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Amsterdam

When did we go….

  • Feb 28 – Mar 1, 2019

 

Why did we go…

  • we decided to break up our journey to Africa and spend some time exploring the sites of Amsterdam

 

How did we get there…

  • flew KLM direct for 9 hours
  • it was our first time flying KLM, and our stewardess was one of the best I have ever encountered (large Dutch lady with a kind and caring soul)
  • it was a half hour ride from the airport to our hotel

 

Where did we stay…

  • the Toren Hotel which was a top-ranked boutique hotel in the central part of the city
  • the hotel was a bit noisy as older buildings often are and backed on to some residents that were noisy at times, but it was generally quiet during the night as we had a room on the back side of the hotel
  • the location itself was very central, so it made for easy walking to most areas of interest
  • the service was excellent, and we enjoyed the historic bar/restaurant setting

 

 

Where did we eat…

  • our first lunch was at Dutch Weedburger Joint (weed = seaweed, joint = restaurant, a fun play on words) which was a vegan restaurant recommended by our friends that own Raw Eatery and Market in Calgary (they worked at this place a few years ago, and it inspired them to start their vegan restaurant)
  • the first night we ate at De Silverin Spiegel (centrally located in the downtown hub, upscale, good service, three wonderful small appetizers were included, excellent food, the only strange thing was that you had to order a starter as well as the main course – not sure I have ever seen that before)
  • our second lunch was at The Pancake House (had a huge selection of thin pancakes which were very tasty, a huge venue that was packed mid day)
  • the second dinner was at Salmuera (Argentinian, very good food, fun vibe)

 

What did we do…

  • we visited the Van Gogh museum which was a very well done exhibit for an amazing artist who had a tragic ending at too young an age (it is a 10-minute ride outside the downtown core, highly recommended place to visit)
  • we walked around the downtown area observing the old architecture and canal system which makes Amsterdam such a unique city
  • on our second day, our friend Drina took us on a canal tour with Those Dam Boat Guys (our guide Dominica, from South Africa, was super fun and knowledgeable)
  • after the tour, we stopped in for a pint and the best apple pie in Amsterdam at Café ‘T Papaneiland (first opened in 1642, great views of people strolling along the canal)
  • we also strolled thru the De Jordaan area with all its unique housing, shops, and cafes
  • the last night we enjoyed some adult beverages at a couple of pubs along the canal (we left the first one as the waiter was extremely rude, but at the second one everyone was super friendly, and a couple of young local chaps joined us for a visit)

 

 

Interesting facts:

  • there are 1281 bridges on the canal system
  • houses were built narrow as taxes at one time were paid on the width of the house
  • there are hooks on the top of housing buildings with sloped fronts as they have to hoist furniture up the outside of the building and then in thru the window since the stairways are so narrow
  • the biking culture started in the ’60s due to the number of car accidents on the narrow streets
  • nobody wears a helmet with the rationale being that they think people should be safe and know better than to run into each other (this is not the case as everyone we talked to has been in numerous crashes)
  • they predominantly own crappy bikes so that people will not steal them
  • they call the bikes ‘granny bikes’ as only a grandma would own such an ugly bike
  • some people carry multiple children on their bikes either in car seats or in boxes on the front of the bikes
  • they fished a record 18,000 bikes out of the canal in 2018
  • numerous vehicles fall into the canal due to errant parking
  • the original canal area had no streets, so the buildings were all accessed by boat
  • some people think that the country is called Holland, but that is the name of two provinces in the Netherlands
  • the saying ‘Going Dutch’ refers to Dutch people each paying their tab, and our guide gave the example of a couple who was dining out to celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary, and they each pulled out a credit card to pay for their dinner
  • first country to legalize gay marriages
  • the red light district was created to take advantage of the constant influx of sailors and traders stopping off at the port

 

 

What did we not do that is on the agenda for next time:

  • we missed out getting tickets for the Anne Frank museum which many people said was a must see
  • we were a bit early for the blooming of the tulips that the country is famous for in the mid-March to early June period
  • there are many other beautiful parts of the country that could be visited on day trips

 

Final thoughts:

  • Amsterdam is a fun, safe, and historic city
  • our friends, from Calgary that are living here, have indicated that it is hard to make local friends which is an interesting observation as the locals are generally very friendly to tourists
  • it is easy to walk around the downtown however you need to be on special alert to avoid getting hit by the constant buzz of cars, bikes (everywhere), scooters, and trains
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