Flight from Stansted to Amsterdam
We decided to take a short break from all things British and head to Amsterdam for three nights. Amsterdam has been on my list of places to see for quite some time and with flights from the U.K. being relatively cheap, we hopped on an EasyJet flight from Stansted Airport (just North East of London) and fly to Amsterdam, less than an hour away. Like every single airport in the world, Stansted is under construction. Once through security, we had a couple of hours to pass before our flight. We grabbed lunch a decent burger and pizza and waited for our flight. Which was delayed by 30 minutes or so.
We grabbed a cab at the airport to our home for the next three nights, a houseboat on one of the canals in Amsterdam. It was a fairly short ride from the airport to our houseboat. The owner that I arranged the rental through (on AirBnB) wasn’t around but his friend Dinja was there to greet us and provide information.She was very friendly and got us settled.
I don’t have anything booked/organized for our stay in Amsterdam. I had read a few resources about things to do. Our first small challenge would be navigating in Amsterdam without a data plan. We have excellent WIFI on the boat, but our UK Vodafone pay as you go package doesn’t work in the Netherlands. There might have been an option to pay a bit more to allow our phones to work here, but for three days I figured we could manage just fine. (Savages I know). I did track down maps.me, a great map application that has very detailed maps to download onto the phones and still uses the phones GPS for navigating without the need for cell data. It was a lifesaver, providing excellent directions for our three days. That solved, we headed out into a grey but rain free morning. We had downloaded an audio walking tour from Rick Steves and made our way from our houseboat to Amsterdam Central, the main railway station. Last night, I did a bit of research and found a tour company that has a hop on/hop off boat servuce that runs through the canals. That sounded like a quintessentially Amsterdam way to travel so before starting our tour, we bought the two day canal boat tickets. We started our tour and made our way through the old city of Amsterdam. It started raining along the way and kept raining for most of the day. The tour was good, pointing out many of the interesting sites in the old part of Amsterdam. We ended our tour in the Flower Market, a long street filled with vendors selling all sorts of flowers, bulbs and gardening knick knack. It was very busy, but the number and different types of flowers on display was very impressive. We stopped at pancake restaurant for lunch. Pancakes, waffles and fries are very Dutch and any place that like breakfast type foods for snacks is ok in Deanna’s books.
After lunch, we made our way to one of the canal bus stops and waited for the next boat. One of the nice things about this particular boat company was that they provided free wifi at their stops which we used while waiting. Once on board we did the loop for the red line, a route that took us through some very scenic portions of Amsterdam. With a recorded guide (in English, Dutch, German and Spanish), pointing out the sites along the way, it was a good orientation for us. It also kept us out of the rain which was coming down pretty good. We stayed on board for two hours, getting off at the [Anne Frank house](“http://www.annefrank.org/") stop, the closest one to our houseboat. We walked back through the Jordan district to our houseboat getting quite soaked in the process. Someone left an umbrella on the boat which we acquired that helped a bit, but by the end of our day we were pretty soaked through and happy to see the houseboat where we could dry off and take a bit of a break.
One of the nice aspects of staying at a B&B or in this case at a place that is owned by locals, is the information about the places to eat or visit that would be hard for a tourist to find. Just 90m from our houseboat was one of the recommended places to eat Rooster. We donned our rain gear and made our way down to the restaurant. The menu was in Dutch, but the waiter walked us through it in English. A quick side note about the Dutch. Everyone we’ve met is so very pleasant and speaks perfect English. That was something we heard time and time again in England whenever we mentioned our quick stop in Amsterdam was a) you’ll love it and b) the Dutch people are so nice and friendly. That was our experience as well.
I opted for Steak tartare something I’ve always wanted to try but haven’t had the chance and Deanna had a veggie burger. It was one of the best meals we’ve had on the trip. We finished with a piece of Apple pie with both whipping cream and Ice cream, that was excellent.
The rain stopped (finally) while we were eating dinner so we took an easy stroll up the block to a small grocery store. Its always interesting looking at different things that are popular at places we travel that we cant get, or could only get at specialty stores. We picked up some juice and chocolate, staples for keeping our energy up ;-)and headed back to the boat to watch some Netflix before calling it a night.
We awoke to a sunny day on Friday and prepared for a museum day. The plan today is to visit the Rijksmuseum and Anne Frank House.We purchased some discount tickets from our host for the Rijksmuseam. We walked to Anne Frank House, and decided to visit the Rijksmuseam first after seeing the line to Anne Franks house being well over 90 minutes long. We hopped on the next boat to take us to the museum and spent a couple of hours wandering around this beautiful museum. It has been fairly recently restored after being closed for 10 years. It has a huge collection of paintings from the Dutch masters including night watchmen from Rembrandt as well as paintings from Van Gogh and many others. It has huge collections and a person could spend many days wandering about reading and listening to the various exhibits.
We headed out, looking for breakfast and after a quick photo stop at the I am Amsterdam display, we found a stall selling Stroopwafels. Waffles with chocolate or nutella is a good thing.
From the park behind the museum we walked through some very picturesque streets to the Albert Cuyp Market. Its a permanent street market that has over 250 stalls selling everything from fresh fruit and vegetables, to washing machines, clothes, meat, fish, cheese and everything in between. Deanna found some more door knobs that will join the collection she found in the Cotswolds.
We made our way to Anne Frank House and joined a somewhat shorter, but sill 60 ish minute long wait to visit this important exhibit. The story of Anne is told through pictures and artifacts in the actual house where her and seven other Jewish people tried to evade the Nazi terror that was occupying Europe in early WW2. Its a very sobering display as seen through Annes 13 year old eyes. Its worth the time and expense to see. Its important to remember,
Next up,the Amsterdam Cheese Museum. We just stopped to eat cheese actually. Its very tasty and was a nice way to end our touring day. We walked back towards the houseboat and decided that a big dinner wasn’t needed so we opted for some tasty Dutch fries. I had mine with mayonnaise, a typical Dutch condiment and Deanna had hers with satay sauce. They’re really excellent, these Dutch do know how to make a great tasting fry. The spot where we stopped was in our very un-touristy neighborhood. It was very busy with locals getting a Friday treat.
Our last day in Amsterdam. Our flight to London isn’t until 7:00 pm tonight so we have a bit of time before we needed to head to the airport. We decided to walk back into the old city and do another audio walking tour, this time through the Jordaan district, one that we’ve become somewhat familiar with as we walk through it to get to the sites. Its a really beautiful area full of typical Amsterdam houses, interesting shops and people going about their lives. It feels much different than the typical tourist areas, which are interesting, but there is only so many souvenir shops, tour groups and selfie sticks a person can stomach. its nice to be out of that noise and commotion and just feel part of the work-a-day area of the city. We feel very lucky to be able to walk through this part of the city to and from our houseboat. Had we stayed in the main tourist area of the city, its possible we would have missed this entirely. Im glad we didn’t. Walking a couple of extra kilometers each day to stay where we did was great and I would highly recommend it if you get a chance to visit Amsterdam.
Our short visit comes to a close and we head back to the airport for our flight back to the U.K. My good friend Andrew has graciously offered to pick us up at the airport and drive us to Petersfield where well spend the day tomorrow hanging out with him and his family. Its a part of the trip Ive been looking forward to, possibly the most. It will be great fun spending the day and seeing a bit of Andrews area.