In recent years Amsterdam has really been simply our preferred European airport for international connections. So we found ourselves, for the first time in nine years, planning a trip to Amsterdam as a destination.
For our accommodation we chose to stay at the NH Barbizon Palace, right in the heart of Amsterdam. We had stayed here once before on a one night stop-over when returning from the United States. The Hotel looks out onto the square in front of Centraal Station, so it is well placed for exploring the centre of the city.
We like the hotel’s big comfortable rooms and also the rather unusual split level design.
We flew into Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport with KLM and, as usual, marvelled at the integrated railway station right in the terminal building. Within minutes, at very reasonable cost, you are right in the centre of Amsterdam at Centraal Station.
It was a winter weekend, so we did not expect the weather to be great. Unfortunately we discovered that the weather back home was glorious, while we suffered from drizzle and grey skies. But, when travelling, you just enjoy your destination regardless of the weather.
The Friday lunchtime was spent reacquainting ourselves with the charms of old Amsterdam. It’s a city unlike any other, with its network of canals lined with tall narrow buildings, with gables facing the street. Usually each narrow house is at a slightly different angle to its neighbour, and many seem to lean precariously out towards the street.
Most have a jib at the very top of the building, with a hook or pulley to haul furniture up and in through the window, the stairways being so narrow as to preclude furniture removal.
Having explored the streets, enjoying lunch in a traditional Amsterdam bar, and sampled the modern shopping mall created in Amsterdam’s old post office, we headed off for dinner.
A lot of things can change in nine years. Our favourite Mexican restaurant was nowhere to be seen. Then, eventually, we spotted a familiar looking building, now transformed into La Carreta steakhouse on the Damstraat. Once inside, we found ourselves at next to a large table of large Hells Angels.
The really wear a rather jolly bunch. But we are still trying to work out the alphabetical significance of them all being from eyes are Sweden or Switzerland. Well satisfied with their stake and beer, we headed back to the hotel pondering the question: was it the common first two letters of the countries that had brought them together?
Saturday morning dawned with the false promise of brighter weather. It was so nice to get up at a leisurely pace and head off into Amsterdam’s narrow streets to find ourselves a breakfast cafe.
After wandering around sometime, we like the look of Het Karbeel, on the Warmoesstraat. Having studied the menu and made our choice we ordered orange juice. Now that is something that should be so simple, but is so often a huge disappointment. Not here, the oranges were squeezed to order and the result was mouth tingling.
Fortified by that and the delicious omelettes, we headed off for further exploration.
There are plenty of museums and art galleries for the visitor to enjoy. There is also the famous Anne Frank house.
For fans of Amsterdam’s amber nectar, there is also the Heineken Experience.
We took in the floating flower market, or Bloemenmarkt, on the way.
A short walk from the centre of town The Heineken Experience is similar to the Guinness Experience in Dublin. The disused brewery has been turned into an interactive museum and tourist attraction celebrating the Heineken Heritage.
It is really well done, and although you have to pay to have a concentrated marketing effort focused on you, it is worth including on your trip.