Friday, July 27, 2012

Day 2: Amsterdam to Basel on the SS Antoinette

I forgot to mention I accidentally ate duck on the airplane from Detroit to Amsterdam. What I thought was the steward's mistake (a swap for my ordered pasta to the other option, pork tenderloin) ended up being the roast duck appetizer. I never intended to eat duck in my whole life. So there we were, Sue and I, munching on what we thought was pork tenderloin, when we were served the next course, her tenderloin and my pasta. Oops. Poor little duckie. I only ate a few bites.

We met up with Sue's lifelong friend, Sameera, and her husband and some other friends in customs at the airport in Amsterdam. Very unlikely in such a massive airport, but such a nice surprise for Sue and me because we were thinking we might be lost. But in fact, we were found by friends. Their flight from Dallas was on time, but our flight was a little early. And we were in the right line and everything.

Long story short, but Sue and I got a ride to the hotel by a driver sent by Uniworld, our river cruise line, but the others did not. We arrived at the hotel around 1:30 p.m., I think. Some sort of a mix-up caused our friends to be delayed by several hours. While we waited at the Movenpick for our hotel room to be prepared, we were welcomed to Amsterdam by Roland, who I am now convinced is the world's best travel guide. He invited us to a meeting that evening to discuss the featured and optional tours we would be taking in the next two days.

The very chic Movenpick Hotel, Amsterdam.
 By now it was around 3:00 p.m., and all we could think about was SLEEP, but we resisted the urge since Sue's son, Brad, had told us NOT to or we'd never get adjusted to their time. Instead, we stretched out on our beds and took in the beautiful surroundings. We had a lovely room and a gorgeous view of contemporary and historic buildings, a large canal that would later connect us to the Rhine, and a mega cruise ship that was docked right by our hotel. We got to watch it set sail for Belgium with some teachers on it (who we had met downstairs in the lobby). Teachers sometimes travel together, apparently. Ha.

This is the view from our hotel room in the Movenpick Hotel, Amsterdam.

I drank my first European Coca-Cola Light while NOT sleeping and wasn't impressed, but now I know that particular can was old or something. (I ended up enjoying quite a few more during the trip. Although not the same as American Diet Coke (think TAB), I so needed the caffeine and could once in awhile taste a little hint of a familiar flavor. Oh, and most of the time a very slender, glass bottle of soda was around 2 euros, 50, but once we paid 3 euros, 80 when a lack-of-caffeine headache made itself known. Wow! That's like $5. I'd have to kick the habit if I lived there.)

Tastes like Tab. I know, because I used to drink Tab. It definitely has a wang to it.

We freshened up and went to the meeting downstairs, where we met up with Sameera and our friends, but where we also were introduced to some very nice people from all over who would be staying in Amsterdam and then going on the river cruise with us. I loved listening to Dutch-speaking Roland speak English. (This ended up being one of my favorite things about the trip, enjoying people who speak several languages and how interesting English sounds when words are pronounced with the accent on a different syllable or two. I especially loved hearing the word asparagus pronounced uh-spar-a-goose by a French tour guide later in the week.) We made plans for Saturday, which would be a full day in Amsterdam. Roland also explained the procedure for the transfer from our hotel to the SS Antoinette on Sunday.

A group of us decided to go eat at a restaurant Roland suggested, which was near the hotel. What a lovely meal Sue and I enjoyed along with John and Sameera, Janelle and Pam. There we were, four jet-lagged Texans and two Oklahomans eating in Amsterdam, giddy for the days ahead.

This was taken in front of our hotel in Amsterdam. Note the green jacket. You'll see it in lots of photos.
 That night I had halibut. Not my first time to eat halibut, but the way it was prepared was extra delicious. It was served with an oyster, which I decided not to consume (I mean, I'd already eaten DUCK.), but I managed to share a portion of Lemon Panna Cotta, which was new to me. It's an Italian dessert made by simmering cream, milk and sugar, then mixing this with gelatin, and letting it cool until set. The Panna Cotta was served with pomegranate seeds on top. That was my favorite. But then I managed to try a portion of some smooth and luscious chocolate mousse too. We walked back to the hotel in the cool air and I missed my half-a-world-away lovies, but sure felt blessed to be seeing such a lovely city with so much to show me before Sunday.

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