LIFESTYLE, Travel

Last Friday in Amsterdam

Whew! After months and months of planning we finally made it to Amsterdam. There were many hiccups on the way – a twenty year old passpoprt which Schengen countries refuse to stamp their visa on, applying for a new passport, the agony of waiting for the visa……. so when we did make it to the Chhatrapati International Airport at Mumbai, there was a sense of disbelief.

And when we landed at Schipol our relief was palpable. The 9 hour flight was uncomfortable to say the least. Normally every airline tries to improve its service but I think DELTA takes pride in bending backwards to be regressive. The motley crew seemed to have been recruited from some international youth hostel with one distinctly looking Ninja turtle heading the gang ,  a purser of indeterminate origin and unidentifiable gender and another girl who hardly spoke English.  The crew apart, the food was particularly bad ( so bad that it actually ruined my stomach),the seats uncomfortable, the air conditioning a mind numbing freezing, a terrible in-flight entertainment program showed on  a common tv screen which was so small and  of such low resolution that I could hardly make out who the actors were despite them being big HOLLYWOOD names.  And what was worse was the toilets. They were simply appalling! With a terrible bathroom to people ration and in indifferent staff who couldn’t care less about helping the passengers leave alone seeing that the bathrooms were usable, by the end of the flight the toilets were overflowing with toilet paper and were reeking  of Odor toilette!

But on arrival we were met by a wet Amsterdam but a cheery Ric, our taxi driver who whisked us into his Mercedes van and brought us to the Ibis at Central Station. Now Ibis is not known for its luxury factor but one thing you can be assured of is a clean room and a bathroom that functions. Even though this is a no-frills hotel it is comfortable and is conveniently located.

So after settling in we made our way to the Ticket Office from just across the hotel and bought ourselves a Canal Cruise for the rest of the morning. In a covered bateau we were taken for a relaxed cruise round the harbour and through the Canals. This is truly the best way to get a feel of the city – a well delivered and informative commentary gives you an idea of what the city has to offer and you can make a firmer itinerary based on that. Even though it was raining, we had a great time going through the canals even more beautiful than ever with the trees wearing early Fall colours.

With an hour and a half to spare before our next tour out in the country, we hung around at Dam Square and the Damrak where you see more nationalities than Dutch. We had a packet of the famous pommes frites which are literally drowned in mayonnaise and walked up to the square. I was told that the best chips were in a side street close to the Singel canal but the Mannekin Pis will do especially when you pass it on the way!
The sun broke out and the skies cleared up and we celebrated with a sweet custard stuffed croissant till the COUNTRYSIDE TOURS & TRAVEL bus pulled up along the pavement. It was amazing how so many of us were herded into this bus which took us to Maarken. In this quaint Dutch village we saw what could be better described as a cheese making workshop and a clog making workshop though we were told we would be taken for a Cheese Factory visit and a Clog Factory visit. But it was enjoyable nonetheless with a tour guide who was charming and humourous!
We picked up a few knick knacks including a very touristy pair of clogs, enjoying the picturesque houses that seemed strangely uninhabited. Perhaps I too would abandon a place which was invaded on a daily basis by a tour guide waving an umbrella with tulips while urging the eager tourists to follow on! But the trip was definitely worth every penny and is a great way to see the countryside………

After a walk through the village we went on the boat to Vollendam where we saw more quaint Dutch houses. We had a great lunch of Kibbling and beer before making our way to the Zaanse Schans. By this time the sun was down and the temperature began to drop. So I was glad to get into the bus and back to Amsterdam for a wonderful dinner at the Chinese restaurant in the middle of China town. It would seem strange to have Chinese in Amsterdam but with the kind of multiculturalism in this city, you can truly be assured of every kind of cuisine to suit every kind of palate.

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