Monaco Grand Prix Cruise
Sunday May 22 to Wednesday May 25, 2011

Venice of the north

Our flight brought us into Amsterdam early in the morning of Sunday May 22. The customs and luggage retrieval was easy and quick enough, so once through to the arrivals hall we parted ways with Shaun & Nona - they were would be spending some time with friends who were living in Enshede, Netherlands near the border with Germany. They’d be returning to Amsterdam on Tuesday and we’d all be flying together to Nice on Wednesday. Our plan was to stay in Amsterdam in advance of the flight to Nice, so we set off to find the taxi stand while Shaun & Nona went to meet their friends. It was cool and rainy as we stood outside the terminal building at Schiphol Airport waiting for the next available taxi, but he taxi stand was well stocked this Sunday morning so there was virtually no wait to be on our way to our hotel and the start of our pre-cruise stay in Amsterdam.

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  • Sunday May 22, 2011

    Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and our first walking tour of Amsterdam

    Understandably, our room wasn’t ready at the Dikker & Thijs Fenice Hotel when we arrived not long after 7:00am. We were able to store in our luggage in a room just off the small reception area of the hotel and then we set off to find a spot to get a coffee. With the rainy weather we needed to plan out our day to do more of the “inside” activities we had in mind for Amsterdam.

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      Very close to the hotel we found a Starbucks so we ordered some cappuccinos and sat near the window at one of the tables. A few of the people inside Starbucks looked very much like they hadn’t slept yet after a rough Saturday night. The part of the city we could see looked equally as rough - crews were cleaning up the rather substantial amount of garbage that had been dumped in the street. We were thinking this area had likely been a street party scene the night before. As we enjoyed our coffee it really began to rain, but fortunately it stopped before we had finished our cappuccinos.

      It was still overcast when we left Starbucks, but we didn’t have to deal with the rain. Not at the moment, at least. We walked around the city a bit - partly to get our bearings and partly to take up some time until 9:00am when most of the venues opened.

      Our first destination was Rijksmuseum, but before heading to the entrance we took a look around Museumplein (Museum Square) - so named because four museums are located around it. In the centre of Museumplein sits a large shallow pond that becomes a skating rink in the winter months. Between the pond and Rijksmuseum is a large sign “I amsterdam” that has become an iconic motto for the city. “I amsterdam” started as a marketing campaign in 2004 and the sign with its letters each over 2 metres tall have likely become one of the most photographed sights in Amsterdam.

      Just before 9:00am we made our way to Rijksmuseum and we weren’t sure how long it would take to see the exhibits inside this massive building. From the outside we could see that the building was undergoing renovation/restoration and once inside we realized that only a relatively small portion of the building was open for viewing. We spent a very enjoyable hour and a half inside Rijksmuseum - and were truly impressed by the Rembrandts on display. One of his most famous paintings, De Nachtwacht (The Night Watch), was itself worth the price of admission. Truly spectacular. Rembrandt painted it in 1642 and the first thing to note it is size - a massive 3.63m x 4.37m (11ft 10in x 14ft 4in), but what stands out almost immediately thereafter was his use of lighting in the painting that certainly would have stood out in its day. It certainly stood out for us. We had previously not considered going to Rembrandthuis - the Rembrandt House Museum that was a combination of a former 17th century house of Rembrandt’s and a museum displaying some of both his work and his collected works of others. Having seen his collection in Rijksmuseum we reconsidered that position and figured that Rembrandthuis should be on our agenda.

      After finishing at Rijksmuseum we made our way to the Van Gogh Museum - another one of the four museums bordering Museumplein. By the time we reached the Van Gogh Museum there was a significant line up to get in. We had selected Rijksmuseum over the Van Gogh Museum as a starting point because the latter opened one hour later, but by 11:45am or so as we arrived there it was indeed a busy place. The wait in line was about 30 minutes and it was obvious that they were attempting to manage the flow of people in and out of the museum. If time allowed to see only one museum in Amsterdam, for us the choice would be easy - it would have to be the Van Gogh Museum. It has, not surprisingly, the largest collection of Van Gogh’s works - including over 200 of his paintings and over 500 of his drawings. The collection starts with some of his earliest works, which were very dark and not the style that one would recognize as being Van Gogh’s. There was also some work by Camille Pissarro and Georges Seurat showing the influence on Vincent’s art and his personal adaptation of pointillism. All quite fascinating. Of Van Gogh’s work that will leave lasting impressions on us are one of his series on “Sunflowers” on a yellow background, “Irises” on a yellow background and the striking piece that is generally consider to be his last - “Wheatfield with Crows”, painted in 1890 - the year in which he died. “Tree Roots”, the other piece possibly thought to be his last work by some scholars (on what one would consider skimpy evidence) is also in the museum. Also quite fascinating are the eight self portraits on display.

      After we had finished looking at the collection of Van Gogh’s art we made our way to one of the temporary exhibits on display at the museum - billed as “Picasso in Paris, 1900-1907”. It was very interesting, but the art didn’t look at all like Picasso to us. The work came from the 7 year period when Pablo Picasso was in Paris - starting at the age of 19. Clearly the art we associate with Picasso came much later in his life. Leaving the Van Gogh Museum we decided it was time to look for a place to have some lunch. At first we started looking around the museum area, but didn’t really find a spot we’d consider for lunch. We decided to return to the central square of Leidseplein, a place we had walked by earlier in the day and an area we knew was loaded with restaurants and cafes. We settled on Reynders (or Reijnders), a traditional Dutch café that looked like it served decent food based on what we could see as we strolled by it on our reconnoissance lap of Leidseplein. It was an enjoyable lunch and a nice rest from the morning walking around.

      By the time we had finished our lunch we decided to head back to the hotel to complete the check in and get into our room. As expected, the room was ready and we collected our luggage and made our way up in to our room. We were pleased at the sight of our room - it was larger than we were expecting and it had a small balcony with a good view. The balcony was pretty much standing room only, but it was nice to get an outdoor view. With mini tour of our room complete we unpacked then freshened up. With that we ventured back out into the city once again for more of our walking tour of Amsterdam.

      As we were walking around we realized we needed to keep going, for if we stopped we’d end up finding it difficult to get going once again. Even with sleeping well on the flight to Amsterdam it was no substitute for a good night’s sleep and with inactivity it would catch up with us. We soldiered on and made sure we reached some of the areas we had intended to see this day - including Dam Square and Amsterdam Centraal Station. On our route we found a very nice chocolate & patisserie shop called Pâtisserie Pompadour that we just knew would be a place to sample some treats while in Amsterdam. We also made our way past Bloemenmarkt, the floating flower market that has been in operation since 1862 and is the country’s best know spot for buying a bunch of trademark typical Dutch tulips or some other of the many flower varieties on offer.

      It was around Amsterdam Centraal Station that we saw the largest collection of bicycles on the planet. We’d seen plenty of bikes chained up all around the city, but near the train station it was taken to a whole new level - and level is an appropriate word, with multi-level bicycle parking lots around the train station. We joked/noted that it really took some effort to take a photograph in Amsterdam without a bicycle in it. On our way back to the hotel we took a route that would take us past Anne Frank House - our plan was to go there on Monday, so it was good to get our bearing. The layout of the city/canals/roads was such that it did take a little bit of time to get orientated correctly in Amsterdam. The approach we took to the hotel this time gave us the first clear look at the building as we neared it.

      The pitstop at the hotel was only long enough to get ready for dinner so that we didn’t stop to relax and end up just staying in the hotel room for the evening. On the way out of the hotel we asked the person at reception for restaurant recommendations that would give us some traditional Dutch fare. After a bit of a reconnaissance trip around the local restaurants we settled on De Blauwe Hollander - one of the recommended spots for a Dutch dinner. It was an enjoyable meal with both of our main dishes being served with the evening’s and season’s featured white Dutch asparagus. Dessert was particularly interesting - with us both selecting profitjes - small Dutch pancakes served with butter, icing sugar and ice cream. After dinner we strolled back to the hotel; we weren’t going to make this a late evening. Tomorrow would be another day - our travel from Canada and first day in Amsterdam had come to an end.

  • Monday May 23, 2011

    Anne Frank House, Bijbels Museum, Rembrandthuis and dinner at Bo Cinq

    Our second day in Amsterdam started with a reasonably early buffet breakfast in the restaurant at the hotel. Our goal was to be off to Anne Frank House at or near the opening time of 9:00am. The weather was certainly much sunnier than Sunday, but it was cool and windy as we made our way from the hotel to the now famous wartime museum.

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      Our chosen route probably wasn't the best - we had to contend with quite a bit of construction nearing our destination that at times blocked the way we had intended to go. Based on our limited experience, we’d say construction must be a significant problem in a city full of canals and narrow streets. By the time we reached Anne Frank House there was already a line up formed across the front of the building and across the first intersecting road. It appeared that the museum staff were slow this day in putting out the barriers to direct how the line should form, but shortly after we arrived they guided the mass of people to line up around the building in a way not to block access to the road. Our wait in line was about 30 minutes before we we arrived at the entrance to the museum, which is actually a building next to the original warehouse building in which the Jewish Frank family along with four other Jews attempted to hide from Nazi persecution during World War II.

      Anne Frank House and Museum is well laid out, and each visitor is basically guided first through the “facade” - the operating business established by Otto Frank initially to make and distribute ingredients required for jam production and then later the sale and distribution of spices. Once guided through the business, with the descriptions of how Otto Frank built his business and then used it with the help of others to try to save his family, we made our way to bookcase that was the used as a door - the door to achterhuis (known in english as the secret annex) of the building: the hiding place. The bookcase itself was a reconstruction, but passing through the short opening behind the bookcase was like going back in time. Out of reverence, everyone visiting this day stayed quiet - and if something was to be said to a companion, it was done it in whispered tones. It is hard to truly convey the experience of walking through the cramped and dark living space that Otto & Edith Frank shared with their daughters Margot & Anne as well as their friends Hermann & Auguste van Pels with their son Peter and, lastly, Fritz Pfeffer. Otto had four of his employees help them to hide from the Nazis from July 6, 1942 until the anonymous betrayal that led to their arrest on August 4, 1944. The men and women were separated and only Otto survived the Nazi concentration camps. Both Margot and Anne kept diaries in the two years in hiding, but only Anne’s survived - first published in 1947 under the name “Het Achterhuis”, which was later translated as “The Diary of a Young Girl”. The view of the first the red and white checkered autograph book that Anne received on her 13th birthday and that she used as her first diary is sobering. The imagery of a single book. Powerful. It comes near the end of the route through the museum. There is plenty you can read about the Franks online...but all we can really add is that there is no doubt at all that going to Anne Frank House is well and truly worth the visit. That, and the memory of the visit and their story is lasting. Before leaving the museum we took a look at the shop on the lower level. On that level, the Academy Award won by Shelly Winters for her portrayal of Petronella van Daan (the alias that Anne gave Auguste van Pels in her diary) in the 1959 film “The Diary of Anne Frank”. Nice gesture of hers to donate it to the museum.

      From the museum we took a canal walk along Keizersgracht, following the route and information in our trusty DK Eyewitness Travel guide book for Amsterdam. The day had turned out to be quite pleasant by this point - no need for a jacket anymore. It was a pleasant stroll with interesting information about some of the building that crammed either side of the canal. Next on agenda was to make a visit to Bijbels Museum located on the nearby Herengracht canal. The Bijbels Museum is located in two historic buildings (that date back to 1662) on the Herengracht canal and would be very easy to pass/miss with its minimalist signage. The staff inside the museum were some of the most friendly and helpful we had encountered anywhere. Very nice people. Interestingly, we were directed to start the tour of the museum at the top level and make our way down to the lowest level (one below the entrance level to get the best experience that the museum had to offer. The museum has many artifacts from ancient Egypt as well as other archaeological finds that all together show a picture of the spread of the Bible and illustrate some of the significant stories within it. The museum’s collection of Bibles alone is quite interesting including the first ever Bible printed in the Netherlands: the Deltse Bijbel, printed in 1477. On the highest floor is a massive 1/7th scale model of the Tabernacle. It was commissioned by the museum’s founder in the 19th century and was constructed using the materials specified in the Bible as much as possible - even getting the materials from the same location as the real Tabernacle. Other models on display are that of the Temple of Solomon (from 1725), the Temple Mount & Dome of the Rock (from 1879), 1st century Jerusalem (from 1880) and the Temple of Herod (from 1889). All of the models are of high quality with intricate detail. Obviously, these wood models are of a much smaller scale than the Tabernacle. Also on display were the buildings themselves - two historic properties known as the Cromhout houses. The ceilings alone were worth the visit with some elaborate plasterwork and an impressive painted ceiling that dates back to 1718. Equally impressive were the two kitchens - which must have been the envy of all in the 17th century. On the lowest level we found the first of two Aroma cabinets that had been placed in two small rooms at the back of the combined two houses extending out into the garden. From many alabaster jars located within the rooms it was possible to smell all manner of aromas - from the scents used in perfumes to the precious aromatics used in religious ceremonies. It was a fabulous experience to sample the aromas in the jars and was a terrific way to end our visit to this most unexpectedly great museum.

      Time was getting on, and we were quite hungry by this point so we set off in search of a place to get something to eat. We settled on Café Luxembourg, which turned out to be a great choice for a very nice late lunch. The food and service was good and the coffee was excellent. It was after that we found out after that the New York Times considers it “one of the world’s great cafés” - we were glad to have stumbled upon it.

      Following lunch we made our way to Rembrandthuis (Rembrandt House Museum). If you read our entry from Day One in Amsterdam you may recall that we had originally not considered visiting this museum, but the impact of Rembrandt’s art on us at Rijksmuseum caused us to change our mind. The house is where Rembrandt lived between 1639 until 1658. Can imagine that last couple of years in this house were not happy ones for him - in 1656 he was forced to declare bankruptcy and his household effects and art collection were auctioned off and sold. The house met the same fate in 1658. Rembrandt bought this house the same year that he was commissioned to paint his famous “De Nachtwacht” (The Night Watch). The museum today has been restored to reflect the time when Rembrandt lived and enjoyed life as both an artist and avid collector of other’s art. The inventory of the house at the time of bankruptcy proved to be an excellent guide on the reacquisition and restoration of his home and property for us to see today. The restoration of Rembrandt’s studio, the largest room in the house, was terrific. Very cool to stand and imagine the scene of Rembrandt at his easel positioned to provide the best possible light in the room. An element of Rembrandt’s art that we were unaware of until this day was his copperplate etchings. While touring the house we watched a 17th century style etching demonstration in what was Rembrandt’s graphic workshop. The demonstration was fascinating as was the information about Rembrandt’s love of the medium - both as a collector and artist. In another area of the museum later we got to see a fabulous collection of etchings of Rembrandt’s together with that of Lucas van Leyden (1494-1533) - whose etchings greatly influenced Rembrandt. At the height of Rembrandt’s collecting days, van Leyden was well represented in his collection. At the end of the tour, we were very glad we had made the change to add this to our tour of Amsterdam and what it had to offer.

      Leaving Rembrandthuis, we made our way to Oude Kerk (Old Church) - Amsterdam’s oldest parish church, with its construction starting in 1250 and consecration taking place in 1306. The church has a beautiful wooden roof and it would be impossible to walk around the church without stepping on a grave - the entire floor of the church is made of gravestones. The church, it turns out, was built on the site of a cemetery. With approximately 2500 gravestones on the floor of the church it is reported that around 10,000 people were buried below. During the time of our visit there was a World Press Photo Exhibition - with a great many fabulous photographs on display. Oude Kerk is situation on the edge of the Red Light District, so as we left the church we walked though a portion of the district to see the seedy side of the city right next to its oldest church. Our route from the Red Light District took us back past Dam Square, this time without the market that we had seen in the square on Sunday. We approached the square from the east where a National Monument stands - a white stone pillar erected in remembrance of those who died during World War II. Many people were lounging on the shallow steps that surround the monument and it was interesting for us to watch two police officers walking around the monument - stoping anyone from laying down on the stairs. Anyone even resting back on their elbows were asked to sit up. At the opposite west end of the square stands the Royal Palace, one of three residences that can be used by the Queen regnant of the Kingdom of the Netherlands - Queen Beatrix. Our meandering route happened to take us past Patisserie Pompadour, so we had to stop to purchase some chocolates to take back to the hotel. We also checked out a few shops in the area with Gary finding a pair of Paul Smith cufflinks and Linda finding a Delft beaded bracelet to purchase. With chocolates and booty in hand we made our way back to the hotel to refresh and relax a bit before dinner. In the room we made some coffee to go with our recently purchased chocolates and it was great to sit down and relax as we enjoyed them.

      Later we set off to find a spot to enjoy dinner. We walked around until we saw one spot that really appealed to us - Bo Cinq. The place looked very nice, so we weren’t sure we’d get in without a reservation - but happily we were able to get a nice table. A lot of there business, at least on this evening, must have been walk in because shortly after we arrived it was very busy. We had timed our arrival well. The whole evening was excellent - the food, presentation, service, ambiance. Having had a good night’s sleep the night before, we weren’t in any rush to get back to our hotel this evening, so we had a wonderful relaxed time at Bo Cinq.

      When we did make it back into our room we took the opportunity to take some night shots from the balcony on this clear night and we also turned on the television to catch up on the day’s news. It was then we heard of the breaking news of another volcanic ash cloud threatening Europe. This time it was the Grímsvötn volcano in Iceland that had started to erupt on May 21, 2011 and as of today was causing issues with flights. Denmark had closed its airspace in the northern part of the country and KLM had already announced the cancellation of 16 flights to and from UK destinations. The projections on the movement of the ash cloud were not promising and we felt as if our flight out of Amsterdam to Nice on Wednesday was in jeopardy. On the bright side, it was acknowledged that this ash cloud was quite different from the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruption that devastated air travel in April of 2010 and also that much had been learned from that experience including better means of detecting ash levels that would be dangerous for airplanes. Watching the loop of analyses on the matter wasn’t comforting, though, so it was better to switch off the television and hope that tomorrow would bring better news. It didn’t dampen what had been a great and full day in Amsterdam.

  • Tuesday May 24, 2011

    Meeting up with Shaun & Nona, Canal tour and dinner at Stoop & Stoop

    As the day broke we turned on the television to see the progress of the ash cloud from Iceland’s Grímsvötn volcano. Grim news, as it were. More and more flights were being cancelled and at this point Airports in Scotland and northern England had been shut down and, closer to us, Germany was expecting to have some airport closures in the north of the country. There was, though, an understanding that the ash cloud was moving and dissipating much quicker than originally anticipated, so there was reason for optimism for our Wednesday travel. Time to set that news aside and get on with enjoying Amsterdam for the morning.

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      Our friends Shaun & Nona were due to be in Amsterdam before noon and would also be staying at the Dikker & Thijs Fenice Hotel so we planned to be back at the hotel by the end of the morning to meet up with them. We started with the buffet breakfast at the hotel and found the food selection and quality better than the previous day. After a quick post-breakfast refresh we set off for more of the DK directed canal tour - intending to head in the direction of the River Amstel. The day was sunny with a few clouds but was windy and cooler than Monday. The walking tour was nice, especially when we stayed in the sun.

      When we reached the River Amstel we could see Amsterdam’s most famous bridge - Magere Brug (Skinny Bridge), which at its centre is a wooden bascule bridge. The current version of the bridge dates back to 1934, but the first ever version of the bridge was constructed in 1691. Since 2003 the bridge has been limited to pedestrian and cycle traffic. We used Magere Brug to cross the Amstel to continue our walking tour. From there we made our way to the ornately decorated Blauwbrug (Blue Bridge). The name of the bridge comes from the original blue wooden bridge built in the same location around 1600 - but this stone bridge, that dates back to 1883, only has a dash of blue here and there on some of the lanterns on the bridge. We crossed back over the Amstel on Blauwbrug in search of a new route to take us back to the area of our hotel. On the way we passed by Munttoren (Mint Tower) - which was part of one of Amsterdam’s main gates in its days as a medieval walled city. The gate, which consisted of two such towers and guard house was built between 1480 and 1487. The gate was destroyed by fire in 1618, with only the guard house and the western tower remaining. The top portion of the tower was rebuilt between 1619 and 1620 and a carillon was added in 1668. The most visible date on the tower is that of 1620. Interestingly, the name of the tower comes from the year 1672, a time when the guard tower was used to mint coins because both England and France had declared war on the Dutch Republic and the normal minting facilities in the country couldn’t be used because it wasn’t possible to transport the gold and silver to those locations.

      From Munttoren we wandered past the floating flower market Bloemenmarkt and then back to the hotel. It was a bit before noon when we reached the hotel and we found out that Shaun & Nona hadn’t checked in yet, so we decided to head up to our room first to do the online check in for our flight tomorrow to Nice (with optimism reigning supreme that there would indeed be a flight) and then went to the nearby Starbucks for some cappuccinos while we waited for our friends.

      By the time we had finished our coffees and returned to the hotel we found out that Shaun & Nona had indeed arrived and were settling in to the one and only penthouse in the hotel. We took the elevator up to our floor (the highest floor that the elevator would go) and from there it was a small staircase up to the penthouse. The penthouse was nice - completely within the confines of the building’s roof, so very sloped outer walls with a lot of windows. We caught up a bit on what we had each been doing over the past couple of days and then made our way out to experience a bit more of Amsterdam - this time for four.

      We had previously discussed that all four of us wanted to do a canal tour of Amsterdam, so we had held off doing one until Shaun & Nona were with us. We had looked up a few of the possible tours and decided on one that got good reviews. To make sure we got what we wanted, we made our way to the Boathouse tour office and booked a tour for 2:45pm. With that, we set off to find a place to get some lunch. The unfortunate thing was that the area of the boat tours wasn’t flush with places to eat, but we did settle on a place called The Pancake Bakery to grab a bite before heading back to where we’d need to be to get on the tour boat.

      We really needn't have worried about booking the tour, for besides the four of us there were only two other people on the tour that left at 2:45pm. It was a pleasant enough tour through the canals and harbour, but it really wasn’t much of a “guided” tour - with very little commentary from the driver/guide. That could have been done better. What was good about the canal tour was getting a different perspective on some of the canals and sights that we had seen over the previous couple of days plus a few things we hadn’t seen before. The route took us beside Amsterdam Centraal Station on the way out to the harbour so we got a close up view of the multi-level bicycle parking lot as well as the overflow of bicycles around it. One piece of information that our guide did share was that the provision was made for 3000 bicycles but the current daily estimate of bicycles at the train station was over 5000. As we looked at them, we wondered how some would ever get their bikes out - it looked like a jumbled mess.

      Following the canal tour we wandered for a bit and then made a stop at Patisserie Pompadour for afternoon dessert and coffee. The desserts were delicious. From Patisserie Pompadour we made our way to Museumplein (Museum Square) where Shaun & Nona figured there might just be time for a whirlwind look in the Van Gogh Museum. It would truly be whirlwind with it being about 5:30pm at this point and the museum closed as 6:00pm. We decided not to join them, opting rather to relax in Museumplein.

      The late afternoon was very pleasant and sitting around the large shallow pond was enjoyable. We reflected that with the experience of the museums we had seen so far in Amsterdam, if we could have only visited one it would have been the Van Gogh Museum. As it got close to 6:00pm we walked over to the museum to meet back up with Shaun & Nona. The one good thing about their late in the day visit was they didn’t have to contend with much of a crowd as they did their speed appreciation of Vincent van Gogh’s art.

      It was then time to head back to the hotel to freshen up some before dinner and check up on the volcanic ash situation. With the computer that we had with us it would also give Shaun & Nona and opportunity to do the online check in to our flight tomorrow...assuming that the aforementioned volcanic ash news was positive. We congregated in our room and the news on the television was at least positive for where we were located and intending to travel - it appeared the movement of the ash cloud was going to spare Amsterdam and with our flight venturing further south we were feeling quite confident that we’d be flying to Nice in the morning. Two vents within the volcano were still active, but the prevailing view on the news was that the activity was subsiding. With that, Nona did the online check in and we were all set - barring a change in wind pattern or another large eruption from Grímsvötn. Once we were all ready we set off in search of a place for dinner and after a bit of a tour of the places close to hotel we agreed on a lively spot called “Stoop & Stoop”. Always good to spot a place that is busy and appears to be frequented by locals as well as tourists. It was a casual dinner spot, but the atmosphere was good - an unpretentious place to enjoy some simple and good Dutch food. Dinner was enjoyable and with an early start tomorrow we weren’t planning to make it a late night, so we strolled back to the hotel after leaving the bustling Stoop & Stoop. Before heading up to our rooms we asked the concierge at the hotel to book us a taxi for the morning and with that we retired for the night. Before sleep, though, was the required photo back-up plus a bit of organizing of luggage to make our early morning run smoother. Our final full day in Amsterdam was officially coming to a close.

  • Wednesday May 25, 2011

    Wednesday May 25: Heading to Nice

    Our final morning in Amsterdam started very early with one more check of the news to see what was happening with the ash cloud from the Grímsvötn volcano. At the same time we also went online to find out the situation with KLM flights out of Amsterdam. The good news from our perspective was that our flight was expected to depart on schedule to Nice. Phew.

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      The ash cloud was still causing problems in northern Germany, with two of its Airports now closed. On the positive side, it was thought that the volcano had “paused” early this morning so there was general optimism. With hindsight we know that this was actually the end of the eruptions and while northern European airspace was still affected through the day, by May 26 no airspace was closed due to the Grímsvötn volcanic ash.

      But enough looking ahead . . .
      Maybe, though, time to look back at our overall thoughts of Amsterdam before we leave for Nice

      Firstly we’d say that Amsterdam is a pretty city in the sunlight, but it takes on a rather grubby appearance in not so sunny conditions. Also, like a lot of other European cities, there is garbage everywhere - what’s up with that? We found that most people in the city spoke English very well, so it was easy to communicate and it appeared that almost everyone but the babies smoked...maybe the babies did, too? The number of bicycles in the city is staggering, and we found it really is possible to look good on a bike in a business suit!

      Having said all that - we really did enjoy our time in Amsterdam and will have some lasting and fond memories of the things we did in this city.

      Okay . . . so back to the day at hand. We had a taxi booked for 6:30am, so we needed to get our act together and get checked out of the hotel. Things went smoothly and the taxi arrived outside the hotel pretty much as soon as we had finished checking out. It was an efficient trip to Schiphol Airport, quicker than our trip into the city upon arrival into Amsterdam. Once checked in for our flight we set off in search for a place to get some breakfast. What we settled on was breakfast at Café Chocolat - that served a lovely breakfast plate of croissant, jam, fruit and chocolates with a very nice cup of coffee. Was a good choice and a busy spot in the airport.

      Our flight was indeed on schedule, so we needed to make the long walk down to the outer reaches of Schipol Airport. Ever wonder where you have to fly to get to board at one of those nicely located central gates? Apparently not where we usually go; we always seem to get the gate at or near the very end of the building. We'd have to say, though, that the Dutch are at near German efficiency when it comes to airport operation - the boarding process was on time, quick and easy and with that we were settled in for was would be less than a two hour flight to Aéroport Nice Côte d'Azur.

      Okay . . . so back to the day at hand

      We had a taxi booked for 6:30am, so we needed to get our act together and get checked out of the hotel. Things went smoothly and the taxi arrived outside the hotel pretty much as soon as we had finished checking out. It was an efficient trip to Schiphol Airport, quicker than our trip into the city upon arrival into Amsterdam. Once checked in for our flight we set off in search for a place to get some breakfast. What we settled on was breakfast at Café Chocolat - that served a lovely breakfast plate of croissant, jam, fruit and chocolates with a very nice cup of coffee. Was a good choice and a busy spot in the airport.

      Our flight was indeed on schedule, so we needed to make the long walk down to the outer reaches of Schipol Airport. Ever wonder where you have to fly to get to board at one of those nicely located central gates? Apparently not where we usually go; we always seem to get the gate at or near the very end of the building. We'd have to say, though, that the Dutch are at near German efficiency when it comes to airport operation - the boarding process was on time, quick and easy and with that we were settled in for was would be less than a two hour flight to Aéroport Nice Côte d'Azur.

Amsterdam Image Gallery

View from the balcony of our hotel room
Floating band on the Prinsengracht canal
Amsterdam Centraal Station
Houseboats - not so cheap in 2011 with some costing as much as €300,000
Early evening view from our hotel balcony
The tower of Westerkerk (opened in 1631)
Tranquil Amsterdam canal scene
Canal intersection
Lots of uneven buildings . . . sinking & settling like Venice
Looking towards the clock tower of Zuiderkerk (Southern Church)
The Royal Palace at Dam Square
Night view along the Prinsengracht canal from our hotel balcony
Magere Brug (Skinny Bridge) on the river Amstel 
Boats along the River Amstel
Three different gables together - neck, triangular & bell
Tranquil Amsterdam canal scene
I amsterdam - the motto for the city & the sign in front of the Rijksmuseum
Sunrise view of Amsterdam from our balcony
About WHITEonline

WHITEonline is the digital home of Gary & Linda White. We’ve been married since 1980 and live just outside Toronto in Ontario, Canada. Linda was born and raised in Toronto while Gary was born in London, England and moved to Canada at the age of 11. We enjoy travelling and taking photos while we travel. WHITEonline provides the opportunity to share some of our photos & experiences.

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