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

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

When the Sun Shines on Amsterdam. . .

Flight connections between Europe and Seattle prompted a couple of brief overnight stays in Amsterdam in recent years. Based on those brief introductory stops we deemed it a rainy, but an interesting -- if somewhat pricey – place, well worth a longer visit.

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So, we scheduled ourselves a long weekend in this city laced with some 165 canals and linked by 1,281 bridges, on our return from Greece last spring.

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What we found was that when the sun shines (as it did periodically during our stay) Amsterdam sheds its dark gray rain coat, and  comes to life with a a colorful vibrancy! Let us take you on a tour:


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Amsterdam2013 025Rain or shine, we could spend hours watching the canal boats ply the waters that make up this city’s transportation system.

The boat, pictured above, painted in the color of its famous Heineken beer cans and bottles, caused many heads to turn as it glided past.


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Although the canals get all the tourist photos, I must say that the city’s electric-powered blue and white trams should be getting equal billing.  They are sleek, modern and so quiet that you must stay on guard for them as they can slide up behind you without much notice. . .well, other than a ding of their bells.

While we did our explorations on foot, we were tempted to hop aboard and take a ‘tram tour’ of the town.  There are 16 lines in and around the city center and they always travel on the right hand track.  Most pass near Dam Square (in the heart of the old town) before terminating at the Central Train Station. 

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Amsterdam2013 061There are more than 8,000 buildings that date from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. . .enough to keep sightseers and shutterbugs entertained for hours.  Their shapes and sizes are simply remarkable.


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If the architectural design isn’t enough  on the buildings, then the signage should catch  your eye.  I’ll be showing you more of the art we discovered as we wound our way past the more than 6,000 shops that operate in the city in a future post.


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Amsterdam2013 027Okay, you knew I couldn’t do it.  How could anyone be in Amsterdam in the spring time and not take a photo of tulips?
We’d lucked out because the tulips were late bloomers this year so we actually caught them still in bloom . Of course with more than 600,000 bulbs in parks and public gardens here, it would have been difficult to miss them.

That is it for Travel Photo Thursday.  Head over to Budget Travelers Sandbox for some more armchair travels today. Or to The Tablescraper on Friday for "Oh, the Places I have been"But before you do, I must thank Francesca at Postcard Pictures for tapping us to participate in this year’s Capture the Colour Contest sponsored by Travel Supermarket.  This post is our entry.

And now it is my turn to tap five other bloggers, inviting them to participate as well. So here I go:

Poppy at PoppyView, who’s created a wonderful blog set in Crete.

Krista at Rambling Tart who illuminates Australia (and other wonderful places) in her blog.

Helen at Helen Tilston Painter who’s introduced us to the wonders of  art and travel.

Inka at GlamourGrannyTravels who has brought Turkey and Spain to life in recent years.

Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox who writes from South Korea – the hostess of  
Travel Photo Thursday

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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