Monday, March 02, 2009

Amsterdam with Garrett & Nicole

Last Monday afternoon, we boarded a train from Enschede bound for Amsterdam. The travel time was only two hours with one train transfer about an hour and a half into the trip. After arriving at Amsterdam Centraal station, it took us a several minutes to get our bearings and figure out which bus would take us to our accommodations. Roxi had arranged for us to stay on a houseboat docked a short distance from the train station but we didn’t know exactly where to find the boat, only what dock it was on. After some frustrating exploring and borrowing a cell phone from a bystander, we finally found our lodging and boarded the Excelsior.

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Entrance to Garrett & Nicole's Bedroom

Garrett & Nicole's Bedroom

Living Room



Our Bedroom

After exploring the boat for a few minutes and getting our things situated, we began our next mission: trying to rendezvous with my friend Edward and his girlfriend Cicely who were visiting Amsterdam from New Orleans. We had previously made plans to meet at their hotel but because of the delay in locating our boat, we were running a little late. I had been counting on having a web connection to be able to contact him when we arrived, unfortunately there was no Internet on the boat. So we made our way towards Edward’s hotel while keeping a lookout for an Internet cafe. We eventually found one and Edward and I were able to set a new meeting time.

We finally met Edward and Cicely in their hotel bar after they returned from dinner. I haven’t seen Edward since my wedding so it was very nice to catch up for a couple of hours while also enjoying some Dutch beer that I hadn’t yet tried. Edward and Cicely were flying out on Tuesday morning, so we parted company about midnight so they could get some rest and we could find something to eat. We had a very late lunch before leaving Enschede on Monday afternoon, so we were finally starting to get hungry. In the process of trying to walk back towards our houseboat, we found a lot of late night eateries and settled on Chinese food. After eating we were all starting to get very tired so we found a cab that quickly delivered us to the Excelsior where we all happily went to sleep.

On Tuesday morning, Garrett and Nicole woke early and set out to explore Amsterdam. Roxi and I started a little more slowly but met up with Garrett and Nicole a little after noon. Garrett and Nicole had seen a lot of the area around the city center, but wanted to see more. We decided that the daylight hours might be the safest to visit the Red Light District in order to see what it was like without fear of having our pockets picked. We found the Oude Kerk (Old Church) right in the middle of the district and we strolled up and down the canals taking it all in.

Magna Plaza

Royal Palace


After seeing the sights of the Red Light District, we returned to the train station where we boarded a canal tour boat for an hour-long sightseeing trip. I took a similar trip during my last visit to Amsterdam and felt that it would be a good way for Garrett, Nicole and Roxi to see a lot of the city in a compressed time period.

The Amsterdam


Zuiderkerk (Southern Church)

Magere Brug (Skinny Bridge)

The Six Bridges

The Twin Sisters

Westerkerk (Western Church)

After our canals cruise, we went to the ticket office, booked our train tickets for our trip to Brussels and then it was off to dinner. Garrett was very interested in eating at an Argentine restaurant after Edward told us how good they were the night before, so we set out to find one. It wasn’t hard as Amsterdam is full of them. The first was a bit too pricey but the next couple were much more affordable. We settled on one and sat down to a delicious grilled feast of steak, chicken, ribs and salmon. I have never had Argentine grilled food before but I was very impressed. The meats had a smoked flavor in addition to the grilled flavor that really made for a delicious taste.

After dinner we walked around the crowded shopping area seeing more and stopping for a few beers along the way. Again, on the recommendation of Edward, I tried out a Heineken Extra Cold. It might just be a gimmick and I might have just been thirsty from walking around Amsterdam, but it was delicious. After a long day, we were all pretty exhausted so we made the walk back to the Excelsior. It didn’t take long for me to fall asleep on one of the couches. It took even less time for me to be prodded by everyone to go to bed since I was snoring so much on the couch.

On Wednesday morning, we woke up and began packing our things for our trip to Brussels. Our houseboat was conveniently docked on a pier that was only a few hundred feet from a ferryboat stop but we had not attempted to use it during our stay. We boarded the boat and rode across the IJ harbor with other commuters. From there we caught another ferryboat that took us back across the IJ harbor to the central train station.

Our last view of the Excelsior from the ferryboat heading across the IJ harbor.

Once we arrived at the station, we checked the time and tried to plan our lunch accordingly. We had open tickets on the train to Brussels meaning that we could take any train we wanted at any time of the day for the next two months. The trains to Brussels leave at six minutes before the hour every hour so there was no real concern about missing a train.

With about an hour until the next train, we dragged our luggage through the streets of the crowded shopping area near the station and found a cafe that served traditional Dutch pancakes. Since it was lunchtime, Garrett and I opted for savory pancakes as opposed to the sweet breakfast version. We both ordered bacon and cheese pancakes and I also added mushrooms to mine. They were very good, but the cheese was so rich that neither of us could finish our pancakes. I'm glad that I finally tried a pannenkoeken, but I don't know that it is something I will have very often. Stroopwafels, on the other hand, are something that I will miss when our time in the Netherlands is up.

After lunch we headed back to the station to find that we had just missed a Brussels train by about five minutes. We took the opportunity for Roxi and I to get a coffee and a bottle of water while Garrett and Nicole made a quick visit to the Church of Saint Nicholas. So as not to miss the next train, we found the platform early and waited. When the train arrived, we boarded, chose seats and got comfortable for our three hour ride to Brussels.


CrazyBunnyLady said...

Some good pictures. Looks like fun.

Wes Raine said...

Thanks! Amsterdam is a fun city even if you are not into debauchery. It's even more fun if you are into debauchery! We had a great time there and are bringing some more friends for a visit in a week. Thanks for reading the blog!