Thursday, May 19, 2005

The Road to (and around) Amsterdam ...

So it's Day 3 in Amsterdam.

The trip got off to a, uh, stellar start before we even left. Friday was my last day of work before vacation. On Saturday, Randal and I had a bunch of errands to do - we decided to go for breakfast first. Which is when Randal discovered his wallet was AWOL. We'd gone for dinner with some friends the night before and he had paid, so he'd had his wallet then. But no longer. We ransacked the apartment searching for no avail. Back to the Royal Oak on Bank Street, where we'd had dinner the night no avail. The wallet was gone. All of Randal's cards, about $200 in cash that he'd taken out as funds for our afternoon in Toronto plus - the bus tickets to Toronto. Gone. Luckily, no one had used his cards. He got them cancelled, we bought new (expensive!) bus tickets, and I took out $200 instead.

Sunday we dropped Rion off at my friend Jan's place. Poor puppy. All by himself without his mummy and daddy for two whole weeks. He is forced to amuse himself with his Auntie Jan. :)

Monday we left for Toronto. Good bus ride up. Neither of us had had much sleep the night before. I snoozed a bit on the bus. In Toronto, it was crazy. We had a few errands to run : I still needed travelers' cheques, Randal wanted to look at digital cameras. So we split up for a bit - I had to hit FIVE banks before I found one who sold Euro TC. So, many Euros, digital cameras and toothpaste tubes later (we hadn't brought the toothpaste with us), we no longer had time for sushi! Why else bother going to Toronto if there is no time for sushi!!! It was very sad. But we drowned our sushi-less sorrows in Swiss Chalet chicken at the airport...and finally, at about 9:30 Monday night, were sitting on the plane.

Flight was good. We left around 10:15 p.m. local time. 7 hour flight. Arrived in Amsterdam at Schiphol International at about 10:30 the next morning (again, local time). Got our bags back. Bought train tickets to Amsterdam's Centraal Station. Got in a cute little cabin on the train. Pull out of station. Conductor comes by to punch our tickets and it seems there are two problems: (a) we are sitting in first-class and should be in second; and (b) we are on the wrong train. When we inquired further as to this second more disturbing "problem", we were advised, "No, you are not headed toward Amsterdam; you are headed to another part of the land." Um, that can't be good. So we were told where to hop off the train...and warned to read the train signs more precisely this time. Which we did. :)

Finally in Amsterdam, a bit of a hike to our hostel. Right now, we are staying at the Stayokay Stadsdoelen Youth Hostel in Amsterdam in a 20-person dorm. It's right near the city centre. When we arrived, we had bookings there for Tues-Thurs nights. We have since further booked rooms at the other Stayokay in town, the Vondelpark for Fri-Sun. After that, who knows? These are both hostels Randal has stayed at in the past, about three years ago when he was studying in Maastricht and spent some time up in Amsterdam.

Anyway, Tuesday we crashed around 2:30 at our hostel for a "short nap". Which lasted to about 6:00. Out by 7:00 and then proceeded to wander. We made our way over to the Jordaan area of Amsterdam. (Perhaps at some point I will post a map, but no time right now.)* Found some good eats at a little restaurant called Cafe het Paleis. I had a chicken-avocado sandwich and Randal had grilled salmon with veggies. Yum. More wandering, but we were exhausted so crashed back at the hostel by 11:00.

Up and out by 10:30 Wednesday (it was a slow morning, still jet-lagged). We wandered like it was going out of style. Over to the Vondelpark hostel to book ourselves some rooms for the weekend. Up the main drag. Up side-drags. Etc. Nice lunch at a weird little place called Foodism (in the Jordaan again). Wandered past the Anne Frankhuis (we plan on going there later today). Past the Rijksmuseum. Past the van Gogh museum (augh!). It was so tiring. We also went to the Sex Museum! It was very interesting - though mostly entertaining rather than informative. Dinner on the Rembrandtplein at a lovely little restaurant called Szmulewicz. Coffee shop, then some wandering in the Red Light District - how surreal.

Today we are looking at a few markets, and then over to the Anne Frankhuis around 4:30 or 5:00 (our discount tickets are good as of 5:00 - it's open till 9:00). Maybe a boat tour. Maybe more Red Light wandering tonight.

When I have more time, I will try to give some impressions of some of these places (esp. the RLD) rather than just name-dropping in this manner. And links. I'd like to add links. But for now, no time. Must run!

* Added Sunday, May 29 @ 10:48 by Julie : Here is a basic map (from Lonely Planet) of Amsterdam. If you are very keen on geography, here is a more detailed one.

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