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Trip Report Amsterdam and a bit beyond - a short trip report

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After my many questions and lots of helpful advice from generous Fodorites, I wanted to share our recent travel experience to the Netherlands. Contrary to the title, this trip report may not be short, but it was our shortest visit to Europe. We (Jenn and Mitch) left on May 20 and returned May 29th. We decided to spend the entire time based out of Amsterdam, and rented a great apartment in de Pijp neighborhood – highly recommend this area as it was very well connected to everywhere we wanted to go, with the huge benefit of being a quiet refuge from the busy central area. We booked the apartment through FlipKey, but the link doesn’t seem to be working so I won’t add it here. Great service with the owner, and the combined location and quality of the apartment made it a pleasure to return there at the end of each busy day.

We had a good balance of several days in Amsterdam (we fell in love with the city!) and a few day trips to Utrecht, Gouda, Leiden, and Alkmaar. As we typically say when we visit a country that captures our heart (as the Netherlands did) we want to go back! My trip report will include where we went and what we did in general, with restaurant recommendations as well (we're not foodies, but were very surprised that almost without fail we had great meals with quality food each time).

We easily made our way from the Schiphol Airport, buying train tickets to Centraal Station, and then tram tickets. We found the #16 tram was our friend the entire trip as it was a very short walk to our apartment, and quickly got us to the center for any Amsterdam attractions, or for our day trips. We bought a couple 72 hour tram passes, and although there are many options for the re-loadable Chip card, I didn’t do enough research to consider that as a more economical option (but I bet it is).

As first days in Europe typically go, we were tired after the overnight flight from Halifax (NS, Canada). Unlike those lucky travelers who can catch a few hours sleep we weren’t able to do this, but knew we had to acclimate quickly. After arriving and locating our apartment, we dropped off our luggage , and then set off exploring, walking around and getting some fresh air and sun, as well as stopping for a coffee at a café near central station along the way. A bit later on we were hungry, and as we headed back to our apartment to get changed we stopped at Bagels and Beans where we enjoyed a yummy bagel with avocado, cheese and chicken, toasted, with pine nuts and mustard (actually writing this it sounds way worse than what it actually was!)

Back at the apartment, we rested and unpacked, luxuriating in the feeling that for 9 days we would not need to pack anything back up – this is not our typical trip. We headed back out to enjoy some more sunshine (we wanted to take advantage as sun was not what we expected for Amsterdam!) and walk off the jet lag. Around 7pm we were hungry again, and realized we were fading fast, so we decided to eat at an Argentinian restaurant directly across from our apartment. The name was Carlos Gardel (http://en.iens.nl/restaurant/33910/amsterdam-carlitos-gardel ) and we shared empanadas to start (delicious pastry, and lively spicy filling) and then we each had a steak with baked potato. There was an accompanying salad, and really, really, good sauces (3) to use on the steak. It was a comforting, lovely meal, and I enjoyed the wine as well ( I chose a Spanish tempranillo). It was quite quiet in the restaurant – in fact other than one other set of diners we were the only ones there. The service was really good, but I felt badly that they weren’t more busy. My previous research showed another steak house very close as well ( we didn’t make it to that one) that seemed to have more reviews, but was pricier.

We literally crossed the street, walked up some steep, narrow steps to our apartment, and were soon fast asleep.

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