Netherlands visit report

Old May 1st, 2008, 01:10 PM
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Netherlands visit report

We flew Cleveland to Amsterdam via Continental, upgraded with miles. Alas, Continental apparently rarely upgraded the domestic legs, rather puts you on a wait list until it expires, and they wouldnít let me check in online, so I was never put on the upgrade list. Its no big deal because the flight from Cleveland to Newark is relatively short; I would feel differently, I think, if my domestic leg was longer.

The 767 pushed back at Newark at 1830, despite some mix up with the gates assigned, but we spent at least an hour on the active taxiway, which the pilot said was normal for that time of day at that airport. Next time Iíll consider taking an earlier flight. Despite the Newark delay, we arrived on time and the flight was quite pleasant. The meal was served sequentially in an unrushed manner, which reminded me of European restaurants. Between the long dinner and long breakfast, there was not a lot of time to sleep. I carried a laptop this time so my wife and I had our own in-flight entertainment with a DVD; nice way to travel.

On landing, we deplaned quickly, but it took a while to find our luggage, and stand in line getting tickets for the train to the Hague, and finding the right train. The stations we passed did not seem really well marked, but locals who were near us were quite helpful in telling us when our station neared. We were busy wrestling and extra bag, and apparently there is a law here about having no doors wider than 20 inches. We did see some tulip fields in bloom from the train, but we were far away and moving fast, so we couldnít really enjoy them.

We arrived at Haag Central Station at about 11, and I decided to walk to our hotel, since the books say the Hague is small, and we wanted some exercise. Big mistake. We got lost a few times, rained on, and finally stopped in a restaurant (many were closed, perhaps recovering from the holiday) where we enjoyed lunch and got good directions. That restaurant was the Goude Hooft, Dagelijske GroenMarkt 13 (I think) and it seemed old but not touristy, with little English on the menu.. We had two large sandwiches, water, and two glasses of wine for 28 Euro. The sandwiches were good, but larger than we could eat.

Following their instructions, we found our hotel (Hotel Sebel on Prins Hendrikplein) easily. It is in an old neighborhood, but well kept up and clean, with free breakfast and wifi. It is a longer walk than I had thought from the museums, so we will apparently be using our strippenkart more than I had planned. When we finally got to the hotel, we were quite tired, so we napped, and the result is that we say nothing but neighborhoods on our first day, so we are a bit behind schedule, as always.

Since we were tired, we decided to walk around the neighborhood and find dinner. We settled on Bakko Perbacco at Van Speijkstraat 246. Nominally Italian, this very small restaurant had a very good selectioon, but no printed menu. The staff was quite helpful in guiding our selection. My wife wants to go back because of the fish a man near us was eating. Two good main courses, with salad and an olive paste bruchetta, two glasses of wine, two deserts (quite good) and espresso came to 61 euro, and was well worth it. It almost seemed like a home cooking restaurant, where the menu can change with what is available that day. The people around us all seemed like locals, and I think they have found a good thing.

Weíre back in the hotel now, aiming to catch up on our sleep. Tomorrow morning we will go to some museums or Delft, or both. Our only plan for the Hague that remains fixed at this point is the flower gardens at Koerkenhoff (spelling not warranted) on Monday, as they are open then, while most of the museums are closed. They apparently now have direct bus service from Den Haag CS to the flower gardens, although we havenít yet really confirmed that.
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Old May 1st, 2008, 01:18 PM
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Easiest and cheapest way via public transit from Amsterdam i think is to train to Leiden station from where buses go constantly to and fro Keukenhof

Den Hague is much farther away - from Den hague i'd take a train to Leiden then the shuttle bus

www.keukenhof.nl
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Old May 2nd, 2008, 01:33 PM
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We finally awakened at 0800 Friday and rushed down to the hotel breakfast room. No need to rush as they are open until 0900 and there were many people later than us. The breakfast was better than usual for a small hotel, with breads, rolls, cereals, fresh hard boiled eggs and cold cuts (both meat and cheese). There was also fresh juice and good coffee, some fruit cocktail (just like home) and a few heated dishes I passed on (my wife had some fried apples). We are both trying to eat less (both my doctor and, now, my banker recommend this) and the meals we have had so far are somewhat larger than we expected in Europe.

I wised up and took a tram to our first stop; we got a strippencart (45 units, the most economical if you use them all) and the driver explained how to use it. You can use one for two people; you just punch it for one, then for the other. Since it is national, we will be able to use it almost everywhere. Figuring out how many zones your ride will cover is beyond me so far, but the drivers always seem happy to tell me.

We had great weather all day, and I was trapped in my long underwear, but survived. We arrived at Binnenhoff about 0930 and the Mauritshuis (my reason for including the Hague in this trip) doesnít open until 10, so we walked around a bit and found a nearby tourist office, but they to didnít open until 10. It seems common that museums open from 1000 to 1700, so with time out for lunch, you donít have a lot of time to make multiple visits.

We got into the Mauritshuis at 1000 (luckily, as it was a bit crowded and became more crowded later in the day). I bought two museumkaarts there, good for free admission at a very large number of museums throughout the country, at 39.95 euro each. That seems a lot, but we already saved about 2/3 of that in one day, and it will function as well in Amsterdam. I think the card is good for a year, but Iím not sure; I know it will last through our three weeks, and it and the strippencard look like the best deals for savings on public transportation and museums.

We spent a little over 3 hours in the Maruitshuis, and saw everythink, but not as thoroughly as we like, so we will return later (free, with our pass). Their collection is focused on northern artists, but very rich in that genre. I will definitely keep them on our list of must-see museums.

We then had lunch at one of the restaurants that line the nearby plaza. They have a choice between outside and inside seating, and we looked at a lot and unfortunately I forget which we picked, but we split a large sandwich, had a good piece of apple pie each, and one glass of wine and one beer, for at total of 16 euro and change. The atmosphere, due to the good weather, was well worth that.

We then walked about a block to the Bredius museum. We were the only patrons there (and didnít pay because of the pass). Mr. Bredius was apparently the head of the Maurithaus for many years, and developed his own collection. Most famed works there (to me, who knows little) were some drawings by Rembrandt (I think they only display a fraction of these drawings at any time, and I think the reason is that they are hung in a narrow interior hall, where sunlight will not reach them. There were many other works by northern artists, and we remarked to each other as we left that many of these relatively unknown works were actually quite good, better perhaps than some better known works, but I guess that is why we are tourists and not experts.

We then walked to the Escher museum, which had a much better crowd (and wasnít on our pass). We looked at everything, but only a few of the pieces lit my fire, and I think I would rather spend more time at the Gemeentemuseum. We took a tram there and as we entered the ticket taker (our pass worked here, too) pointed out that we had little time until closing, but we really wanted to see the Mondrian collection, even if rushed.

This museum is extensive, with more branches than just the art wing, and warrants a lot more time than we had. The Mondrian collection had everything from what I would call expressionism to cubism, and it is difficult to comprehend that they were all done by the same artist, albeit over some years. We are brainstorming right now trying to adjust our schedule for another visit to this museum before we depart Tuesday.

We ate again at Bacco Perbacco, mostly because we really liked the food, but also because we were exhausted and it was near. The waiter welcomed us when we entered, and then apologized as they were having a large group in, and would not have time for us to have a leisurely meal. Being Americans, we arenít used to leisurely meals, so he fit us in. It was somewhat pleasant having the waiter more attentive than we are used to, not that they rushed us, but we didnít have to sit around and finally do my wild chicken dance to get the tab. My wife had baked tuna and I had osso bucca (both excellent) with two glasses of wine and a split desert (damned doctors). They offered espresso, but we were both tired and wanted to give them time to handle their large group (it is a very small restaurant) so we left early. The total cost was 56 euro. Again, it seemed we were the only non-locals there. We took our time walking back to the hotel and window shopping in a very varied neighborhood.

My sore feet compel me to add that the Hague is not the tiny village that some guidebooks make it sound. But there is very good public transportation.
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Old May 2nd, 2008, 01:44 PM
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yk
 
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Hi clevelandbrown-

Following your trip report w/great interest.

< I think the [museumkaart] is good for a year, but Iím not sure.>

that is correct. You should plan another trip to the Netherlands! I also thought the Museumkaart is an excellent deal.

Maruitshuis is great. Just seeing "View of Delft" by Vermeer was worth going all the way to Den Haag.

When I was at Gemeentemuseum (which as almost 3 years ago), majority of the galleries were closed for hanging of a new exhibits. I was so disappointed as only 1 room of Mondrian was open. But at least I got to see his Victory Boogie Woogie.

I'm glad to see that you're planning to return to both museums later on in your trip. I would have done so if I had more time on my last trip.

Lastly, when you go back to Maruitshuis, look for the fried fish (herring I believe) stall next to Binnenhof. It is delicious!

Looking forward to hear about the rest of your trip.
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Old May 2nd, 2008, 01:52 PM
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i think the herring is smoked not fried IME this last jan - i popped for a herring and nearly gagged on a simply horrific taste

but the Dutch were gobbling them up - holding the fish by its head above their mouth and taking it down in one fell swoop it seemed

they may be fried too but this herring seemed only to be smoked and tasted like smoke
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Old May 2nd, 2008, 01:55 PM
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Oh PalenQ - the herring (or whatever white fish it was) was definitely fried when I had it 3 years ago. They looked like fish nuggets (deep-fried with batter). Yum!
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Old May 3rd, 2008, 01:31 PM
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Up early Saturday to another good breakfast at the hotel. We then took a tram to the museum area, arriving early as I wanted to look for the fish stand I had not seen before. It turns out that the Binnenhof has a front and a back entrance. We had been looking at the plaza by the back entrance, which does have a lot of places to eat. With time, we went into the interior courtyard of the Binnenhof, past the Knightsí hall (no one there that early knew if the renovation has been completed, so I donít know if it is open for tours) and out what turned out to be the front entrance and saw the fishstand immediately on the right. I was now nearing ten so we went into the Mauritshaus (free with our pass) and rushed to the third floor, quicker than Rick Steves touring the Louvre, and were able to spend quite a bit of uninterupted time with both the View of Delph and the Girl with the Pearl Earring (both are in the same rather small room). We then took a relaxed review of the entire museum, including both above paintings yet again, before the crowds started to build and we left for lunch. I should report that the guards at the museum were both very helpful, and very alert and aggressive anytime someone got too close to a painting. One elderly man with what appeared to be a Japanese tour got to close and the guard approached him immediately. Then the lady leading the tour group took over and I bet that elderly man is still being ďcorrectedĒ. I donít mind tour groups, as they have all paid good money to see the same things we want to see; I only wish the tour leaders would speak English so I could poach. Actually, the Japanese groups we saw apparently were all wearing headsets, and the leader spoke into a microphone very quietly, so there was absolutely no disruption.

On leaving the museum, we went to the fishstand. It was uncrowded, so they could explain to me the various options. My wife got deep fried breaded mussels, and I got deep fried coated fish (he called them white fish). As for sauces, he recommended one for my wife, but for me he said he had good and bad sauced, so I selected good. There were quite a few other fish options there (the lady next to me got raw herring with onions on a bun) so I think you have to be alert to order one that will suit you. Ours were excellent. With two fish orders, and a large and small bottled water, the bill was 9.5 euro. My wife then got a deep fried doughball with fruit from the place next door for another euro, and we were filled and happy for a very good price.

We had decided to visit Delph, so we walked to Central Station to get a tram. While there, I asked about the bus to the flower gardens, and the lady at information said they were closed on weekends; she recommended, as has been recommended here, that we take the train to Leiden and a shuttle but from there. I think that will be especially suited for us, as we are somewhat free-spirited, and may decide to stay an hour or eight, so we donít want to be tied to a bus schedule. She also told us how to get to Delph, which involved taking an initial tram from Central Station and transferring to another. I asked how this worked with our strippenkard, and she said we pay the entire fare on entering the first tram. When we went to get on the tram, an employee apparently recognized our uncertainty, and repeated her instructions, as well as punching our strippencard for us. The trip went well, and no one on the second tram inquired as to why we apparently werenít paying.

Delf was so charming, we didnít have time for the two museums we anticipated seeing, but we did visit and old and new churches, and spend a lot of time walking around, and sitting and drinking iced tea. Let me add that we are Yankees, and when we order iced tea at home there is no sugar in it. I know in the south, and even the southern part of our state, they reflexively dump all the sugar they can in an iced tea, so we know, when not home, to order the tea without ice. Apparently the Dutch have caught this sugar infatuation, and I didnít realize it, so we ended up with moderately sugared drinks (not as oversugared as in the Southern US, but still sweeter than we would hope. Be forewarned if you are watching your sugar.

While walking around, we were looking for two restaurants that sounded good, but because of our limited map, we couldnít find the street for one of them, and I was disconnected from the internet, so I couldnít look up the site. In any event, we got a reservation at LíOrage, the other on our list, and had an excellent dinner. It was fairly formal, but I didnít have to buy a tie. The staff was uniformly friendly and competent. We both like fish, so we split an assorted starter plate (after they kindly brought us amuse bouches, and my wife had catfish while I had Bream. Portions were just what the doctor would order (and we prefer) and the asparagas was excellent. We had a bottle of the house red wine, which was a young French Merlot. We split an assorted desert, which had a lot of interesting fruit combinations. The bill was 110 euro, which I thought surprisingly low considering the quality of the food.

We had spent a lot of time trying to find Vermeerís vantage place for View of Delph. We had Fodorís book and used the map in it, but I am convinced that they do not accurately identify the site. Granted, hundreds of years can change many things, but I based my judgment on the layout of the waterways. There is a large street and bridge now that I think covers the place where the artist painted, but we had a good time looking for the spot. If the people from Fodors disagree, I would be glad to have them fly me back to Delph (first class, please) and show me the errors of my conclusion.

We enjoyed Delph a lot. It was crowded (Saturday, who would have guessed) but being out in the crowd was very pleasant, and I donít for a minute resent our not having the time to visit the museums.

Now we have to make plans for Sunday. As usual, I have planned to see more than our actual time will allow. Only on longer stays do I leave a day or two unscheduled to allow for adjustments, but life doesnít always give you all the time you need to enjoy everything.
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Old May 3rd, 2008, 01:55 PM
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Just in case you will still be in Den Haag on Tuesday (or later next week), I would highly recommend to have dinner at Restaurant C'est Ca. It is run by a Dutch and an American woman, the American woman being the chef. The menu is limited and different every evening. Everything is super fresh.
http://www.c-estca.com/ (only in Dutch)
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Old May 4th, 2008, 02:11 PM
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Abbreviated report today, as we have overdone it and need some rest.

We stopped at an ATM in the neighborhood. In the past, I had had some trouble getting wads of cash, as machines seemed to have a limit of 200 or 250 euro, even though my limit with my bank is higher. This time the machine offered options up to 250, and "other". Since I am amassing cash for the payment on our houseboat in Amsterdam, I told my wife to punch in 400, thinking it would be rejected, but it worked. Perhaps tomorrow I shall explore further.

After breakfast, we went to central station to get another strippencart; the apparently English woman closely behind me in line started berating me for having so much cash in my wallet, and said I should keep it elsewhere. My wallet is in my purse, which is in my shoulder bag. Since I keep my arm around the shoulder bag, I hope that is safe, but I guess I could dig out my money pouch and use it. I just wish that owners would realize how inconvenient and unsafe carrying wads of cash is, and accept alternative methods of payment, but they rarely do.

We hopped a tram for the seaside resort of Sheveningen. If you have kids, or like to drink beer on the beach, this is a great place, but direct access to the beach is very limited. They have a long promenade, with stands on the landward side (including MacDonalds), but the beach on the other side has been taken over by bars (I guess this is what sandbars means today), so often you can't even see the sea. There were relatively few people on the beach itself (and this was a nice day), and they were sharing it with many dogs, few of which were being looked after, so the beach was a bit lumpy.

They do have a museum there with some interesting outdoor sculptures; we enjoyed looking at the sculptures, but passed on the museum itself, as it was lunchtime and we wanted to get to a more sedate venue.

We got about three sets of instructions on how to get from there to the Gemeentemuseum. One, involving two trams, worked; perhaps the others would have worked, too, but we grabbed what came first. The Gemeentemuseum was almost empty, and we had a nice lunch in their lunchroom. Two good soups, a sandwich, a piece of apple pie that more resembled cake, an iced tea and a white wine cost 15 euro, and the food was decent and the ambiance excellent. I like lunching in museum snackrooms, as the people are usually pleasant, and the profits go to a good cause.

We spent the entire afternoon in the museum, and didn't even get to the museon side, nor in fact, the entire art museum. The rooms are excellent for exhibits, but I found the organization of the building confusing. We were trapped a number of times among costumes and instruments in the basement, with no guard in sight to rescue us, as we searched diligently, and eventually successfully, for the elusive Monet and van Goghs. There were a number of exhibits by artists previously unknown to me (I am no expert) that were very enjoyable.

Knowing what I now know, I would place more emphasis on this museum in my planning.

We ate at the Goude Hooft again, as it was open and we knew how to get there. The portions were quite large, and neither of us finished ours. For two split pea soups (as good as home, as my wife has a talent for making this), a three-meat stew and a pork tenderloin, which both included a salad bar, extra potatoes, and good applesauce, a carafe of house wine (pretty good) and a desert plate of assorted icecreams and chocolate and melon (we won't tell my doctor about that, besides, my wife recovered her appetite and ate most of it anyway), the tab was 86 euro. My slight complaint is that like many European restaurants, they seem to have an aversion for bringing the check, and I had to hunt down our waiter (who appeared to doing the work of two).

By the time we got home, I barely had the energy to download my pictures into the computer, and captioning them will have to wait for another day.

I use the Seamonkey browser, and I don't know if IE would have the same problem, but when I log on through this Netherlands wifi, somehow all the sites I visit think I am Dutch, and no longer give me the option of an English display. My local bank, in fact, won't even appear, which I assume is because they are hypersensitive about security. Fortunately, I also use USAA Federal Savings bank, which has worked flawlessly. I had some difficulty finding a restaurant, as I had many bookmarked, but when I went to their sites they would only display Dutch, and I have no talent for reading Dutch, so their instructions on how to get to their restaurant were lost on me.
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Old May 5th, 2008, 09:29 AM
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yk
 
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Glad to hear you found the fried fish stall and the food is as good as I remembered.
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Old May 5th, 2008, 10:21 AM
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While in Den haag try and visit Panorama Mesdag, especially now you have been to Scheveningen.

Beaches in the Netherlands are always hard to reach due to the dunes which act as sea defences. the more touristy places also have "strand pavilions" on the beach. There are nicer seaside towns than Scheveningen.
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Old May 5th, 2008, 01:22 PM
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Today was Mondqy, whem q lot of venues are closed, We went to centrql station to find our way to the gardens qt Koerkenhoff. The lady at information said there was a direct but, twice an hour, which would have saved us aq transfer, but after waiting quite a while. the bus appeareed with q legend that there might be a transfer involved, and the driver didn't allqy my fears, so we went downwtqirs qnd got train tickets to Leieen qne used the shuttle bus. The flowers were at the height of their glory, and we walked for hourw until both my camera batteries gave out. We then returned home and started charging batteries, and pacdking for our departure tomorrow. We had dinner at Le Harticot Vert. My wife had a green salad; I had escargot. We each had mussel prepared in wine and a good desert. With a bottle of good house red, one coffee, and a glass of caalvados. The tab was 104 eurp. Food and service was excellent. They even explained to me how to dig the escargot out of their shell, which was a new experience.

Overall, the Hague has been very enjoyable, and I'm glad we included it in our venture.
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Old May 5th, 2008, 01:46 PM
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I was amazed when i first used a European keyboard that the letters were arranged different

and thus Cleveland's typos as i can't help doing the same
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Old May 5th, 2008, 02:10 PM
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A wonderful, informative, and nicely-detailed report. Thanks very much for posting this.
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Old Jun 2nd, 2008, 11:33 AM
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ttt

clevelandbrown - waiting to hear about the rest of your trip.
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Old Jun 8th, 2008, 02:22 PM
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The next few reports will be less accurate than I would hope. Because of my illness, I havenít been updating this daily, so will have to work from memory. By the time I uploaded my daily batch of pictures to the computer, and labeled them, I was pretty tired and just went to bed.

Tuesday our plan was to train to Rotterdam, see the museum, then train to Amsterdam, where we had rented a houseboat. We were a bit tired, and this is the first trip we have taken a third bag, which made the prospect of schlepping on a tram, two trains, locking up the luggage while we found the museum, and hauling everything while I tried to find our way to the houseboat (we had good instructions from the owner, but I can usually find a way to get lost anyway) daunting, so Rotterdam was placed on hold for a future trip. This worked out for the better, as on the train I started feeling weak, and my wife said I was fevered.. I was under the weather for a few days, so our walking was slowed.

We arrived in Amsterdam a few hours early. I looked for a left luggage office, but they kept referring me to a room at the end of the station that had lockers. There are no attendants, so you slip your credit card into a reader in the middle of a bank of lockers, and hope they will charge you the right amount, and open your lockers when you return. We had three bags, and it was only through the use of some language I wonít repeat here and a little kicking that I could fit the three into two lockers. The fee was 7 euro per locker, which I think gives you 24 hours, but we didnít use them that long so Iím not certain. Despite the confusing instructions, the lockers did work well.

We walked around a bit (got lost if the truth must out) but finally found our houseboat. Since we had notified the hostess we would be there later, we sat around enjoying the sun for a few hours, although my wife was concerned that I was sick and woke me up to check on my life insurance every time I dozed off. The hostess arrived and was very helpful, showing us how to work all the appliances (I always rent where there is a washer and dryer, so we can carry less clothes), and even gave us the phone number of a doctor. While she was readying the boat, we walked back to central station to redeem our luggage. As we walked back to the boat, I started feeling very weak, and even fell a couple of times. I was pleasantly surprised by how many people stopped to help me, which is apparently a common characteristic of the Dutch. . Iíve noted that when someone is getting on or off a tram with a stroller or a bag, almost always a stranger will give a hand. I sent my wife on to the boat with her bag, thinking she would come back and help me with the others, but instead the hostess got her car (she had arrived on bicycle) and picked me up. A nap did a lot to restore me, but we decided to take it easy for the rest of the day, so we just picked up a few groceries as we like to breakfast where we are staying. My wife hard boils a pot full of eggs, and each day we have an egg or cereal, some fruit, some yogurt (the Dutch yogurt was very liquid compared to what we get at home), some pastry, and a pot of tea. A good economical start to the day, with almost no housework involved. Warning: donít try to read Dutch. We bought what we both thought was milk (it said Melke on an orange band at the top of the carton). The next morning my wife put it on her cereal, and discovered it was, as I recall, buttermilk; that sure woke her up. The next time we passed our local grocerette we went in and asked, and the proprietress showed us how to recognize milk (with a blue top, just like home).

For dinner, my wife went out to find some carryout, but it was too late for some of the markets, and cafes wouldnít do carry out. She ended up getting a decent soup from a Thai restaurant and we enjoyed that on the boat before turning in early.

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Old Jun 8th, 2008, 02:23 PM
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With still plenty of time, we devoted the next day to walking around our neighborhood, trying to find local sights. We found a nice small grocerette near us, and a classy wine and spirits store. The nearest known attraction was De Waag Nieuw Markt, which we made out center of operations primarily because it was easy to see from a distance, making it harder for us to get wholly lost. Our hostess had insisted there was a supermarket there, but we looked and looked and couldnít find one, making us think perhaps their definition differed from ours. There was a bakery, a vegetable vendor, and flower vendor, and plenty of cafes. Finally my wife noticed someone coming out of what appeared to be a bank with a bag of groceries. Sure enough, behind this small door next to the bank was a real supermarket, so we stocked up. They charge for bags there, so people just keep the plastic bag and reuse it. Once we had our supplies and groceries, we set off to find Geels and Company, as we both like teas and coffees. We had the address, and we found the street, but this is right in the middle of the red light district, and the displays in the sex store windows are rather blatant. We found Geels and Company, but their upstairs museum was only open on Saturdays. We did do a little shopping so we could enjoy excellent tea for the remainder of our visit. We left a half a bag of good tea on the boat, as I didnít want to go through the hassle at customs of proving it wasnít an illicit substance.

We had dinner at Hemelse Modder, Oude Waal 11, as it was very close to our boat. The service was good and they had a nice outdoor courtyard, but we opted to sit inside. We had very good soup for a first course, and my wife had Texel lamb chops for her main course, while I had bream. The lamb chops were excellent. The bream was a bit salty to my taste, but other diners seemed to be enjoying it, and I hadnít had bream before, so I canít say it wasnít a good dish. With a bottle of good wine and two quite good deserts, the tab was 103 euro, which I feel does not reflect the high quality of the meal. We then repaired to our boat, and enjoyed a glass of wine as we watched the waterfowl and tourist boats pass by as the moon came out.

The next day, we walked to Central Station to catch a tram. They are building a new metro, and the front of CS is a maze of construction. I think even without the construction, catching the right tram or bus is a challenge, because they all have different approaches and loading areas, but there are agents in front of the station who are happy to tell us tourists where to go. The tram they suggested for us dropped us at Museumplein, immediately south of the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh museum, the Stedelijk Museum (closed for major renovation), near Vondelpark, and immediately across the street from the Concertgebouw. I made note of the tram number, as I knew we would be using it a lot. We opted to start with the Van Gogh museum. They had a special exhibit of works by John Everett Millais, who was new to us, but the exhibit was good, and we spent a couple of hours there. By then, it was lunchtime so we went to the museum café: good soups, pastries, a glass of wine and a water cost 18 euro. The food and ambiance were good, with a pleasant view over the museum and the field outside. We then went through the Van Gogh museum, which was quite good and took us all afternoon. Tired after all our walking, we caught our trusty tram back to CS and found our way to the boat and a short nap.

We opted to dine locally again, so visited Café Captein, Binnen Bantammerstraat 27, at the other end of the bridge next to our boat. This seemed more like a neighborhood bar with a kitchen, but they were playing vintage Jacques Brel. There was a printed menu, but most of the menu was on a chalkboard behind the bar. We had bread with tapenade, a ribeye steak and a pasta dish, a carafe (rather small) of red house wine, and two very good deserts. The food was better than I expected, and the tab was 57 euro. There was a smoky atmosphere (perhaps they are trying to become a brown caf&eacute, if you are sensitive to that, but it wasnít enough to drive us out. The servers were very busy with bar business, so we had to go to the bar to order deserts and our check. My recollection is that they donít take credit cards. They do set up tables outside, where the smoke would probably not be a bother.

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Old Jun 8th, 2008, 02:25 PM
  #18  
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The next day we set out to see the Rijksmuseum, taking our trusty tram, but getting off early as I wanted to see some sights we had seen on our previous ride. We got off at Leidseplein, but there didnít seem to be much happening there in the morning. We walked along the canal to the museum, a very pleasant walk, and found our way to the side entrance that is being used during renovation. At the desk, I found out our museumcards still worked, despite having gone through the washer and dryer. From the outside, this is a large and lovely building, but from our tour, I think most of it is still closed for renovation. They had a lot of exhibits reflecting Dutch history, which were crowded. The rooms with the old masters were crowded also, but less so, and we had no difficulty seeing what we wanted to see. While the exhibits are limited, there is still a lot of superb art to see here, and the crowds reflected that. Outside, we spent some time looking at the Stedelijk Museum, an attractive building even while undergoing renovation, then walked along the canal toward Leidseplein looking for an attractive lunch. Again, there was not much going on at Leidseplein, and we settled for lunch on the terrace at the American Hotel. Two croque madames, a glass of white wine, and a small bottle of water were 24 euro; I think most of that was for their reputation.

Our energies restored, we walked back down the canal to the museum, then set off northward, just window shopping and enjoying the scenery. We finally got back to De Waag, and then to our boat, and enjoyed an afternoon nap.

For dinner we went to an Italian restaurant we had passed many times on the way to our center of operations at De Waag, Ristorante Italia Oggi, Binnen Bantdammerstraat 11. They have only a few outdoor tables, but we prefer indoors and they always had space for us. The service was exceptionally friendly and competent. They start you with bread and a ramiken of black olive paste (with other ingredients I wish I could discover) and one of butter blended with spices, that was absolutely delicious. I had a nice soup, then we had two pasta dishes (orecchiette publiesi and penne allíarrabbiata) and we were more than full. I managed to squeeze in a delicious desert, and my wife had coffee. With a bottle of good chianti, the tab was 75 euro, an excellent price for such a good meal.

We started our next day with a visit to the Our Lord in the Attic church and we visited that. This was Sunday and it was open as a museum, so I guess it is no longer an active church. I wondered about the Dutch reputation for tolerance, when you think of the religious wars of not that long ago. But then I started thinking that this church has an organ, and it would be very difficult to conceal regular services from oneís neighbors, so perhaps the neighbors were tolerant, while it was the government that was not.

We then crossed the Oosterdok at a road east of CS and walked along Oosterdokskade past the sea palace, a large floating oriental restaurant that was not open that early, in search of the temporary site of the Stedelijk museum. It is in an industrial complex and it was not easy to find the entrance, but we prevailed. The guard told us that only recent work was on exhibit, as the building does not have precise climate control necessary for the older works. It was disappointing to not see some of the older works, but what they were showing was well presented and interesting, and I say that as someone who does not like modern art.

After seeing all that was there we left, and noted a footbridge leading to the NEMO facility (which is in a building made to look like a large ship), and the Amsterdam, a reconstruction of a sailing ship from the glory days of Holland. The reconstruction was impressively built and impeccably maintained and a magnet for anyone with a camera. They had tours that looked interesting, but to go on the tour you had to buy admission to the NEMO facility, with a supplement for the ship tour. I looked at all the stairs involved and decided I didnít need the tour. We did have lunch in the NEMO café, but I didnít keep the records, but my recollection is that it was a typical lunch. We spent the rest of the day walking the waterfront. For dinner, we stopped at a few open markets and picked up prepared dishes, pastries, and fruit, and had dinner on the boat.
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Old Jun 8th, 2008, 02:26 PM
  #19  
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The next morning we started with a visit to the tourist office at CS. I had read here about a bus/boat tour that included a stop on the dyke bordering the sea, but they said that tour was not being offered at this time, so we opted for the Dutch countryside tour and bought tickets (41 Euro apiece) for the next day. We then set off to find Puccini Bomboni, a highly recommended chocolatier. We did find their shop on Singel and picked out a box. I paid cash, but my recollection is that the chocolates were about 24 euro for six. They were large for chocolates, and I only got to eat one, but I donít think these were the best chocolates I have eaten. The one I got was said to be made with calvados; Iíve rinsed my teeth with calvados for quite a few years, and while the chocolate was tasty, I didnít get much of a taste of calvados from it.

Since we were way over on the Jordaan side of town (a side we didnít get to visit as much as I planned), we decided to go to the Anne Frank house. Alas, we (and a number of other people who stopped and asked us) got semi-lost and it took us quite a while to get there. I finally asked a young lady and she said go down that way and look for a crowd, and she was certainly right. By the time we got there the line was long. I hadnít been really eager to visit this site as it seems more like an industry than a memorial. The house itself was shrouded, apparently being renovated, and the building next to it is a large modern building that apparently has offices for some of the many people who work there. Faced with such a crowd, we just took a picture and left. My advice to people who want to visit this site get there very early or very late, and avoid the crowd if you can.

We wandered about a bit enjoying the scenery, then decided to try to find out way home. We got to Damark easily enough, but I wanted to avoid the construction around CS, so I picked a street that appeared to be headed toward De Waag. I was right and wrong, as this street went right through the red light district. We finally found our way home. I had decided to eat at Blauw aan de Wal, which also turns out to be in the red light district (I didnít know, I swear) so after our naps, we headed back into the district and were able to find the restaurant (it has a small sign, and is down a narrow alley between two exercise parlors, to be polite). Unfortunately it was not yet open (the alley was gated) but as we stood nearby, a young lady on a bicycle rode up and started to unlock the gate; I asked her when it opened, and she said at six, but left the gate open, so we escaped the commercial activity on the street and sat down in their courtyard until six. At six, we went to the door, but the man who answered was very apologetic and said they were sold out for that evening. So those of you who have a guidebook will want to mark this restaurant as reservations recommended.

We were back on the street of ill repute, but soon found our way back to De Waag, and decided to eat in the Restaurant in De Waag. This is an ancient building that housed the theater where Rembrandt observed autopsies prior to his famed painting (my wife was very careful of what she ordered) and they have preserved the ancient ambience well, including real candles in the chandeliers, while at the same time adding modern conveniences (they are said to have a waiting room that includes computer terminals, but we never had to wait so I didnít see that, and I discovered shortly before we left Amsterdam that they have open wifi, which I can confirm as I was able to use it to check our flights). They start you with amuse bouches. My wife had a beef dish, and I had a stew, with a decent bottle of wine and two deserts the tab was 65 euro. Service was efficient and we thought the food good.

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Old Jun 8th, 2008, 02:27 PM
  #20  
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The next day was our first bus tour. The ticket and the ticket seller warned us to be at an address on Rokin at the edge of the Dam at 8:00. We were; they werenít. About 15 minutes later someone opened the office, but then locked the door. Finally, about 8:30 a crowd started gathering, they opened the office, and about half an hour later a bus showed up. But this was just the bus to take us to the marshaling point, a garage under museumplein. From there they started to break us into groups for varying tours. I had to use the bathroom; they pointed one way and up the stairs, but when I got there it was locked. I went back to the bus and they pointed another way to get the key, but the guide said she wasnít sure there was time. The bus driver was kind and unlocked the facility on the bus; I was second in line. Iíve spent a lot of time on planes and small boats, and Iíve never seen a facility as small at this. Imagine a telephone pole hollowed out. When you get in, thereís no room to turn around, so be sure to be pointed the right way before you enter. But, to give them credit, the facility is clean and off the exit stairs, so it is actually under the seats and doesnít ruin anyoneís view. We started up and the guide was very informative and bilingual; I was afraid to stop listening because I never knew when she was going to switch from English to Spanish, or back. Our first stop was Edam, a lovely village and the guide gave us good instructions on where to walk and what to look for. We then stopped at a cheese maker, and a lady in native garb gave an informative presentation of how they make the varying cheeses. We then had time to buy some, and they were quite good. The bus then took us to Volendam, an attractive village but very touristy. The bus left us there with time for lunch and shopping, with instructions to catch a boat for our next leg. The boat took us to Marken, a nicely preserved scenic village, much less touristy that Velendam. We had time to look around, then the bus reappeared to take us to Zaanse Schans. It appeared that we had lost an elderly Dutchman, but the tour motored on. The visit at Zaanse Schans was very orchestrated. We visited a shop and saw them make a wooden shoe, then had time to buy our own. Then we walked past a couple of windmills to one that was grinding meal and had an exhibition prepared. We then had time to walk about a bit and return to the bus. The windmill was very impressive; I had not realized how large and powerful they are. On the way back, they named about three stops in Amsterdam where we could get off. We got off at Central Station, which was more convenient than riding to museumplein and found our way through all the construction and back to our home.

As to a guided tour, I enjoyed the guideís narration, as it was very informative, and I liked seeing some places that we would not otherwise have seen, Edam in particular, but I felt somewhat confined in having to keep to the groupís schedule, as both of us like to wander and spend more or less time, depending on how the site strikes us. We were ahead of schedule now, as I had planned to take a train to Zaanse Schans and spend at least half a day there, but now, having seen a large part of it, we crossed it off the list. After a short nap, we returned to De Waag to buy some flowers.

We had passed Guadalupe, Prins Hendrikkade 92, across from the east end of central station, many times, and always looked at their signs, so we decided to dine there. Iím not sure how to describe their ambiance, but they seem to have a lot from Mexico and from Argentina. The owner was very attentive, but I think the waitress must have just been hired, as he was carefully supervising her. Its small and not elegant, but clean and there is a friendly cat. My wife had pork ribs (costillas de cerdo) and I had pork loin (lomo de cerdo) and both, particularly the ribs, were very good. With a bottle of water, a bottle of decent wine (from Argentina, if I recall) and one desert, the bill was 72 Euro. The portions were large, about American size. My wife wanted to return because she liked the ribs so much.
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