Monday, April 11, 2016

The best trip ever, part twee!

I better take off my lazy shoes and keep on writing, the memories seem to dull with time and start forgetting things.

Amsterdam - our first stop. My first impression? Cold and windy, unfortunately. The weather did not favor us the first couple of days, with intermittent rain and fairly windy conditions. Admitting to too much wind is really something for somebody from the plains of Midwest.

This trip we did not stay in any hotels, but decided to go with renting apartment space. This leads to my second impression of Amsterdam.

These are the stairs that we had to drag our luggage up, and then down. We've climbed so many stairs during our stay in Amsterdam, that we've decided to avoid it for the most part for the duration of the trip.

One of the things that we do when arriving to a new city is search up if SANDEMANs free tours are available, We always have a lot of fun on those and get information of the place, also occasionally good advice from the tour guides. Amsterdam tours did not let us down. The guide was a very lively Scottish fellow, who was put in the somewhat awkward position of having a child on the tour. We went through the Red Light district fairly quickly, and he definitely avoided retelling some of the saucier stories.

My next impression of Amsterdam is that it absolutely reeks of weed. "Coffeeshops" are on each corner, and it is very hard to distinguish them from actual Cafes that could serve you a coffee. Also, because space is very limited in the city, very few restaurants offer you an opportunity to sit outside and gawk at the crowds.

In Amsterdam everything is within walking distance. A lot time it is much easier to just hop on the tram and get to your destination through public transport. Do not drive in the inner city if you can help it. Amsterdam is also full of tourists, and it feels like that because the city is cramped. However, it's very easy to step away from the crowds and go inside less crowded areas, like Jordaan, which is very quiet. You can find quaint little streets like this.

If you have kids go to Maritime Museum to climb all over old Dutch galleon. One of the best views of the city is from the cafeteria in the Oba - Amsterdam central public library. It was extremely windy on the day when we went there, to the point of being extremely uncomfortable. If you like paintings, the best places to go are the Rijksmuseum, with Rembrandt's The Night Watch, and the Van Gogh Museum. For kids specifically, Rijksmuseum offers cardboard maps of the famous paintings full of cool information and Easter eggs hidden by the masters. Van Gogh Museum, on selected nights (one of which we caught), turns into a pretty happening place, with musical performances and happy hour drinks.

On of the best things we did in Amsterdam is taking a canal boat tour. Do some research before going on one. By that I mean don't read about them on the internet, information is scarce, but go talk to the companies and pick the one you like most. If the weather is nice take an open boat tour, the views are excellent enough that you don't want glass standing between you and the city. The one we took was right behind Anne Frank's house, and we enjoyed it (don't try to get the best priced or the best deal one, the natives know what they are doing and are not above exaggerating things).

Speaking of Anne Frank's house. Maya really really wanted to go. Thanks to Lena and her ceaseless tracking of ticket sales we were able to get them ahead with a preset time. Lines are huge to this museum, bigger to any museum in Amsterdam. Sometimes the wait can be up to 2-3 hours long. With Museumkaart (get it if you plan to hit at least 3-4 museums, that savings are great for adults) we were able to enter without standing in the line.

A curious happening occurred when we took our tour. At the Anne Frank's museum (lots and lots of people by the way) we were accosted by a woman, who looked perfectly sane by the way. The interesting twist to her rant was not the usual anti-Jew, anti-Israli fair, but that somehow the existence of the museum was promoting anti-Semitism and anti-Isralali feelings and rhetoric, instead of supporting the state of Israel. I was not ready for this and missed part of it, since I was trying to figure out the ways of protecting my own, if the shit was going to be hitting the proverbial fan.

If you dare, climb up the Westerkirk. It's only six flights up but at some point stairs turns into ladders, for almost vertical climb. I don't do well in the high and open spaces, but the view is breathtaking, and you get a guide to actually tell you about the place and things you can see from up top.

Food is average in Amsterdam. Nothing really stood out for for me with the exception of this.

A herring sandwich.Nothing really special, but I enjoyed the novelty of the thing, and the Dutch herring is really good, if you into that sort of thing.  Very few places, in the touristy areas, offer authentic Dutch cuisine. By the admission of the tour guide, Amsterdam is really a melting pot, so it is sometimes hard to understand what authentic Dutch cuisine is. Instead the city is full of Chinese, Indonesian, and the strange overabundance of "Argentinian" steakhouses.

That is about it about Amsterdam, next post will cover all the little stops we did while travelling to Bruges.

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