Trip Planning, Airbnb, Holland Pass, Restaurants & Sights 13-15Apr2014

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haarlemmerplein at night

this my last post on amsterdam.

wife did good trip planning & reserved a haarlemmerdijk apartment via airbnb. it was a huge apartment with 1 bedroom, big hall, full kitchen (with great coffee maker & coffee & tea provided) & dining, great toilets & showers, and was located in amsterdam’s famous jordan district. its a diverse happening place, filled with fashion boutiques, interior decor shops, cheese, specialty food, dining, cafe & of course amsterdam’s famous coffeeshops, just a stroll from amsterdam central station along haarlemmerstraat linking into haarlemmerdijk. 🙂

we purchased the holland pass online, and i bought the 5 tickets pass for 49.50 euors (5% discounts online). it came with a free train connection from schipol airport to amsterdam central (4euros) & a free 24hr city bus ride (7euros). considering that i had used 2 gold tickets for keukenhof (15euros) & rijksmesuem (15euros), & 2 silvers for schipol-keukenhof return bus connection (9euros) & 100 highlights canal cruise (15.5euros), i would say it was well worth it.

we brought a huawei 3g/4g mifi with us (lent to us by my wife’s good friend) and bought a lebara 1gb sim card at schipol (it’s also available in shops around town). so we stayed connected throughout & my daughter became expert in google map guiding us to beulings & zazas (we took the trams) where we had made prior dinner reservations, and also during the waterland cycling trip. 🙂

we made some miscalculations & was not able to get the bikes at zaandan station to cycle at zaanse schans, but otherwise everything went smoothly. 🙂

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cheese - really excellent cheese here

cheese – really excellent cheese here

we were slightly early on checking in. fortunately haarlemmerdijk had many cafes around every corner. 🙂  cheese shops too.

the cruise terminal next to amsterdam central

the cruise terminal next to amsterdam central

multi-storey bicycle park next to amsterdam central

multi-storey bicycle park next to amsterdam central

beautiful amsterdam central station opened in 1889 & handles 250,000 passengers/day

beautiful amsterdam central station opened in 1889 & handles 250,000 passengers/day

after visiting zaanse schans windmill country on my first day arrival on 13.4.2014, we went to holland international terminal in front of beautiful amsterdam central train station, & queued 45mins for the 100 highlights cruise.

rihksmeseum - taken using my samsung s4 4x magnification from tram

rihksmeseum – taken using my samsung s4 4x magnification from tram

i amsterdam in front of rijksmeseum

i amsterdam in front of rijksmeseum

nightwatch

night watch

an old woman reading

an old woman reading

after seeing the dazzling keukenhof gardens on 14.4.2014, we went to rijksmeseum, saw rembrandt’s night watch & an old woman reading, such incredible details. 🙂

city trams - we got quite used to taking them

city trams – we got quite used to taking them

we used the trams a lot to get from our apartment to amsterdam central & to get to the restaurants beulings & zazas, so made full use of the 24hr pass. 🙂

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herons scavenging in the streets – on our way to zazas

we saw herons scavenging on the streets on our way to zazas on our second evening on 14.4.2014. flea market or something in the day?

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dam square – on the left is madame tussaud’s

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dam square

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dam square

after 1/2 day cycling to waterland on 15.4.2014, we had some time to spare before dinner. wife & daughter went to madame tussaud’s at dam square to use up the last 2 holland pass tickets.

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down the road from dam square toward de wallen, the red light district

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canal along oudezijds voorburgwal where de wallen is located

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canal along oudezijds voorburgwal where de wallen is located

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canal along oudezijds voorburgwal where de wallen is located

hashish & marijuana meseum

hashish & marijuana meseum

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sex shops in de wallen

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sex shops in de wallen

i took a stroll down towards the canal to see amsterdam famous de wallen red light district ( i was last here in 1980 after my final exams when studying in england). it was late afternoon so no activity only sex shops & weed museum…haha. 🙂

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back to dam square

walked back to dam square. was walking across the road & tripped & fall mid way.  had a cut at the brow & bled, broke the frame of  my new specs (fortunately i brought spares), and had 2 balukus (swellings) on my chin & below the eye. fortunately it was just a shallow cut and only thing that was badly bruised was my ego. passersby were very helpful & a shopkeeper gave me tissues & let me cleaned up in his toilet. getting clumsy too soon. sigh!

c.h.e.f andy

Cycling the Waterland Route in Amsterdam on 15Apr2014

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wife was keen with cycling in amsterdam so she did a bit of research.

the waterland cycling route looked quite exciting, covering about 51km return starting out from amsterdam, going along the dike by  kinselmeer to marken & back by holysloot & ransdorp. and we were even thinking of taking the ferry to volendam….there is a very good guide in holland-cycling (marken cycle route) here.

regrettably in the end we did not manage that.  the temperature was sub 10 degC & with windchill factor was colder than what we had planned for, and 1 of us repacked the bags & forgot & left out the gloves. we were quite ok though with the cold after cycling for a while, but the wind was too strong on the dike route (uitdammerdijk along kinselmeer) & it was substantial effort & slow progress & not really so fun for the 3 of us who were infrequent cyclist (like few times a year!). i knew i would get to enjoy this more in due course now that i finally got down to buying a dahon mu n360 foldable bike just before this trip. :-).

the cycling started quite well. we got our bikes from macbikes which was located on the eastern end of amsterdam central station, & the guy walked us through the double locks – one to lock the wheels, the other to chain the bicycle to a immovable object. 🙂 shortly we were on the bikes cycling to the ferry point to take the free ferry (for vehicles, bikes & passengers) to cross over to ij.

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amsterdam is very flat country and quite easy to cycle. there were mostly dedicated cycle paths so very safe. we were confused with the signs on several stretch of roads. they showed a mo-ped & a bike with a diagonal bar cutting across them. a no-bike sign?? some dutch guy stopped to give us some help. he explained that paths w/o the sign was for bikes only, and the sign only meant that the road was used by bikes & other vehicles (& not for bikes only). 🙂

he commented it was a cold day & though unspoken obviously kind of thought we were rather ambitious when we mentioned that we were planning to go to marken & volendam! …so he knew better. haha. 🙂

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the initial cold was manageable. but as we passed durgerdam & rode on to the dike on uitdammerdijk alongside kinselmeer, the wind was just too strong and the progress was so slow & of course it was very cold & over a very long stretch. it was very tiring and taking the fun out of a casual ride & enjoying the meadows & countryside. we decided to turn back on reaching 79 (see the holland-cycling marken cycle route map), and rode in the direction of holysloot to 78, and then towards 44, ransdorp.

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without the wind impeding our progress, the ride was very pleasant & enjoyable past meadows & farms & windmills. 🙂

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initially we thought of stopping at ij-kanteen for lunch (ij-kanteen is supposed to be a casual, modern, cheerful brasserie on a spacious ground previously a canteen for the shipyard…sounded hip & cool but not strictly a must for us..). but once we got back to the area, we wanted to have a quick bite so we stopped at a nice cosy cafe rather than to go looking for directions to ij-kanteen. guess we were just hungry. it was still cold outside so we chained our bikes to the railings and sat inside the cafe. we must be hungry as the burger tasted really good & the carrot coconut soup was super tasty. this soup was even better than the carrot soup at zazas & the movies restaurant (we must be real, really hungry! haha..), and perhaps not better but a different touch (more robust) c/w beulings. (i plan to do this at home after sourcing some internet recipes). 🙂

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we were back to ij jetty to catch the ferry to cross back to amsterdam central. we decided to take a quick look at the Eye. a huge cruise ship passed by. it was quite a sight 10 storeys high.

we took the ferry & returned the bikes to macbike. i estimated we cycled 25km or more & we took just over 3 hrs in total so we had to pay the 24hr hire rates. with 10% discount from holland pass, macbikes 24hr rental include insurance for 3pax was 48euros. hmmm.. very expensive!

c.h.e.f andy

The Dazzling Keukenhof Gardens on 14Apr2014

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2 things wife wanted to do was to cycle in amsterdam & see the tulips at keukenhof gardens, hence the “detour” from the initial vacation plan of lake como & cinque terre. 🙂

we had the holland pass so we used the gold pass for entry to keukenhof gardens (cost 15euros). we used a silver pass for the bus return from schipol airport to keukenhof (cost 9euros). for the journey from amsterdam central to schipol we had to pay 4euros as it was not covered by the holland pass. if you do not have holland pass, you can get a combi ticket here including return from amsterdam central & entry to keukenhof for 28euros.

keukenhof is located in lisse and used to be the part of the the estate of teylingen castle.  games were hunted & food collected for the kitchens of the castle, hence keukenhof or kitchen courtyard in dutch. in 1857 the same architect who designed vondelpark, redesigned the castle gardens in english landscape style, the basis for keukenhof today. there is wifi throughout the gardens & you can download the map here.

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tulips galore! 🙂

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flowers were mostly in full bloom and it was a wonderful stroll through the garden. very pleasant indeed. 🙂

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floral art. 🙂

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sakuras. quite pretty these, but of course nothing could compare with seeing sakuras in kyoto or tokyo. 🙂

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there was an animal pen.

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fun time for the children, and adults too!

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such beauty! 🙂

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keukenhof was really beautiful. a very enjoyable day. we visited villa carlotta later when we visited tremezzo in lake como, and that was extremely beautiful too, and villa carlotta gardens was in a landscaped natural terrain setting, not garden plots, so it had added attraction. 🙂

c.h.e.f andy

Zaanse Schans Windmill Country on 13Apr2014

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when i think of netherland 2 things came to mind – tulips & windmills! maybe milkmaids?

zaanse schans is the beautiful windmill country. the train station at koog-zaandijk is just 4 stops 17minutes from amsterdam central, & then a 15mins walk to zaanse schans village.

the zaan region used to be 1 of western europe’s oldest industrial area and boasted some 600 active windmills & factories powered by wind in the heydays in 18th & 19th century. it was also the centre of shipbuilding in the 17th century during the dutch golden age.

now there are some 10 working windmills in zaanse schans. though the windmills were relocated here piece by piece, today zaanse schans is a living & working community, with clog- and cheese-making, shops, boutiques, stunning buildings & meadow landscape.

read more about zaanse schans here.

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we had planned to cycle at zaanse schans. there is what appears to be a good cycling guide and cycle routes/map. it indicated that one could rent a bicycle at zaandam station. i arrived amsterdam on a sunday & we took the train from amsterdam central to zaandam but was unable to locate the bike rental. we asked around in the station & some staff said the rental shop was closed on sunday, which was odd since it should really be catering to the tourist crowd so why closed on sunday?

anyhow we did not have much time as we had only 2 more days in amsterdam & we had purchased the holland pass & would be using the pass for keukenhoff gardens & the museums & canal cruise & also planning to cycle to waterland. so we decided to just take a bus from zaandam station to zaanse schans & skip the cycling.

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zaanse schans village was idyllic as described in the guides & the windmills along the river were magnificent. we had a very pleasant stroll & if we had more time & were able to locate the bike rentals it would be quite fun to cycle in the surrounding meadows.

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we wondered into a cheese shop & factory & the cheese were just fantastic. every cheese we tried were really nice & we bought 3 including a goat cheese. 🙂

we came by the train route (the bus we took from zaandam stopped at near the koog-zaandijk train station as the one that stopped nearer was a 1 hr wait). on the return trip, we took bus 391 which stopped right across the bridge on the other side of the river from the village. it was a 40mins ride back to amsterdam central.

though regrettably we did not get to cycle, it was still quite a wonderful day & we were also looking forward to dinner at beulings (& indeed we had the most wonderful dinner) which we had made prior reservations before the trip. 🙂

c.h.e.f andy