Two days in Paris and we set out for Amsterdam. We opted for a train, again. The train rides were really great. When we boarded the train in London, we had to go through security like we were taking an airplane. We didn't go through any security at all in Paris. We just got on the train and went to Amsterdam. I guess they have open borders because we didn't have to have our passports checked either. It was just as easy as driving from Texas to Oklahoma.
|Train ride from Paris to Amsterdam|
probably in Belgium
Below is our hotel room in Amsterdam. We stayed at the Luxor. It was two streets away from the red light district and it was great. We did have a mix up and paid for an extra night because they had another guest with our same last name. But, they realized the mistake and put us in a larger room and removed the charge.
|by far the nicest hotel we stayed at|
I know these pictures don't do this city any justice. I would love to go back in the spring or summer. This is the oldest city that we visited architecturally. They said a lot of the buildings date back to the 1500s. It amazes me that this city is so well laid out for it's age.
We rarely encountered moving vehicles. Most everyone walks or bikes. There are bikes lined up along all the housing and the bridges. I have NEVER seen so many bikes. And junky bikes, too. They don't seem to care what the bike looks like...as long as it has aired up tires and a functioning chain, they
pedal it. Many of the bikes were "customized" with spray paint or other decorations.
|the bridge in the background is lined with bikes|
They said most of the people here own boats. Apparently in the summer, everyone gets out on their boats to hang out. I saw a picture of it in our hotel and you can't see the water for all the boats in the canals.
|they say everyone owns a boat and that's the thing to do in summer|
Below is the Anne Frank house. We toured it. People were so quiet throughout the tour. I was pretty impressed with how reverent everyone was. The two stories that the Frank family occupied with another family was much larger than I expected. It still wasn't big enough to be comfortable for 2 years of hiding without any access to the outside world! It was four rooms split between 2 floors. The staircase to get to their hiding spot was more of a ladder and it was still hidden behind the bookshelf. They had the posters and pictures that Anne pasted on the wall of her bedroom on display in her room. I haven't read the diary since 7th grade, but I plan to read it again soon. One thing that really touched me was an interview they did with her dad, Otto. He said that he and Anne were close, but when he read the diary he was touched by how insightful, wise and affected she was by everything (I'm really paraphrasing here...). He said his conclusion was that no parent ever truly knows their child. I suspect that's true of every relationship, but it made me a little sad.
|Anne Frank House|
According the riverboat tour we took, Amsterdam has a housing shortage. So all along the canals you will see house boats. The windows were open on some of them and we could see inside them. I wish I could have toured one. They had one available for tour, but we didn't see it.
|see the houseboat?|
Amsterdam has a housing shortage, so people live on house boats.
|such a great city!|
I tried mayonnaise on french fries (apparently a Dutch thing). I like mayo, but I still needed a little ketchup mixed with it to make it taste the way I like. :) I thought it was funny how big the mayo packets were.
|they put mayonnaise on their fries|
Below you can see the dancing ladies. They are quite crooked. Can you see how they lean? Mark had noticed a lot of buildings leaning even before the tour guide pointed this out. We kind of wondered how their building codes are and if anyone has ever inspected this stuff. But I suppose if these buildings have been around for hundreds of years, it's probably a non-issue.
|the dancing ladies of Amsterdam...don't Google that|
You'll get a lot of stuff about the red light district
We mostly just walked around in Amsterdam. We stopped at a few bars to drink an Amstel or a Heineken. We ate burgers, but we never tried an apple pie. That's a big regret for me. I think they put cheese on them. Not sure about that.
|at night from an outdoor patio at the bar|
|on the bar patio|
they have heaters outside, so you can still enjoy the outdoors in the cold weather
I took this picture from the riverboat tour. There are so many bridges in Amsterdam. Around 1500!
can't see all seven from this picture, but they go back as far as the eye can see
|first of the seven bridges|
We did walk around the red light district. I didn't take any pictures. I didn't want to get yelled at by one of the hookers. Pictures are frowned upon. It wasn't nearly as "seedy" as most people probably think. Of course we were never walking around super late. Maybe midnight was the latest we were there. The women stand in the windows in their underwear. A lot of them were applying their makeup or messing with their phones while we walked around. We did see a few of them opening doors to explain their rates to the men who were interested. I'm not going to lie. It bothers me that there is a market for this and I question whether the all the women involved are there voluntarily. But I had to see what this red light district was all about. I saw parents walking down the street with their kids in tow and nobody even glanced at the hookers in the windows. The women weren't revealing anything more than a swimsuit would allow.
We went into one coffee shop called the Bulldog. It was decorated like the inside of a tree with toadstools everywhere. I'm pretty sure that would mess with your head if you were tripping (hallucinating). That's not my thing.
|a Heineken cheers to our last day.|
Amsterdam was a great way to end our trip. We had been running around like crazy in London and Paris to try and see as much as possible. Since Amsterdam is much smaller and a lot more laid back, we were able to rest a little more. It truly was our favorite place.
We left Amsterdam after two days. We had to fly into Iceland first then on to New York. I was worried about getting stuck in Iceland. But, we got stuck in New York instead. I'm surprised they let us land. New York already had nearly a foot of snow.
|That's Iceland out there.|
Mark and I raced to get to our terminal to change our flight to the earliest flight the next day. That was an adventure that resulted in me screaming (no exaggeration) at a NYC bus driver. Long story short...they took us out of the airport and to a subway station. Then they threatened to not return us to the airport...so I freaked. Don't mess with a mom trying to get home to see her babies. And yankees, you are no match for an angry TEXAN. haha
|JFK airport...snowing like it's the North Pole|
We made it back to the airport. Got the earliest flight for the next day and spent the night on the airport floor. It wasn't fun, but we made it back to Austin the next day! Thanks to my mom for watching the girls and extra day!
|Our bed for the night. JFK airport floor. Terminal 5 baggage claim.|
For the record, I was mad at that bus driver and I do wish I had been able to remain calm. But I was really impressed and appreciative of all the New Yorkers who stayed at work to help all the weary and stranded travelers. The people at Jet Blue were so helpful and friendly and they were worried about getting home to their kids for the night, too. But they didn't take it out on us. I'm always impressed by how friendly/nice people in New York are...I feel like you always hear how rude they are. Other than the bus driver, that has never been my experience.
|airport the next morning.|