European Oddessey – Amsterdam

Matt G.‘s recent posts have reminded me that I have been lax in creating an actual log of our trip outlining what we did so I think I will steal a page (or 5) from his journal. Each thumbnail image is a link back to the gallery.

Be sure and have a look at Matt’s posts about his trip. He hit some good sites!

Amsterdam

When we started mapping out our plans for the trip, Amsterdam was picked as a starting point for a number of reasons. The location in the north made it a good jump-off location, the large airport meant easy access via non-stop air transport, the Van Gogh and Ryks Museums legitimized the city in spite of it’s more notable reputation. Icing on the cake was the fact that my friend Carl had taken up residence there many years back, providing a social anchor for when we arrived in a foreign county. Never underestimate the value of a friendly face when you are in a completely alien environment.

Carl was pretty quick on the draw and actually called me on my cell phone as we were exiting the Central Station to find the tram to our B&B. He gave us good advice on which one to catch and offered to meet up with us after we were settled in.

Once we did get checked in to the B&B it was a quick phone call to arrange a meeting at The Dam just a few tram stops away. We were joined by Carl and his lovely lady Suzanne. We strolled the shops and canals taking in the sites and working toward defeating jet lag. For all intents and purposes it was about midnight (according to our internal clocks). In Amsterdam it was a sunny 11:30 am by the time we met up with our hosts. We knew we had to stay up or face the prospects of being lagged for the whole trip. Carl and Suzanne took us to a wonderful Dim Sum restaurant and then over to a book store to meet up with their friend Sean Condon who was hosting a book signing of his latest effort, “My Dam Life”, a story of his experiences being an Australian ex-pat in Amsterdam. We bought a copy and had it inscribed. We hung out for a bit and then moved on to wander some more. Carl led us to an open air book market where we saw many an interesting tome. We were not prepared to lug heavy books across Europe so we browsed but did not purchase.
This was no simple thing. With a degree in library science, Cynthia is an avid reader and a lover of books. Almost every room in our home has book shelves.

We wandered around and around and around. We were quite exhausted but the sights were delightful. The canals, the architecture. Carl was telling us an endless stream of tales regarding how he arrived in Amsterdam, obscure political tidbits about Holland and Amsterdam and generally doing a stellar job of keeping us awake. Very much appreciated but taxing none-the-less. We walked and walked and talked and talked. Suzanne had to leave us after the book signing so it was just Cynthia, Carl and I. After awhile we made it to Carl’s apartment and then on to the art gallery Suzanne runs in the Jordaan. It was a nice place with some interesting pieces in it. At this point it was late in the afternoon and we needed to get back to the B&B and get some rest. We were pretty sure we had beaten jet lag and were ready to sleep. We caught the tram back to our B&B and passed out after acquiring some food at the local grocery store

The next several days were spent doing the obligatory canal cruise and visiting the Van Gogh Museum. We even encountered a large anti-Bush demonstration. Apparently he was in Holland due to the VE-Day celebrations.

The weather was a bit cool (around 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit) and raining occasionally. Our second to last evening was spent at Suzanne’s apartment. She and Carl invited us for dinner where were served a delicious rack of lamb. We were introduced to poffertjes. Yum! Carl shared some home brewed chocolate beer with me and we were joined by Suzanne’s sister and her friend from Greece. It was a lovely time. Alas, I was struck with a major headache and was going downhill fast. Our hosts arranged for a taxi to take us back to the B&B. Apparently there are some tricks to hiring a cab and Suzanne’s sister came downstairs and spoke (in Dutch) to the cabby. Basically telling him to treat us fairly. Before we left Suzanne made the comment “I guess we know who the party person is in the family” which struck Cynthia as VERY funny considering she tends to be a home-body.

The crowning glory of the Amsterdam leg of our trip had to be, HANDS DOWN, The Keukenhof. For 8 weeks out of the year you can roam 28 hectares (roughly 70 acres) of beautiful tulip gardens. We took the train to Liden and then a bus to the gardens. A VERY easy commute. We met a fellow from Idaho on the train who was going out there to shoot some pictures. He was very pleasant but rather odd. Mostly harmless, I’m sure. The skies threatened rain but the provided a very “Van Gogh-esque” background on the day. We spent the entire day out there shooting pictures and marveling at the beauty. It did hail for about 10 minutes. No worries, we ducked into restaurant and had some lunch.

It was a magical series of days. Getting to catch up with Carl was very pleasant. Experiencing Amsterdam the way we did was great. Sorry, no sex museums or drugs. Not my style. Bill will cover that on his trip, I’m sure!

Next up, Bruges Belgium and the “Maiming of the Nose”

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