next day on easyJet, but some in this forum cautioned me against it.

    My trip dates: flying out Monday, 11/21 and returning on Tuesday, 11/29. I made it to the airport on Monday afternoon with time to spare and security was not too bad. I boarded the plane and was happy to discover that there were only 2 of us in my row. We were in the middle 4 seats of the plane. I was on one end and another woman was on the other. The drawback was that the arm rests did not go all the way up. Or if they did, mine was stuck. Bummer.

    We had a strong tailwind and this enabled us to arrive at Dublin airport about an hour earlier than schedule. I was surprised to see staff at the airport. It was quite early Dublin time.

    My flight to Amsterdam was scheduled to depart at 9:30 a.m. I found an ATM and then ate a chocolate croissant for breakfast with a Sprite to wash it down. I brought my Kindle on this trip and used it quite a bit. Terminal 2 did have a lot of shops so that was a nice way to pass time; however, after so many laps around the terminal shops, I got bored. Finally we were able to board the plane for Amsterdam; however, due to the fog at Schiphol, we had to wait on the plane for about an hour. Grrr. I fell asleep.

    We finally took off and had a smooth journey. Again, I was fortunate in that there was no one in the middle seat of my row. The woman seated next to the window was quite nice and offered me some tips about Amsterdam. We landed at Schiphol and it really took us 15 minutes to get to our gate. The woman in the window seat told me we landed pretty much in Germany. I could actually believe her.

    This is where it got interesting for me. I had booked a room at the Bed and Breakfast Amsterdam via Venere.com. I had contacted the owners and told them I would be there prior to 2:00 p.m. since they would be out until 6 p.m. that day. I went through customs/immigration and the officer asked me if I was sure I wanted to stay in Amsterdam. What’s up with that? He was nice and I got my passport stamped. I made my way to where the trains were and proceeded to purchase a ticket going to Centraal Station. Paul & Karen (the owners) had provided me with specific instructions on how to get to their place. Even though the Dutch speak English quite well, the signs for trains were all in Dutch. I took the next train that was available going to Centraal and tried to follow the instructions. However, this train did not stop and I went all the way to Centraal Station. I was supposed to get off at the next stop after Schiphol airport. I did call Paul and told him I was on my way and he said I wouldn't make it by 2 p.m., but that he would wait for me.

    After arriving at Centraal Station, I made my way to the trams and hopped on #1. I had my first glimpse of all of the bicycles I had heard and read about. I got off at the right stop and proceeded to make my way to Paul and Karen’s address. In the process, my ankle decided to turn out and I fell. With my suitcase acting as a back pack on me, I could not right myself and fell on my knee. I started to laugh afterwards because what else could I do? Cry? One biker looked at me but didn’t say anything or do anything. I now sport a lovely bruise on my left knee.

    I met Paul and then we walked to the apartment. It’s in a separate place and it’s across a canal. The apartment is on the 1st floor (or 2nd floor in American standards) and it overlooks the canal. Quite lovely. The place is huge and the bedroom is big! They’ve done a nice job with the space.

    Paul was very thorough in explaining keys, appliances, etc. He then sat down with me and discussed the maps and where I was in regards to the rest of the city. We proceeded to chat for a few more minutes and then he left. He told me an interesting tidbit. Rick Steves visited many years ago and gave Paul and Karen advice about how to set up their business and it’s stuck. Wow.

    After settling into the apartment, I decided to fight the jet lag trying to overtake me. I walked outside and through Vondel Park. At first, it felt like a long walk – it is 1¼ mile long. It’s beautiful though. A ton of cyclists were out and about and this is where I started to look over my shoulder quite a bit so I wouldn't get hit. I took a few pictures and made my way to Leidseplein. They were in the process of setting up the square for Christmas. I walked around and smelled things that were not pleasing and then walked up a bit more towards Centraal Station. I walked around a bit more and then turned around. Fatigue was setting in quickly.

    I walked back through Vondel Park and encountered the rush of people heading home on their bikes. I walked around the area a bit (using the map from the apartment) and went to Albert Hein – a small grocery store. I bought a few items and then
    headed back to the apartment. It was now dark. I crashed once I got inside the apartment. I sat down to do some research and then my body didn’t want to go anywhere else. Egads. So, I changed into my PJs, ate a Mangum bar for dinner, and went to sleep. I think it was close to 7:30 p.m. by this time. I awoke at 1:00 a.m. and didn’t go back to sleep until 2:45 a.m., I think. I read and that helped a bit.

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    Wednesday, 23 November 2011

    Today I awoke to my alarm going off at 7:30 a.m. I didn’t want to get up since I had been up for almost 2 hours earlier in the morning. However, I decided to get up and get going. Since it gets dark here a bit early, I wanted to get out and see the sights in the daylight.

    I made it out of the apartment by 8:15 a.m. I walked towards the area near the apartment in search for food. I ate at Anne & Max where I had a café latte (I think - it could have been a cappuccino) and a blueberry muffin. It was good. I then walked to the tram stop to catch the #2 towards Centraal.

    My plan for today was to do the Amsterdam City Walk by RS. I got off at Centraal and started the walk. It was sunny but chilly and not a lot of tourists were out yet. I took lots of photos and followed his guide for the walk. The architecture in Amsterdam is lovely and gorgeous. I really like this place. It’s also very compact – it’s not spread out in ways that are inaccessible. The coolest thing I’ve seen so far is the Catholic church that is hidden amongst the shops on Kalverstraat. This is supposed to be a pedestrian only street, but early in the morning, there are a lot of trucks making deliveries! Crazy. At one point on my walk, I did see the "Occupy Amsterdam" camp.

    While in the courtyard of the Amsterdam museum, I saw a cat. I meowed at it and it meowed back. It came and rubbed up against my legs. It was so cute and sweet. I didn’t go to some of the places that RS mentioned on this walk - i.e., the Pipe Museum, the House of Hajenius (temple of cigars, in his words), and Smartshops. They weren't on my high priority list.

    I wound up a Max Euweplein – this square is across from Vondel Park! I ate at HRC so that’s done and over with for this trip. I walked back through Vondel Park to the apartment. I’m now sitting in the spacious and sunny living room doing a bit of work that needed to be done so I could really enjoy my vacation.

    The sun is out now and things are so pretty in this area. I had to remind myself that I didn't need to do everything in one day. I had Friday, Sunday, and Monday to do things in Amsterdam. Tomorrow, I head to Paris!

    Once the work stuff was done, I headed back out. I took the #2 tram to a stop near Dam Square so I could start the RS Jordaan walk. I realized that the #2 tram is good for going to the Van Gogh and Rijksmuseum. I got off at some stop (can’t remember the name) and walked to the Dam Square. It wasn’t far. I used the guide and saw some pretty canals. It was around 3:45 or so when I did this and there wasn’t a lot of sunlight left.

    I wound up at 263 Prisengracht – Anne Frank Huis. This was a bit unexpected but a nice surprise for me. I went in and paid the entrance fee of 8,50 euro. There is no audio guide – just a brochure and the writings on the walls. It was very somber to think that a family lived here to get away from the persecution. The space they were in was quite small in some areas and surprisingly big in others. The thing that moved me the most was Anne’s room. She shared this with another person (a man, in fact) and the walls had photos she had clipped and glued on. It was very moving and it made me realize the reality of what she went through. I liked the way they set up the museum. It had “clips” running on a loop that were informative. One was of Miep Gies – the lady who helped hide the Franks. Wow. I purchased 2 postcards – one of some photos of her walls and one of her dad standing in the Annex years later.

    I walked outside of the museum and it was dark! And it was only 5:00 or a bit later. Wow. I had no clue where I was and just started to walk. I tried to follow the signs for Leidseplein but then took a detour for some reason. I went through Johnny Jordaan square. I knew that the train station was behind me so I just kept walking forward. It felt safe to do this in the early evening. I wound up following some Americans (they were wearing white sneakers and speaking English) and they led me back to Leidseplein where I proceeded to pick up the #2 tram back to the apartment. My feet were killing me by this time. I got off in a spot I normally don’t and was a bit turned around, but made my way to the apartment. I thought I would find the take away place that Paul and Karen recommended, but no such luck. I came back to the apartment and rested a bit – got things put away and checked email.

    I was getting hungry by this time and also needed some cash for the cab ride to Centraal Station tomorrow morning. I went back out and found an ATM and the Kokkes – the take away place. I got spinach and chicken and pasta. It was good. I heated it up back at the apartment (it cost me 4,20 euro) and ate it here. It was really good. It had a bit of kick to it in the spice area. I did see some of the other places that Paul and Karen recommended.

    All in all it was a good day in Amsterdam. I got to explore and see some amazing sites. I walked around in the dark a bit lost, but He came through and led me to where I needed to be. I ate an ice cream bar for dessert. I had to get up at 4:30 a.m. tomorrow so I could be at the train station at 6 a.m. Yikes!

    Thursday, 24 November 2011 – Thanksgiving US Holiday

    The alarm went off at 4:30 a.m. and it was hard getting up. I awoke and took a shower. I called a cab and they were really quick to arrive. Of course, at 5:30 a.m. or so, I wouldn’t expect too many calls for cabs. The driver took me a different way to Centraal Station. I thought he might be doing this to get a higher fare, but I guess you can’t really go the same way as the trams do! I waited for the sign to let us know which platform to get on. I was surprised at the number of people who were up and about this early! Crazy. I took the Thalys train to Paris. There was a disabled train in front of us (or something like that) and we were delayed an hour! I didn’t think we’d ever get going. We made stops at Antwerpen station and Brussels Midi. The Anterwepen station looked really familiar to me and then it hit me! I’ve been to this station before. I think it was last year, but I can’t remember. I think this is a sign that I’ve traveled quite a bit.

    We arrived in Paris at 10:30 a.m. or so – about an hour later than the original arrival time. The ticket line at Gare du Nord to purchase metro tickets was quite long – both at the manned and unmanned places. Praise Him I had enough change to purchase one ticket. I got on the train and made my way to the Champs Elysees. I walked through the long tunnel at the Charles de Gaulle Etoile station. I took the escalator up and there was the Arc de Triomphe. It was a very cloudy day in Paris and a bit chilly. I made my way to the Peugeot showroom and saw one cool concept car, but they didn’t have any cute T-shirts. Bummer. I walked down the CE and into the Disney store. I didn’t see anything in there either that I wanted. Oh well.

    As I made my way to Le Florimond (my lunch reservation), I noticed a huge line of people. What in the world could this be for? It was the grand opening of a Marks & Spencer on the CE! Crazy! I had to take pictures. I walked to Le Florimond and had enough time to pop into a couple of stores. One had cashmere sweaters and the other was a paper store that had the notebooks I liked. However, they didn’t have one that opened up like a notebook (mine flips). I was bummed. I had to walk rather quickly to Le Florimond (I had 2 minutes before my reservation).

    I arrived and Laurent greeted me. He called me Tracy. Oh well. I was seated at the same place as last year! Very cool. I ordered the same thing as usual – lobster ravioli and the stuffed cabbage. The biggest surprise was the dessert. I didn’t order any chocolate. I ordered a millefeuille vanille and when it came out, it was so tall! I ate all of it except one piece. If I had eaten the 3rd piece, I would have been miserable.

    There were only 2 of us eating solo; the rest of the patrons were in groups of twos or more. The restaurant was quite full and a couple of girls walked in and took the last table. Crazy busy. They had a guy helping out this time instead of the woman I had seen working here previously.

    After stuffing myself, I walked back to the store with cashmere sweaters and purchased 2 of them. My intention was to only purchase one, but the salesman pointed out that they were running a special. I came out of the store with 2. :)

    I then hopped on the metro and made my way to Opera. I got off and then walked to Galeries Lafayette. I was looking for stuff for some friends' children. I found a couple of T-shirts, but they were kind of expensive so I left empty handed. Oh well. It was crowded with lots of shoppers. This year their windows were decorated with a Rock & Roll theme for Christmas. Kind of cute and definitely different.

    I did a lot walking once I left Galeries Lafayette. I made my way to Rue de Rivioli and purchased 2 t-shirts for the girls. I kept walking and made my way to the Musee d’Orsay. I did entertain thoughts of going in, but the line was mega long. Oh well.

    I did more walking and walked by places that were very familiar to me. I thought I would hop on the metro and go to Blvd. St Michel, but wound up headed towards Gare du Nord. I had about 2 hours and 20 minutes before boarding, but my feet were killing me and I didn’t have any particular place to heads toward. Once I arrived at the Gare du Nord metro stop and got off the train, there were military men walking around with automatic rifles. It was chaotic because a lot of people were getting off the train and a lot were trying to get on. I’ve never seen military at any of the subway stations – esp. near the actual train.

    I had a hot chocolate and purchased a water. I may have purchased a pastry, but cannot remember. I was too full from lunch. I found some places to sit to bide my time. It was fun people watching. I did purchase some Mentos so I wouldn’t be tempted to do the "make your own bag of sweets." I loved watching the board change as trains left the station. Does this make a me a geek? It never ceases to amaze me that all the trains are on time!

    They finally showed the track where the train was located. I boarded and settled in. This time I had a seat mate. On the way to Paris, I was alone in my two seater. I fell asleep and awoke when I heard the conductor asking for our tickets.
    I listened to music and read some stuff in my Kindle. We made good time but it seemed as if took longer as we got closer to Amsterdam.

    We arrived at our scheduled time and then it got fun. I knew that I wanted to take either the #1 or #2 back to the apartment. However, I didn’t realize that the area I was standing at was not for the trams I needed. It was cold, windy, and very late. There were a lot of people out, though. I saw 2 police officers walking around so I felt better. I waited and waited for the 2 numbers to appear and then He led me to the board to look at schedules. Even then, it didn’t click that the 2 tram schedules I wanted were not posted. I looked at alternatives to see if any of them went near the apartment. I asked a girl standing in the waiting area where I could pick up the #1 or #2. She pointed to another area. I was very grateful and after a few minutes, the #2 came. Yay!

    I guess I was confused because when I walked out of the train station on my arrival day, I found the #1 in a place that I thought was where I stood that night. Who knows?! I did see the signs indicating that the #1 and #2 trams were to the right. Good grief! It didn’t register with me at that point either. Egads. I was not playing my A-game.

    I made it home and got ready to sleep. Of course, my mind was still racing so I did some administrative things and finally went to sleep. I think it was about 1:15 a.m. or later when I turned off the light and went to sleep.

    What a day. I really enjoyed Paris. It was different, though, this time around and I’m not sure why.

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    Thanks for all the comments! The rest of the report is below.

    Friday, 25 November 2011

    I set the alarm for 8:30 a.m., but reset it to 9:15 a.m. instead. I was tired. My plan for the day was to finish the Jordaan walk (via RS’ guide) and then shop. It was cloudy and rain was forecasted off and on. I walked through Vondel Park and made my way towards Dam Square, but was able to bypass a lot of foot traffic by walking up Prinsengracht - past Westerkerk and the Anne Frank house. There was already a line waiting for entry into the Anne Frank house. Wow. It started to rain a bit while I was walking.

    I was bound and determined to finish the Jordaan Walk. As I got closer to the place where I left off, I noticed a street sign that RS mentioned I would travel down. I filed it in the back of my mind, but kept walking. I found the canal that RS described as one of the prettiest canals in Amsterdam - Leliegracht. I then got serious and continued my walk. Somehow, I found myself wandering off and got off the guide’s instructions. So, I tried to back track but failed. I think I went around the square about 3 times. I got my exercise! Good grief.

    I finally found the street that RS mentioned and would have found it earlier had I remembered I was doing the guide backwards at that time and should have taken a left and not a right. Egads. The “heart of Jordaan” as RS describes it was really pretty. Even though it was chilly and misting, the area looked nice. By this time, I was getting hungry. Once again, I found myself skipping breakfast while traveling. Oh well. I did everything that the guide suggested so now I wanted to find food. RS mentioned a couple of places in his guidebook and I found the Café ‘t Smalle. I sat in the downstairs area near the bar. I was cold by now. Yikes. I ordered a salad with smoked chicken and curry and bread. It was surprisingly good – either that or I was so hungry that I didn’t care. The curry was a bit of sauce on top of the chicken. I had a cappuccino and a slice of Apple cake. I really enjoyed this meal. Oh, the bartender/waiter reminded me of a blond Russell Crowe. Very cute.

    Afterwards, I went about shopping. I needed to find items for friends and family. I had purchased a glass with scenes of Paris on it for a friend's son. I was hoping to find something similar for Amsterdam. However, there were only shot glasses. Bummer.

    I went to Magna Plaza and didn’t see anything I liked. Oh well. I walked and walked and then decided to go the Amsterdam Museum. I purchased the Museum Card here as well. It will save me loads of money on my visits to various museums. The museum was nice – it had a tech savvy exhibit where you put a smart card logo and you can hear what you need to hear for that video. Very cool. The permanent collection was nice. I can't recall anything particularly standing out for me at this museum.

    I continued walking and made my way to Museumplein. I took a picture of the “I Amsterdam” sign. There were a lot of people taking pictures. However, I couldn’t get a good front view since there was a closed off space right in front of it. Really?

    I then walked a bit and found a Mark Raven kiosk. I took a better look at his shirts and liked what I saw. Mark is a local artist. I purchased a T-shirt and received a free box of 6 Mark Raven coasters! This was the 2nd time I had received something "free" from a shop. The first time was when I purchased an Amsterdam Christmas ornament. I received a smaller blue and white ornament.

    I ventured on to the Van Gogh Museum. It’s pronounced Van Hock here in Amsterdam. Interesting. By using my Museum card, I was able to save some euro! The museum is set up nicely with English titles for his paintings. I really liked his Almond Blossom one – not sure if I’ve ever really looked at that one before. It seems that Van Gogh was greatly influenced by Japanese art during his lifetime. I really enjoyed this museum.

    I purchased 2 matted prints – one of the Almond blossom and one of a boat on water. I also purchased a couple of post cards of paintings that were not in a bigger print.
    I hopped back on the tram and made my way to the apartment. I needed to deposit my purchases and to rest.

    I chilled for a bit and then made my way out to find food. Of course, it was Friday night and things were booked. I tried 2 different places and couldn’t get in. Strike for me for not being more prepared. I wound up eating at Sputino – a place recommended by Paul & Karen. I walked in and asked if they had availability for one and got the strangest reaction/response. The waiter, a rather tall man, pointed in the space between his head and the ceiling. I thought he meant upstairs and said so. He then laughed and realized I didn’t get the joke. He spoke to another guy in Dutch and then led me to a table. Really strange. If I had not been super hungry, I would have walked out.

    I ordered tortellini and a coke. I realized that I had been drinking too many colas on this trip. The waiter, a different guy – thank goodness, presented me with bread and olives. The bread and garlic butter was soo good. I had to limit myself. I ate a few olives as well. The food came out and it was hot from being taken out of the oven, but it was good. I actually ate the entire thing. The tall guy made a comment about how well I ate.

    I walked back to the apartment quite full and headed to bed. Day trip the next day.

    Saturday, November 26, 2011

    I awoke a little after 8 a.m. and reset my alarm. I was in no big hurry to get to Den Haag and Delft. However, I realized that I would only have so many hours of daylight. I got up, took shower, and left the apartment. I hopped on the tram and made my way to Centraal Station. I wanted to purchase a OV chip card, but the GBV place was not open until 10:00 a.m. It was 9:44 a.m. when I arrived. I went to the Tourist Information office and it was packed. They were only selling the I Amsterdam pass. I left and made my way to the ticket window at Centraal. I purchased a one way ticket to Den Haag. Made the train and got settled in. The car I was in was a bit crowded. It didn’t take too long to get to Den Haag HS – they weren’t selling tickets to Den Haag Central.

    On the way to Den Haag, I saw a lot of sheep in fields. The sheep were so fat! There was one area where a lot of sheep had congregated. It was very cute.

    Arrived in Den Haag HS and made my way towards the Tourist Office and the city center. I tried using the guide book, but realized afterwards that I had gotten some stuff confused with Delft. Oh well. I tried to find the TI, but had to ask a few people. Of course, I had walked right by it. It’s located in the bookstore! Egads.

    I picked up a map and then made my way to Mauritshuis Royal Picture Gallery. It’s in this building that Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring” resides. It’s a lovely building with a well thought out floor plan. They had English titles for the paintings as well. I used my Museum card and had to pay an additional 1.50 euro. Not bad at all. The normal cost is 10,50 euro! I purchased 2 postcards of prints I liked (the Girl with a Pearl Earring being one of them) and a cloth to clean my glasses. This had blue and white tiles on them.

    I walked around a very brief bit – visited the Binnehof Parliament Complex and took pictures. It was getting windier by the moment. The sun was out, though. I thought about getting food in Den Haag – since I had I skipped breakfast again. But then I decided to eat in Delft. I made my way to Den Haag Centraal with the intent of taking the tram to Delft. However, I was not using my A-game in that when I arrived and asked the information desk, I found out that the #1 tram to Delft was in front of Den Haag HS. Good grief! I made a decision to not walk back to Den Haag HS and just take the train to Delft. It was only 2,70 euro. I caught the train prior to its departure time and settled in for the short ride.

    I arrived in Delft and this time had a better experience leaving the train station and making my way to the TI and the city center. Even though there was construction, it wasn’t that bad. I’ve learned over the years to follow the crowds upon leaving a train station. 9 times out of 10, they’re going in the same direction I want to go in. I made my way to the center of Delft – this is a pretty place with a canal dividing it into 2 sides. I found the TI and got a map – it’s a rather big booklet, but pretty. The TI pointed out some interesting things and then I left. I made my way to what I thought was the New Church, but was in fact the Old Church. It was very quiet inside and didn’t have a lot of ornate objects. I left after a few minutes and made my way to the New Church.

    As I was walking towards New Church, my hunger pains were starting to make their displeasure known. I found the pub that RS had recommended, but the door was locked. It was only 2 p.m. or so but it seemed no one was in there. I continued walking and came across a tea room that was serving lunch. It was Leonida’s Lunch room.

    I asked if there was a table for one and there was so I sat near the kitchen. It wasn't a bad place to sit. However, it would not have worked for 2 people. I got settled, looked over the Dutch only menu, and then asked for help from the waitress. I ordered the soup and sandwich combo – tomato soup and a ham sandwich with a coke. I read a bit in the guide book and just tried to relax. Even though I didn’t feel as rushed on this day trip as I had on other day trips, my mind was going in all directions. The food came out and it was a “make your own sandwich” deal. They had laid out the ham and included mustard and a dollop of garlic/herb cream cheese. It was good. I ate everything. Again, not sure if the food was that good or if I was just super hungry. I didn’t get dessert.

    A couple of women sat beside me and one of them asked if I was visiting Delft. I told her my story and she wished me luck/safe travels/or something similar. I left and then made my way to New Church. It’s quite big. When you walked in, you were in the gift shop area and this is where you purchased tickets. I had purchased a ticket at Old Church and it was good to use at New Church. I walked inside and was surprised to not see an altar. I’m not sure if this is a Catholic church or not. There is a Roman Catholic church in Delft, though. Regardless of its affiliation, it’s a nice church. The main attraction is William I’s tomb. It’s a rather ornate piece of work. There is a crypt below (not open to tourists) that contains the remains of a lot of Royal Family bones. It was fun to read about it and take pictures.

    I left the church and was now on a mission to purchase some Delft blue & white for my mom. I found one of the 2 Delftware shops that the TI had circled for me. I would not be making the trip to the Delftware factory outside of town. I found a lovely gift for my mom. This gift was the only purchase I made in Delft. Quite odd for me *not* to purchase anything more.

    I walked around a bit and then decided to head back to Amsterdam. The trek back to the train station was easy. I purchased my ticket at 4:00 p.m. exactly. The next train was at 4:24 p.m. I went to the Albert Heijn express to purchase something sweet. I got a Kit Kat and an Orangina. A train came at 4:07 p.m. and I thought it had Amsterdam Centraal on the front so I got on it. As we approached Den Haag HS, I realized that I was on the wrong train! Gasp. I got off the train and hopped on another train that was about to literally pull out for Amsterdam Centraal. I found a seat – this train was crowded (or at least it was in my car). I came to the realization that I might be on the wrong train again, but I didn’t care. We made it to Amsterdam Centraal, but before pulling into the track, we were stopped. The conductor came on and said we were at a red light and when it would change, no one really knew. That elicited a chuckle from everyone.

    We finally pulled in and I disembarked and made my way out. This time I knew which set of tracks to go to for tram #2. However, I first stopped at the GVB office and purchased a 48 hour OV chip card. I will use it tomorrow as I hop from one museum to another.

    Returned to the apartment and unloaded stuff. For dinner, I went back to Kokkes and got au gratin potatoes and green beans. The pastas they had all contained mushrooms. I also purchased a bag of chips and a sparkling mango drink. It cost me 9,45. Tomorrow I plan to sleep in and then head out to the Indonesian restaurant for lunch and then do a few museums. They are in this order: the Royal Palace, the Dutch Resistance Museum (since the tram that takes me there is located at Dam Square),and Rijksmuseum.

    I think that’s all I can handle in one day! Perhaps I’ll do more on Monday – my last full day in Amsterdam.

    Sunday, 27 November 2011

    I set my alarm for 9:15 a.m. and wound up waking up around 8:10 a.m. I heard a noise this AM that sounded like planes flying overhead. Then I heard what sounded like rushing wind. I was right on both accounts. The wind was very gusty this morning! It reminded of Le Mistral in the south of France. After getting ready, I left and decided to walk through Vondel Park instead of taking the tram. As I was walking, I heard the planes flying overhead. For a good amount of time, there were quite a few planes landing at Schipol. I wonder if there was a window of time that they could land safely and they were rushing planes in, so to speak. As I was walking, it started to mist. During some moments, the mist was quite heavy. Of course, I forgot my umbrella! I didn’t see anything on weather.com that would indicate I would need my umbrella. Silly me!

    When I arrived at Leidseplein, I took tram #2 to Spui. I was getting wetter and wetter. My goal was to eat at the restaurant that a friend recommended for Indonesian food. They opened at noon and I arrived about 10 minutes early. The mist was heavier at this time so I found cover and just waited til noon.

    I think I was the first customer in the restaurant. The place was called Kantijl & de Tijger. My friend recommended the RIJSTTAFEL but it was going to be too much food for just one person. Bummer. Instead, I ordered the Mangkok and chose the 3 things I wanted – fried rice, stir fried cabbage, paprika, carrot, and egg and rendang. It reminded of bi bim bap because it came in one bowl. It was quite good. I pushed aside the half egg, but ate almost all of the Mangkok. I had a homemade iced tea and it was really good. Nice presentation. It was almost a bit too sweet for me. For dessert, I had the Jaffle Pisang – grilled pita with chocolate and banana. It was listed under the section "for kids." It was very good, though. The waiter, someone different from my original waitress, short changed me 2 euro! I went and showed the hostess. She gave me the correct change.

    By this time, the rain had stopped [Note: while I was eating, the rain came down quite heavily and then it stopped shortly thereafter] and I made way to the Royal Palace. Having the museum card has come in quite handy.

    The Royal Palace was quite nice. I felt a bit dumb when I couldn’t figure out the map in my hand. I’m seriously not using my A game on this trip. The rooms inside were quite ornate. What amazed me is that this place is still used when the Queen visits. Crazy.

    I spent about an hour there and then headed to the tram stop to pick up #14 that would take me to the Dutch Resistance museum. The tram came and I got on. Only after 3 stops did I realize I was headed in the wrong direction. I got off and fortunately, I had only to wait 3 minutes before a tram arrived that was headed in the direction I needed. Praise Him! It was sunny outside, but still windy.

    This tram took me by Rembrandtplein. I noticed that Rembrandt’s statue was covered by a tent. A festival was set up in the square. I got off at the right stop and then followed the signs to the Dutch Resistance museum. It’s across the street from the zoo.

    Again, I used my Museum card and saved euro on the entrance fee. This is an intense museum. It had a lot of the stuff from that period. They framed the museum as having to make choices The options were: adjust,collaborate, or resist. It was interesting to read about the things they did to help the Jews once the Nazis began the deportation. I didn’t realize that the Germans were hoping that the Dutch would join them in their cause. Apparently, life went on as normal even though the Netherlands was occupied. I spent about an hour to 1 ½ hour there.

    I hopped back on the tram and went to Dam Square. I started to walk back towards the apartment. I walked down the busy Kalverstraat and it was pure mayhem. I noticed that people do not say “excuse me” or “sorry” when they bump into you.
    I walked and walked and eventually made my way close to Leidseplein – coming full circle, so to speak. I gave in and purchased a Starbucks vanilla latte. It was good. I thought about taking the tram home, but decided to walk instead. I purchased another T-shirt from a local artist's for my sister. I liked the artist's stuff so much, I knew I would be back on Monday to purchase something for me. :)

    I came back to the apartment and have just been chilling. I ate so much that I won’t be eating dinner. I had way too many calories today! Tomorrow, I plan to head to the Rijksmuseum since I wasn't able to go today as planned. I need to start thinking about how I’m going to transport all of the stuff I've purchased home.

    Monday, 28 November 2011
    My last full day in Amsterdam

    I started getting ready around 8:19 a.m. this morning. I ate at Anne & Max – got cappuccino and a blueberry muffin. It was good. I did not eat dinner last night since I was still full from lunch.

    After breakfast, I hopped on the tram and got off at the Rijksmuseum. I thought since it was a Monday, it wouldn’t be too crowded. It wasn’t. However, there were a lot of school children and they were quite loud. Good grief. The main museum is undergoing renovations so this was a slice of their permanent collection. It was an impressive "slice." I have to say I wasn’t in awe of Rembrandt’s “Night Watch” as I probably should have been. The one painting I did like, the museum shop did not carry. Bummer. I actually didn’t purchase anything at this Museum. Wow. I probably spent about 1.5 to 2 hours in the museum.

    I was getting hungry so I headed towards Café ‘t Smalle in the Jordaan district; however, I ate at Toos & Roos on Herengracht. It was a bit far for me to get to Café ‘t Smalle. I had not even made it to Westerkerk yet. I was hungry and didn’t want to ruin my dinner! At Roos & Toos, I had a smoked chicken, bacon, avocado, and lettuce sandwich on brown bread. It was huge and very good. They gave me a sample of the pumpkin soup – have to say it was not bad at all. I had a still water instead of a Coke! Yay.

    Afterwards, I just walked along the Herengracht. I wanted to see the “bend” in the canal that had been painted by the artists. I found the bend and took a photo of it. Of course, my photo won’t do it justice like the paintings do. Oh well. I was in a dilemma about whether or not I wanted to go to the Red Light District to see the church in the attic. I chose not to go and continued to wander. It was such a lovely day. I wound up at Starbucks again for a coffee break. It was close to 2 p.m. when I did this. Hmm, my 2nd Starbucks in 2 days. Oh well. I needed a caffeine pick me up.

    I kept walking and made my way to PC Hoofstraat – one of the most expensive streets in Amsterdam. They even had a Tiffany’s and a bunch of other recognizable stores! However, there weren’t a lot of people shopping up and down the street. I’m surprised that these stores aren’t closer to the city center where all of the tourists are primarily located. Interesting city planning.

    I walked on the street until it came to a dead end at Vondel Park. I walked through the park at a rather slow pace for me. This was probably the last time I would walk through the park. I stopped for a few minutes to relax and chill. It’s such a gorgeous day compared to the rest of the days I’ve been here. The sun is out and there is a chill in the air – esp. near the water.

    I came back to the apartment and tried to write outside near the canal. The drawbridge just went up. A big boat is passing through – it’s a super long boat. I wonder what it’s carrying inside. Two boats have now passed through the canal. These 2 have been carrying things. Paul did mention that this was a working canal. OK, a 4th boat is now making its way in the opposite direction of the others. Crazy. Now the fun is about to begin - repacking my suitcase.

    Tuesday, 29 November 2011

    Awoke at 5:55 a.m. and took a quick shower and then proceeded to pack the rest of stuff. I had called Michael last night to use his cab service because trying to figure out tram and then train schedules to Schiphol was not working out. Instead, I was able to sleep in a bit more and it only took 15 minutes to get to the airport. I looked at a map last night and it seems that the apartment location is a lot closer to the airport. If I had taken the tram then the train, I would be going into the city center and then back out. Not good. Praise Him for prompting me to go with Michael – and it only cost 28 euro! Yay.

    I arrived at the airport and grabbed breakfast at Starbucks – vanilla latte and a blueberry muffin. I then tried to find the customs place to get my VAT refund cheque stamped. I found it after a couple of tries – it certainly wasn’t labeled well.

    Proceeded to my gate and there was already a line to go through security. At Schiphol, each gate has its own security vs. one big one like the US airports have. Interesting. I went through and my shoes caused it to clang (the guy told me to go on in w/ my shoes to see if it would work and it didn’t). Over all, it was fine. However, while waiting, an American (I saw her passport) pushed the emergency button when she couldn’t open the door! The alarm went off, of course. It was quite loud. All she wanted to do was use the bathroom. In hearing her explanation to the gate agent, she saw “green” and thought that was a sign for go. In America, yes that would be the case. Here, not so much. I can understand her confusion, but I guess what I don’t understand is why she didn’t ask anyone in a uniform first. No one panicked when the alarm went off - it's as if this had happened before. Security came, asked for her passport, and then cleared her after speaking with HQ. A bit of “fun” early in the morning.

    The boarding process was different – they asked for all economy seated passengers first and we all lined up and proceeded to the door to the runway. Not as bad as other places (i.e., CDG), but still not as precise as boarding in the US. While waiting to board, I noticed one passenger had a rather stuffed suitcase plus 2 other bags (one personal and one duffel-like) ready to take on board. I was pleasantly surprised to see her suitcase fit in the overhead compartment. Wow.

    The flight from AMS to DUB was fine up until we started our descent. There was a moment when things got a bit rocky! The plane when up and then to its right. Kind of scary, but the pilots had it under control and we landed at DUB.

    I sat in the waiting area in Terminal 2 waiting for the sign to change from "wait in this area" to "proceed to US pre-clearance." I made it through pre-clearance and then boarded. This time, I was in middle 4 seats and there was only 1 person in the same row. However, he was not on the other end, but there was still enough space between us.

    We landed at Logan safely and then proceeded to pick up our bags. The bags were loaded on the carousel and people started picking up their bags. No sight of my bag. The other passengers had left and there weren't that many around the carousel. My bag did not make it! However, when I went through the pre-clearance at Dublin, I saw a photo of my bag. It did make it from Amsterdam to Dublin, but somehow didn't make it to the Boston.

    I found an Aer Lingus customer service person and told her what had happened. She thought for a moment and then told me that she remembered seeing my bag. She went through a door I couldn't go through and I just waited. The other customer service representative that was handling claim forms was busy with another passenger's issue. I heard the woman talking on her two-way radio with baggage handlers and the other customer service person.

    The next thing I knew is that I saw the supervisor of the baggage handlers come up to where I was and asked about a lost bag. I told him it was mine and restated the fact that I saw my bag in Dublin. Right before the customer service person w/ the claim forms was about to fill out the first line, I saw another baggage handler come up the baggage carousel ramp with my bag over his head! I was so happy and relieved! The woman that had originally helped me came over the two-way radio and said that the bag was found. I told her thank you very much. I was able to finally head home!

    Amsterdam is a very lovely and lively place to visit. I would highly recommend it.

    TR

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    Thank you for this marvelous, detailed report. DH and I will be heading to Amsterdam in April for a river cruise, but spending a few days early in Amsterdam. Also via Aer lingus from Logan.Will be rereading your report many times, I'm sure, and taking notes. Thanks, again!

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