Amsterdam

September 13 thru 21, 2014

KLM Flight 602

Leave LAX 1:50pm

Arrive AMS 9:05am

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We left LAX at about 2:30pm on Saturday with no problems along the way.  The seats, however, were so narrow and tight, you could hardly move.  And of course, there was an infant directly in front of us – occasional outbursts of crying but nothing too bad.  The food was great – lunch and breakfast with a snack in between.  It was a long 10 hours though.

Arrived at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam at 9:30am and had no problems getting our luggage or whisking through customs.  Got in a taxi and arrived at the Sofitel The Grand Hotel – roughly 50 euros.  Here’s the front of the hotel.

Sofitel The Grand Hotel
Sofitel The Grand Hotel

The room wasn’t ready so we ventured onto the streets.  The hotel is located on one of the old canals, Oudezijds Voorburgwal, and is just steps away from the Red Light District….but you can’t really tell.  We’ll have to explore that area on another day.  A few shots of our room:DSCF2054 DSCF2056 DSCF2057 DSCF2059

Hotel greeting - Stroop Wafels, waffle cookies with caramel layers....yumm
Hotel greeting – Stroop Wafels, waffle cookies with caramel layers….yumm

We walked to the Rembrandtplein and had a beer and then ventured over to the Leidesplein and had a couple more.  Without any sleep on the plane, we felt more like zombies walking around the city.  We did see a major procession down the Leidestraat – by the way, there’s no danger of being hit by a car but there definitely is a problem with bicycles and trams.  These procession groups were very colorful and typically had a royal couple at the front.

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This was the youngest in the procession
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An example of the “royal” couple leading their team.

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On the way back to the hotel, a few shots of the canals…by this time, the weather had warmed up a bit:

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We ended the day early by having dinner at a nearby restaurant – a simple meal of mussels with french fries and steak.  Hit the bed early and got plenty of sleep.  More to come on our first full day.

We covered a lot of ground today….roughly 10 miles of walking.  It was a beautiful day with plenty of sunshine – about 70 degrees all day.  Here are a few more pictures of the hotel entrance, the last one is the canal immediately outside the hotel:

 

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We started down various streets ultimately heading for the area around Anne Frank’s house.  We saw the Oude Kerk.

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And then a few more spots along the way.

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Directly across the canal from Anne Frank’s house is the Tulip Museum with all sorts of tulip bulbs.

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Next to Anne Frank’s house is the Wester Kerk.

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The line to get into Anne Frank’s was too long so we’ll come back later in the week.  We then headed back to the Rembrandtplein for a refreshing drink and our quick, light lunch.  Here’s the tiny shop selling what are called the best french fries in Amsterdam….Vlaams Friteshuis Vleminckx.  Of course, we had to have some with Belgian mayonnaise.  There are often long lines to get some and when you receive your order, the owner says, “eet smakelijk” – the Dutch equivalent to bon appetit.

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Off we went to the Rembrandtplein to pose for a couple of shots with Rembrandt’s men.

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We went to the Resistance Museum which featured exhibits about the Dutch Resistance in World War II – very interesting.  On our way back we crossed the Amstel River over the Magere Brug – Skinny Bridge.

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We ended the day having dinner at a great Italian restaurant, Incanto, which had a terrific view of the Amstel River.  Here’s what we enjoyed:

Canneloni stuffed with buffalo mozzarella
Canneloni stuffed with buffalo mozzarella
Beef carpaccio
Beef carpaccio
Rigatoni with beef cheek
Rigatoni with beef cheek
Grilled chicken breast on a bed of creamy corn
Grilled chicken breast on a bed of creamy corn

Today we spent most of the day at the Rijksmuseum.  The museum reopened last year after a 10 year major reconstruction period and is once again a masterpiece.  It’s impressive even from the outside:

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The central information location is huge.

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There are roughly 4 main floors where the art is categorized by time period.  The most interesting and crowded floor, however, contains the Rembrandt and Vermeer pieces.  On our way to that floor, we passed by one of the Van Goghs along with other interesting pieces.

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And then the Rembrandt room.

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This area was by far the busiest of the museum.  It was difficult getting a shot of the Night Watch without any heads in the way but I was able to capture it.  And then there were a few Vermeers.

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They also redid the outside of the museum with a garden and the now famous I Amsterdam sign.

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For dinner, we went to a small Chinese restaurant, Sichuan Food, and had a great meal.  We started with Dim Sum, a spicy chicken hot and sour soup, and finally crunchy duck and filet of sole.  It was a great meal with excellent service.

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That’s all for today.

Today we started off fairly early in order to get to the front of the line at Anne Frank’s house….unfortunately, we didn’t get there early enough.  The line was extremely long and slow moving.  Instead, we decided to go the Wester Kerk next door, see Rembrandt’s tomb, and then climb the tower for a view of Amsterdam.  Here’s a picture of the Wester Kerk:

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You can climb to the 3rd platform from the top – a total of 185 steps in a very narrow, winding stairway.  In fact, they don’t allow you to have any bags at all because of the narrowness and you must go on a tour.  Some of the passage ways have no railing other than a thick rope that you cling to.  Here are some inside shots:

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Once you get to the top, however, you have an outstanding view of the canals all around and the rows of houses.

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Our tour guide took a few shots of us at the top.

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We continued walking around the city observing the beautiful canals.  You’ll see bridges with flowers and of course, bridges with bikes tied up.  There have to be more than a million bikes in this city!

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We finally managed to tour Anne Frank’s house in the afternoon.  We still had to wait in line but the tour was worth the wait.  No pictures allowed inside but the tour is very moving as you see all the pictures and read and hear passages from Anne’s diary.

For dinner, we ate at Bridges which is in the hotel and a very nice restaurant.  Tonight, there was  no seating inside, just outside on the beautiful patio.  The Dutch are stunned by how pleasant the weather is for this time of year.  Even tonight, the temperature was around 70 or 72 degrees.  Before dinner, Rich and I had a couple of drinks in De Vliegende Hollander, the Flying Dutchman.

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And then to dinner.

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Anchovies in a dried tomato paste covered by a toasted brioche - served on a bed of rocks
Anchovies in a dried tomato paste covered by a toasted brioche – served on a bed of rocks
Veal tartare with oysters and cucumbers
Veal tartare with oysters and cucumbers
Vichyssoise served a little warm, not cold
Vichyssoise served a little warm, not cold
Dorade cooked in a salted casing and served with a Mediterranean vegetable array
Dorade cooked in a salted casing and served with a Mediterranean vegetable array

 

Praline with salted caramel ice cream
Praline with salted caramel ice cream
Passion fruit ice cream with coconut
Passion fruit ice cream with coconut

That’s all for tonight….I’ll try to add another post tomorrow.  Good night.

 

Today we arranged for a rental car through the hotel.  How brave to fight the trams and bicycles of Amsterdam on the tiny streets, you may think… if you didn’t think that, you should!  Maneuvering the streets of Amsterdam is no small feat.  Sixt Rental car delivered the car to the hotel and picked it up after we returned.  Here’s our little gem equipped with a Garmin for navigation that kept losing the satellite signal and wasn’t very helpful.

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We first drove to Volendam which is on the Markermeer, a fresh water lake created by dikes to the north.  Volendam is about a half hour drive north of Amsterdam.  The ride was beautiful through flat fields of greenery with lots of water, cows and sheep.  We had a cup of coffee in Volendam before heading to Hoorn. Here are some shots of Volendam.

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Then off to Hoorn which is about another 30 minutes north.  We ended up having a very nice lunch in Hoorn and enjoyed the sights including the park with deer and ducks.

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Our last visit was to Haarlem which is roughly 30 minutes to the west of Amsterdam, near the airport.  We had heard of this small city from the Wester Kerk tour guide but were unable to find the city center and its square.  Instead, we stumbled on the restoration celebration of their cathedral, St. Bavo.  Several participants of the restoration effort were there to see the final product, a beautifully restored cathedral.

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We were back to Amsterdam by 4pm and I was able to navigate the narrow streets and arrived at the hotel.  As I’ve said before, the main threat while navigating the streets is not so much about cars but more about avoiding the bicycles – they take every liberty possible.

For tonight’s dinner, we had asked the concierge for a typical Dutch restaurant and he recommended Geertje.  The dinner was very different from previous meals but very tasty.  We spoke to a very nice English couple who were visiting Amsterdam for the first time and talked about the Scottish referendum which was still underway.

We started with an appetizer of cold pork loin and a beet salad.

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Mustard Soup

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And finally braised veal with mashed potatoes

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Rich had a flounder fillet in a white wine sauce but my camera lost battery power just as I started to take the picture.  It had enough, however, to take this picture of my dessert of raspberry cheesecake.

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Our walk back to the hotel took us through the Red Light district and a variety of party scenes along the way – crowds of young people drinking and smoking grass in open cafes.  The temperature is still very warm and comfortable but a little balmy.  We’re expecting colder temperatures as the weekend approaches and possibly rain.

 

Today we went to the Van Gogh museum which is next to the Rijksmuseum.  The museum is an incredible collection of Van Gogh art and steps you through each phase of his life.  It was extremely crowded and I wasn’t able to take any pictures.  Here’s a shot, however, looking next door to the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam’s concert hall, and another view of the Rijksmuseum.

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We spent the rest of the day walking around and buying a couple of souvenirs.  Dinner tonight was at Tempo Doeloe, a great Indonesian restaurant.  On our way to the restaurant, I took some additional pictures because the light was very different at 7:30pm – still light but approaching darkness.

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Tempo Doeloe was great and we opted for the Rijstafel Istemewa, rice table, which included a series of small portions of beef, vegetables, and chicken arranged by spiciness.  All of the little dishes were placed on warming trays so that they stayed warm.  Here’s a look:

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And dessert:

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Here are a few pictures I took on the way back to the hotel…

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Stay tuned for our last day in Amsterdam tomorrow.  Good night.

ur last day in Amsterdam!  We had nothing to cross off our list so we just wandered around the city.  I had this crazy idea to keep everything in black and white so you’ll see pictures in a little different format.  It does lend a different perspective to the scenes.  Hope you enjoy.  Many of these pictures were taken on our way into the Jordaan – a relatively subdued area of Amsterdam.

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Tonight we went back to the same Chinese restaurant we had visited on Monday, Sichuan Food.  It was a great experience once again and it was endearing to be recognized in the restaurant and warmly welcomed.  No pictures of the food…..sorry.

We’re all ready to leave in the morning and say goodbye to Amsterdam.  We had a great time and Amsterdam is such a wonderful city.  Tot ziens, Amsterdam!

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