Saturday, July 28, 2012

Day 3: Amsterdam to Basel on the SS Antoinette

Another interesting thing about Amsterdam. It gets dark around 10:15 p.m. AFTER I hit the hay on Day 2 for sure. Thank goodness for heavy drapes to block the sunlight.

No sunlight on Day 3. It was raining and maybe 60 degrees. We decided it was a good thing we both had rain jackets and Sue had an umbrella. 

Sue and I got up early to enjoy the breakfast buffet the Movenpick Hotel is famous for. Food was so beautifully presented. All kinds of breads and pastries, eggs to your liking, a whole spread of fresh fruits and veggies (raw), a large area with cheeses and deli-type meats, dried fruits and nuts galore, yogurts of all kinds and flavors, granolas and cereals, juices, sausage and bacon, even fish, and I can't even remember what else. It was the best variety I had ever seen, maybe due to the variety of nationalities and diets that visit Amsterdam. I ate toast, fruit, yogurt and granola, then Sue and I shared an omelet made especially for us.

All of our friends we had met at the Uniworld meeting the night before gathered at 9:00 a.m. for our first tour of Amsterdam. We loaded a bus and took a rainy tour through the streets of Amsterdam. What a charming, bustling city we were in! Narrow brick roads and cobblestone walks, right beside modern buildings and freeways. Passenger trains buzzing. Bicycles everywhere.

From the bus and through the rain, an old windmill was enchanting.

Life in Amsterdam on a rainy Saturday morning.

The bus took us to the location where our first tour, a canal cruise, would begin. Luckily the boat was glassed in on the top and sides, so we were out of the weather. It was a little difficult to see everything with all the condensation everywhere, but we got a fairly good glimpse of life in Amsterdam from the canal's point of view, which was neat. Roland met us after our canal ride and continued our tour by bus. He was really beginning to grow on us, this Roland. He was so knowledgeable about his city and the history of the area. I began to challenge myself to be more like Roland and ask myself questions about my home town and my country from time to time that a tour guide might get asked (and should know).

John and Sameera

This trip was going to change my life, I knew that, but who knew I would come back wanting to know so much more about my own neck of the woods? 

It was so wet and cool, we decided to eat soup and sandwiches for lunch at the hotel restaurant. Sue went with John and Sameera to the Van Gogh museum and I went with a Uniworld group on a walking tour of the secret gardens and other interesting sites. It's hard to explain how it is to see such ancient architecture in one place and what that means to someone who is from Oklahoma, where we might have a few 100 year old buildings, not 500-600 years old like we saw all day in Amsterdam. Roland took us through Jewish neighborhoods, religious areas, the flower market, then we were treated to Dutch Apple Pie at a local place. Yum on a cold and wet day!

A secret garden behind a private home/turned museum.

Bicycles have the right-of-way, no matter what.

Lovely, lush hydrangeas.

Flower Market

Some buildings lean due to foundation troubles.
Here's that pie I was talking about.

Pam and our tour guide, Roland. We had a sunshiny moment once or twice that day.
It was time for our tour to end, but we decided to visit the Anne Frank museum while downtown. Roland explained to us how to get back to the hotel and went home for the day.

What an experience at the Anne Frank museum. Stepping up and over a wall, through a swinging bookcase, up a skinny, dark stairway to the place where Anne's family was hiding for such a long time, the diary seemed to come to life. It was a self-driven, quiet tour. I really appreciated the respect all the visitors had for the story of Anne's life. I loved seeing what I thought was the real diary, but later was told the one in the special case was an exact replica and the original is in another location for safekeeping.

No cameras were allowed in the museum, but I found this photo online.
Read more about the museum at

About five of us ended the museum tour at the same time, so we decided to walk back toward the hotel and possibly get something to eat, maybe buzz through the Red Light District on the way. No sooner had Pam mentioned how she'd like to try Dutch Pancakes, did we see a sign and an inviting, local restaurant that was full. We took it as a sign that full meant good, and we weren't wrong. Dutch Pancakes are like thin pizzas or crepes. We ordered two for the group of us and split them. One was bacon and apple, the other was more like an omelet but I can't think of the exact ingredients. They were so delicious. Good company too. We had already met Jaap and Minnie, from South Africa, at the meeting the night before, but to sit and enjoy a meal with them was a real treat. Come to find out, Jaap retired from the military, but now has a cabinet shop. Minnie loves to JUNK. Hmm. Soul mates! We ended our meal with poffergies, tiny donut-like pancakes, with strawberries and chocolate. Wo.

Our new friends, Jaap and Minnie Steyn
We made our way back with the help of Jaap and a map, but first we snuck through the Red Light District of Amsterdam. I'll just say, you have to see it to believe it. That's all.

The clean version of the Red Light District.
We had left the hotel around 1:00 p.m. and didn't make it back until after dark, so you know how late that is in Amsterdam. (Well, the Red Light District isn't the same in the daytime, probably.) Sue said she was giving me till 11:00 to get back, then she was calling 911. She was already worrying about how mad Vaughn was going to be because she lost me.

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