08 October 2015
Good bye Dubrovnik...Hello Holland!!!!
As air travel goes, it was easy..on Easyjet!!. On in Dubrovnik, off an hour later in Amsterdam - only the weather changed. Sunny when we left, cool and cloudy when we arrived. i know now why the Europeans travel so much, because it's so easy!!
We're staying in an apartment near the Museum district of Amsterdam and with our host's directions in hand we head towards the city. The #197 bus (5 Euro) drops us off at Museumplein (Museum Square) and within five minutes we're knocking on Irene's door. And just so that we're sure as to where we belong, she has a note with our names taped to the front door.
Irene was right there to answer the ring with a huge smile and welcome. Being tired and being greeted so warmly dissipated any reservations we might have. She guided us to the apartment which is in the lower level - more of a garden apartment. Again from Airbnb, the pictures were totally accurate. The apartment is a large studio with a separate kitchen and eating area and decorated as only Irene could. She has a quirky design sense that totally represents her personality. We immediately felt at home.
Irene's Quirky Kitchen
We were hungry (seems we always are) but first Irene sits with us and, with the two days we have, she recommends more than we could see in a week but it was great having so many options. I had made our reservations and printed our tickets before we left AZ for the Van Gogh museum. With those in hand for the following day, the only decisions were what to do with the rest of our time.
But first dinner -she recommended a small neighborhood cafe just a a block down the street - a little neighborhood gem called Verhulst. Food, service and atmosphere were all great.
Good food and a wonderful comfy bed - a great start to Amsterdam.
09 October 2015
Great night sleep and it was time, of course, for breakfast. Irene had also suggested Valerius Eten and Drinken, another neighborhood cafe. Amsterdam could be competing for Budapest for my favorite city on the food alone. Our meal much bigger than I expected. In the US, we get a choice of bread - not here, they just give you three different kinds, plus eggs, plus juice and coffee. Definitely won't need any lunch.
Breakfast at Valerius
With full bellies, it was a ten minute walk and we arrived at the Van Gogh Museum. As we approached I realized why the guide books say to get your tickets in advance. There was quite a line waiting. But wait...that's not "our" line - that was the line to buy tickets. With tickets in hand, we were directed straight to the museum. It would have been at least an hour wait had we not preplanned. The new museum entrance had opened just the month before and the building is beautiful. Tickets, whether on line or in person, were the same price. Plus if you get your tickets on line - you pick the time you want to enter and then you have a 30 minute lee time. Price:$17 entrance plus an optional $5 audio guide - I recommend the audio guide - more like a small tablet, good sound and headphones and great information. Travel guides we've read estimate about an hour to view the museum. I think that must be old info because we were there 3 1/2 hours. Definite MUST if you get to Amsterdam!!!
We finished our tour mid afternoon and with Irene's recommendations in mind, we hopped on a local #3 bus and took it to it's last stop in the northern part of the city,Haarlemmerbuurt, which is also one of the oldest areas of Amsterdam. From there we strolled the cobbled streets, wandered along picturesque canals stopping for photos ops along the way.
An enticing little tapas cafe caught our eye while walking and it was a light late lunch/early dinner before walking back to Irene's.
10 October 2015
Irene had asked us on the day we arrived if we wanted to go on a canal boat tour. It was on our "to do" list. She recommended two, one that could cost 17 Euro and it was a big boat tour or one for 19.50 Euro which was much smaller with a live narrative from the captain. It seemed like a no brainer to us and we booked the later ...for the 11am tour.
Canal Cruise ship
Canals, canals and more canals
Irene's apartment is located on the edge of a small square - we found them frequently in Amsterdam. As we started our adventure that morning, we walked out of the apartment and right into a Farmer's Market. We found out that every Saturday this little Market in this little square. It was instigated by the neighborhood to support local merchants. I couldn't believe they could fit so much in such a little square. There were local merchants selling meat, veggies, cheese, fish, crepes (if only we had known-these would have been breakfast) and more. Fortunately for us, they would be there until 5pm.
Off to the canal tour. We arrived early, checked in and sat outside a few doors down with coffee and watching the world go by on this cool sunny morning. Bikes with babies.....bikes with groceries...and one talented young lady who was drinking coffee and talking on her cell while riding her bike.There were also cars maneuvering the narrow streets along with tourists from the small hotels near by taking in the scenery.
Our canal tour was with Classic Canal Cruises and Captain Eddie was our captain. Born and raised in Amsterdam, he had retired from the Dutch Navy, been a captain for Holland Cruise Lines and was now enlightening tourists and locals alike as to the beauty of Amsterdam's canals. The tour was supposed to be 90 minutes but Captain Eddie asked if we minded an extra 30 to see some more of the beautiful canals. It was a great trip.
The afternoon was full with more walking the canals, through Begijnhof (a small village inside the big village) and we even encountered a large protest march. (The marchers were young people protesting the discrepancies between wages of the young and the old). After all this excitement we made our way back to Irene's. She had recommended another neighborhood restaurant called Narbonne for dinner and was making reservations for us. Plus, we wanted to make sure that we had a chance to shop at the Farmer's Market before it closed. Jim had his eye on some cheese. (Note: one fortunate thing about being in the EU - as long as we packed food in our bag we were going to be able to bring it into Ireland - not that they don't have cheese there).
After dragging Jim away from the "cheese guy", I worked on my blog and as the sun was setting on Amsterdam we strolled to Narbonne, Eten and Drinkin for dinner. Great little cafe located at Bosboom Toussaintstraat 28 was tucked away off a main street and about a 20 minute walk from Irene's. She really encouraged us to have dinner there and with her previous suggestions - we didn't doubt her choice.
Dinner was great, atmosphere casual but nice. SO...we come to another IASW (it's a small world) moment. We chatted with our waitress, Alisea (not sure I got the spelling correct). "Tucson?? You're from Tucson?? My grandma lives in Tucson!" As I explained that that we actually lived north of Tucson proper, she vividly described the hilly road to her grandma's - Tangerine!! Not sure exactly where she lives but it has to be close- probably Oro Valley. Small world!!
11 October 2015
With a mix of regret (only that we didn't have more time in Amsterdam) but also excitement - we're off to Ireland.
Amsterdam is definitely a great city but their airport??? Not so much!! It's the definition of "let's automate as much as we can so we don't have to hire real people". Sorry Amsterdam... but that's how it felt. If you're flying out of this airport - two hours might just not be enough. I'm going to preface this by saying that just the day before there had been a terrorist bombing in Turkey. I don't know if this is how it always is at this airport but not a great impression.
First, we couldn't check in on line (flying AirLingus) and neither could very many passengers on Delta and KLM. Haphazard lines to check in at the kiosks, then on to another line, weaving our way towards baggage check in. Make sure to watch the videos being played on monitors because you will be doing it yourself. But first your documents get checked (by a human) and then wait in another line to check your own bag and put it in a little machine that whisks it way and then it was another line to passport check and then another line through security where they were hand checking every backpack and carry on. Of course, our luck, once we got through all the "lines" our gate as #57 of 60. Don't get me wrong and sorry for my little rant - I'm all for safety but it felt like I was at Disney with the lines that make you feel like you're actually getting somewhere and you're not. You can only imagine Jim's comments :-)
But it's off to Ireland. We'll be there for three weeks - primarily for a house exchange but also to tour some areas that we didn't get to go to when we were there last. Also...just maybe... some genealogy!!!!
Amsterdam pics from shutterfly