So, day two of my European vacation arrives and it’s off to Amsterdam! Julie and I had purchased a Eurail pass which is a great idea if you ever travel to Europe and want to visit more than one country. There are many different options you can select from, that take you to many different countries. We chose the Benelux package (Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg) But it didn’t only take us there. We were also free to roam Germany and France as well. We had planned to explore many places, but once we got a “whiff” of Amsterdam, we almost became residents.
We left on a train from London to our destination Amsterdam. England is an island, so the only way to get to the other European countries by train is..under water. Yikes! I’m not a big fan of riding on a train at high speeds under water. As we cruised through the English channel, or “Chunnel” there was no scenery. No, we didn’t see fish, sharks, or stingrays. Just walls, that felt like they were closing in on me. The train was shaky and fast, which I didn’t mind because honestly the faster the better, just get me the hell out of there! After about 35 minutes, we end up somewhere in the countryside of France, and hop on another train Belgium and then to Amsterdam. You may think it very difficult to navigate in foreign countries with different languages, but most countries have things written in English, and the train systems are fairly simple to navigate.
We arrived at Centraal Station in Amsterdam, and seriously it was like night of the living dead. If you think there is a homeless problem in America, go to Amsterdam. Zombie like people roaming the joint panhandling for change to try and get their next fix, (so i’m guessing). They are a colorful bunch of people, who look like they are from all over parts of the world. My theory is that they went to Amsterdam for the liberal use of illicit drugs, and then never left. Panhandling must not be illegal because they had no problem walking into the bank and asking me for change while I was standing in line waiting to convert my currency! Now keep in mind, this was in 2001, right before the Euro was introduced, so by the end of my trip I had a change purse that looked like the United Nations couch cushions!
So off we went. With a street map in hand, and a hotel reservation (that I made while back home) and we were on our way. I mentioned transportation being pretty easy to navigate, but not in Amsterdam. They use some sort of tram connected to train tracks below and wires above, that drove in the middle of the streets, and the destinations written on the front were not English. The street names in Amsterdam are on average about 13 letters long! Some use 2-3 vowels in a row, and are not easy to pronounce. Try asking how to get to Ceinturbaan street if you’re lost!
I’m kind of a hotel snob, and when I was looking for hotels to stay at, I wanted a clean, 4-5 star hotel that wasn’t crawling with hippies, panhandlers and people under the influence. The first night we stayed at the Novotel, but little did I know, it was in the business district of Amsterdam way off the beaten path of all the “fun”stuff! After checking into our hotel we grabbed our walking shoes…oh wait, I forgot to mention that I didn’t pack walking shoes!!!!! At the last minute back home, I switched suitcases, and forgot to pack my sneakers! All I had was a pair of black loafer type dress shoes that I sported the whole vacation because I was too cheap to buy sneakers..(lost my job, remember?) The first night we were there, we mapped out a few places we wanted to visit, and walked the streets to each destination. My feet were killing me! And Julie wasn’t offering to rub them!
Amsterdam is full of rich history, The Van Gogh museum, The Anne Frank house, and beautiful city parks. We didn’t go to ANY of those places! (We did go to the Van Gogh coffeshop though, and they don’t just sell coffee!) So, many of you know that Amsterdam is known for their “coffee shops”. They serve coffee, yes, but they also have a vast menu of different types of marijuana for purchase and use while in the coffee shops. Hey, when in Rome, right?! We spent a week in Amsterdam, and because this post has already rambled on, I am going to leave it right here. I hope that you come back for part III because we had some exciting adventures that I want to share, and some more travel tips. I have a lot to say, and I want to say it all, so I am afraid that this might turn into a mini series! I don’t know what I’ve gotten myself into here! But please feel free to leave some thoughts, comments or questions that you would like to address or get answers to for the next post, I would love it!