Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

Crushed Mice for the New King: two unusual weeks in The Netherlands

Crushed Mice for the New King: two unusual weeks in The Netherlands

Old Jun 5th, 2013, 07:59 AM
  #21  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 2,012
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Short bit: on our first day, we managed to get on the right bus, "ding" our little cards both on and off again at Centraal station. Even managed to find our way out of the station!

Walked thru the exciting active streets, just happy to be in Amsterdam on a sunny day. Our destination was the area where you can pick up a canal boat tour of Amsterdam. I highly recommend this for first timers, in fact for anyone who is tired of walking, but still full of curiosity. It is a marvelous entree into, or reminder of, the canal area of the city, with interesting houseboats, lovely examples of the singular Dutch architecture, a chance to watch the life in the streets above, and just plain fun. Also helps you to decide what you want to go back to.

A word to the wise traveler: there are specialized boat tours, including one that goes specifically to the museum areas, and I think that leaves from near the Centraal station.

There are also boat tours that take too much time out in the big river (the "Ej") so check the itinerary with the starter.

I think you can also rent a boat on your own, but it would be fatal for me, as I would be lost in a nanosecond, and lose my egotistical confidence in my directional ability.
taconictraveler is offline  
Old Jun 8th, 2013, 03:56 AM
  #22  
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 1,029
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Loving your report! I am just sorry that someone else gave away the secret early on about the crushed mice. I was looking forward to your story about it!
skatedancer is offline  
Old Jun 8th, 2013, 05:46 PM
  #23  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 2,012
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Me too, skatedancer! But I'll tell the story anyway. Nice to hear from you. More coming soon.
taconictraveler is offline  
Old Jun 10th, 2013, 04:55 PM
  #24  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 2,012
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I went to Maine and had such a good time that I have been very remiss in continuing this report.

Now I have to find my diary to see what I have forgotten, which is a LOT, including VERY EARLY morning flower auction, full day in Haarlem, and Keukenhoff, plus some outstanding meals!

Tomorrow is a funeral for a very old friend, so give me another day to get back to this.
taconictraveler is offline  
Old Jun 13th, 2013, 04:08 PM
  #25  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 2,012
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
OK, no more excuses. I'm going to try to be more chronological about this report, before I not only lose any readers who are left, but lose myself as well.

But, wait a minute: one more tangent: forgot to tell those who don't know that there is WiFi just about everywhere in Amsterdam, including ON THE BUS! It was great cuz I just had my iPhone, turned to airplane mode, so could get nothing without WiFi and everything with it!
taconictraveler is offline  
Old Jun 13th, 2013, 04:24 PM
  #26  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 2,012
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
so, on that first day, we wandered after our canal tour, and a very fun lunch at a restaurant not far from Canal boat tour place, in the University area, called de Laren. It has two outdoor terraces, terrific salads and sandwiches, very modern, and lovely in the afternoon sun.
(We try to get outdoor tables for our 8 noisy people, because we often forget how loud that number of (ahem) "Americans" can be.

(Tangent: Must admit, it's a bit embarrassing, as it is usually just Jim and I traveling, and we make very little noise. Now I dearly love these traveling companions, and wouldn't change any of them, it's just noisy to have 8 people at a dining table.)

We wandered the streets, and headed to the Rembrandt House, which is quite lovely. The inside looks like a Vermeer painting: in fact, so does the outside! Well worth a visit.

We took our now familiar bus back to Broek in Waterland, rested up a bit, and traveled a very few miles to Monnickendam to the Posthoorn Restaurant.

Here was one area in which our hostess disappointed us. She said we would love this restaurant, but it was too too pretentious for all of us, to say nothing about the expense! Jim was thrilled that they had Canadian Club whiskey, his all time favorite, for cocktail time. But I am well aware that, in Europe, whenever the bar has Canadian Club, it signals high (usually) American-tourist prices. (cost over $200 for 2 people!!)

Furthermore there was no one else there, and the food was just OK, perfectly edible, but so totally de-constructed that it became a joke.

In fact, it became sort of a problem, for me at least. It seemed hard to find restaurants that were not too contemporary, and chic, but not too down-market.

It probably had something to do with our designated restaurant decider, who was anxious to try very excellent restaurants, and may have read too many reviews in American market fancy magazines.

Not really complaining, but we did find the restaurants very expensive in Amsterdam.

NEXT: In and out of the Rijks; where ARE they?; and HOW many trams to de Kas?
taconictraveler is offline  
Old Jun 14th, 2013, 11:53 AM
  #27  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 2,012
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
So, the plan for this day was the mighty Rijksmuseum, finally open after 14 years of being almost entirely closed.

In my many trips to the Netherlands I had never been inside this museum, so I had as much anticipation as all the others about seeing this marvelous edifice and its even more marvelous contents.

Before the comedy of errors about entering the museum occurred, (see above) another comedy of errors started to take place on our way. It lasted all day. But I suppose that is to be expected with 8 people trying to do things together in a city, each with opinions and points of view and varying amounts of physical stamina.

We walked from the Centraal station down to Damm Square, at which time 4 of us said: "How much farther do we have to walk?" to which the other 4 replied: "Only a little bit."

Those were the long-walker/hikers, so we more sedentary ones did not really trust them, and a glance at a map showed that we were really only about half way there.

So we said we'd take a tram, and meet them at the entrance and if we got separated we would meet at 3 PM in front of the Night Watch. OK, swell.

We four sedentaries (If I were Benita I would call them 84,82, and somewhere in the neighborhood of 70, but maybe just below) waited seemingly forever for the right tram to come along. But we didn't care cuz we were in the shade.

Finally after about 25 minutes Tram 4 or 1 or whatever one it was, arrived and off we went.

When we arrived we were told we had to stand in line, even with the Museumkaart, but when I sobbed a bit to the guard about standing in the sun, he said "go stand in the other entry line, not quite so long, and in the shade." so we did.
About 12 minutes later we were in the museum.

Then with all the fol-de-rol about the rest rooms and the cafeteria, (see above) we decided to have lunch before we set out for our meeting place (which was, of course, the most crowded part of the museum.)

By this time, with all the waiting and tramming and waiting, we decided we should have a quick lunch, then go to our appointed spot.

By the way lunch was deeelicious: I had an excellent open faced "old cheese" sandwich on fresh whole grain bread, with lovely lambs' lettuce and pickles and pearl onions. Sort of a fancy Dutch Ploughman's. We also ran in to our Dutch/American friend who lives in Dutchess County as well as Amsterdam!

The balance of the afternoon was taken up with each of us, in turn, standing in the crowd by The Night Watch, waiting for our 4 stalwart hikers to appear, while the others managed to get a peek or two at the Vermeers, and other gems on this floor.

At about 4:00 we decided to go over to the Van Gogh, deciding that our friends had ditched us. We managed an hour there before they closed, which was most enjoyable (Jim and I had been there before,so I wasn't too frustrated with just an hour, and the others vowed to go back)

To kill time, (and have some wine) we wandered over to the Conservatorium, a new, very much-touted hotel, with large glass roofed central meeting rooms. This proved very successful, and we happily joined our Amsterdam friend (who had led us there after we met her at the museum!)for wine and tea.

We decided our plan should be to go to the place where we knew we ALL had dinner reservations at 7:30, so we could meet the wayward four who had stood us up all day. We planned all sorts of dire stories to make them feel positively awful for leaving us behind.

It was named De Kas, so we got directions from the staff at the Conservatorium. It seemed as though we took three different trams to get there and at least 3/4 of an hour, but maybe it was only two trams and a long wait. At least it wasn't raining hard, just a shower.

Just to make everyone uncomfortable, we walked in to the restaurant at 7:31, to learn that they had come there at 5:30 hoping to meet us early. I thought they might have already eaten, but no, they were just drinking, and very hungry.

Meantime, we were very thirsty, after just one tiny glass of wine, and a long tram trip across the city.

We managed to make up when we learned that they arrive at the Rijks half an hour before we did, were told there was a three hour wait, so they left and went to the Van Gogh, thinking we would also be turned away and do the same.

Despite the mixed up day, we thought DE KAS was an excellent restaurant, with extremely interesting food: small portions at first, served family style of things like salmon seviche and quinoa timbale; white asparagus with hollandaise and poached egg; veal again I think with quinoa as a main course (for me) and a divine orange and cream bavarois.

The whole idea of this restaurant, which is in an old greenhouse, thus walls and ceilings of glass, is getting farm-to-table in the closest possible way. The place is beautiful to behold, and most interesting to wander around. I heartily recommend it. Pricey, but this one was worth it.

I think we called one of the marvelous 8 person van-taxis to get us back to centraal station, so as not to lose anyone en route!!
Tomorrow: HAARLEM and FRANS HALS
taconictraveler is offline  
Old Jun 14th, 2013, 12:20 PM
  #28  
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 11,334
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
**Before the comedy of errors about entering the museum occurred, (see above) another comedy of errors started to take place on our way. It lasted all day. But I suppose that is to be expected with 8 people trying to do things together in a city, each with opinions and points of view and varying amounts of physical stamina.**

A bit like herding cats, eh? I recall a situation in NYC a good 15-18 years ago... and only TWO people were on the trip. lol

Enjoying your report. DH and I visited Kukhenof (sp) but we were about a week too early for tulips. This was a year ago March. We will try again at some point, I'm sure.

The many glasses of wine DO help when trying to keep a group in good spirits, not so much in trying to keep them all together! lol

Enjoying your report. I'll be curious about Haarlem, as I've seen the roadway signs but we've never ventured in.

Carol
simpsonc510 is offline  
Old Jun 14th, 2013, 01:15 PM
  #29  
 
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 11,422
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I just saw your report and am enjoying it very much! DH and I are in Edinburgh now (going home Sunday) having come over on the QM2... we thought of you often on our journey!

I want to make another trip to Amsterdam, having only been there once over 20 years ago! Looking forward to reading more!! Say hello to Jim for us!
Florida1 is online now  
Old Jun 15th, 2013, 10:19 AM
  #30  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 2,012
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Hi Simpson and Florida: thanks for kind words. I love the Netherlands, but this was first time to focus on Amsterdam, though we also got to The (beautiful lush) Hague and down to Den Bosch further south, a day in Antwerp, and one in Maastricht.

Looking forward to seeing you both at Boston GTG in October!
taconictraveler is offline  
Old Jun 15th, 2013, 10:27 AM
  #31  
 
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 11,422
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
We have our reservations! Looking forward to seeing you too!
Florida1 is online now  
Old Jun 23rd, 2013, 08:39 AM
  #32  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 2,012
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Well, it's about time I got cracking at finishing this report. There is more to tell, but I am now convinced that I didn't take enough notes, and my forgetter is getting much better!! Must be age, but hope I was just distracted by all the wonderful sights and sounds of Amsterdam.

Also, I have been distracted by the many wonderful travel reports now taking place on the this Europe forum. Such good reading!

It was just before Wednesday, May 8, where I left off last post. Now our visits to the sights and museums of Amsterdam were getting better and better, plus we were getting to know the bus/tram system like natives. ... well, not quite. But it is nice to cross paths with residents of the city, and get a glimpse of ordinary life.

This day we went to the Dutch Resistance Museum, taking Tram #9 from the Centraal station. Our group had split up, which usually happens, as we all have different lists of must-sees.

This museum is in Plantage, an area east of the center, with lots of other attractions, including the Botanical Gardens, just across the street. I am still confused about the geography of Amsterdam, but I think maybe de Kas was out in the same direction.

This museum was one of the most interesting to me. I have been to similar ones in other countries, as I am curious about life during the 5 years of German occupation between 1940 and 1945, while I was living the idyllic life of a child in small town Connecticut, pretty much oblivious to what was going on in Holland.

There is much to learn and experience here.

We then trammed our way back toward the Amsterdam Historical Museum, where some of the guys were headed, while a couple of us women went to find the Begijnhof. (try to pronounce THAT one!) This is described as a lovely garden with residences, hidden in the middle of a big block. This proved to be the case, and one comes upon it probably ONLY by design, and determination, or at least in our case. Beautiful gardens within surround a small church/chapel, where nun-like "beguines" lived "a spiritual and philanthropic life from 1150 onwards," (so says Fodor's guide book) with simple rules: "no hens, no dogs, no men." At least gardens were not prohibited, and there is a profusion of them. Sadly the church was not open, so we could not see the pulpit panels designed "by a young Piet Mondrian." Now, that would have been curious!

The rest of the afternoon, (after the men ditched us) was one of those meanders known only (I guess) to the "ladies" where we wandered along the Keisersgracht, and the Prinzengracht, window shopping. Just wandering in and out of shops, seeing what was new and interesting, dodging rain drops here and there, and stopping for a quick "tosti" and a glass of wine.

Meanwhile the guys were having a "real" lunch and a visit to the historical museum.

We ended up not only window shopping, but hotel shopping! We managed to drop in to the celebrated new Andaz, very very chic, and done up in an awesome way, and worth a visit for sure. Even if your visit is just to acquaint you with the fact that there are hidden gardens all over this canal district of Amsterdam, all in the back of townhouses facing the street or canal. We also stopped at the Dylan hotel, and the Toren, to satiate endless curiosity about hotels we all read about here or on other forums. All very chic, and in different ways very attractive. I think they are all fairly pricey, but I would choose the Toren if I could afford it! (not sure of prices here, but many of you probably know)

Our goal for the late afternoon was our friend's tiny but lovely apartment up at the north end of the Keisersgracht. (it happens that a Dutch friend who has lived in our town for many, many years, has sold her business and bought herself a semi-retirement apartment in her native Amsterdam.) She invited us for drinks, and accompanied us a couple of days on our excursions. I probably have mentioned this above somewhere.

This very full day ended with an unusual dinner at Blauw an de Waal.

Chosen by our food chairman as an unusual experience because it was in the Red Light District (?) and was meant to be an excellent restaurant.

I have to say it was an exceptional meal, starting with the location. (some would say that it has to be good, because the approach is certainly inauspicious!)

Can't remember all the food, and who had what, but I had a most marvelous salad (yeah, I know, "salad?" but that is always my criteria of a good restaurant. I consider it very difficult to make and serve a really good salad, with right balance of greens, and other ingredients, lightly dressed. Almost impossible in the US, but this was superb.
I then chose incorrectly: namely, lamb sous-vide. Now, I know sous-vide is "au courant" but like kale salad, I hope it passes through the gastronomical repertoire very rapidly. Just my opinion, but it doesn't work for me. I think the roasted cod would have been the better main course, because it was raved about, and the divine cholocate dessert, (like a painting, with a frame, no less!) which I had, made up for the sous-vide lamb.

OK, TMI, probably, for most of you. In total, the restaurant was excellent, with a marvelous wine list, fabulous photo-worthy presentations, great service with friendly staff.

A Cab back to Centraal, in the rain, helped us to settle down for our now easy bus ride back to our country paradise, ending a super filled day.
taconictraveler is offline  
Old Jun 23rd, 2013, 02:19 PM
  #33  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 2,012
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I should comment on the big Amsterdam bike parking story, which was in the NY Times Friday.

Palenq has posted about it on this forum. Lots of opinions are emanating as I write.

Yes, bikes are great, and prolific, and ubiquitous, and dangerous for tourists, as bikes in Amsterdam and The Netherlands generally have the right of way.

So, i would warn all walking tourists to familiarize themselves with the bike rules and, even more, with the street markings - so they do not stand in the wrong place, while waiting to cross a street.

I actually thought crossing streets in Rome was safer than Amsterdam!
taconictraveler is offline  
Old Jun 23rd, 2013, 02:46 PM
  #34  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 57,091
Received 5 Likes on 3 Posts
bmk
annhig is offline  
Old Jun 29th, 2013, 04:54 PM
  #35  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 2,012
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thank you anyone who is still there, for waiting while I get my act together.

I don't know quite what has happened this time, but I seem to be as bored with this trip report as the few who have been following it.

I apologize for being so slow in completing this report. The trip was certainly a wonderful one, but I think I was distracted by the sights and sounds of Amsterdam, and indeed other parts of the Netherlands, which I believe is a vastly undersung place, (if there is such a thing.)

Most of you are more interested in Paris or Tuscany, but let me just try to finish this up so those who know and love Amsterdam and the Netherlands might get a micron of use from these meanderings, without further ado.

I can't really tell you ALL about the nonsense that went in to renting the van that I talked about in questions I put up here before the trip.

Here's what I know, for anyone in the market. There was some miscommunication in renting a van for two days, but bottom line, we did it, and it was much less expensive to do it after we arrived. Our local AutoEurope (Portland Maine) is just great and has given us great service many times, but just couldn't get their arms around this one.

We rented a van, (we thought it would be "locally", and it should have been, but) we ended up sending two of the guys in to Amsterdam to pick it up.

The phone calls from our little Inn on the Lake to accomplish this took a whole half a morning of phone calls from our very helpful innkeeper who was on the phone straightening out details for a very long time, with the result that we had to send the guys in to town to get it. Long story, their story, they spared us.
Cost was about E90 per day for a great Ford van - 9 passenger, sorry I can't tell you the place we rented from, even tho I was on the return trip. Plenty of space, relatively easy to drive.

After the second day, and the return of the van, it did take a tram ride and a bus ride to get back to Broek in Waterland. However, if you are willing to devote a little time, it was worth the effort.

Whether we could have accomplished this without the aid of a very helpful, but harried innkeeper, I am not sure.

Said van took us all, (woops not quite all, one couple didn't want to be on the road that long,) to De Weirsse, a lovely garden way out in the Eastern part of the Netherlands, and then to the Kroller-Muller museum and sculpture park.

The gardens at de Weirsse are wonderful, pretty much an English perennial garden, with vast views, etc. and probably a must for garden lovers. Not necessary to go that far if you don't love gardens.

We enjoyed it so much that we were late wending our way back to stop at Kroller Muller. And as luck would have it, it was a holiday in Holland: Pentecost - (pretty funny, for people who are not known as big church go-ers, but every "holy day" seems to be a big holiday in that country.)

Therefore, the national park, where the museum is, was jam packed with every living soul and child in the entire country. here we were with our intrepid Ed driving a van for the first time in his life, trying to weave thru a murderous grid lock of cars and other vehicles. Luckily he once drove a taxi in NYC, in another life.

Result: a short and less than thoroughly thrilling visit to the museum, and an even shorter time in the sculpture park.

The whole thing was a comedy of errors: first a nightmare parking scene, then as we entered the museum, we just missed beating a huge crowd of non-Dutch, non-English speaking folks off a bus. That necessitated a very long wait for tickets, even with our Museumkaarts, cuz no one even knew we had them, cuz there was only one ticket "window."

None of us had had any lunch, so we went to the cafe, after finally entering and had a quick lunch, after another not quite so long line. Result: about an hour in the museum.

I have been here twice before, so it really didn't matter to Jim or myself, but I really felt sad that my friends didn't get the desired effect from this superb collection.

Finally arriving "home" at Broek in Waterland, we had only enough energy for a local pub, where we had an OK meal at a place called The Three Nuts! "Die Drei Notte"

Next day was a long one, but a winner all the way!!
taconictraveler is offline  
Old Jun 29th, 2013, 05:41 PM
  #36  
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 11,334
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I'm still here, taconic!! I love Amsterdam and I'm really enjoying your report. Take your time if you wish.
simpsonc510 is offline  
Old Jun 29th, 2013, 06:07 PM
  #37  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 2,012
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Well, thanks, Simpson. I hope I get it done before Mid-October!
taconictraveler is offline  
Old Jun 30th, 2013, 01:49 AM
  #38  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 57,091
Received 5 Likes on 3 Posts
thanks for coming back, Taconic. Some of us are still here and following your adventures!
annhig is offline  
Old Jun 30th, 2013, 02:47 AM
  #39  
 
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 1,950
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Still here too enjoying your adventures.
MaineGG is offline  
Old Jun 30th, 2013, 04:50 AM
  #40  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 2,012
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks, friends. I got distracted this time, of all things, by a Garden Tour, in which I was involved! That was Friday, between huge rain deluges here in the Hudson Valley (lucky!) so now: more Netherlands today.

Our day at the Flower Auction at Aalsmeer, and Keukenhof gardens was a real winner, despite the usual hilarious mistakes along the way, which seem to be "de rigeuer" for Fodorite trip reports!

It's coming!
taconictraveler is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Manage Preferences - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Your Privacy Choices -