Amsterdam Day 1
We were to take the high speed train to Amsterdam, but when we stopped at the Frankfurt Airport station, we were diverged to the very scenic route that added an hour to the trip. Later, we found out two trains passing each other in a tunnel had an incident where the bistro car door came off one and took out the side of a car on the other train. Good reason to divert us.
Amsterdam is a well planned city with some of the narrowest houses I have ever seen with the most “waterfront” property. The main station is located on the river, and when we stepped out it was like walking straight into chaos. The first hour was the most difficult; the pace in Amsterdam is much different than most places we have visited. The hotel was suitably located, but was a maze inside (and had a distinct odor about it). In need of serious repairs, somewhat inoperable sewage system, and a terrible view to a brick wall with a pigeon nest, we tended to stay out most of the time we stayed there…
Our first night was spent just wandering around town, which worked well for orienting ourselves for sightseeing the next day. We went to see a ballet in variations at the opera house that Herr enjoyed immensely having just finished performing in Cats.
Amsterdam Day 2
We walked straight to Anne Frank’s house. It is something to see the mill with the house above, then step into the rooms the Franks and friends occupied. Afterwards we made a stop to the Pancake Factory http://www.pancake.nl/ and had some good ol’ Dutch pancakes and poffertjes (I had an apple and raisins traditional pancake and Herr had a Mexican pancake filled with meats, veggies, and fruits).
We stopped by the Nieuwe Kerk (“new church”, but it is now only acts as a museum exhibition area) before heading to Rembrandt’s House . I enjoyed walking through the house. Like most houses in Amsterdam, it earned its space in height rather than width, and it was full of artwork that Rembrandt had purchased (only a few were his). I caught a sketch printing demonstration while Herr wandered off with the camera.
The house museum closed not long after we arrived, so the visit was brief. We decided to check out the botanical garden, but it was also closing, so we went to a garden park along the river and sat on the canal bank for a while watching the birds playing in the water. We ate dinner at a small outdoor restaurant (I burned my mouth really bad ) and headed back to the smelly hotel.
Amsterdam Day 3
Our goal was to find an Openbare Bibliothek, but when we got to where it should have been, there was only an empty building. We found out from a passerby that the branch had been closed for renovations for a while. So without experiencing the library, we went to the Van Gogh Museum. We arrived early enough to avoid the really large crowds, which made the viewing more pleasant. The Rijk Museum is currently under renovations and has portions of its exhibit up at the airport, so we did not stop by there.
The Heineken Experience was our next stop, and it was a fun museum despite my tee-totaling stance. Herr enjoyed a few extra beers on my behalf. We got out of there fast enough to take the tram up to the main library that sits behind the main train station. I was so impressed with the library, it is on a completely different level than other libraries I have visited in terms of its in-library set up and services. For example, on the top floor is an eatery restaurant with open balcony to the harbor and movie theater. I’m talking like 12 floors with a big escalator. It was awesome.
We ran back down, stopping by the famous narrow bridge and had dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe. We’re almost spent on Hard Rock Cafe food, but it is tradition to get the glasses at each location we visit (we may cut the eating part and just buy the glass in the future). We still had a half hour before our evening canal boat tour, so we took a quick walk in a park across the street before jumping on the boat.
Only three couples total on the ride, so it was a nice quiet affair. We learned some very interesting facts like the reason the water in Amsterdam doesn’t smell nearly as bad as Venice is because the Dutch use their locks to circulate fresh water in every night. The sun had set and night settled when we finally returned to the dock. Walking Amsterdam at night felt a lot safer than one might have thought. The candlelight canal ride was a great way to end our stay in Amsterdam.
Lisse Day 1
In the morning, we went to pick up the car that would get us to our b&b and Keukenhof just outside Amsterdam. Finding the rental place turned out to be most difficult. No one knew where it was. I eventually found the exact address online at the visitor’s center (we only knew it was supposed to be at the main train station), and we followed the main road that wrapped around the station until we came to where it should be. But the street addresses skipped! On a whim, we crossed the street to look at the parking garage, and lo and behold, it was in the parking garage. Oy!
After the car pickup fiasco, we got on the road as fast as possible. We were warned traffic is terrible to the Keukenhof, but we were in luck! No staus and only a few other vehicles 10km outside the gardens. It was quite a chilly day, but the sun was out and made for some beautiful flower photography. We wanted to send tulips for Mother’s Day in the States, but customs made that nearly impossible. So, instead we bought ourselves some amaryllis bulbs (they are both already in bloom) and a bag of tulips that will arrive in October (when they should be planted).
The bed and breakfast (more like a hotel) was also amazing. We purchased a package deal (tickets, one night, and a 4 course meal made by their renowned chefs) for a great price, and it was well worth it. We pulled up to see Aston Martins, Rolls Royces, and other exotic sports cars parked outside this country mansion. It was a conference of high delegates, but that set the bar pretty high for our little Fiat rental car. The food was excellent (never had beef tartare before), the rooms so much nicer than what we went through in Amsterdam, and the setting just lovely and quiet. We didn’t enjoy the facilities to their fullest, but I would have if I only knew!
Lisse Day 2
We left early to check out the North Sea. The country mansion sits on the edge of a national park, and that was very neat to drive through. The North Sea? Not so friendly… the winds were incredible! I was hoping to go down to the beach and check it out, but I could barely stand up straight. The Dutch like to wind surf. Herr went down closer, but I had to sit in the car. Very pretty, but I think there’s a minimum weight limit…
We missed our exit returning to Amsterdam and ended up going in circles. I was panicking before we finally got back on the road, and we made it back to the parking garage with only five minutes to spare before I would have been charged an entire extra day. Too close! After that we took it easy waiting the hour and a half before our train departed.
Now, this all occurred after the volcano eruption in Iceland. All our seats were reserved, so we had no problems with anything. However, back on our first day, we did not get to ride the high speed line because of the accident. Well, Herr got permission from the conductor to stay on the train instead of moving on to our reserved seats on another train at Cologne. Bad bad bad. First, we never reached top speed because DB had not determined what caused the door to tear off the train. Second, there wasn’t a direct train to Heidelberg. We ended up on a train to Mannheim that was packed with people trying to get someplace due to the volcano. We stood the entire time, crunched amidst luggage and people trying to move. I was not happy, but we made it home.
Note to self: stick to your reservations.