September 8, Monday, continued
When we got to the station in Groningen we bought tickets from a helpful, but overly chatty agent. We thought we might miss our train he rambled on so long. After we got on the train they announced that there was an accident between Assen and Zwolle. A nice young man sitting across from us translated the announcement for us. It turned out that an earlier train had hit a pedestrian, so they closed that section of the route and we had to leave the train at Assen where they promised us a bus to the next major station. We asked the nice kid if he was going on and would be riding the bus. When he said yes, we asked if we could follow him to the bus stop. He stuck with us and helped for the rest of the time that we were going the same way.
We waited in the queue for a long time when we got the second bus they sent. Meantime we were trying to call our hotel to let them know we’d be late. We used our new phone but the call wouldn’t go through. Butch also tried to send several emails from the train but he would lose the Wi-Fi connection before they were sent.
The kid left us in Zwolle where we tried to call our hotel again, but no luck. When we got to Zwolle, the last train on our ticket had departed. We were getting pretty worried. But there were other trains going to that destination, Amersfoort, and we got on one of those, still not knowing if we could get to Amsterdam that evening. We tried our phone once more but it still didn’t work. Luckily, we could get a train to Amsterdam from Amersfoort.
On the way I talked to a lady sitting next to me to ask for advice about what could be wrong about our dialing. Just about the time we had it figured out a man stood up and told me off. He said, “Sir, silence!” and pointed to a sign in the window. Apparently we were in a “silent car” and even though the two of us were speaking softly we had still somehow violated the rules.
When we arrived in Amsterdam we had five distinct sections on our journey. I called the hotel again, leaving out one digit I suspected was the problem all along. It worked. The hotel owners were put out, thinking we had blown them off. We apologized profusely and hoped they would forgive us. They expected us at 1:00, we arrived there close to 9:00. We took a taxi to the hotel. By now, a taxi at the beginning and the end of our travels was quickly establishing itself as the way to do things. When we got in the hotel our wifi worked again, so I suspect they received all the emails to them that had been accumulating all day long.
We were very hot, tired, and mentally exhausted. We fell into bed after a shower by about 10:45, content that this hotel also had a fan.
September 9, Tuesday
On our first day in Amsterdam we had breakfast in the hotel. It was very nice but just like all the other breakfasts we had had so far. Karen woke up with a headache, feeling sick to her stomach. She couldn’t eat much breakfast, but after a while she felt better. We met some other guests, Mike and Sherwood, who shared descriptions of their excursions to date. They were planning to do some bike riding on the outskirts of town.
After breakfast we decided to walk to the Rijksmuseum about five or six blocks away.
We loved the exhibits: Rembrandt, Vermeer, Halls, Van Eck, and Jan Steen, etc.
We ate lunch at the museum café: the meat, bread and cheese tray. Beautiful and more to eat then we could finish. Our waitress was very tall and slim, but all around her waist she had a Batman utility belt. I bet she had 5 or 6 bulky electronic devices. I have no idea what she used them all for.
As we were going into the museum, a lady stopped us to ask where the entrance was. We weren’t sure either but found it and went back to let her know. She was American and her husband was in a wheelchair. We met them several more times in the museum and each time chatted a bit. On our walk back to the hotel we saw them again, sitting on a low wall for rest. Butch asked them where they were from, Iowa of course, Grinnell. The guy knew our friend John’s dad, Dale Hawn. Small world.
We stopped at a ticket shop and bought a three day tram and bus ticket. We wanted a four day one, but that ticket office didn’t have those. We rode the tram back to our hotel, the Hotel de Leydsche Hof. Since we arrived after dark, we really hadn’t got a good look at it. But now it was daylight and we could see it clearly.
We looked up a laundry and grocery store and went out again after a rest. Doing the laundry took us about an hour and a half but it had to be done. Doing laundry is the only wrinkle in Rick Steves’ approach to travel as far as I can see. It’s critical to keeping the weight of your bags down, however. I stepped next door to get change for the machines and in thankfulness for the money changing, went back for a beer while Karen minded the laundry and read her digital book. I chatted up the bartender who was 38 years old and had a 12-year-old daughter.
On our way home we stopped at a grocery store to buy beer, wine, bread, ham, cheese, butter, and Band-Aids and lugged the whole mess home. Up three flights, 57 steps, and we were done for. We had our little snack and called it a day.
September 10, Wednesday
We had breakfast at the hotel again and in addition to Mike and Sherwood, two German ladies had joined the group and also a foursome of 4 more Americans. At 10:00 we set off for our day, taking tram number 2. Our first stop was the Stedelijk Museum which was mostly modern art. I liked a lot of what I saw there. At one point I needed to sit down and take a load off my feet for a minute. There was a bench in the middle of the room that had quite a bit of overhang beyond the legs at each end. I sat down on the end. The bench was not bolted to the floor so as I sat down the other end came up off the floor. It took a heartbeat for me to realize what was happening, but I was able to stop myself from going down all the way. By this time the other end of the bench was about four feet off the floor. As I stood up again, the other end came crashing down. It hit the terrazzo floor and sounded just like a gunshot. The guards came running into the room, just about having heart attacks.
Next, the van Gogh Museum. It was very crowded and we were very glad to have our Museumcarts. No pictures were allowed.
Our guide books suggested that we might like to see some “brown cafes”. They are mostly old bars that have been around since the 1600’s where the centuries of smoking has turned the walls brown. Seeing them appealed to me and we took the tram in search of the Drie Fleschjes gin place. We walked right past it and then spent another hour looking for it. We finally found it after getting directions from a “walking tour” guide. We got there midafternoon but it didn’t open till 6:30. No joy.
We stopped at the Corner House Café and got a bacon and cheese pancake accompanied by the ever popular glass of beer.
We took tram 5 back to the Centraal Station and switched to tram 9 to the Waterlooplein fleamarket. It was pretty large, but we didn’t think it was all that special.
Just around the corner was the Rembrandt House. This is not an art museum. It is his own house decorated like when he lived there. It has three floors of steep spiral staircases to get to all the rooms. The top floor had a large collection of original etchings (original plates and prints made by his own hand).
After that we headed back to Centraal Station, took tram 9 to hell and gone and walked for two hours aimlessly looking for the Hoppe Café, another brown cafe, which we never found.
Finally a fellow directed us to Pieper’s Café which our landlord Fritz had recommended. It was just a block and a half from our hotel and as we discoverd later, just as nice as any brown cafe. We had a beer then limped home, up the 57 steps to our room. We’re not moving any more today. 12,731 steps on the Fit Bit!
September 11, Thursday
We left for the Anne Frank House at 8:30. We had to miss breakfast to leave that early. You are supposed to be able to get reservations and if you did you didn’t have to stand in line. But when we checked online to see how to do it they said all the reservations were used up for that week. We could, however, stand in line and still get in. We arrived at 8:50 to find a queue already there. We got in the museum by 9:30. Not bad! It was a very moving exhibit, well planned to move people through respectfully. We had a coffee and tarts in the café since we missed our coffee at breakfast. Karen visited the gift shop to get some of the presents we wanted to take back.
Another item on our agenda was a canal cruise. They run all the time and we could get one right by the Anne Frank House. It takes about an hour and there are three different routes.
We finally made it to the Café Hoppe. The waiter was named Jan. It’s one of the brown cafés and has a big picture on the wall and you can see part of it behind Jan in the picture below.
We had sandwiches. Butch, ham and cheese. Karen, smoked salmon, wasabi Mayo, and cucumber.
Our feet were killing us after the pounding we gave them yesterday and today too (yes, even Karen) so we sat on a bench in a square to people watch.
We did another grocery store run, then home for a rest.
Now that we knew where it was, we returned to De Drie Fleschjes. I tried their six-year-old Jenniver, with a tonic for a chaser. I just can’t drink distilled liquor straight. It tasted like single malt scotch which is how the bartender described it. I had another Jenniver that was flavored with cardamom before Karen cut me off.
September 12, Friday
This was my birthday. We had breakfast at the hotel and one of the American foursome asked me about the Anne Frank House, whether I thought he might find it too claustrophobic. I assured him he wouldn’t. We took the tram to Centraal Station and then the train to the Hague.
Our destination was the Mauritshuis Museum. It was newly reopened and is the home for The Girl with the Pearl Earring by Vermeer. There are many other paintings there too; Rubens, Van Dyke, Memling. Previous to the movie, they did not consider The Girl with the Pearl Earring to be a very important painting, at least not compared to some of their others. After seeing it, while it was nice enough, I just didn’t think it was in the same league as some of his other paintings. Both of us liked his landscape of the town of Delft much better.
We had lunch at Barlow’s Café. Butch, steak with tarragon mayo, Karen, openface sandwich with hummus, Parma ham, parmasan and lemon pepper garnish with greens and red pepper.
We got the train back to Amsterdam at 3:14 and arrived about 4 o’clock. We tried to take another Canal cruise on the red line to see stuff we didn’t see on the first cruise. We paid €22 each and got cheated because it was the last run and stopped at the Rijksmuseum instead of doing the full circuit. We got on the tram and went back to our hotel about 6:00pm.
We ate a feast from our remaining bread, cheese, ham, olives, grapes, and cherry tarts and packed up for leaving in the morning.