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Belgium and The Netherlands - Trip Report

Belgium and The Netherlands - Trip Report

Sep 1st, 2009, 12:02 PM
  #21  
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Ok - here is the final Amsterdam installment...

Day 12 (Monday)

We actually managed to do one of our planned day trips during this vacation - we went to Delft. The trip was quite easy by train, no changes and the trip only took about an hour or so.

Delft was really great - picturesque small town with canals and wonderful architecture. There happened to be a student orientation for the university going on that day in the town center, so it wasn't exactly the atmosphere we had in mind, but it was lots of fun anyway. We wandered around a bit and found the tourist office, picked up a map and some brochures and then went to the main square where there are quite a few restaurants. We had lunch at a little place called Het ABC, which was good - sandwiches and beer.

After lunch we walked to the Royal Delft factory and museum - it is a bit of a walk from the center of town, but not bad and took us through some interesting neighborhoods. It would be more efficient to head straight there from the train station and then walk to the old center though - save a bit of backtracking. The museum was really neat - definitely a highlight of the trip. And being able to walk through the factory was terrific.

Then we meandered our way back toward the town center, just taking in the sights as we went along. Once we got back to the town center, we wanted to climb the bell tower, but because of all the students there for the university orientation, the line to climb up was really long, so we decided against it. By this time it wasgetting close to closing time for museums and shops, so we just wandered around awhile longer, poking around some back streets and small lanes. Then headed back to the train station and caught a train back to Amsterdam. Overall, it was a really nice outting.

Once back in Amsterdam, we went back to the house to relax a bit and then went out to dinner - a Malyasian place just south of Neumarkt called Nyonya. Very good food and really nice prices. It is a small family-run place, maybe 10 tables. And the prices were excellent.

Day 13 (Tuesday)

Because we enjoyed our Mike's Bikes city tour earlier in the week, we decided to take the countryside tour with them as well. We picked up breakfast at a bakery on the way to the Mike's Bikes location - crossaunts with cream and strawberries - yum yum yum.

The bike tour was very good - a bit through the city, then the Vondelpark, and then out into the suburbs and countryside sort of south of the city. We went through an area with bunches of houseboats, the Amsterdam forest, which was planted in the 1970s (I think), and then out into some farmland. We stopped at a dairy where they make cheese and wooden shoes - that was fun. We visited the cows, sampled cheese, saw them make shoes. Later we stopped at a windmill and rode along some canals. Overall, a great tour.

Afterward we wandered around the Jordaan neighborhood a bit, hung out in a cafe overlooking a canal drinking beer for awhile, and generally relaxed the rest of the day. Afternoon turned into evening, so we got some eats, and then had some more beer. We spent the evening hanging out on the terrace of a cafe on Neumarkt Square - great place for people watching, relaxed and friendly atmosphere.

Day 14 (Wednesday)

Last day in Amsterdam and my husband's birthday. He decided he wanted to go to the zoo. We rode the tram, which was quite convinient, went almost directly to the zoo. The Artis zoo isn't large, but it is fairly well done and a very manageable size. I am not particularly big on zoos, but this was ok. Afterward we had lunch at a small place across from the zoo entrance - chicken shwarma in a pita, which was quite decent.

Later we went to the Brouwerij't IJ, which is a brewery next to a large windmill not far from the zoo - I think it is on Zeebrugestraat. Great place with good beer, low prices, and a nice patio outside with lots of shade. While we were there, a large American-made blue late 60s convertible pulled up in front - we'd seen this car cruising around earlier in the week and we took notice since it isn't exactly a common type of car in Amsterdam. Three guys jumped out of the car and started unloading sound equipment - amps, drums, guitar, microphone, etc. They set up their gear and started playing music, using the car as their stage. The drummer was sitting in the back seat of the car, the guitar player standing on the hood, and the bass player standing on the trunk. It was the coolest thing. They played about 5 songs, came around through the audience with a tip jar, then packed up their gear and drove away.

For dinner we went back to the Ter steakhouse and then had drinks at Rick's Cafe again, sitting out by the canal watching the world go by.

Overall, it was a nice final day in Amsterdam.
november_moon is online now  
Sep 1st, 2009, 12:18 PM
  #22  
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Day 15 (Thursday)

Sadly we had to leave Amsterdam - we would have gladly stayed another week if we could have. We really enjoyed our time there.

Took the train back to Brussels since that is where our flight home departed. Again - the train was very easy. I think the trip took maybe 3 hours. It was probably the hotest day of the trip though, so the train felt stuffy.

This time we stayed at the Royal Windsor Hotel near the central train station in Brussels - the hotel was quite nice and we got the room through Expedia for $105 per night. We thought that was a really nice deal. The room was small, but well laid out. The bed was really comfortable and the bathroom was fairly well done. There were some things I would have complained about thoughif we had paid the published ratesin the lobby which were upwards of 500 euro per night. But for $105, we were more than pleased with the room.

We had late lunch on "greek street", which is about a half block from the hotel - mmmmm gyros. Then we did some last minute shopping,wandered around a bit and found a waffle stand to get our fill before we left. Then we went to the Grand Place to sit on one of the terraces and have some last minute beer. Do we REALLY have to go home tomorrow? Can't we stay longer?

Since we were there, we had dinner at Le Roy de Espagne on the Grand Place - sat inside since it started to rain - and then it really rained. Flemish beef stew cooked in Leffe Bruin with potatoes was quite good. We hung out and waited out the rain, had another beer or two while we were there. And then called it a night.

Day 16 (Friday)

Nothing really to tell about Friday - just the trip home. Took the airport express train from the central train station to the Brussels airport. We got there in plenty of time, so we got some breakfast in the terminal - not much choice, but we didn't starve. Flight was uneventful until we got close to Washington Dulles where we had a connection to SFO. There was weather, our plane got diverted, by the time we got to Washington and cleared customs and security, we'd missed our connection. Huge lines at customer service since it seems EVERYBODY had missed a connection. I called United customer service and got us rebooked on another flight. We ended up getting into SFO only about 4 hours late, so overall, not too bad.

All in all, it was a great trip and I would absolutely return to all the places we visited.
november_moon is online now  
Sep 2nd, 2009, 05:02 AM
  #23  
 
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Hi november_moon - Thank you for finishing your trip report. I'm glad you had a great time. Amsterdam is one of my favorite cities to visit.

"We thought the whole thing was quite interesting though, and very ironic that the alley behind the Old Church is lined with red light windows and coffeeshops."

I know exactly what you mean! This has got to be one of the most bizarre scenes in Amsterdam. Guys leaning up against the wall of the church checking out the "ladies" in their red lit window cabinets.

Interesting - maybe it was the time of year, who knows? We saw (and smelled) plenty of people smoking pot on the street.

Since a lot of Dutch people roll their own cigarettes, it's not unusual for them to sprinkle a little marijuana in with their tobacco. That's what you might have been smelling. There's even disclaimers in some coffeeshops warning against the hazzards of mixing the two together. Afterall, nicotine can be harmful to your health.

"All in all, it was a great trip and I would absolutely return to all the places we visited."

I know what you mean. We're off to Amsterdam and Belgium (Antwerp this time) in Ocotber. This will be our 6th time through Amsterdam, and our third for Belgium.

Robyn
artstuff is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2009, 12:37 PM
  #24  
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Another ironic thing - the signs we saw on the terraces of several cafes that say "no drugs", meanwhile 75% of the patrons are smoking cigarettes. I know what they mean by "no drugs" - obviously - but I just think it is interesting when nicotine isn't classified as a "drug".

I grew up in Santa Cruz, CA where nothing makes sense, so I just love that sort of thing.
november_moon is online now  
Sep 2nd, 2009, 04:08 PM
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cigarettes arent allowed in coffeeshops in Amsterdam
jetsetj is offline  
Sep 3rd, 2009, 01:25 AM
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"Since a lot of Dutch people roll their own cigarettes, it's not unusual for them to sprinkle a little marijuana in with their tobacco. That's what you might have been smelling. There's even disclaimers in some coffeeshops warning against the hazzards of mixing the two together. Afterall, nicotine can be harmful to your health."

You all must be travelling in different circles than I....I have never heard of these practices. And luckily I don't know anyone doing it. I do know from my high-shool years and college (I am know 34 so about 10-15 years ago) that a lot of young people try joints a few times. But only a small % of people do smoke joints regurlarly.

On Youtube you can find an interesting movie: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTPsFIsxM3w

It is a reaction to Bill O'Reilly of Fox news, making certain allegations about Amsterdam.

One of the interesting statistics in this movie is the use of cannabis (number of people who have ever used it) in The Netherlands and the US: 22,6% versus 40,3%.

Now I do agree that chances are that in Amsterdam you see more people smoking a joint than elsewhere in the Netherlands (a lot of tourist do like to try it once when they are there...).

But I strongly disagree with the false image of all Dutch people smoking joints and sprinkling cannbis in their rolled cigarettes.
TommieG is offline  
Sep 3rd, 2009, 02:19 AM
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Enjoyed your report november_moon, but I don't think you drank enough beer.
Melnq8 is online now  
Sep 3rd, 2009, 05:01 AM
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Tommie...

I never said "all dutch people are smoking joints and sprinkling cannabis in their rolled cigarettes."

But the practice of mixing tobacco and marijuana does exist. If you buy a pre-rolled "joint" in an Amsterdam coffeeshop, it usually contains a mixture of both substances, as well as a cardboard filter.

You are right on with your statistics about Dutch marijuana use vs. the USA. The Dutch model has proven that if you remove the prohibitionist restrictions on the access to "soft drugs", you bring it out of the underground, and less people are apt to want to try it. Because of this, the Netherlands has some of the lowest numbers of new drug users. It's all about harm reduction.

Sorry to take over the thread, november_moon. Now, back to the trip report. I must agree with Melnq8.. you simply didn't drink enough beer.

Robyn
artstuff is offline  
Sep 3rd, 2009, 05:53 AM
  #29  
 
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Very nice trip report. We are going to Amsterdam and Bruges in 2 weeks...can't wait...thanks for posting.
Judyrem is offline  
Sep 3rd, 2009, 05:58 AM
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True, you did not say 'all', that was my subjective interpretation. I put it down a little bit too strong. It just irritates me that some people only see the Netherlands as sex and drugs... (not so much of this on Fodors though). Hence the strong reaction. I apologize! Btw. I am not totally against soft-drugs (took some spacecake once myself when I was young ;-), but I do not like the image of 'all' Dutchies walking around with joints etc.

And yes, I do know that a joint is usually a mix of cannabis and tobacco. They are usually much larger than a regular handrolled cigarette. Most handrolled cigarettes will not contain cannabis.

And now back to the trip report. I really did enjoy reading it november_moon!
TommieG is offline  
Sep 3rd, 2009, 10:21 AM
  #31  
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Thanks guys - glad you enjoyed my report. We certainly enjoyed the trip And don't worry about the hijack - I have enjoyed reading the discussion.

Tommie, I can appreciate your frustration with Amsterdam (and the Netherlands in general) being seen as just a place for sex and drugs. We had a fabulous time and other than walking through the Red Light District, our stay didn't include any drugs or extra-curricular sex. I agree with the Dutch model of legalizing things, bringing them out of the shadows, and taking away the mystique. In the US we've got loads of people locked up on petty drug charges and we've got some really serious problems as a result of drug trafficking. We'd be so much better off if we just legalized some things and got on with it. Anyway, I could go on and on, but you all get the gist.

Regarding beer consumption - when we went to the Halve Maan brewery in Bruges, the guide there told us that Germany is beating Belgium in per capita beer consumption, so we promised that we would do our part for Belgium. I have 2 suggestions for Belgium though - serve beer in larger glasses and (more importantly) when someone's glass is low, the waiters in cafes and restaurants could ask patrons if they would like more (yes, of course we'd like some more). We probably would have had 25% more beer if we could have even easily flagged down a waiter, but so often they were really hard to find.
november_moon is online now  
Feb 23rd, 2010, 02:51 PM
  #32  
 
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I have recommended in Fodorite Lounge a new book by Rick Steves called "Travel as a Political Act" which I do recommend. Rick of course is well know to travelers and in this new book encourages Americans to appreciate other cultures. He sees European solutions to problems. In Holland of course we have many bicycles and rapid transit that one can only hope we in the U.S. might have more of. With regard to the Dutch we know that in a coffeehouse they don't serve coffee but have marijuana over the counter. He makes a case for their acceptance of soft drugs which may mean less hard drugs. Also Europeans aren't as worried as Americans about gay rights, nudity, sex. So Americans who are so religious seems to be quite moralistic about some things.

One minor problem we have is unwanted junk mail. He has a little photo of the Dutch sign at the mail slot...a red NEE and a green JA for example meaning OK for such mail if it has a name on it, otherwise no!

Ozarksbill
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Feb 23rd, 2010, 03:51 PM
  #33  
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So THAT's what those signs on people's mail slots meant - we were speculating about that. I know we could have just asked someone, but continuing to speculate was more fun.
november_moon is online now  
Feb 24th, 2010, 07:41 AM
  #34  
 
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Nice report, november moon! How were you able to book the house in Amsterdam? We're returning in April and have lodging secured for this trip, but I would love to stay in a house like the one you described on another trip.
Betsy is offline  
Feb 28th, 2010, 06:02 PM
  #35  
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We booked the house through vrbo.com - worked out great.
november_moon is online now  

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