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More Thanks to the Amsterdam TA Forum

Vancouver, Canada
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More Thanks to the Amsterdam TA Forum

We spent nearly a week in Amsterdam in May. We prepared for the visit by reading: 1. tour books - the DK Eyewitness Top 10 and Rick Steves’ Amsterdam, Bruges and Brussels, 2. Amsterdam by Geer Mak – a really excellent history book that was recommended in one of the Amsterdam TA forum posts, and 3. the Jan van de Wetering crime fiction series with Grijpstra and de Gier, which I had read many years ago and enjoyed rereading for purposes of the trip. However, the most useful source of current information was the Amsterdam TA forum. I think that the mark of a “good TA forum” is the extent to which both the regular and occasional posters, through generous sharing of knowledge and experiences, make a city or country come alive for prospective visitors. The Amsterdam forum did that for us, and we thank you all.

Overall, we enjoyed our visit to Amsterdam, despite being severely jet-lagged and the awful weather. Amsterdam was the first stop on a 3 ½ week trip and as we become older, the jet lag seems to become worse. It took us most of the Amsterdam portion of the trip to come to terms with not sleeping on the overnight flight and the 9 hour time change. As to the awful weather, well, coming from the west coast of Canada, we cannot complain about anybody else’s weather. We are accustomed to windy, rainy days and, fortunately, had our fleeces and weatherproof jackets and rain pants with us. Somehow I did not expect to be wearing this gear, brought along for outdoor activities later in the trip, in Amsterdam during the third week in May. However, friends told us when we returned that it had rained in Vancouver most of the time we were away – so visitors to our city had to contend with disappointing weather as well.

We do intend to return to Amsterdam. We liked what we saw, peering through the rain drops, and were very hospitably received by everyone we encountered. English is widely spoken, which is helpful when one is operating in a fog. Despite the griping about the weather, it did not rain all the time, and we do have very positive memories about the Dutch and their country.

I had intended to write a trip report on our return, but jet-lag at this end took its toll. I’ll just outline a few practical things in the next post, in case they are of use to any other prospective visitors.

Many thanks again to the Amsterdam TA forum.

Vancouver, Canada
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1. Re: More Thanks to the Amsterdam TA Forum

Following on the first post -

Transportation from Airport to Hotel

We took the Connexxion shuttle bus from Schipol to our hotel. Somewhere at the airport, according to our map, there is a Connexxion desk. However, we never found it. When we inquired of Airport Information, we were directed to the tourism office just down from the Airport Information and they looked after selling us the necessary tickets and directing us where to go. The cost was 16.50 Euros each and seemed the easiest option in our circumstances.

Hotel

We stayed at the Hotel Fita (see our review). It was an excellent choice and we would stay there again.

Food

With our stomachs turning somersaults during the first few days of our trip, we stuck to very plain eating (saving the rijsttafel for the next trip). We found that Museums had good meal options at fairly reasonable prices, as did the café at the Concertgebouw. We also tried the Dutch apple pie at both the café at the Rijksmuseum and at the Café Winkel and became instant fans.

Moving Around Amsterdam

We found that it was really important, in moving around Amsterdam, to remember at all times that, in the “pecking order”, i.e., trams, bikes, cars and pedestrians, pedestrians come last. Once you realize this, you automatically remain aware of where you are and what is coming at you. It is also important to remember that, once you cross the street, you will likely have to also cross a bike lane before reaching the sidewalk.

We found it easy to cross streets at controlled intersections, with lights, where the other members of the travelling public would, for the most part, yield to pedestrians. We also found it better to cross in the middle of crowds. Where there were no crowds, we watched what locals were doing and followed, or simply waited until there was absolutely no one on the street whatsoever and then we scooted across (BTW, DH accuses me of exaggeration on this point).

We were so impressed by Amsterdam’s tram system. Single tickets were 2.80 Euros. If more than two single tickets were needed during a 24 hour period, we found it paid to buy 24 hour passes from either the driver or the conductor at 7.50 Euros each. In our jet-lagged fog, we forgot that tickets had to be validated after purchase, until a helpful driver pointed that out to us on the second day. (We were so fortunate that we were not inspected and perhaps fined during the first day for travelling on non-validated tickets.) We tended to travel on non-peak times and, so, could usually find a seat. We found it easy to follow the overhead screen announcing the stops and the “grandfatherly” computer voice after the stop was announced that reminded us “Don’t forget to check out”. Every city should be so fortunate to have a tram system like Amsterdam’s.

Sightseeing

We are not “museum people”. However, I had seen a BBC presentation on the Rijksmuseum before we left and became intrigued with how it had been redeveloped. We had bought our tickets online before we left home, and walked over just after opening on a Saturday. There was absolutely no line-up to get in. With our tickets, we were able to bypass the ticket line and entered the museum very quickly. (By the time we left two hours later, there were long lines on both sides of the museum to get in. )

We did see some of the more significant works in the museum. However, the high point for us was the interior of the building, itself. We spent some time in the Gallery of Honour gazing at the vaulted ceilings and the decorative work on the walls, and in the Great Hall at the stained glass windows. We found the stained glass windows most interesting because they showed different types of city residents at the time they were fashioned, revealing what considered important at that time.

We also visited the Van Gogh Museum on another day. We had bought timed tickets for late morning online before we left home. By the time we arrived at the museum, there was a long line-up. However, I sought out the staff member who was keeping the line organized and, once we showed our timed tickets, he lifted the barrier and let us right in. I found the new Van Gogh Museum less impressive as a building than the Rijksmuseum. Also, there were many more people and we experienced some difficulty with the audio-guide. However, we did enjoy seeing the Van Gogh’s flower pictures.

We travelled from Amsterdaam Central to Zaanse Schans (an area of restored windmills) on the Sunday, taking Bus 391 from Amsterdam Centraal. (It runs only hourly on Sundays.) The cost was 7.00 Euros per person each way. It was well worth the trip and we found the history of the area (an industrial centre with over 1,000 windmills at one point) and the tour of the windmill/operating sawmill most interesting.

Finally, we just puttered about. After mailing a package at the post office on Singel one day, we walked up to Prinsengracht and then along Prinsengracht and then Brouwersgracht. Even with the rain, it was a wonderful walk (fortified by tea and apple pie at the Café Winkel) and we would love to return with our cameras and explore the Jordaan further. Fortunately, on the next day, it cleared enough to take a canal boat tour – in our case with the Blue Boat company. I’m not sure whether it’s best to do this at the beginning of the Amsterdam visit (to become oriented) or at the end (when you understand more of what is being said and have a “oh, yes, we were there” moment). In our case, we finally had a sunny morning and grabbed it for the boat tour, which we enjoyed considerably (although I forget what we paid).

We would definitely return to Amsterdam. We barely scratched the surface. Next time, the sun will hopefully shine and we will be able to take pictures of bikes, gables and houseboats. Until then, we will revisit the city through the posts in the Amsterdam TA forum. Happy and safe journeys to everyone.

Port Townsend...
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for Olympic National Park, Port Townsend
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2. Re: More Thanks to the Amsterdam TA Forum

Thanks for taking the time to report back. Lovely read.

Amsterdam
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3. Re: More Thanks to the Amsterdam TA Forum

A wealth of useful info for other visitors in this trip report. Thx.

Glad you enjoyed the interior of the Rijksmuseum. The Great Hall (less pompously named the "Voorhal" in Dutch) is a favorite of mine too.

Amsterdam, The...
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4. Re: More Thanks to the Amsterdam TA Forum

Sounds like you had a lovely trip despite the weather. Do come back soon!

sydney australia
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5. Re: More Thanks to the Amsterdam TA Forum

thanks for your post. Your report reminded me of when we were there and our tour guide constantly calling out:......"killer bikes" whenever bikes were approaching. I couldn't believe the speed that some were going, after awhile you can tell who were the locals and the foreigners...the foreigners would slow down!! Lots more to see in Amsterdam..we loved the Flower Auction Distribution Centre in Amsveer (?)....fascinating.

sydney australia
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6. Re: More Thanks to the Amsterdam TA Forum

should have google before posting. Its Aalsmeer Flower Auction not Amsveer

Amersfoort, The...
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7. Re: More Thanks to the Amsterdam TA Forum

Indeed, thanks for letting us know.

I'm really glad to read that you enjoyed Geert Mak's "Amsterdam". The history of the city only really started to make sense to me once I read that book myself.

Kerikeri, New...
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8. Re: More Thanks to the Amsterdam TA Forum

Thank you for sharing. Even if the weather is awful, Amsterdam can still be a fun city!

9. Re: More Thanks to the Amsterdam TA Forum

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