Arriving in Amsterdam-our First Pre-Tour Day
- This was our first international flight. We were so excited and I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep a wink on the plane. We chose Delta because we could fly non-stop from the US to Amsterdam, we sprung for the "extra comfort" seats because it gave us the opportunity to board the plane first and it allowed 4 extra inches of seat space. We figured it would be worth it since the flight was pretty long - Steve is 6' tall......extra legroom seemed a no-brainer. We were given 2 meals on the plane along with a couple snacks. Movies were abundant and the flight was very smooth. Within minutes of take-off Steve was asleep and I was left wide awake with visions of canals, art museums, and waffles dancing in my head.
- We landed without incident and quickly found our way to the ticket booth to purchase train tickets to Amsterdam Central. Using Google maps beforehand made it very easy to see turn-by-turn how to get to our pre-tour hotel.
- Our home for the next two nights. Hotel Brouwer was a very fun, historic hotel located on the Singel canal. We made contact via email and arranged our accomodations months in advance. We paid cash upon check-in (we could have paid cash upon check out but we wanted to have it all taken care of). We loved our corner room located on the top floor and facing the Singel canal. The hotel was built in 1652 and has been run by the Brouwer family since 1917. The breakfast each morning included fresh croissants, soft boiled egg, jams, and delicious hot pressed coffee.
- Dutch Resistance museum. This museum was a fantastic account of what life was like for the Dutch during WW II. The picture shown is a baby buggy with a secret compartment hiding a firearm. We walked from our hotel and found the museum just fine. Just a side note, we probably could have used the tram system while in Amsterdam before our tour started but frankly we wanted to walk! Our legs were very tired those first 2 days pre-tour! The beauty of embarking on a Rick Steves tour is that the guides will teach you how to use the mass-transit system at every stop!
- Lunch, finally! We hadn't eaten since breakfast and now it was closer to 5pm. We walked from the Dutch Resistence museum for what seemed like forever. Once we saw the outdoor tables here at Myrabelle on the Prinsengracht canal, we knew this is where we wanted to eat. We sat and people watched while drinking the best/freshest Heineken ever. The sandwiches were just icing on the cake. Amsterdam is such a wonderful place to people watch. We gazed upon young lovers sitting close, drinking wine......friends strolling.......a young mother bicycling with her child in a basket in front of her.
- Our next adventure would be taking place at the museumplein but that wasn't until 7pm. We headed that direction anyway because I really wanted to see the IAMSTERDAM sign. It was a decent spring day and there were hoards of people enjoying the atmosphere. April is tulip season and the tulips were in abundance in the pond behind the Rijksmuseum.
- We killed some time having coffee and a local treat, the Belgium waffle!
- By now it was close to 6:30, which is the time we were told we could enter the Van Gogh museum with our 7pm advanced online ticket purchase. If you want to see the Van Gogh museum (and I highly recommend it) you must get tickets in advance. You won't have time during the 21 day tour and this museum is really not to be missed. The museum is several floors with an incredible museum shop. The bottom floor had a bar and live music playing!
We spent about 1.5 hours in the Van Gogh museum then walked back to our hotel on the Singel canal. We achieved our goal of getting out in the open air and walking a lot on our first day. We didn't nap at all and called it a night by about 10 pm. Tomorrow we have a full day tour planned!
Amsterdam-our Second Pre-Tour Day
We booked two half day tours for today through Viator. We wanted to see several areas and these tours covered it all. The first tour would take us to Zaanse Schans where we would see windmills, Volendam for a cheese demonstration, and Marken for wooden shoe making. I printed out our pre-paid vouchers at home then turned them in to the local tour office close to Amsterdam Central. It was an easy process. There were several tour groups meeting there and once we got our group together we walked to board the large bus and headed out for the morning.
Once our morning tour was over we returned to Amsterdam where we awaited our motor coach for the afternoon tour. We will be headed to Delft and The Hague. We had a little time so I checked out the beautiful St. Nicholas Basilica across the street from Amsterdam Central It was such a quiet reprieve from the hustle and bustle of this part of Amsterdam.
Our bus arrived and we were headed for our tour of the Royal Delft Factory. I was particularly looking forward to seeing how this beautiful pottery was made. I have a few pieces that were given to me by my great aunt and I thought maybe we could add to the collection. Alas, we only walked out with a few magnets and Christmas ornaments! That stuff is pretty pricey!
We returned to Amsterdam after our visit to The Hague at around 7 pm. We walked along Damrack, taking in the sites until we decided it was time for dinner. We didn't eat until after 9pm! It was plenty dark when we returned to our room and we both passed out from exhaustion! Tomorrow is the first day of our RS Tour!