Amsterdam--Venice of the North
We’re here! I can hardly believe it. This beautiful old city simply oozes charm. I’m seated in the little cafe on the ground floor of our European style hotel, looking out over one of the hundreds of canals ribboning Amsterdam. Bicycle and “shank’s mare” (Regency slang for foot travel) seem to be the best way to get around. Streets are narrow, cobbled and mostly one way, so only the truly brave (or psychotic!) would try to drive here.
A quick check of the map reveals that most of the museums I want to see are within walking distance from our hotel. The hotel itself is a bit of a curiosity. It’s two houses from 1650 that were joined together, so there’s not a plumb line or square corner in the place. Still, the original massive beams in the low ceiling of our room are “hell for stout” as my great grandfather would have said. There are American-style hotels here in Amsterdam, but I’m really enjoying the funkiness of this one.
Oh! a pair of horse drawn carriages just clomped by my window and a canal cruise boat motored past. There are so many things I want to do here. I feel like a kid at Christmas and I have 5 days to open the gift of exploring in this fabulous old city.
Of course, I didn’t feel that way earlier today.
Our flight left Boston around 2pm yesterday. We connected through DC and were wheels up around 5:50pm. The flight path doesn’t head straight across the Atlantic. We flew over maritime Canada, skirted Greenland and overflew the UK before we dropped into Amsterdam. The flight took about 7 hours, but we lost some time in transit. It might have been near 7AM here when we landed, but to our bodies it was 2 AM.
Sleeping on airplanes is impossible for me, so I was running on fumes. However, we always want to experience places like the people who live there do, so instead of taking a cab to the hotel, we took the train from Schipohl Airport to Centraal Station. We’d been told the hotel was within walking distance from the station. We had a map. However, unless you orient yourself properly, a map isn’t worth shooting. We exited from the exact wrong side of the station and hiked alongside a bitterly cold inlet of the North Sea for longer than we should have before we realized we “should have taken a left turn at Albuquerque.” We backtracked and started over, but this time the lack of street signs kept us from feeling confident enough to negotiate the twisting lanes and narrow ways. Plus, we were both sleep deprived and dragging our luggage through puddles. Enough of the native experience, already!
We gave up and hailed a cab. He drove us all of 4 blocks.
One of the problems with travel to Europe is that flights from America arrive early in the morning, long before check in time for most hotels. I’ve spent several groggy mornings (and sometimes early afternoons) propped in hotel lobbies waiting for a chance to get horizontal. When the clerk at our hotel told us our room was ready, I could have climbed across the desk and kissed him right on the mouth!
So after a shower, a couple hours of crashing and a delicious lunch in a local cafe (scrumptious split pea soup with rye flat bread and something they called bacon, but I didn’t recognize it as such) I’m feeling rejuvenated and ready for an adventure.
Don’t worry. I’ll be sure to bring you along!
Have you ever had a trip where something went awry? Do you think the inconveniences of travel are worth the reward?