Friday, April 12, 2013

The Netherlands - Hello Mel and Stan, Amsterdam

It's a 4 hour drive from Trier to The Hague. Not too bad though, mostly Autobahns and modern highways, and light traffic. We are ready to stop driving for a few days though, by the time we arrive in The Hague.

Mel and Stan live in a beautiful neighborhood, full of town houses with quaint fronts facing the street, and lovely gardens in the back. It's very large for a city house. They are in a neighborhood of embassies and consulates, and Stan's office is only a few blocks away. It's a pretty nice expat deal!

It's so nice to see Mel, it's been several years. Her dogs, Russel and Brie, are so happy in Holland. They have had some training and have learned to walk nicely on a leash, and to obey commands when off leash in the nearby park. It's definitely doggie heaven here! It would be nice to bring our dogs on a European trip, we think. They could go everywhere with us, hotels,restaurants, everyone welcomes dogs. The problem is getting them here. Oh well!

Mel makes a delicious meal for her tired guests and before too long we're off to sleep. Unfortunately her neighbor has a dog that is sad and lonely, and howls loudly, missing his pack. He starts howling around 6 am so we're up pretty early.

Today is our day to go to Amsterdam. It's the first time we have taken public transportation on this trip, isn't that strange? It's easy to take the little tram at the end of the street to Central Station, but we have a heck of a time finding the actual station and buying a ticket. All part of the fun of being a traveler, and we figure it out, just in time to hop on the Intercity train to Amsterdam.

It takes about 45 minutes to get from The Hague to Amsterdam. Outside the train window we see Holland, flat fields, canals, windmills. if it were only a little warmer there would be flowers too. it has been a very late spring everywhere we go.

Amsterdam Central Station seems to be right in the middle of some frenetic tourist activity, which is to be expected, but it's not what we have in mind, so we waste no time wandering out of the city center to the more distant streets and canals.

The center of Amsterdam is surrounded by rings of canals and quaint-looking streets. We wander outward, first following a canal, then crossing a bridge and walking a block or two, then following another canal. We stop for a delicious lunch at a place called Luxembourg Cafe where Lee gets a real club sandwich and I get an extravagant concoction that is called a sandwich but is really a salad of arugula, ham, ricotta cheese and figs, atop some heavenly brown bread. I eat it with a knife and fork!

After lunch we head for the museums. We know the Rijksmuseum with its Rembrants and other old masters is closed and undergoing renovations, but we didn't realize that the Van Gogh museum is closed for renovations as well. There is a small Van Gogh exhibit at the Hermatage museum, so we head over that way instead.

It's a great exhibit, but very crowded, since its the only show in town, it seems. By the time we finish up here it is almost 5 pm. We are tired, and most shops and tourist attractions seem to be closing, as bars and restaurants open for business. We hang out in a bar, order coffee (yeah I have a raspberry tart too, I can't seem to help myself), and ponder what to do until its time to meet Mel and Stan for dinner.

There's an area not too far away with lots of shops so we go wander around there for a bit. We find a kitchen store with all sorts of interesting contraptions and that's always a good way to kill a little time. Eventually it's close enough to 7 pm to head to our evening dinner reservations,

We try to use Amsterdam's metro, but can't seem to figure out how to buy a ticket through the automated system, so decide the hell with it, and jump in a taxi instead. This works out great. The taxi driver is polite and friendly and seems impressed by our destination. We soon find out why.

If you are ever in Amsterdam, and you consider yourself a bit of a foodie, get a reservation at De Kas. Out away from the city center, in the middle of a park, this restaurant grows much of their own fruits and vegetables organically. They asked us if we liked being surprised, and we do, so we let them feed us whatever they wanted,

Soup, starters, main, cheese, dessert. It was all wonderful. The portions were reasonably sized, everything was beautifully presented. Several types of fish, fruit, veggies. Mel took pictures of it all; I just ate. I was pretty tired, so I don't even remember exactly what it all was. The cheese and bread course was a delight. Even if you're not that in to cheese, it's well worth it to try the different cheeses in this part of the world. They are awesome!

Stan drove us back to The Hague. It was a long day. By the time we got back to their house it was after 11 and we all just fell into bed. I slept great; the neighbors dogs didn't start howling until after 7 am, so I'm good to go!

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