We arrived in Amsterdam yesterday, and are staying at (as everyone who hears we are staying here tells us) a five-star hotel. Chuck’s remark on seeing our room was, “I expected something bigger for a five-star hotel.” Actually, it’s a pretty good sized room and is (la-di-da!) on the executive floor. The only perk this seems to give us is that we get to take a special elevator that only goes to the executive floor. As we got in pretty late we ate at the hotel, and stopped for a nightcap at the bar where Chuck had the most expensive Grand Marnier either of us had ever seen (it was 35 Euros a tiny glass).
Anyway, it’s a nice hotel but it’s a little off the beaten track of the main tourist spots like Dam Square and Museum Square. Both were a 20-30 minute walk which wouldn’t have been such a big deal except it is COLD here – as in mid-40′s at the high end. And we didn’t really bring adequate clothes for those temps. So yesterday I convince Chuck that it would be a good idea to take a brisk walk to the center of town, to get a feel for the place. that was pretty much how the day went – we were on our feet all day walking or touring museums. We started at the Diamant Museum as we read that they sold advance tickets for the Van Gogh Museum and theticket line there had scared us off. We ended up really enjoying the Diamant and learned lots about diamonds and the diamond trade. We also were able to get advance tickets for the Van Gogh Museum so headed over there next and spent over two hours roaming its three floors. Next we were off to the Anne Frank House, using our iPhones as navigation devices which worked as long as they could maintain a GPS signal which, unfortunately for us, wasn’t all the time(I know: your’re thinks hey, why didn’t you just ask for directions? Come on, what’s the fun in that?. We did get there eventually and spent about 30 or 40 minutes in line to get in. Seeing the house and museum is well worth the wait, but access is not for the faint of heart or the out of shape. The stairway to the Secret Annex is as it was in 1942 when the Frank family went into hiding and it is steep – as in ladder steep. I watched a couple of people really struggle to get all the way to the top. But it was sobering, sad and completely worthwhile.
We got out of the Anne Frank house about 7:30pm so walked over to see the red light district. We were a little early so the action hadn’t gotten nearly as crazy as we heard it gets later at night (hey, we’re old!) but it was still pretty, well, sobering and sad. It all seemed kind of grimy and icky. I get that it’s the world’s oldest profession, but wouldn’t it be awesome if we could evolve as a species o the point where we could retire this particular profession?
Walking away from the red light district we went into a coffee house and checked out the menu for cannabis. it was mind blowingly extensive (and neither Chuck nor I had any idea what we were looking at – test tubes full of what looked like ashes were quite popular, though). In the end we bought a brownie and left with our eyes watering from all of the smoke.
By that time were starving and tired so we went to Dam Square and had dinner at the Grand Cafe, which was a funny mix of traditional Dutch and Asian dishes. I had split pea soup and stir fry. Chuck had split pea soup and mashed potatoes cooked three ways (not kidding – I told him it was good practice for Ireland). By the time we finished, we were too pooped to walk back to the hotel and too tired to figure out the tram so decided to take a taxi. We went over to a hotel and caught one and when we said we wanted to go to the Bilderberg, the driver said, “Oh very nice! Five star hotel for the prince and princess!” and proceeded to take us in circles until we had ratcheted up the bill to 3o Euros. On a bad traffic day that should have been a 15 Euro ride. We gave the a**%ole his blood money and crashed. By that time we had been on the go for over 12 hours (which didn’t help our deep bitterness over getting fleeced by that taxi driver). ANYway …
While we have seen or done most of the tings on my list we did something today that wasn’t on the list but turned out to be quite spectacular: we took a tour bus out to Keukenhof’s flowerfields. Our timing was great as Keukenhof opened on March 22 (when things started blooming, I guess) and it closes on May 20. It’s still a bit early in the season, so some of the flower beds hadn’t bloomed but what we saw was pretty amazing. i haven’t seen flowers like that since Chuck and I went to the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve several years ago on a day when all of the poppies were open. We took a tour bus out there this morning then spent three hours roaming around taking pictures. We couldn’t go out into the fields themselves but the park is filled with them as well so there’s no shortage of photo opps. It’s quite the family friendly place – with loads of play areas for kids, a petting zoo, a calliope – heck, there’s even a castle!
After yesterday’s mammoth adventure, we have taken a lower key approach today, and after Keukenhof, walked around the downtown area a bit, had some Dutch frites (Chuck had his dosed in curry sauce, mine were smothered in remoulade sauce), then figured out the tram system and headed back to the hotel and our local, much more laid back, neighborhood.
Pics are here. Tomorrow we’re off to Delft!