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?

26 thoughts on “Amsterdam–Venice of the North

  1. MiaMarlowe says:

    Sandy–LOL! Glad your mom stood her ground. br /br /Ah, yes! Non-rev travel did mean more of a shot at first class. Now that we#39;re paying for my ticket (My DH is here on business so his company picked up his fare) it#39;s coach for us.

  2. Debra says:

    The last time I flew,we had a forced landing in the Azores and then we drove by the American Embassy in Madrid, to be informed that use to be the Embassy, but they blew it up. Then when I get to Africa, while in the the market someone wanted to buy me for 3000 camels. I was told that was a fortune to these people. It was a exciting trip.

  3. MiaMarlowe says:

    Glynis–YOu#39;ve got the right attitude. Travel is going to get messy sometimes. Adventures are like that. We just need to go with the flow.

  4. MiaMarlowe says:

    Jane–I#39;ve been to Hawaii twice. I always hope I#39;ll get stranded there, but it hasn#39;t happened yet!

  5. MiaMarlowe says:

    Linda–Something like that happened to us once. When my husband#39;s company downsized and he was out of a position, we moved from Seattle to MO, where we#39;d bought a house in the same town as my parents. In the middle of South Dakota, the car I was driving turned into a moving brick. The engine simply quit. The tow truck driver took every bit of cash we were carrying and dumped us at a dealer for a repair. Five hours and $600 later (thank goodness the dealer took a CC), we were back on the road, but it was an inauspicious beginning for our move.

  6. MiaMarlowe says:

    Barbara–We#39;ve been pretty lucky when it comes to fellow passengers. Everyone was pretty well behaved on our flight except the fellow behind me. When I tried to recline a bit, he punched my seat with his knee and nearly gave me whiplash. But I#39;m the patient sort. As soon as he got up to visit the little meanie-head#39;s room, I reclined my seat all the way and left it that way the rest of the trip. ;-)

  7. MiaMarlowe says:

    Saranna–Oh, yeah, the Langoliers! Sounds like you#39;d already lived through a horror story without adding to it.

  8. MiaMarlowe says:

    Nynke–Boiled bacon? No wonder I didn#39;t recognize it. It tasted good though. My DH was wondering what a traditional Dutch meal was. As a Norwegian/American, he#39;ll be happy to learn it features potatoes!

  9. MiaMarlowe says:

    Edie–Road trips are ripe for unexpected events. Glad you finally made it to Orlando, but sad about your friend#39;s foot.

  10. MiaMarlowe says:

    Theresa–My DH used to work for USAir, United and Republic airlines (the reason we#39;ve been able to travel as much as we have! Those flight benefits made it possible for us.) So we have lots of experience in missed, delayed and bumped flights. Our longest trip was from Salt Lake City to Brussels–35 hours and my DH#39;s suitcase didn#39;t make the trip. ;-(

  11. MiaMarlowe says:

    Mary Ann–What a hair-raising tale! As a mom, I#39;m sure something like that would have taken years off my life. Glad to hear the railroad employees took such good care of you. (My dad is a retired RR engineer, so he#39;d be happy to hear it as well!)

  12. MiaMarlowe says:

    Rhiannon–Sounds like you didn#39;t have to go far to have a world class adventure. Looking for the baby daddy was a heroic cause!

  13. Sandy says:

    Mia,br /br /Great post. I#39;ve had many experiences like the one you#39;re talking about. They#39;re always worth a laugh when I get home. br /br /The plane rides I#39;ve had have always been in first class anywhere overseas (non-rev)and we#39;ve always partied the whole trip. lol Great fun. br /br /The funniest experience my mom and I had was on a train ride from Meinz, Germany to Zurich Switzerland. We thought we had missed our stop to get off, and I was trying to get mom to get off before the train got to moving to fast. She never let me forget that one as long as she alive. And, of course, I was wrong. Not only that it was around the time the moveie, Throw Momma Off the Train, was out. lol

  14. Glynis says:

    Ah the memories. I lived in Harwich, UK. My father was silver service steward on the Harwich to Hook of Holland run. We lived there for six months, but mother couldn#39;t settle. Instead, once a month we kept father happy by travelling /br /It is an amazing place, very laid back and relaxed. So glad you fell in love with the /br /I think travel complications take patience, and should not overshadow the place you visit.

  15. Jane says:

    I love Amsterdam. I have family in Holland and do hope I#39;ll get to visit there soon. We#39;ve never had any major complications while traveling, but I have flown on standby a few times and once we got stuck in Tokyo and had to get a hotel room after waiting at the airport the whole day. We managed to fly on to our destination the next day.

  16. Linda Henderson says:

    I think the worst thing that ever happened to me on vacation was we were driving across country to go to Disneyland and the water pump went out on the car and stranded us on the roadside, that was not fun. Once we got it fixed though, we continued on and had a great time.

  17. Barbara Britton says:

    Your descriptions are fun and amazing. The worst plane flight I had was when my husband-6#39;3quot;, 205lbs– was accosted by a drunk woman from across the aisle. Seems she brought her own Jack Daniels on the plane and drained the bottle. When she wouldn#39;t stop pawing him, he had to call the stewardess–all 5#39;6quot;, 120lbs. The federal marshalls were awaiting the woman when she disembarked. I felt sorry for the poor lady in the window seat next to the imbibing culprit.

  18. Saranna DeWylde says:

    Color me with the jealousy crayon too. WOW. I want to travel so badly I can taste it. br /br /Amsterdam sounds so beautiful. The Venice of the North hooked me. I#39;d love to take a year with my family and see the world. That#39;s my dream. br /br /I used to work for an airline in a supervisory capacity, so I know sometimes, things happen. When I travel, I try to prepare for every eventuality and travel insurance is something to consider. That way, no matter what happens, you#39;ve got some recourse. Maybe not what you were hoping for, but /br /The worst trip I#39;ve ever been on was when I went to go visit my old boss in Newport News. A friend of mine and I had some time off, we were working out of Midway at the time so we hopped a plane. When we got there, he#39;d just been dispatched to Philly because the airline#39;s contract customer service company folded overnight and there were no employees, but for a station manager. He grabbed us and we went to Philly instead. br /br /I worked 72 hours straight. It was a nightmare. Not only were all of the employees gone, but this guy hadn#39;t kept the books like he was supposed to. I pulled the safe out of the desk and there were checks from MONTHS before stuffed behind as well as cash–it was a nightmare. br /br /I finally got to sleep on the flight home, but we were the only two on the plane and there was a storm and I kept having images of that Twilight Zone with the thing on the wing…

  19. Nynke says:

    Oh, I keep forgetting to say it, but could you please not include me in any of the daily drawings, since I already have all your books?

  20. Nynke says:

    Mary Anne – wow, what a story! I used to travel through Europe by train every now and then as a kid, and this would have really scared me! But railroad people are often really nice, so I can well imagine the happy ending, too :).br /br /I think the most any travel plan of mine has ever gone awry was my boyfriend and me were supposed to fly to Norway last December, but there was heavy snowfall and after hours of waiting at the airport we found out that every single flight for the day had been canceled! It took a struggle with all the other stranded travelers who wanted to get to the one ticket desk at this little airport, but luckily, we managed to book a flight for the next /br /Welcome to Holland, Mia! Sorry to hear the first thing you saw in Amsterdam was the North side of the central station – not the most hospitable side at any time, but especially not on a cold autumn morning like today. Yay for taxis!br /The pea soup with rye bread and bacon sounds familiar – it#39;s a traditional winter meal here. Pea soup is yummy! The bacon#39;s usually just salted and boiled but not fried. It looks (and tastes) even funnier when served in large chunks with #39;stamppot#39;, our traditional mashed-potatoes-and-vegetables meal ;).

  21. Edie Ramer says:

    It was fun to read about your adventure. I#39;d do something like you did, hailing a cab that would only take me 4 blocks. Considering how long it might have taken you to find it, the cab ride was probably worth /br /My friend and I drove from Wisconsin to Florida for the RWA National convention in July. This was just after the heavy rains, and we got stuck on the Chicago expressway for 3 hours because it was flooded. We were in Orlando for only a couple days when my friend broke a bone in her foot. That was tough for her but she didn#39;t let it ruin her time there.

  22. Theresa Romain says:

    Thanks for the post — you#39;re a hero (heroine?) for finding Internet access with so little time and sleep. Your hotel sounds wonderful, and mm, so does your first meal /br /Yep, I#39;ve had a ton of travel horrors. Most involve O#39;Hare airport and a slew of canceled flights. I#39;ve had much better luck with car travel the last few years. Of course, you can#39;t get across the ocean by car! Maybe someday I#39;ll get to see Amsterdam too. Until then, thanks for being our eyes. I look forward to your posts on the art museums!

  23. Mary Anne Landers says:

    Thanks for keeping us posted on your European adventures, Mia! Who knows, maybe you can work your vacation experiences into the plot of a future novel. br /br /You asked us if we#39;ve ever had a trip where something went awry. Hoo boy, did I ever! It happened when I was living in the country you#39;re now visiting, The /br /When I was twelve, my parents, my brother Kurt (then ten), and I were living in a suburb of The Hague, The Netherlands. Never mind what year it was! br /br /My mother, brother, and I went to Geneva, Switzerland for a vacation of a week or so. We returned by train; it was called the Rheingold /br /Sometime in the night, while the train was running through the Rhineland, Kurt and I got hungry for a midnight snack. We went looking for the kitchen; the dining car would have been closed. Mom must have been /br /We went way back in the train and didn’t find the kitchen. But the train slowed down. Some cars were uncoupled, then coupled onto a different train. br /br /Kurt and I didn’t find out what was going on until too late. Once the car we were in got moving again, Mom was headed for The Hague and Kurt and I were headed for somewhere in the heart of West /br /We couldn’t speak German, and my French was terrible. But somehow we found a conductor who spoke a little English. He realized what had happened to these two American kids. He must have contacted some higher-ups; don’t ask me how. This was long before cell phones and personal /br /I don’t know how Kurt felt, but I was pretty worried. Nothing like this had ever happened to me before. Kurt and I had no money or passports, and back then the borders of Europe were far from porous. br /br /My mother, I later learned, was fighting panic. There was no way for her to know just where we were or what was happening to /br /But Kurt and I were well-treated by the railroad employees, even if the language barrier was never fully breached. I figured everything would work out, so I stopped worrying. My brother and I even got something to eat, so I suppose we fulfilled our original mission. br /br /We were put on another train, this one headed in the right direction. Eventually we were reunited with Mom. br /br /I got a good laugh out of the whole Rheingold Express incident. But it wasn’t funny at all for Mom!

  24. Rhiannon Mills says:

    I#39;ve never been to Europe, though I have traveled a lot through the Eastern US. The most odd trip, however, was one right here in my hometown. I was JUST going after milk and eggs one morning, all on my lonesome, and didn#39;t end up home until near dark. While at the store, I got a call from a friend who said she was in labor. So, I drove 45 minutes to the hospital to see her. Turned out, no one knew where her husband was, so me and another friend went in search of her husband. We ended up in some strange places that day (including an abandoned coal mine…we live in coal country lol)but finally fund the doof at his mother#39;s house and all ended well. ;)

  25. MiaMarlowe says:

    I#39;m still pinching myself, Christie. Most of my travel to Europe has been the result of happy accident when my DH#39;s work brings him over here. I feel very lucky.

  26. Christie Craig says:

    I#39;m jealous!! Next time save room for me in your /br /CC

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