Showing posts with label Amsterdam hotels. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Amsterdam hotels. Show all posts

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Umbrellas unfurled ~ An Amsterdam Weekend!

The good news is that I still fit the long pants I wore to Europe a month ago and can even wear my silk long johns (I thought for weeks I had needlessly packed) under them.*

The bad news is that I am wearing long johns after a month of romping through Greece in shorts and tee-shirts. 

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But we’ve left that 80-degree Mediterranean sunshine behind us, packed away the shorts, and have dug to the bottom of the suitcases for warm clothes, unfurled those Seattle umbrellas and set out to make the most of our weekend in Amsterdam.

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Today’s temperature is about 55-degrees, a cold wind blowing and rain often. Somewhat unseasonably cool, we were told by one local this morning. Certainly cold to those of us who last weekend were taking afternoon siestas to avoid the heat of the day – today’s siesta is to warm up and dry out before setting out again.

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The good news about their colder weather is that it delayed the tulip season so we’ve managed to see some of the famed-blossoms along our morning’s route which took us to the flower market and then into the street markets of the Jordaan district.

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We booked our stay here using Hotwire (the web booking line that tells you the class of the hotel and its location but not the name until after you book). We are in the NH City Center Hotel  - a spacious ground floor room, ceilings that are nearly 20-feet high, a view of one of the city’s many canals and two bathrooms, as in two toilets; one in a room with a tub and sink and one n a smaller room with a sink.

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I have to tell you it was difficult leaving Athens yesterday and had we not booked a non-changeable reservation here, we’d have been tempted to stay there longer. Wednesday it had been difficult to leave Crete. Greece has won our hearts – again! Although, I must admit, Amsterdam is charming in its own wet, gray way (flowers, cats, good food and wine). And it helps prepare us for our return home on Monday.

*The asterisk in the opening sentence means the Diet To Go, got up and went while in Greece. Far too many potatoes and fresh bread temptations to pass up while there. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A Night in Amsterdam

We can thank the hike in airline landing fees and taxes at London’s Heathrow Airport for prompting us to seek European flight connections outside England.

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Whoever jacked up those fees and taxes forced us into discovering the ease and affordability of flying into and out of Amsterdam, capital of the Netherlands; a city bisected by waterways, overrun with bicyclists and surrounded by tulip fields.

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We’ve overnighted there -- thanks to flight connections -- twice during recent travels and have been so taken with the rain-soaked,‘weed’-scented town that we’ve scheduled ourselves there for three nights on our return from Greece later this spring.

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Amsterdam’s Old Center is like a fairy-tale setting with its crammed cookie-cutter shaped buildings and narrow walkways that line miles (kilometers) of its canals. Back in the 17th Century three concentric semi-circular canals were built around the Old City and after that so many branch canals were created that there are 90 islands and 1,280 bridges just within the city.

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We didn't get to walk across many of those bridges as we had a less-than-24-hour taste of the town in October – just enough time to spend an evening on Rembrandt Square – a short two blocks from our hotel.

(Walking in Amsterdam is not for the light-hearted . . .cyclists, of which there are hundreds, don’t yield to pedestrians. Sidewalks and curbs are not uniform.  And the architecture is so charming that you must balance your sightseeing with watching out for those cyclists and trams and cars when crossing those picturesque streets of theirs.)

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We arrived in the rain-soaked Square – our Seattle umbrellas getting a workout that rivaled back home -as we searched the square for shelter from the rain. There were so many ethnic restaurants, pubs, bars and cafes that it was difficult to decide where we wanted to eat and drink.

VeniceSanJuanIsl 208A pub to the side of the Square finally was our chosen spot of rain-respite.  We had hearty servings of local-style pub grub and were entertained by watching the passing parade of people.

. . . reflections and snippets of daily life. . . a teaser to see more. . .

Next time, we told ourselves, we must stay a bit longer.

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Another plus for the city: its cats! We met a number of ‘working cats’ – but even mousers could use a break at the end of the work day, right? This one seemed to enjoy our company but didn’t like posing and moved around a bit. . .thus the somewhat blurred photo. . .

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. . .some others preferred to belly up to the bar and not be bothered chatting with tourists or posing at all!

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Too soon, it seemed, our few hours of exploration were gone. It was time to brave the bikes and rain and head to our hotel. But it wasn’t too soon to start planning a return visit!

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If You Go:

Schiphol Airport, is 15 km (9.3 miles) from Amsterdam -  a city with more than a million residents. There are shuttles, private taxis and train service into the city from the airport. We prefer staying in the Old Center of town near Dam Square, so we take the train from the airport station into town – the train station there is in the Old Center -  then catch a cab to our hotel if its raining or too far to reach on foot.

As with any big city, the hotel selection is large and their prices vary. We booked this charming old Travel Classic* using Hotwire.  If you missed Tuesday’s introduction to our Travel Classics* feature, check it out by clicking this link.

That’s it for this week’s Travel Photo Thursday so head over to to Budget Travelers Sandbox and hope to see you back here real soon! (Those who might have noticed the opening photo of tulip fields and my reference to an October visit when there is nothing in bloom - this is a photo of a mural on display at the airport - maybe it will look like this during our spring stopover.)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Travel Tip Tuesday: Surprises and Savings in Amsterdam

We had an overnight stay in Amsterdam prompted by airline connections on our return from Italy. And, as once before, within hours of arriving were scolding ourselves for not allowing more time than the-less-than-24-hour ‘dash and glance’ we'd allowed ourselves.

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But one reason we’ve shied away from extended stays in this picturesque place is that its hotels are expensive. For week’s prior to our arrival The Scout searched hotel booking sites and found triple-digit prices.

HOTEL TIP: We finally used Hotwire, the site that allows you to book a hotel for a significantly discounted price; you’ll select it by its general location, price and star-rating but you won’t know the exact hotel until your credit card has been charged.

Our travel friends, Mary and Greg, have sung its praises for some time and we’d tried it once before – at their suggestion -- and were pleased with the results. This time was no exception.

We selected a four-star hotel within the geographical area of the train station and the city’s famous, Dam Square. . .

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What we got was a treasure! We stayed in the  NH Doelen Hotel, the city’s oldest hotel sitting on the banks of the Amstel River in the heart of its historic district. Its who’s-who guests have included Queen Victoria, the Beatles and Rembrandt, the latter who  painted his famous, “Night Watch” here.

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We were within easy walking distance of Rembrandt Square, the Jewish Historical Museum and the colorful flower market. Our room, while not overlooking the river, was spacious and the bed comfortable. Free WI-FI was provided, although despite my best attempts we couldn’t connect to it from our room .

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GETTING AROUND:  We’d been ‘taken’ by the taxi that brought us to the hotel; the driver of the small van charged the two of us (we learned too-late) a four-person 19.5 euro rate for the short drive.  So, the next morning the hotel folks called a driver they use:

Enter Maarten de Grunt, in his Mercedes. He whisked us to the station (pointing out sites along the way – he spoke perfect English) and dropped us at the entry nearest the tracks – a real plus in this rain-drenched city.  The cost?  9.8 euro, half the prior day’s toll.

So good was Maarten, that we plan to contact him prior to our next stop in Amsterdam so that we can use his services during our stay.  For that matter I wanted to tell all of you about him!   Once you let him know your arrival time by sending an email or making an on-line reservation,  he’ll monitor your flight and be waiting  (whether it be the train station or the airport). Maarten is also available for full blown tours.

If  You Go:

Ground Transportation: Maarten de Grunt, owner ‘De grunt personenvervoer’, email:, phone: 0031 6 43259424, website:

Hotel NH Doelen,, location Nieuwe Doelenstraat, 26.

Hotwire, (Our room cost about $150US ; booked directly with the hotel it would have cost about $225).

Thanks for stopping by today, hope to see you back here again on Travel Photo Thursday; the day armchair travel takes flight in the blogosphere.


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