Sunday, 24 April 2011

Amsterdam for Spring Break

Part of our bike trip through the Netherlands countryside.

Carey's camera can take some cool pictures. The flowers at Keukenhof made great subjects.

This shot was right outside our bedroom window on the house boat.

We flew out on Alitalia. Good flights and we made sure we had nothing but carry on luggage. Alitalia flights aren't bad. Their luggage handlers are.
So we landed in Amsterdam Tuesday afternoon. We quickly figured out how to catch the train from the airport into central station. Once there we bought a 120 hour metro (metro, buses, and trams) pass. Its nice because it really is 120 hours, not 5 "days." So we got to use it from Tuesday afternoon all the way through Sunday morning when we flew out.
We stayed on a house boat on the Amstel river. Small but very functional. Nice quiet neighborhood with lots of good restaurants within walking distance. There was a super market near the metro stop so breakfast and lunch (we packed sandwiches and stuff each day) was nice and cheap.
Wednesday we got up and found our way to the bike shop where we started our country-side bike tour. I thought this was really interesting. We knew all of Amsterdam and most of the Netherlands is reclaimed land that lies below sea level but going into the country side let you see the different levels and the canal, pump, and dike system. Some of the land is 6 meters (~20 feet) below sea level. We stopped at small shop where they make cheese and clogs. Making clogs is ridiculously easy now. They basically put a chunk of wood on a lathe and then with a metal clog serving as a key the lathe spins and cuts in the same manner that a guy at Walmart would make a copy of your house key.
About 13 miles and four hours later we got back into Amsterdam. From there we had lunch and then did a short city walk. Finally we ended up at the Anne Frank house. We watched the diary of Anne Frank not long before we went so the kids understood what they were seeing and it was nice to hear them describing the rooms as they went in.
Thursday we went on a long city walk in the morning. After that we went to the Van Gogh Museum. For some reason I really like Van Gogh. His work is different and you can see an evolution as he got a little older and had different experiences. And it still looks like legitimate art. Not like the dumb stuff in modern art museums where someone can put a streak of paint on a 6 x 6 foot canvas and call it "art."
After Van Gogh we went to the Red Light District. There is definetly a little something for everyone... The funniest part was we were getting ready to go down one of the small, skinny, alleys were the girls stand in the windows. The kids new they would be in the window (we had already seen one girl in a window across a street). Living in Naples we have couple different stretches of commonly traveled roads that are referred to as hooker highway so they have some exposure. As soon as we stepped into the alley the window was there and the girl was right in front of it. Austin jumped and let out some noise in surprise (probably some embarrassment). One of the funniest things I've seen in a while... Shinny girls, big girls, white, black, asian... They're all there.
Friday went outside Amsterdam again. We took a regular train up to the town of Hoorn. From there we got an impromptu tour of a shop that rebuilds steam trains from ~1900 - 1950's time frame. We got on one the these trains and took an hour and a half ride up to Medemblik. Everyone loves a steam train. I think it is the whistle. You can't help but smile when ever you hear it. All the locals stopped, smiled, and waved as we went by. From Medemblick we took a boat ride up the a lake to Enkhuizen. There we walked around an outdoor museum.
Saturday we went to Keukenhof. It is about 80 acres of flowers. Its only open 2 months a year. Very pretty flowers.
Communications and getting around was never a problem. Everyone we ran into spoke english. The metro and tram system was real easy to get around on.
Pretty good trip.
Next stop, Greece. Time is running out but we should be able to squeeze in Greece one long weekend and Croatia some other weekend.