Having woken up about 4am, reached the airport just after 5 and finally jetted off well past our 7 am scheduling (they had to de-ice the plane, seemingly removing the last 3 months of weather from it), we arrived in Amsterdam after 9.
Like every capital city that is not Perth, Amsterdam is pretty simple to get to (from the airport) and around. On arrival, we bustled around the tourist information area near the (very beautiful) Amsterdam Central Station, before committing to buying the ‘I amsterdam’ city card.
The card includes travel on public transport, and free access into most of the major museums and art galleries. You also get 25 % off at various restaurants and theatres, and similarly cheaper rates for things like bike and scooter hire. Finally, they throw in a river cruise, and a couple of free giveaways at selected shops (we didn’t bother with this, as we assumed it would be cheap tourist tack, but I guess you could turn the whole thing into a bit of a treasure hunt).
We bought the card because we figured it would push us to do as much as possible in the small amount of time we had. I would recommend it, but will note that the problem for us was that most of the major cultural events that we wanted to see were only open from 10:00-17:00, so you can hit 2 of at best 3 in a day…. this narrows the 24 hour period down somewhat, and means having to chose just a few of the 50 or so offerings.
We headed to our ‘Hotel’ and dumped our bags (too early to check in), then had a wander around the area, heading generally towards the middle of town. Due to very late-minute booking, our hotel was right on the edge of the canal systems that make up Amsterdam’s city centre:
Ultimately, I don’t thing this was a problem. The area was still safe, and there are trams running continuously past. Plus, we were pretty close to Museumplein!
Our wander, which was accompanied by many oohs and ahhs and pictures of flowers, bikes, and canals, ultimately had a purpose: Andy’s blood sugar had become dangerously low, and the poor boy was near death.
Mine had blue cheese and mushrooms inside, plus I nabbed a blue cheese dipping sauce for the chips.
It was all very delicious (and necessary by that time), and I’m very glad that we didn’t end up eating here instead:
This looks, to me, to be possibly one of the few things in the world less appetising than McDs. Of course, if Andy became some sort of President, I suspect we would quickly see these becoming a legal requisite of every street corner.
Can you believe that when we came out of the burger shop it had started snowing?
Although it serves us right for leaving our easter-booking until the very last minute and not being able to travel anywhere properly warm. Thankfully, the Amsterdam snow had the decency to melt before it hit the ground, and not cover everything in a giant warmth-and-happiness dampening blanket as in Deutschland.
This winter has apparently been one of the longest and darkest on records, although I have to say that it’s been fairly mild. I like the snow, but the start of spring this year was a terrible series of jokes, in which a sunny day was rapidly followed by a massive onslaught of snow, which echoed with the mocking laughter of the weather gods. Thus every third day seemed to be ‘finally, the start of spring’, and every snowfall ‘the last’.. but.. it never was!
The crescendo of this farce was that, while Christmas day was snow-free, Easter (in which one has the desire and the right to see little flowers blossoming and rabbits happily frolicking and the like), saw snowfall.
As I write this, it’s been fairly sunny for over a week, with the temperature predicted to zip past 20 in the next few days, but I’m still not 100% certain that it’s not just another trick.
I often find, that in moments of infinite winter, one needs to stock up on sugary, starchy goodness. Luckily, we were in Amsterdam, where such goodies are present in multiple incarnations: poffertjes (little mini pancakes), waffles, and, my personal poison, Olliebollen:
These are like German Quarkballchen, which I guess are distantly related to doughnut balls, but they are so, so much better. The inside is a yeasty dough, without excess sugar, and with juicy raisins. The ball is fried, and then, to combat this internal deficit, heavily powdered with icing sugar.
Growing up, our next door neighbours were Dutch, so my sister and I were able to develop a healthy interest in Olliebollen from a young age.
Sometimes I think that people who are anti multiculturalism not only have no soul, they also have no tastebuds.
After several hours, we headed back to the Hotel to check in. The man at admin was very nice- spoke fairly good German and English (and obviously Dutch).. but everything else about the Hotel was abysmal.
*I originally had a paragraph here about why it was so crap, but I don’t really want to poison my blog with too much whining, so I’ll just say this: Ultimately, we went at a busy and expensive time, so I understand that the cost of the room was very much out of proportion for the rest of the year. Nonetheless, even for 1/3 of the price, I would not chose to stay at Hotel Marnix again.
At this point in the journey, I’m embarrassed to say, I then had a little nap.
I think in the future, it’s probably worth the extra night’s accommodation cost in order to maximize the weekend.
We headed back out into the nearly-night, and after more walking had some dinner. I also managed to lure Andy into Albert Heijn (Aldi/Woolies) to find Stroopwafels. For some shocking reason (are they connected to Easter?), they were all sold out, except for the fancy Bio ones. Parenthetically (because the amount of actual parentheses in this paragraph is getting out of control..heh..), I know the phrase ‘I don’t believe in Bio’ is ridiculous, but I refuse to buy their overpriced product- especially when, at least in Australia, the use of labels like ‘organic’ and ‘bio’ is poorly regulated, and thus can be thrown around somewhat willy-nillily.
Luckily, I was allowed to buy almond bunnies instead. My heart belongs to anything that contains almond meal. And seriously, how adorably shifty does this little fellow look?:
So we roamed, and enjoyed the pretties of Amsterdam, before making our way to the Hotel and bed.
There are so many lovely, beautiful things in this world!