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Netherlands Adventure 2016-2017

On December 6, 2016, off we flew from JAX for our much anticipated Netherlands adventure! We stayed for five weeks and had a marvelous trip! We did carry on only with two RS convertible bags and two personal bags in which we stuffed our crossbody purses when boarding. There and back were through ATL. We had fabulous flights over, long walk to passport control at Schiphol which wore hubby out, but then we were through! As soon as we landed at AMS I bought two anonymous chipkaarts and loaded them each with 150 E. This was a great idea as we never had to stand in any more lines to buy train or tram tickets while we were there, until we cashed out before leaving. We hopped a train into Amsterdam and walked to our apartment.

We had considered moving with our bags around the country but after analyzing train prices and times we discovered that everywhere we wanted to go was not more than an hour or so away, so we rented an apartment on the Herengracht canal for the five weeks. It was a wonderful location; fifteen minute walk to the train station, seven to ten to the grocery, five minutes to Grey Area or Rockland coffeeshops. We only took the tram to Westergasfabriek for the funky Christmas market and on the next to last day riding tram 2. Everywhere else in town was walkable. Our chipkaarts were frequently checked on the trains as we traveled to different cities. Sometimes twice in one ride by different inspectors.

The canals were decorated for Christmas with lights and special lighted exhibits and we could see the woven rope exhibit from our apartment. Several canoes decorated with spinning wheel Christmas lights and the pounding of drums for cadence came roaring by our apartment second night there. I caught it on video and it is marvelous to see. Too bad one is not able to share these things on the forum without making a special web page. All of my stuff is on fb.

The temperatures ranged from the mid forties to low twenties with wind chill. Wind was the worst. And it snowed!!!!!! We were so excited! My most important pieces of clothing were my cap, gloves, scarf, boots, and thermals. I took both fleece and thermaskins. Sometimes I wore one or the other, sometimes I wore it all.

I got sick at one point and went to the pharmacy where I was questioned as to symptoms and severity of illness to see if a doctor visit was in order. It was not, and I was prescribed some meds (25E) and told to drink as much water as I could bear. I was feeling much better and able to return to exploring two days later.

Where did we travel while there?
The day after landing we were off on ThatDamGuide countryside tour! Rory drove us around the water land area where we enjoyed apple pie and hot chocolate, walking Monnickendam, visiting a Beemster cheese dairy farm visit with tour by the owner, a cheese tasting and wine, and windmill tour at a working windmill making paper from clothes scraps.

Zwolle- visited with friends for two days. Lovely luncheon of homemade mustard soup, bacon, and fried bread crisps, followed by a walking tour around town, and a personal/gratis Janever tasting by a liquor store owner who then sent us off with a gift bag of four small bottles to enjoy. We also enjoyed a personal whisky tasting by our hosts where we discovered I am an Irish whiskey girl and hubby likes the Scotch whiskey. They sent us back with two bottles of our favorites to enjoy while in Amsterdam. The next day they drove us to Arnhem.

Arnhem to the Openluchtmuseum – the buildings were all open and craftsmen were plying their trade – wonderful, as only two things had been open when there on our RS tour. Skating rink open and lots of children and adults enjoying themselves. Our introduction to botercake and poffertjes. We spent the whole day there and loved every moment.

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Haarlem (twice) Grote Markt, Frans Hals, Teylers, St. Bavo advent service and carols, Bij Babette’s.

Leiden – Pilgrim museum which was wonderful (lasted about two hours), Floating Christmas market. Stopped by the tourist office and got a tourist map. Very easy city to navigate and a really lovely place. We wanted to go back and do more but ran out of time. I did get grossed out at the Christmas market. We had stopped to eye a stall of chocolate coated marshmallows and the woman was eating what looked to be a delicious soup- Thai chicken soup from across the way. We went and were offered a sample before buying. Thank God. While I was sipping my sample a huge chicken foot came rising to the surface of the pot. I threw up in my mouth a little at that and no, we didn’t buy any soup! The rest of the market was great and we marveled at a little area with calliope and swings for the children. So festive!

Den Haag – Ridderzaal and Binnenhof, Mauritshuis, Royal Christmas Fair. It was cold that day and I had no bottom thermals as someone on the canal cruise the night before had spilled sticky gluhwein all down the back of my legs and boots. We chose to see as much as we could and when we couldn’t stand it anymore we hit it for warmth. I found the city difficult to navigate. There was road construction and no street names on the corners of buildings and I had grown very used to that. The only thing that saved us was getting ourselves oriented and then using the tourist map from the train station. We had a MARVELOUS thirty minute conversation with an old man who saw us looking at our map. He wanted to help us but we knew where we were at that point. He was a retired history professor, me a retired science educator, hubby a retired English educator. A match made in heaven for him. We talked a good while about all kinds of things. I think he was lonely and we were not in a hurry and thoroughly enjoyed the interaction.

Volendam - (with RS 2015 tour bus driver and wife) On what seemed to us THE coldest day of our trip. The rocks by the lake were coated with sheets of ice. Our faces were frozen. Poffertjes made me feel better. Gluhwein too. Not many tourists which made it easy to park and navigate. Beautiful village, mostly restaurants and souvenir shops along the waterfront though.

Delft – Museum Het Prinsenhof and moving exhibition of one of the kinetic “Beasts”, by Theo Jansen – truly a marvel. Beautiful city for walking around town with great shopping districts for looking.
We could have spent more time in museums but chose to enjoy walking around and investigating the cities instead. We did the top things we wanted to do so we were happy with that.

In Amsterdam:
Noordermarkt every Saturday
Funky Christmas Market – lovely, and my first taste of gluhwein. Rookworst sausage on baked bread with fresh sauerkraut and spicy mustard, Roasted pork on fried bread. More gluhwein.
Jewish Historical Museum
Rijksmuseum (3 times)
Stedelijk (Jean Tinguely machines exhibit)
Albert Cuyp Markt (chocolate stroopwafels!!!!!)
Van Gogh Museum (nice break from the Dutch Masters)
Light festival Canal Cruise with Thosedamboatguys
Museumplein Christmas Market and ice skating rink
St. Nicholas (patron saint of Amsterdam) Basilica
Willet-Holthuysen Canal House
Museum of Bags and Purses – awesome!
Dam Square for Fireworks on New Year’s Eve – crazy, thrilling, and we loved it! Screaming, crowds running, fireworks exploding nearby, total madness to even be there, but I have always been a thrill seeker.
CromHout Huis Canal House and Bibel Museum
Lindengracht Markt
Royal Paleis – fabulous!
Waterlooplein (mostly souvenirs - meh)
WWII and Holocaust Walking tour with Peter Schaapman of – excellent!
Amsterdam History Museum
Marilyn Monroe Exhibit at Nieuwkerk– yes, I saw THE dress! Minus the fan.
Museum Van Loon
Allard Pierson Museum of Egyptian Antiquities - fantastic!

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Other thoughts coming to mind:
It snowed Jan. 6 at midnight and hubby and I walked down to Dam Square and made a short video. At 1:00 a.m. we were having a snowball fight on the way back to the apartment.

Some days we just walked around Amsterdam and explored the city. And drank gluhwein. Yes, lots of gluhwein!

We did a lot of eating at markets or cooked in the apartment but we did eat a few meals worth mentioning that I will list in the food and drink thread.

We both love sweets and ate poffertjes as often as we found them. Pastry, olliebollen, botercake… we will be missing them! I lost four pounds on the trip. Hubby found them.

On the next to last day we did the RS recommended Tram 2 ride to the end. We traveled through the area we had walked many times on the way to Museumplein and then on out into the residential area. Not much to see there, just housing. On return to Centraal we cashed out our chipkaarts having a balance of about eighteen euros on them. They give you back the empty chipkaart so it can be reloaded later – nice. Then I used the machine to buy two disposable train tickets to Schiphol for the next day. It was super easy to use the machine! Two one way tickets were 10.40 in coins. Then we walked across to the Tourist office and down the stairs to Loetje, where we enjoyed good departure celebration wine, starters, and steaks, mine with the spicy Bali sauce and hubby’s with chicken livers and what looked to be a pound of bacon atop.

We were up at 4:00 a.m. on January 11, 2017, and were on our train to Schiphol by 6:30ish. We each sat in an aisle seat and put our bags by the window, keeping our personal bags looped on our shoulders. A very squirrely acting man got onto the train and began walking back and forth past us, back and forth. Our train had a couple of stops before the airport. Just as the train was ready to leave the Lelylaan stop he began pressing “door open”, but it wouldn’t as the train was ready to go. He began running up and down the aisle like a rat in a trap. He was. The ticket inspector had entered the car behind us and was making his way forward. When he got up to this guy he just pulled out his book and began writing a fine.

The exit at Schiphol security was pretty darn bad. I am mentioning it to impress the importance of arriving there early. Our backpacks and two personal items went down the “check me further” chute. Damn. Everything was opened and gone through. My backpack was completely emptied and all souvenirs unwrapped from store bags. Clothes were x-rayed twice. I was told they wanted to see in person the bottle opener they could see on x-ray? The one they didn’t pull out to begin with? Not hardly. Not sure what they were looking for but they didn’t find it. They gave it a helluva try though. Everything had to be repacked and now other people’s items were intruding into mine. I finally got everything back in but it was no longer the flat, neat, and easy to slide into the overhead bin that it had been. Overdoing their jobs a bit there.

Our flight was late leaving and landed thirty minutes late at ATL. I made sure my data was turned back on and tried multiple times to check in with mobile passport but it would not work. Unfortunately, neither do most of the employees in passport control. Most of them should be fired, fired, fired! After some mishaps with the kiosk, wrong direction by the one worker wandering the area, and words with another worker about doing her job, we were through and running to catch our last leg. Not doing their jobs there and that irritates me more than overdoing.

Our last flight to Jax was uneventful and improved by several cocktails en route. By that point in the day I had been through enough stress and it was drink or cry. I chose to drink and was quite cheerful by the time we landed in Jax so all ended well.

All in all, a simply fabulous journey and we would definitely do a winter trip again!

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Thanks Nance...will be in NL in April - we'll be staying near the Albert Cuypmarkt, so I'll def look out for those chocolate stroopwafels! Sounds like a blast - I'll be taking notes!

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Love your travel report, thank you for sharing!!

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Good to read you enjoyed yourself, but I must strongly object to the chocolate stroopwafels, that is to the chocolate part of it. Some ill-judged modern invention.

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Oh no TonfromLeiden, anything is better with chocolate! We did try both caramel and caramel with chocolate. I think hubby preferred the caramel only and me the chocolate.

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At our Farmer's Market we used to have a Dutch lady who made stroopwafels fresh - they were so good, but she hasn't been at the mkt for years. She also has these delicious cookies that had a lemony (subtle, but there) flavor in the filling - hoping I can find something similar.

Since we are only a few blocks from the Albert mkt, I'll probably have some everyday!

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Ahhhh, Amsterdam! Thank you for sharing! What a luxury to have 5 whole weeks and staying in one location! The more we travel the more we like to spend longer amounts of time at each stop. It was great to read about it during winter! :0) The gluhwein sounds so wonderful!!!