Amsterdam – part 1

Amsterdam – Wednesday

I’m in Amsterdam for a short mini break, so as I’ve done before in Rome and Corfu, I thought I’d blog about my experiences.

The flight

Amsterdam’s main airport – Schiphol – is only an hour from Bristol airport. That’s 15 mins of flying and 45mins driving around on the runways of Schiphol. No, not really, but I’ve never known there be so much driving around on the ground before we could leave the plane. Not so much a complaint as an observation. Amsterdam airport is clearly massive.
Even after you get off, you have one hell of a walk to get to passport control, then quite another long walk to get to the baggage carousels. They’ve brightened up part of this walk by pumping out noise of birdsong from speakers at random. Which is nice.
It was quite a bumpy flight it must be said. There was a point where it seemed like we had turbulence just before landing. Quite unusual, isn’t it?
One of Easyjet’s stewards on the plane had a tremendous handlebar moustache. You don’t see that every day. (Although he presumably does.)

English?

One of the first things I noticed after we got through passport control, is that there’s a bit less hand-holding than there was in Rome. The signs aren’t all in English as well as the native language, but luckily my girlfriend has a reasonable ability to speak German (and Dutch seems quite similar in a lot of ways, especially written down). I studied it for GCSE (but I got an E-grade), and between her and my occasional remembering/working out of odd bits, we managed to muddle our way through, work out which train we needed, and get to where we’re staying.
We tried to use an automated machine to buy the tickets, and it said no charge for debit card, but €0.50/ticket for credit cards. No notes accepted. I tried a debit card but it got rejected (maybe it has to be a Dutch one?), so we went to a human and bought our tickets with cash instead. Buying one from a human gave us a €0.50/ticket transaction/human charge instead, so we still ended up paying the surcharge.
That journey from airport only cost us €3, so we can’t really complain I guess. However, the train was 15mins late, the second class carriage had graffiti over the toilet door (the outside – that faces towards the carriage), and there was some rubbish dotted around. Maybe British public transport isn’t so bad after all?
From there, it was either a short walk, or a tram ride plus a short walk, to our hotel. We took the short walk, without tram. There was two ducks en route, just running around a grass verge. Nice to see.

The hotel

I booked our hotel. It was/is ludicrously expensive, as are all the hotels in Amsterdam. If you can find a hotel for under €100 a night, well done to you. The *average* according to Tripadvisor is €150/night.
Ours is €120/night, does not include breakfast, and is not especially close to the centre. It had good reviews on Tripadvisor though, and seems nice to me so far. The staff are friendly, there’s a swimming pool, wifi included (and free use of computers if you don’t have a wifi-able device), and a myriad of tv options. I can watch BBC channels as if I was at home. Even people of Amsterdam don’t get to escape The One Show.

The tea/coffee making facilities leave a little to be desired. There’s a kettle, cups (2), teabags (2), coffee (some), and then a load of coffee whitener. Not even UHT milk. We asked at reception for milk but they gave us more coffee whitener. That will have to be sorted reasonably soon, because we can’t go without tea for more than a few hours. We tried the coffee whitener but it doesn’t really work.
Our fridge in the room is mostly taken up with a minibar (which works like a vending machine – you press the thing you want, you get it, and it gets added to your bill), but underneath there is an empty chiller drawer for storing your own things. We’ll have to buy some milk.

As the hotel charges €18 per person per day for breakfast, we can’t afford to have it every day of our trip really. We had some discussion about this before we left England, and we’ve brought plastic bowls and cereal with us. We’ll probably be the only people in Amsterdam tomorrow morning sitting in their luxurious 4 star hotel, in their hotel room, eating Weetabix with plastic cutlery. But €36/day extra for our breakfast – can you really blame me? Well can you? Oh, ok then.

From our hotel room, my girlfriend could see there are some black things moving about on the grass-covered square of the apartment complex next door. They’re rabbits, it seems. That’s nice, isn’t it. Not sure if they’re meant to be there, or are looked after, or what. But nice, nonetheless.

Dinner

Where to eat this evening then? The menu in the restaurant sounds a bit too posh for us. We’re not in the centre, and there doesn’t seem to be too many shops around here (although it’s difficult to know really). We looked on Tripadvisor and found a cafe called Coco’s Keuken, that seems to be very near us, so went for a walk and found it.
( That’s http://www.cocoskeuken.nl )

Looks-wise, it reminds me a lot of Spike Island Cafe in Bristol. A quirky cafe, some sort of offices upstairs, and I can imagine people working there on their Macbooks.
They have a sign up asking people to check in there on Foursquare, Facebook, etc. and they also apparently have free wifi, but when I tried to connect to it, it asked for a password, and I didn’t want to have to ask for that, so didn’t bother.

I was a little put off at first as it’s very different to what I’d normally have in the UK. I ended up having medium-rare beef on a bed of white asparagus, with a side of mini roast potatoes and a salad I wasn’t going to eat.
My girlfriend had a vegetarian cheese quiche, more asparagus, more mini roast potatoes, and a salad she wasn’t sure she was going to eat.
As it happened, neither of us ate the salad, because we were both quite full after the main course.

We declined dessert, and asked our waitress (who was fantastic – helpful, smiley, and translated most things into English where she could) if there were any shops nearby to get some milk for our aforementioned cheapskate breakfast tomorrow (as well as a decent cup of tea tonight). Incredibly, she sold us a litre carton of milk (for €2, according to the bill), as she said all the local shops would be closed by this time. What lovely people.
And to say this was good value would be an understatement. The entire meal (plus the milk) was only €37. My hotel is charging pretty much the same for croissants and toast, that the cafe round the corner is charging for a full evening meal.

More to come soon. Probably with pictures. Here’s a picture of the ludicrously detailed mint they gave us after our meal in the cafe this evening. It’s almost like a coin.

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