We saw London, we saw France and lots more.
Day 1 (9/18) Amsterdam
Well I have put off this trip report long enough so here goes. I am writing this to pay forward the help and advice which I received from members of this forum. Members were so helpful with ideas, answers and suggestions to my questions and in writing this I hope that I can offer something to a new traveler. I do not have a flair for writing and I offer a fair warning this will be a thirty day travel report which will not have tootsie rolls or twerking involved. We are just two travelers who discovered new cities and experiences.
We landed in Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport at 8 a.m. a bit ahead of schedule. The flight over was not painful since it was not full. My DH and I were in a row with another gentleman who wanted to sit with his friends further up the plane. There some empty seats and he was offered the chance to move which gave us the extra seat in a three across row as more space. Sweet. The dinner was palatable but breakfast was dismal. We just had tea with the hope of getting something better when we landed.
Schiphol is a wonderful airport with lots of shops, the train station right below it and is very nicely planned out. Finding your way around is easy because of the good signage. It is the fourth busiest airport in Europe but is easy to navigate. After finding an ATM to get Euros, we went downstairs to buy a train ticket to Sloterdijk Station. The ticket kiosk took our American credit card with a chip and pin without any problems and we headed over to the train platform.
After a brief train ride, we arrived at Sloterdijk station and walked less than a block to our hotel. I want to mention that many may find fault with us staying at a hotel chain throughout our trip, but the rooms were all free with hotel loyalty perks and that in itself made a 30 day holiday extremely low cost (we had been saving points for years to be able to do this.). We were a bit concerned that we would be staying away from the city center but getting around was quite easy since the buses are stationed right outside the hotel and the train station next door.
The hotel was very welcoming and was able to check us in immediately although it was early in the morning and offered us the complimentary breakfast buffet.
We jumped at the opportunity since the “breakfast meal” on the plane was disgusting with instant coffee no less.
The hotel buffet was brilliant with an assortment of cold cuts, cheeses, breads, rolls, croissants, fresh sliced vegetables, cheese spreads, gingerbread, yogurt, Nutella and something we had not encountered before, De Ruijter sprinkles. They had milk chocolate, dark chocolate, fruit sprinkles along with milk chocolate and dark chocolate flakes. We tried some and found them delightful. I must get some of these to take home to friends.
Fortified after breakfast, we took the train from Sloterdijk Station to Central Station and set out on foot to explore the city. Central Station is lovely itself. Built in 1889, it is a Neo-Renaissance building and we had to take some photos of it before continuing.
Across the street from the station is a tourist information center and we walked over to see what they offered. Aside from selling a few books, GVB info, it basically was pushing the I Amsterdam card which really didn’t suite our needs and it was 62 euros for a three day pass which would cover things we might not want and we would be here for a week. We didn’t want to rush about trying to use the card in 72 hours, so we decided to wait and purchase a Museumkaart later at a museum.
You will find that a great deal of our trip will be spent just walking about a city while taking photos, looking at sights, visiting museums and interacting with people.
We walked down into the heart of the city along Damrak on our way to Nine Little Streets. Damrak is an area which was dirty and tacky with cheap tourist shops. I would name this the ugliest street in Amsterdam so if you come here just keep on walking. We had our wits about us and kept an eye out for pickpockets and dodgy people. Apart from a couple of good four stars hotels and clothing store C&A there is not much here for you. But push on because once you make it past this first encounter, you will be rewarded with a clean and lovely city. The residents here are the friendliest people I have ever met. I instantly fell in love with Amsterdam.
Nine Little Streets has many boutique and specialty shops in wonderfully old 17th, 18th and 19th century buildings. We strolled along taking photos, admiring the canal houses and taking lots of photos. We visited a few shops and boutiques along the way.
We started at the Van Loon Museum where we could buy the Museumkaart for 54.9 Euros. It is good for one year and lets you into over 400 museums in the Netherlands. Since we were planning some day trips to see other museums this was a very good deal.
The Van Loon Museum is the former home of Willem van Loon who co-founded the Dutch East-India Company. His descendants came into possession of the house in 1884 and decided to turn it into a museum and open it to the public. The family operates the museum.
It is a wonderful canal house built in 1672 and has a formal garden in back with a coach house with a classical façade. Inside is a large collection of paintings, fine furniture and porcelain from different centuries. There is even an old kitchen in the basement with cooking utensils, etc.
Next, we walked across the canal bridge to the FOAM photography museum where we saw a Lee Friedlander exhibit, “America by Car”. It was surreal to travel to Amsterdam to see an American artist’s work on display but we loved the exhibit.
After this, it was getting too late to visit another museum so we just walked about the canals exploring and photographing the city.
We stopped at a pub in Rembrandtplein where I had a beer and DH had a venever. We sat outside under a huge awning to watch the people about and relax. It started to sprinkle and I discovered that I was sitting beneath a gap in the awning so I moved. Luck was with me because what was a sprinkle turned into a downpour. We didn’t care since we were dry and drinking libations. We had some cheddar cheese egg rolls (?) The rain lasted less than an hour and we decided to check out the statue of Rembrandt in the center of the area. The statue is on a grey granite base bearing a replica of his signature. It is surrounded by a bronze-cast representation of his most famous painting, The Night Watch. This bronze-cast representation of the famous painting was on display for three-years before traveling and returned in 2012. In January 2013, the Rembrandtplein Entrepreneurs Foundation began a fundraiser to keep the sculptures in the square throughout the year. It is really amazing.
We saw an Indonesian restaurant across the street called Pelangi and decided to have dinner there since eating a rice table meal was on our “to do” list. It is a small restaurant and it looked like a family business.
We ordered the basic rice table meal. There is a deluxe meal as well but there were like thirty courses and we knew we would never be able to finish it. Our meal consisted of white rice, spring rolls, beef curry chicken sate, stirred fried vegetables in coconut oil, sprouts in peanut sauce, fried eggs in chili sauce and stirred fried rice along with bottles of water. The server and owner were very friendly and explained everything to us in detail about the dishes. You could see the tiny kitchen in the back and there was one older woman doing the cooking. The food was quite good and very reasonably priced. The server told us to take our leftover bottles of water with us and not to tip since it was included in the meal cost. I guess that when they learned it was our first visit and dinner in their city, they felt they should acquaint us with the customs.
We left and walked over to the tram stop and checked a map to see which one to take. A gentleman who was waiting for the tram asked us if we needed help with the map. He was so quick to offer help even though we know better than to stand about and look helpless. Anyway, we rode back to our hotel, had a drink and relaxed the rest of the evening after unpacking.
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We saw London, we saw France as well as The Netherlands and Belgium
We saw London, we saw France and lots more.