Sorry this is so late but we just now recovered!
Part 1: Amsterdam
After intensive group psychotherapy (and after ditching the extra baggage, i.e. Raynell and Heather) we decided to attempt another trip to Europe. We knew we wanted to return to Paris but we had furious e-mail exchanges concerning a second city. Finally, we did what we always do, we obeyed Amy and went to Amsterdam.
We found open jaw tickets from Nashville to Amsterdam and then returning from Paris on Northwest for around $650 roundtrip. Thanks to good advice on this board, Amy contacted BETS for rail tickets from Amsterdam to Paris.
Day 1 - March 12-13 - Uneventful flight and we arrive at Schipol 5:30AM. We are not happy. Only Amy slept on the plane. The sleep of the righteous. Saundra and I played games, watched movies and started planning the coup. We tried to buy train tickets at the automatic machines but our brains hadn't switched over to Eurotime yet and we were not successful. After minor meltdowns, we sent Saundra to speak her Klingon language accompanied by hand flapping and pathetic looks to the person at the rail desk and we were on our way. The Great Communicator comes through again.
Note to all: The train from the airport to Central Station has tiny entrances and spiral stairs to the seats with almost no luggage storage. We threw Saundra on first to grab seats and Amy and I manhandled the luggage down the stairs and we basically sat on it till we reached the station. Getting out was not pretty but we made it.
Took taxi to our hotel, The Bridge Hotel (175E each for three nights and 4 lumberjack breakfasts. It was a triple room #224). We were seduced by the picture on the website which showed 3 little Goldilocks beds in a row but we didn't get that one. We actually had a better one for our group, two twins pushed together for Amy and her mom, and I had a twin in a little alcove in the same room. We had two balconies overlooking a canal and a big bathroom with a skating rink, oh I mean bathtub and shower, It was very slippery and thank God for the grab bars all over but yet again, no shower curtain.
Our room was ready when we got there and they invited us to put our luggage in our room and then have breakfast. Seemed like a good plan till we saw the stairs which resembled the Swiss Alps and required the use of prehensile monkey toes to navigate. By the fourth flight, Saundra was lying prone on the stairs and Amy and I were attempting a relay approach to get the suitcases up without blowing a disc. This was our introduction to what became known to us as "the city of stairs".
We had a wonderful breakfast of coffee, toast, boiled eggs. granola and the best yogurt we ever had. For some reason there was shaved chocolate on the buffet and we sprinkled it liberally on everything, except the tiny packages of liverwurst. I wanted to try one of them because they were so cute and Barbie-sized but I just couldn't face it in the morning.
Luckily, a bathroom was right across from the dining room which was in the basement and about 15 stories from our room, so we didn't have to don our climbing gear to go back to the room after breakfast.
Now, we're off to discover Amsterdam and make our way to the Anne Frank House which according to Amy and the hotel clerk, was only a 15 minute walk away. Well let me tell you, that was a bald-faced lie. We started off briskly but soon I noticed when I looked behind me that Saundra was becoming a distant dot in the landscape. Amy refused to tell us the address so we had no idea where we were. Let the whining begin. The jetlag and the cobbestones just made it seem all the longer. That and the fact that Saundra's little face had gone kind of slack and gray and we didn't know if the life flight helicopter could land in the narrow streets. So we soldiered on.
Finally got to the Anne Frank House and it was wonderful. Very moving and informative. I got chills when I entered the space behind the bookcase. We saw her movie star pictures and the tree she wrote about that they have to remove because it is diseased. After the tour you go to the bookstore and I don't know why I was so surprised but there it was, her actual diary in a glass case. I'm so glad we came.
I offer a taxi back but no, Saundra, who is cheap and delusional, thought she could make the walk back to the hotel. Another painful mother-daughter encounter when, as we approached the hotel and could see it across the canal, Amy told her mother she should jump in and swim across. She's out of the will.
We put Saundra to bed after we managed to get her up the stairs and convinced her not to take a nap in the lobby on the sofa. Have you ever seen the Laurel and Hardy movie where they move the piano. That's what it was like getting Saundra up the stairs.
Amy and I headed off to find the Kipling store. We stopped for a restorative bite to eat at l'Opera Gand Cafe at Rembrandttsplien. I had a smoked salmon sandwich and Amy had a wonderful broccoli soup. We both purchased one bag, saving money and room in our suitcases for further shopping....it was after all only the first 6 hours we were in country.
When we got back to the hotel, Saundra was a newish woman after a 2 hour nap and a shower. Amy and I did our short programs in the bathroom and we sat on the balcony and relaxed for a while. The desk clerk pointed us towards Sluizer for dinner. 25euro each netted us a 3 course meal and a bottle of wine. Back to the hotel and our beds. Total steps for the day...25000.
Day 2, March 14...A restorative 12 hours of sleep got us down to the basement breakfast at 7am for the troughdive. Today, according to Amy, is culture day. I believe she uses the word culture as code for forced marching with beautiful objects of Art in the peripheral vision. Luckily, I had my eyes lifted 2 years ago and now HAVE peripheral vision.
The Van Gogh museum was our first stop. The real paintings are not done justice by the prints you see in books, calendars, and various purses that the elegant women carry in small town Tennessee. The colors just glow. We stopped in the cafe for water and rest (if food or drink is involved, Amy will let motion cease for short periods of time). We began our mission of economic compassion in the gift shop.
Next stop, the Coster Diamond Factory. We had to fill out a dossier on the computer before they let us in. We had some trouble convincing them that Saundra was not a child (she is quite short and fit perfectly in the little Dutch shoe outside) but finally we were allowed into the building. We got to see how they cut the diamonds which was fun but the real fun was about to begin when we crossed the gateway to Diamond Land.
We quickly lost Saundra as she gazed longingly at the million dollar items and used her Esperanto to communicate that she wanted to try things on. They had beautiful stuff at all different price points. Geez, I sound like I'm selling on QVC. Amy pointed out a lovely little pave diamond ball on a chain to me and like a lamb to the slaughter I tried it on and bought it. It is very unusual and has 176 "non-conflict" diamonds (I have the documentation) imbedded in lucite and looks like a little disco ball when the light shines upon my dewy bosom. It now joins the pantheon of little European treasures that I have purchased. Le Disco sits right next to Le Clip in my little dressing area at home.
After this purchase, I was sweating profusely and had to go to a cafe to have a drink. Amy ended up buying what we affectionally called "le speck" a 1 point diamond and silver pendant. I suggested she have a little arrow tattooed on her chest so people wouldn't miss it when she wore it. Saundra kept pointing to freckles on Amy's chest asking "is that it Amy?"
Later on that evening Amy made me write a ransom note saying that if I died she got Le Disco and I had to have my picture taken with the note so she didn't have to go to probate court after my death. I felt just like Patty Hearst.
Next we hit the Rijksmuseum which luckily was under construction so all the highlights are on two floors of this one building. The Ugly American's dream.
We had some frites and mayo as a snack and headed back to the hotel by way of the Albert Cuypmarket which is an outdoor street/flea market full of mostly crap. But it was fun.
After a brief rest we went to dinner next door at Flamboyant, an Indonesian place. I had been looking forward to a rice table. Amy had chicken in peanut sauce and Saundra had chicken and vegies in a sweet and sour sauce that they made just for her because she is allergic to shellfish. We mentioned her allergy to the waitress and the chef came out and spoke to us and offered to make something just for her. It only cost us 20euros each and we had a great time.
We came back to the room for dessert to eat the treats we had bought at a bakery at the market. Hit the beds early. Total steps: 16000.
Day 3: March 15... Another good night's sleep and lumberjack breakfast. It is amazing how energizing it is to start the day with a 5000 calorie meal. Ah yes, the enormous cold meat and cheese sandwiches, soft-boiled eggs, granola and yogurt washed down with multiple cups of cafe au lait. We are ready for the day!
Went to Willet-Holthuysen Canal House museum. It is like the Frick, a private home turned museum containing their art collection. By now the Indonesian food was making a return appearance and we hurried to use the single facility. Woe to those that followed. "Abandon hope all ye who enter here".
Today, as a change, Amy declared it to be shopping day. Didn't we just do that yesterday and the day we arrived?But we never question The Amy and so we followed toward Rembrandt Plein and the pedestrian shopping street up to Dam Square. From recommendations on the board we made a point at stopping at Puccini Bomboni and had the most delicious truffles. I had ones with cointreau, fig and marzipan and amaretto. Had lunch at a cafe in Magna Plaza and had great grilled open-faced sandwiches and beer.
Then on the way back to the hotel via Denmark (Amy still does not believe in wheeled vehicles) we went to the 9 streets area and shopped at Hema. Bought darling baby clothes for some relatives and chocolates to take home.
An easy dinner solution was to head back to Sluizer where I had the warm goat cheese starter and sea bream in a leek sauce. Amy had weiner schnitzel and Saundra had rib eye steak with garlic crust. We had a bottle of spanish rose and some coffee and it came to 98 euro. I picked up the tab in hopes of softening up Amy for the future. Little did I know it was a wasted gesture.
Next we head to Paris. Total steps:16809.
Day 4:March 16...After another huge breakfast and manhandling our bags down to the lobby, we checked out and caught a taxi to Central Station where our train was to depart at 1pm. We arrived at 11am and looked around for info. The message board announcing the trains had a lot of Dutch on it (imagine!), but with my superior wits I was able to decipher that there was a problem. I headed to the info desk, leaving Saundra and Amy to guard the luggage. I was able to get the partial story that an accident had shut down the rails and we were to be diverted. I was told to head to Schipol. When I reported back, Amy fell to the floor with a moan. Her mother leaned down and deciphered the whisper...This isn't on the spreadsheet she kept murmuring.
Amy did not like the limited info I returned with, especially since there was no spreadsheet data to back it up so she sent her other minion Saundra to the desk to find a little old man to pump for more info. She returned with the same story with additional detail about catching the train at the airport. Another experience with our luggage on the tiny spiral stairs and we arrived back where we started. Note to all: Never take anything bigger than a 24 inch bag on a little commuter train. We decided with breakfast being 2 hours behind us that ice cream was in order to reboot Amy. She revived after a double scoop and some medicinal shopping in the airport concourse.
We loaded our luggage on the train and again thanks to a tip on the board we had brought a bicycle chain with lock to secure Saundra to her seat...oh wait, it was for the luggage. We looped it through all three handles and attached it to the rack. We then made our way to our seats. Amy arranged for us to have the 3 seats around a fold-out table. The fourth was empty. Due to my problem with motion sickness, I was facing front and was able to monitor the luggage area for chain saw wielding Europeans. None were spotted and our luggage remained secure. We very much enjoyed the 4 hour trip to Paris. The countryside was very bucolic and we had treats and conversation until arrival at Gare du Nord.
Lessons learned in Amsterdam: No forced marches on arrival day. We have now convinced Amy to let us rest on the first day or ride on tour buses. She wants to get back in the will.
Lesson Two: What the hell is wrong with having an elevator? Don't these people know we are out of shape Americans?
Lesson Three: french fries are great with mayo
Lesson Four: People in Amsterdam are very tall and their distances are not the same as people under 5'4". Walking anywhere will take twice as long as they tell you it will. Trust me on this one.
Lesson Five: People are very nice if you are nice to them. Everyone was kind and friendly.
Lesson Six: Amsterdam is lovely and more than pot shops and sex in the windows. Don't miss it.
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Sorry this is so late but we just now recovered!