I ventured outside of the airport just to take this picture!
My flight to Amsterdam landed at about 630 in the morning. I had figured I would hang around the airport for a bit before trying to find my way to my hotel. However, I quickly discovered that even an airport like Schiphol is dead at that time of day. Luckily, Passport control only saw fit to have one lane open so that right there occupied a good hour of my time! I then spent about an hour trying to break a 50 euro bill into coins to buy a train ticket to the city center.
I arrived at Centrale at about 0830 and then immediatley proceeded to get lost, lost and more lost. There really is something about train stations.
Me on my way to Centrale
It is humanly impossible to exit them and find the right direction. I had saved the directions to the hotel in my ipod, but like any self-respecting tourist city - street signs are not necessarily located where you can easily spot them. Also, I am feeling completely uncomfortable, because something else which is an absolute with train stations is they are always located in the least desirable spot in the city. The people hanging around make my skin crawl and I am loathe to stop and ask any of them for directions. Also, trash was piled everywhere all about. And when I say piled I do mean neatly stacked...as if someone had taken the time to organize the trash, but could not be bothered to put it in a trash can. I am going to give Amsterdam a break and attribute this to the fact that it was Sunday morning and maybe the city just had not gotten around to cleaning up from Saturday night.
Amsterdam Centrale Train Station
Anyway, after trying every direction to find this god forsaken street...finally I get it right and I'm on my way - right through the red light district. Which at the time, I did not know was the red light district, what I knew was that there were creepy men hanging about staring at me. I even had the pleasure of one such creepy man following me for blocks while I completely ignored him. And I have to hand it to the man, he was patient and persistent. He must have said "hallo...hi" a good 20 times with no response from me. He finally tapped me on the shoulder and I gave a great big jump like I had not ever known he was there. (This is a method that I have perfected in the states since riding the bus...I wear my headphones, it's like my armor).
Neatly stacked glass trash
He kept talking to me, asking me where I was from, but I pretended like I didn't know what he was saying. And that's where being abroad beats being on a bus in the US. You can just pretend you don't understand whatever language someone is speaking - it's like the back-up in case the headphone trick doesn't work. Anyway, at this point I am really in a groove with the directions, even though the directions read like you have to take a million streets, it's really just one street that changes names a million times. The hotel is about a mile from the train station and I arrive right at 0930 (which is supposedly when you can start checking in), but the guy says no can do. He does let me drop my stuff off though and change shoes.
He also gives me the opportunity to show him that I am an idiot, because I have to go back twice...once to grab my umbrella, because it is apparent it is going to rain, and once to get my purse which I left sitting on a chair. Nice! Obviously, my brain is just as tired as my body.
I had already decided to take a canal cruise on my first day to get a feel for the city so right now I head back towards Centrale for that. Coming back to Centrale now, I feel a liitle more comfortable since I have dropped off my luggage and have a little bit better orientation. I can now marvel at the amount of bikes here. I mean I have heard about it, but I am pretty sure that if you added up every bike I have ever seen in my entire life - it would not add up to half of the ones I see right now in the bike parking lot.
I am terribly intrigued by it. But enough about the bikes... I buy a ticket for the next boat cruise leaving and duck into the boat just as the first raindrops begin to fall. I took the 100 highlights cruise, but I have no idea why they call it that. No way did she mention 100 things. It was however, a good cruise around town and I definitely could see why the comparisons to Venice. I guess I had not realized there was so much water in Amsterdam. After the tour I stroll around the Red Light district, which is much better now that it is the middle of the day. I ducked into a cafe for a bite to eat strictly so that I could use the bathroom and then was annoyed that it still cost for the toilet. Ugh - I will never get used to the idea of paying to pee.
An Amsterdam Canal
Anyway, by now it's early afternoon so I head back to the hotel to see if I can check in... and yes I can. I shell out my money and head to my room. Now, I chose this hotel because it got great reviews on booking.com. It was a little bit outside of my price range, but since I was traveling alone for the first time I had decided I needed a place where I felt comfortable. The number one complaint about this hotel is the stairs...and man are they something! Maneuvering the stairs with my suitcase is something akin to balancing on a high rope with 40 awkward pounds hanging on one side...and anyone that has met me can attest to the fact that I am not exactly graceful. These stairs may be a problem. But the room is quiet and all mine.
Street in the Red Light District
There is a mirror and sink in the room, but the toilet and shower are across the hall. Now, when I say across the hall - the "hall" is probably one foot by two feet! I have the only room in this part of the hotel, which is actually an old canal house. Even though I have promised myself that I will make the most of my time and quickly adjust to the new time zone; I am exhausted right now and decide to take a nap. I'm sleep as soon as my head hits the pillow!
Two hours later I wake up and it's is a whole new ball game. The sun is shining and I am itching to hit the town. I take a quick shower in the worlds most inconvenient shower set-up and I am ready to go. I am allowing myself one museum type thing in each city and the Anne Frank house is high on my list.
Homes along a canal
However, I have read that you have to go early in the morning so I may just treat myself to two museums here. I start out walking and just enjoying the atmosphere in Amsterdam. I was pleasantly surprised that it does not seem to be overwhelmed with tourists like I am expecting...However, I think a lot of that is that my hotel does not appear to be in a tourist area. If ...no...when I make it back to Amsterdam, I would definitely stay in the same area again. I wander for a good hour before happening upon the major museums in Amsterdam - I'm at Rijksmuseum but it is such a large museum that I decide to go to the Van Gogh museum instead. I have always been moved by Van Gogh so I figured if there was ever a specialized museum to hit up - this is it.
Van Gogh Museum
The museum is, unfortunately, more crowded than I would like, but I do enjoy myself. I stay for a couple of hours and then spend another hour or so just wandering around the town just absorbing the vibe. Even while I am wishing that there was someone there with me...I am enjoying just being alone and people watching which really is one of my favorite activities. I am so curious and intrigued by everyone that passes. Where do people work? How do they furnish their flats? What do they do for fun? What music do they listen to? Where do they meet boys (or girls)? What do they think of America
...oh the list goes on and on.
Hotel Adolesce (my hotel)
I am actually filled with the need to know more about these people. I think I was very lucky in that the first two times I travelled abroad I spent more than a month in those places, so you get more of your answers...even my trip last year, was at least in one country. This trip with two days in each place you just get a taste - enough to make you want to come back and learn more! Anyway, I am tired and hungry and mindful of my budget so I head towards the area near my hotel and get Turkish food to take back to my room. After I have eaten and relaxed and am ready to journal for the day; l I hear from my sister. They did not make the flight to Paris. My heart plummets. This is horrible news. I immediately feel guilty that I had no problems and even flew business class and yet my sister and niece are stuck! I can't concentrate to journal and I have a hard time going to sleep because I am so anxious for them.
Me in my hotel room
Instead I go for a walk around the neighborhood along the Prinsengracht Canal. The neighborhood is alive with locals at a corner bar spilling into the street and I grab a bench nearby to observe. I watch until I can't keep my eyes open anymore. It's midnight anyway, so I head back to my hotel to rest up for the next day.