Holland America Lines Cruise - Norse Legends & Northern Isles - 2018
July 26 - 29 - Home to Amsterdam
July 28 - We had breakfast at Blushing. We thought that we were going to save money from the hotel's breakfast, but we didn't anticipate the small cups of coffee. The food was good, though.
Each couple had its own agenda today. Before leaving home, I discovered a blog on Rick Steves' website called "40 Hours in Amsterdam: A Travel Writer's Layover" by Cameron Hewitt. It described puttering around Amsterdam without an agenda. Ann and I decided to follow his route and visit the places he liked. We modified the route to fit our timeframe. The weather was perfect, cooling down from yesterday's 90+ temperatures.
We visited Westerkerk which is near the Anne Frank house. The plaza it sits on has popular kiosks for frites and herring. We then walked along canals through part of the Jordaan visiting its market. It was still mid-morning as we walked past Cafe t'Smalle, a classic wood-paneled "brown cafe". This was a recommended stop for lunch. We were not hungry yet.
Heading south along the Prinsengracht canal, we could not pass up eating an ice cream cone from IJscuypie. This gave us plenty of energy to find and follow the Nine Little Streets, a series of shop-lined perfectly Dutch lanes. As Cameron Hewitt says, it is Amsterdam's "unique cocktail of tranquil canals, skinny townhouses with fancy gables, manicured flower boxes, perfectly inviting cafes, and constant, fluid swirl of bicyclists rattling over cobbles". If pedestrians wander in front of cyclists, they will ring their bell as a warning. As a bonus, before we reached the "Streets" we came upon an international Gay Pride parade with bands, floats and marchers. It was very colorful but not as outlandish as Gay Pride in San Francisco.
Once the parade passed us, I tried to get us back onto our planned route. I was using Google Maps on my iPhone to navigate, but I was having trouble seeing the dot showing which direction we were going. By guessing, we found our way to Cafe De Sluyswacht where we stopped for beer and bitterballen while watching boats cruising the canals next to our outdoor seating.
We decided to head back to our hotel after our lunch after stopping at Puccini Bomboni for some yummy chocolates.
Dinner with the Bensons and Matutes was at Pompa Restaurant which was a short walk from our hotel. We sat outside and watched the world walk by as we ate and drank our dinner.
July 29 - The buffet breakfast at the hotel was very good. Fresh fruit, breads, yogurt, sweets, eggs to order
and lots of coffee. This was much better than going out to a cafe.
We all gathered in the lobby at check-out time, paid our extra charges and piled into a large taxi
with all of our luggage. Our trip to the passenger terminal was short. Check in to our voyage was
easy. Embarcation was a breeze. We were into our stateroom on the Koningsdam without
slowing down. We had the afternoon to eat lunch, tour the ship and to unpack.
We elected to have open seating for our dinners. This meant that we could choose any of the
restaurants and go to them at any time instead of being tied to a set dinner time. Tonight we
went to the main dining room at 6:00 after the ship sailed. The rest of the evening was casual
with an early bed time.
July 26-27 - We woke early at home leaving us plenty of time to do our last minute packing, to eat breakfast, to go through our house closing routine and to feed and walk Fripp. Uber picked us up at 10:00 AM. We were a little nervous about leaving Fripp in the house by himself, but we were confident that Mary would be here later to tend to him. (It worked out well).
Our United flight from SFO was delayed but we had left plenty of time to change planes in Frankfurt. This was a red eye flight which meant that we had 11 hours to read, watch movies and eat. Neither of us got much sleep. Our transfer to our flight in Frankfurt was smooth and we arrived in Amsterdam around 2:00 PM. After gathering our bags, we found our pre-arranged shuttle that took us to Bilderberg Hotel Jan Luyken. The Bensons were already there and the Matutes arrived shortly thereafter. I prepaid our rooms using hotels.com. We got a decent rate and we were located close to the major museums.
Our first order of business was to find a good restaurant for dinner. Ann, Ellen and I went scouting and found The Seafood Bar down the street and around the corner. It was very busy, but there was a reservation cancellation for a table for six. We raced back to the hotel, gathered the rest of our group and trekked to the restaurant for a very good meal.
Bedtime was early.