Sunday, March 15, 2009

Enschede & Amsterdam with Leah & O'Neil

Roxi's best friend Leah and her husband (and former co-worker of mine) O'Neil came for a short visit to the Netherlands this week. They flew into Amsterdam last Saturday around noon and made the two and a half hour train ride to meet us in Enschede. After getting them checked into their hotel, we rode the bus to the city center to show them the weekly market. It was the warmest and most beautiful day we've had since arriving in the Netherlands so we founded a rather crowded cafe scene by the church. After refreshing ourselves with a round of beers at our favorite bar, we went to the market for a little sightseeing and shopping.

Leah and O'Neil bought a few souvenirs and we purchased a few grocery items. Knowing we were heading to Amsterdam in the morning, we didn't buy much food, but we did have to get a couple of cheeses, a salami and a loaf of fresh bread to sample with Leah and O'Neil. The food ended up coming in very handy the next day on the train. After the market, we made our way to Roxi's favorite restaurant in town, Mangu, and enjoyed a delicious three course meal. Finally we rounded out the evening with a trip back to campus to show Leah and O'Neal our humble little apartment. Very tired from long travels and a full day in Enschede, Leah and O'Neil retired to their hotel leaving Roxi and I to pack for the trip to Amsterdam.

On Sunday morning we finished our packing and met Leah and O'Neil at their hotel. The weather on Sunday was a cold and rainy but we pressed on with a short walk to show our guests the campus before taking the train to Amsterdam. We checked Leah and O'Neil out of their hotel around noon and made the trek to the nearby train station. Once we were on the train, we got comfortable and broke out the cheese, salami and bread that we had purchased at the market on Saturday. We ended up having quite a nice little picnic as we rode the rails through the Dutch countryside.

Upon our arrival in Amsterdam, we found our way to the apartment that Roxi arranged for our accommodations. Roxi had tried to get another houseboat but wasn't able to find anything that suited our needs. Instead she found a fantastic apartment only a few blocks from the central train station with a great view of the Oosterdok harbor and the NEMO museum. The apartment we stayed in was the top two floors of a four-story apartment that has been converted into three apartments. We later learned that the apartment was once inhabited by Michiel de Ruyter.

After getting settled in at the apartment, we headed into the city. Almost immediately, we started a bar hopping adventure that would stretch into the night. I lost track of all the bars we visited, but we made sure to have at least one beer at each. Our pace was perfect though drinking just enough to enhance our evening without overdoing it. And we covered some territory in the city! We crisscrossed through the streets and across the canals twice as we made our way from bar to bar. We finished off the evening with a trip to the best Chinese restaurant in Amsterdam, The Golden Chopsticks, and we were not disappointed. After a full evening, we retired to the apartment and got some much needed rest.

Round 1

Time for another!

Another round!

On Monday morning, O'Neil and I made a trip to find a grocery store while the wives got ready. We bought breakfast items and snacks then made our way back to the apartment to cook up some eggs and bacon. After breakfast, we headed into the city center to take a sightseeing cruise of canals. It was a nice cruise and different from the trip that Roxi and I took when Garrett and Nicole visited. After the hour long cruise, we decided to head to the Heineken brewery for the tour. As usual, it took us a while to figure out the tram system, but once we got our tickets and directions, we were on our way to the Heineken Experience.

The tour was fun and informative. It was especially nice to smell the familiar odors of cooking barley and hops that I have come to love from my home brewing experiments. The tour normally includes two free samples, but for some reason it was a "special day" and we each got a third sample. We all had the obligatory regular Heineken for our first round, but switched to the "Extra Cold" Heineken for our second and third. The Extra Cold Heineken is the same as regular except that it is served at zero degrees Celsius. Like I said before, it may be a gimmick, but the beer really is refreshing!

Ready for sampling!

We spent a lot more time at the Heineken Experience than we had intended so when we finished, we quickly made the walk to the Van Gogh Museum only to find that it had just closed. In a way it was okay is one of the most expensive museums that I've ever heard of (18 Euros!) and it is small. I visited it a few years ago and it is interesting to see so many paintings by one artist, but it is very hard to justify the expense for the small gallery. Since it was closed, we made our way back towards the city center stopping for a snack and a drink on the way.

Roxi and Leah put the "dam(n)!" in Amsterdam!

We decided to spend some time walking through the Red Light District to see the sights before dinner. Besides the obvious things you would expect to see, we also saw the narrowest street in Amsterdam and lots of outdoor urinals.

After the walk through the district, I found a listing in a travel book for an ice bar which we all thought was a must see. It was a bit of a walk from where we were, but we thought it was worth it. We were told that for our admission fee, we would get one free drink each and thirty minutes in the bar. They also told us that pictures were forbidden. Strange as that was, we went in with a small group of people and the bartender. Before entering the frozen room, we were given fancy Heineken coats and gloves to keep us warm in the negative seven degree Celsius environment. The bar was essentially a giant walk-in freezer in which just about everything was made of ice. We were given our round of free drinks in glasses made of ice as well and offered to have a picture taken of us by the bartender. We took one knowing that the cost to purchase it would be outrageous. After everyone was served, the bartender left for a minute in which I took the opportunity to take a couple of contraband pictures of ourselves.

After our thirty minutes in the bar, we took a walk to a nearby Argentinian restaurant that my friend Edward had recommended when we saw him and his girlfriend on our previous trip to Amsterdam. It did not disappoint. Each couple ordered the mixed grilled plate for two and we dug into the veritable feast!

After another long day, we decided to call it a night, this time using our remaining pre-paid passage on the tram to get us as far as the train station to save us a few steps on our long walk back to the apartment.

Tuesday we got going again after another great breakfast that O'Neil and I made. We headed across the Oosterdok harbor to the NEMO. After a little souvenir shopping at the museum gift shop, we took the short self guided tour of the replica of the Dutch East India Company trading ship, the Amsterdam, anchored in the harbor.

Leah and Roxi take a break in the Hold of the Amsterdam.

Insignia of the Amsterdam Dutch East India Company (Amsterdam Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie).

Replica of the 18th century trading ship the Amsterdam.

Our apartment was the top two floors of the left corner of building above the blue boat.

From the NEMO, we took a leisurely walk to the Anne Frank House to get pictures of the building. On the way there, we stopped to enjoy a taste of traditional Dutch herring from a street vendor. Originally, Roxi said she'd try it if O'Neil tried it. When it came down to it, I didn't want to get left out and we all talked Leah into trying it too. It was much better than I expected. Then again, it was served with pickles and onions so I'm not sure how much I'd like plain herring. Surprisingly, it didn't have too much of a fishy flavor and it was really a lot like eating sashimi.

About a block away from the Anne Frank House, we saw a heron sitting on a car.

Anne Frank House

Later in the afternoon, we made the walk to the Amsterdam Dungeon. We were expecting something educational but ended up getting more of a haunted house type of experience with a bit of educational information peppered throughout. It was okay, but it could have been better. After a stop in at one of the many casinos in the city, we went back to the apartment to relax and have a few drinks. We played some cards, had a couple of beverages and just rested for a while. Finally, we headed back out for our last evening in Amsterdam with Leah & O'Neil. We were still pretty tired so after a few more bars we bought some dinner at a take-out Greek restaurant. Back at the apartment we ate and went to bed.

On Wednesday morning, we packed our things and cleaned up a bit before heading out for breakfast and last-minute souvenir shopping before Leah & O'Neil had to head to the airport. We looked for a place to get some traditional Dutch pancakes, but we found a lot of closed restaurants. In the end, we settled for a pretty good English continental breakfast. On the walk back to the apartment we stopped at a souvenir shop so that Leah and O'Neil could get the last of their gifts for people back home.

Finally, we headed back to the apartment for the last time, gathered up our luggage and started the walk to the train station. Roxi and I accompanied Leah & O'Neil to their train to see them off to the airport before we found our train and made the relatively short trip back to Enschede. We had another wonderful visit with friends from home and wish it could have lasted longer. However, I got sick towards the end of the trip and ended up spending the rest of this week recuperating. European travel is fun but it is hard on the body!

1 comment:

beck said...