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Unread 5 Aug 15, 07:08 PM  
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Gill H
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Happy Amsterversary! Day 4

<<<Day 3

Goededag and welcome to Day Vier, which you’ve probably worked out by now is Day 4!

After last night’s amazing meal and jenever tasting, you might have thought we would have a late morning. But not us! We are up early and pack most of our stuff before heading downstairs for an 8am breakfast slot, as requested the night before. As usual, breakfast is yummy and plentiful, and since Rachel and Pepjin are around, we take the opportunity to ask them about some of the food. Rachel tells us the cheeses were from a shop in the ‘Nine Streets’ area, which is full of quirky little shops. One of the cheeses contains cumin seed, which gives it a really unique flavour.

After breakfast we pop upstairs to finish our packing, and sort out our label for the ‘Leave Your Luggage’ company who are coming to pick up our case. It’s very easy – they sent us an email when we booked, which contained a PDF of the label. We printed it off and brought it with us, and the label even has instructions on how to fold it!

While we are sorting this out, our room phone rings. It’s Pepjin, and he says he’s just had a call from the ‘Leave Your Luggage’ guys “and they say they can’t come! No, just kidding!” It turns out they want to come a bit earlier than planned, at 11.30 rather than 12.00, and called to check where the hotel is as they haven’t been there before. I love the fact that Pepjin felt he could have a joke with us after knowing us for such a short time. You really do feel that you’re staying with friends here, rather than in an anonymous hotel.

We then bring our suitcase downstairs and Rachel lends us a stapler to staple the two ends of the label together round the handle. We leave it in their capable hands, and say our goodbyes as we head out for the day. We are really sad to leave this place, and would stay here again in a heartbeat.

Our first destination today is Christ Church, just a 10 minute walk away. We’re going to the 10am service. It’s an Anglican church and has English speaking services, so we expect there will be quite a few ex-pats in the congregation.



We’re welcomed by a lovely young woman who greets us warmly and shows us in, and we find ourselves a seat. Within minutes we feel like we’ve made a whole load of new friends – people can’t wait to say hello, find out where we’re from and make us feel welcome. There are people here of all ages, and actually quite a few Dutch people here as well as English speakers. There’s also a visiting speaker today from an international organisation called YWAM (Youth With A Mission) who have a long history of work in Amsterdam, having spent years in the red light district helping look after those in trouble.

The chaplain is a friendly Canadian (is there any other kind?) called James. He’s obviously well liked and takes the service with an easy informality. There are one or two technical difficulties when song words don’t come up on the screen quite at the right time, or the speaker’s presentation slides go a bit awry, but nobody seems to mind.

After the service we are invited upstairs for coffee and cake. A helpful lady tells us there are more modern, wider stairs at the back of the building – but by now we’re past masters at tackling the traditional narrow, winding staircase and we easily get up to the room! We’re given a cup of good coffee and a cupcake with a 40 on it. Apparently it’s James’s 40th birthday this week and these are a surprise for him. And indeed, he appears a few minutes later to a storm of applause, an enthusiastic rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ and also a Dutch birthday song.

We spend a while chatting with a few of the congregation and also with James, who it turns out has his birthday on our anniversary. So he turned 20 the day we got married! (Yes, we’re old…)

We leave Christ Church feeling yet again as if we’ve made new friends. Is everyone in Amsterdam this hospitable? It certainly feels that way.
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Edited at 10:13 PM.
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Unread 5 Aug 15, 07:14 PM  
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Gill H
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We’re not sure what to do with the rest of our day. We don’t have to be at the airport until 8pm as our flight tonight leaves at 10.05pm. As we used Avios to book the flights, this was the only time flight we could get! So we have quite a long day ahead of us still.



We decide to stroll back down to Rembrandtplein, where we ate last night, so that we can get some film and photos of the Night Watch statues.









Then we wander across to find the Bloemenmarkt, a floating flower market. As Rachel has warned us, we find that this is very touristy, and there aren’t many stalls which still actually sell flowers. One or two sell bulbs, but most of the stalls are just tourist tat. To be honest it’s not that interesting, and we’re done in minutes.

So – where next? Well, how about trying to find these ‘Nine Streets’? We have a map, and we also have a small simplified map on a flyer for the cheese shop Rachel talked about this morning. So we wander for a while, trying to get over there and see what it’s like.

Well, it turns out to involve a lot of criss-crossing canals, and a lot of frustrating walking up and down the same streets wondering if we missed a turning somewhere. As it turns out, the cheese shop is on the first of the Nine Streets we found, but frankly there doesn’t really seem much else to see. Maybe we were expecting something different, but it just didn’t do it for us.

Eventually, hot, tired and a little bit cranky after our long walk, we find our way to somewhere that looks vaguely familiar, and decide it’s time for lunch. And as luck would have it, right across the road is a restaurant I’ve read about called ‘Haesje Claes’. It serves hearty traditional Dutch food, and is something of an institution. We head in and are shown to a table in one of several beautiful wood-panelled rooms. The restaurant stretches over six interconnected buildings, and many of the original architectural features have been preserved, making it a beautiful place to eat.

Initially we wonder about the set menu, which looks incredibly good value. However, one glance at the portions being served convinces us that we would struggle to get through three courses at lunchtime, so we decide to just have a main course. We decide on stamppot – a traditional dish of mashed mixed vegetables which is served here with a meatball, sausage and bacon. Peter goes for the regular version, where the mash is comprised of carrot, potato and onion. I try the stamppot of the day, which is potato, onion and endive (or chicory as it’s also known). To accompany these, I have a 7Up and Peter tries one of the local beers - 'Texels'.

We also get bread and butter included in the price, and try not to eat too much of it!





And just in case you're lost - the place mats have maps on!



When our food arrives, we’re extremely relieved that we didn’t have starters. Let’s just say if there is a Dutch version of ‘Man vs Food’ they’ve probably been here. The meatball is huge and delicious, the mash surprisingly flavoursome, and the accompanying sausage and bacon are tasty too.

This is mine...



... and this is Peter's.



I can’t remember how much our total bill was, but the menu says the stamppot is 16.25 Euros. As I remember, we spent about 40 Euros including drinks.

Happily full, we head off back down the road to catch a number 9 tram to our next destination. We have decided to do something very different for our last activity. After all the art and history, we are heading off to something scientific for a change. It’s called ‘Micropia’ and it’s an exploration of micro-organisms. It’s located next to the Artis Zoo, and although it only opened last October, it has already won a ‘highly commended’ award for international museums. And of course, entrance is included in our iAmsterdam card.

We begin with a quick stop into the rather nice café near the entrance to the zoo, for a cold drink, as it’s pretty warm this afternoon. Then we head into Micropia, where we are greeted (in English, naturally) by an enthusiastic young chap in a lab coat. He issues our tickets and asks us to wait a few minutes till he takes the next group up in the lift.

The small group who gather at the lift are all Dutch except us. Our guide explains what’s going to happen, switching flawlessly between Dutch and English, and gives us each a special piece of card. He explains that at each exhibit there will be a little stamping machine, where we can enter our card and collect an embossed impression of our ‘favourite microbes’ (now there’s a concept) and then later we can put it into a machine and see them come to life.

We soon arrive at the upper floor and start our journey of exploration. As well as exhibits explaining the various microbes all around us, there are fun activities such as a kiss-ometer which measures how many microbes you exchange while kissing, and a scanner which will show you what’s living where on your body! There’s also a little booth where you can sit in front of a screen, turn a handle and see which microbes can live in extreme conditions in different areas of the world. Everything in the museum is in English as well as Dutch, and there is plenty to see. Definitely of interest to children (they recommend age 8 and up, but younger children are allowed in) and fascinating even to those, like me, who aren’t really into the whole science thing. It turns out to be one of our favourite parts of the day. Once we’ve seen all we want to upstairs, we go back down and put our card into the machine, where the huge screen shows each microbe moving past, with its name and details. There’s also a small exhibition showing how important microbes are to everyday life – for example, without them there would be no bread, yoghurt, cheese or beer!

We nip downstairs to get our coats from the locker and to wash our hands extremely thoroughly! This really is a great place to visit, and since the zoo is right next door it would make an excellent family day out.

We decide not to visit the zoo though, and content ourselves with a quick wave at the goats we can see through the fence. Instead we go round the corner for an ice cream, as earlier I spotted a place I’d read about called IJscuypje (pronounced something like ‘I skype ya’, one of a small chain). We grab two scoops in a tub each – Peter has strawberry and hazelnut, and I have blood orange sorbet and spekulaas, the traditional ginger biscuit. We take them outside and sit in the small seating area to enjoy them. We sit next to a friendly American family from Boston, who are on part of their classic European tour, whizzing round as many countries as possible.

Eventually, suitably refreshed and full of delicious ice cream, we walk back round the corner to catch the now familiar ‘tram to Dam’. And we have to admit we’re a bit at a loose end now. We don’t really feel like visiting somewhere else, but it’s a bit early yet to head to the airport. We are really beginning to regret having such a late flight, but it was the only one we could get with Avios, so we’re stuck with it.

So we decide to go for a cuppa somewhere while we decide what’s next. We spot the Beurs van Berlage building we saw the other day, and decide to investigate their café. It turns out the building is a former stock exchange, which might not seem very glamorous in itself; but when we learn that in 2002 it hosted a royal wedding, we figure it must be worth exploring.

The elegant surroundings of the café are further enhanced by the enormous mosaics on the walls, representing trading in the past, present and future. It’s a beautiful building and a lovely place to relax.
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Edited at 10:24 PM.
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Unread 5 Aug 15, 07:14 PM  
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Gill H
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After this we decide we might as well stroll up to the station and make our way to the airport. It’s only a short walk to the station, and just outside, we find what we’ve been looking for all day – a postbox! We’ve been walking around with the postcards for our families in my bag all day, trying in vain to find a postbox to put them in. It turns out we’ve walked past several without realising that’s what they were!

At the station we find a desk selling train tickets to the airport. Strangely enough they don’t take cash and will only let us pay by card! Fortunately the FairFx card is working fine now, so that’s no problem.

We walk through the station past some small shops and cafes, to platform 15b where there’s a train leaving in a few minutes. We sprint up the stairs, very thankful not to have our suitcase with us, and manage to catch the train in time.

It’s only a 10 minute train journey, and soon we’ve arrived and are negotiating the huge and confusing airport. Our first job is to find the left luggage office, which is downstairs. No-one is around, so we ring the bell. There’s no answer, so I go over to the door and try the intercom. Sure enough, a man opens the door. Once he sees our receipt he confirms that yes, our case is here (hooray!) and we pick it up and head over to bag drop. I would definitely think about using this service if you’re going to Amsterdam. It is so nice not to have to take your luggage to the airport with you!

As before, we’ve checked in online last night, so that’s one job less to do. Once our case has been dealt with, the lady checks the details on our phones and prints off our boarding cards, and then we head through security. As ever, this seems to take an age, but eventually we’re free to explore airside. Unfortunately Hall 2 is in the middle of refurbishment, and we don’t seem to have that much to look at in Hall 3. We start off in a café called ‘Bread’ where we pay over the odds for a sandwich and a drink. We browse in a few shops – notably called things like ‘Books and Magazines’, ‘Perfume and Cosmetics’ and ‘Gifts and Souvenirs’. I wonder if there’s a special law requiring shops at Dutch airports to have boringly literal names? Anyway, we manage to get some small souvenirs for our families, and then wait for our gate to be called for our 10pm flight.

Our gate is D24, and it turns out to be right across the other side of the airport! Cue some anxious power walking, stopping briefly to grab a glass of water from a coffee shop to take my travel tablet with.

We arrive at the gate to an announcement that they are trying to speed up boarding as they only have a short time before take-off. They get us all through as quickly as possible and we are rushed down to the entrance to the plane. As usual, I ask for an extender belt and I’m passed one straight away.

And this is where I discover that our seats are exit row seats! We hadn’t realised this when we chose them online last night, but hey, it’s a nice surprise and means Peter will get a great view out of the window for filming. However, our pleasure turns out to be short lived. One of the flight crew, a lovely lady called Denise, comes over and explains that unfortunately they don’t allow extender belts to be used in an exit row, as the long end could trip someone up. She apologises profusely and says I will need to sit somewhere else. So we ask if there’s any way we can stay sitting together. After a few minutes she’s back, and says she has spoken to another couple further down the plane, who are happy to swap seats with us. So we move to our new seats (not bothering to move our luggage, as the lockers are all full by now), and settle down. The other couple are both very tall, so they are delighted with the extra leg room in the exit row. It looks like Denise has done a great job at discreetly dealing with what could have been an awkward situation. I’m impressed.

As before, the 40 minute flight barely gives us time to eat our snacks, and soon we are landing at Heathrow. Because of the time difference, it’s only 10.10 when we land, but unfortunately it takes an age to get our luggage and get through passport control. We grab a lift and head down to the tube. Once at our local station we get a bus home, and stumble exhausted into our welcoming living room at just past midnight. We’ll regret this when the alarm goes at 5am tomorrow, but for now we fall gratefully into bed, glad to be home.

So, that’s it – our first trip to the Netherlands. It’s been thoroughly enjoyable, with a great variety of things to do. We would definitely visit again, but for now, we need to start saving for our next trip – which might possibly be Rome. Watch this space!

And so goodbye for now, or tot ziens as they say in Amsterdam. We’ll see you again on our next adventure!

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Edited at 01:02 PM.
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Unread 5 Aug 15, 07:56 PM  
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Great trippie as always Gill, thank you for taking the time to write it
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Unread 10 Jul 16, 12:08 PM  
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Another great trip report from Gill & Peter H.

Thanks for sharing, I really enjoyed reading all about your adventures
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Unread 31 Oct 17, 07:29 PM  
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Thanks for sharing your trip.
I've really enjoyed reading it.

I hate that hanging around waiting to go home feeling you get with late flights but you managed to fill your time really well.

Now I want to go back to Amsterdam!
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Unread 20 Jan 18, 12:01 PM  
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Great trip report, glad you enjoyed your visit.
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