Category Archives: Netherlands

Dusseldorf to Amsterdam

We had tickets for the one o’clock train to Amsterdam and again no reserved seats.  I was the nervous Nelly for this segment though I kept reassuring myself that it was okay if we didn’t sit together or even in the same car.  We would be getting on at a busy city and it would be after the train began in Cologne.

Since breakfast didn’t come with our room at the Radisson Blu in Dusseldorf we decided to go to the train station early to grab something to eat.  We went downstairs to check out and was shocked to see how low the line was to check out.  We couldn’t just leave because when we checked in there was a problem with their credit card machine in paying for our room.  So we waited and was pleasantly surprised that the line moved quickly.

Back to the tram stop and it tram was empty – I guess par for the course on a Sunday morning.  We walked around the train station in Dusseldorf and saw all delicious sandwiches that we could take with us on the train for our lunch.  I then spied a Dunkin Donuts stand and could not resist gett ing a few Bavarian creme filled donuts.  I mean, I was near Bavaria and that is my excuse and I’m sticking with it!

We met an American family who was living outside of Amsterdam and they reminded us we might have problems not having reserved seats.  Nevertheless, we went up to the tracks a little early, followed the overhead signs to see where the second class seats were.  My cruise mate was able to get on first and immediately there were two unreserved seats that she got.  I followed and was able to go a few rows up and put my suitcase in the space between two rows.

We took the train back to the Centraal Station in Amsterdam and from there took another train to Schiphol Airport where we would get a shuttle to our hotel, the Holiday Inn Express.

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Centraal Station in Amsterdam

We seemed to wait about 45 minutes for our shuttle and that surprised us but it was extremely foggy out and that may have had something to do with it.  in fact, it was so foggy that they did close down the airport with no take offs.  I do not know about landings though /i would think those would be cancelled as well and all the trans Atlantic would have already landed.  If you want to literally be across the street from the airport, I suggest you stay at the Sheraton.  There was even an elevated walkway from the. airport to the Sheraton.  Sorry for the blurry picture, it was the best I could do.img_2121

Our hotel was further away than we thought and in a business area.  We only saw one restaurant in the area but when we checked with the young man checking us in, he gave us a list and suggested we walk into town.  He assured us it was safe.  We were up for it and it was probably about a 15 minute walk primarily along a major residential street.  We admired the Christmas decorations on the homes we passed and thought that it was a nice community.

We found what was described to us as a bar with pizza but it was so much more.  It was a delicious pizza restaurant that happened to have a bar inside.  We thoroughly enjoyed our dinner and beer. We had an appetizer and for the pizza that we shared it was a four cheese with truffle oil – yum.  There were so many for us to choose from that it was difficult.  We left filled and was once again happy that we walked back to the hotel on this lightly drizzling, foggy night so that we could walk off all that we ate. During dinner we were a bit reflective about the highs and lows of the past ten days.

The next morning we were up, had breakfast at the hotel and took the shuttle back to the airport for our flight on KLM.   Of course, we were there early and we felt it was a good decision.  We had to walk quite a distance to find where checked in and checked our luggage.  The lines were very long.  You know how they say when there is a choice to make whether to go left since it is usually shorter? Well, not this time.  I held my breath when my luggage was being weighed that it was wasn’t overweight and it wasn’t.  I think wearing lots of clothing helped me!

Since I have the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card, I was received as a benefit a Priority Pass which allowed us access to several lounges at the airports.  We found the Aspire Lounge and checked in.  We enjoyed the hot and cold buffet of food, the drinks, nicer lounge chairs and bathrooms/showers.  We hung out here for about 90 minutes.  If you don’t have the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card, contact me for all the benefits of which there are many, and I can refer you.  It is one of my go-to credit cards that make traveling much easier in many ways.

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Finally, not knowing each other very well, we felt we were good travel companions.  We had an honesty about us that is sometimes difficult to achieve with friends that you have had for a long time because you worry about hurt feelings.  We were able to work together and divide what needed to be done and trust each other.  We had similar views on public transportation – we liked it and was comfortable using it.  We both enjoyed talking with others and didn’t feel like we had to be with each other 24/7.  I would call this a successful trip.

Coming up – my final review on the Christmas market cruise.  I hope you continue to continue reading this blog.  I will not be posting any further updates to it on Cruise Critic so if you are enjoying it, I recommend that you subscribe.

Arriving and Leaving Amsterdam – What we did and saw

Friday was our last full day on our boat.  We were still sailing on the Rhine in the morning and as we looked out at the countryside along the river we saw the fog rising up from the ground.  It looked a little ethereal.  There is definitely a different landscape look in Germany.  No mega homes, at least along the Rhine like you can find in the United States.  There were some beautiful homes along the river and we were told that they were purchased by many wealthy Americans and I could see why.  It just looked like a serene life, not much traffic, seemed like there was less hustle and bustle than what most of us American are used to.

We docked within very close proximity to Centraal Station, the main train station in Amsterdam.  We were happy about that since the next morning we were going to go to Dusseldorf and hoped to purchase our tickets sometime today at the station and it would make walking to the station on Saturday that much easier.

After lunch we again were divided into groups to take a bus tour of the city.  To be honest, the bus tour did not show what I think is the beauty of Amsterdam.  We were in some run down neighborhoods and I was glad that I had been to Amsterdam before because if this was my first visit, like it was my cruise mate’s, then I probably wouldn’t come back.

There was a little park that had a windmill so we went there and all had a photo op with the windmill.

Back onto the bus, driving around again and finally let off in an underground garage by the Van Gogh Museum and Rijk museums.  We had about 75 minutes to walk around and then we met again to walk to our canal cruise. 

Honestly, forty five minutes was not enough to go into one of the museums.  It almost felt like a waste of time that they built in.  Luckily they had some stalls selling items but mainly food and beer – similar to a Christmas market and we all walked around and around them.  

These stalls flanked a small skating rink which was fun watching  Some  skaters skated like they had never done it before and I’m sure some of them hadn’t.  

While walking around I was able to go into the combined gift shop for both the Rijk and VanGogh – they were near the meeting spot for our tour guide.  Paramount in my mind was the lack of space for anymore souvenirs – remember I had the reindeer hide from Strasbourg!

Everyone got to the meeting spot early.  We then walked to the canal cruise dock and by the time we got there it was already getting dusky – another reason to me why Amsterdam was not being shown in her best light.  Things I had remembered from before we didn’t see this time  like the large parking lot for only bicycles.  Speaking of bicyclists, there appeared to be fewer than when I was here before.  Of course, being winter and late afternoon could have a lot to do with it.

one of the signs I saw by the stalls

We went through several of the canals on the cruise.  We saw the houses along the Singel Canal that were slanting and crooked due to the rotting piling underneath the homes.  We also went near the Anne Frank house as well as a church with a beautiful steeple.  It wasn’t dark enough to see many of the lights yet it was dark enough that nothing was clear and sharp – just, in my opinion, a not very good time to take the tour.  I believe we could have gotten to Amsterdam earlier in the day, perhaps even in the morning from Cologne.  By car it is about 2 1/2  and if we left Cologne around 2:00 in the afternoon why couldn’t we have gotten to Amsterdam earlier so we could see everything during the day as well as having free time – which we didn’t until 5:00 ish.

Look closely and you can see the houses leaning.

We were disappointed in the day as we had purchased online at home tickets for the Ann Frank House for a 4:30 tour but if we had done the tour, we would have missed the canal cruise which my cruise mate didn’t want to miss and I don’t blame her.  The order for the afternoon was bus tour, free 75 minutes and then the canal cruise.  I wished the free time was at the end so we could have done it all and go to the Ann Frank House but sometimes you just have to make choices and can’t do it all.

The canal boat took us close to our ship.  Once off the ship we decided to walk to Centraal Station and get our tickets for Dusseldorf.  Now I have purchased many trains tickets in Europe from kiosks and never had any problems.  We walked inside the station and see a ticket office.  The manned counters are for local trains/buses only and we were international – going back into Germany.  I found a machine, punched in what I wanted, found the train to and from and tried to pay.  My credit card was declined even though I had been using it throughout the trip.  Luckily I also brought my Charles Schwab ATM card (no money conversion fees and no foreign transaction fees) and was able to use it.  We had a lot of problems with the ticket machine.  We found someone who works for the train company to help us and even he had problems.  The first machine would make our reservations, gave us a confirmation number but never let us actually print the ticket.  We had to cancel out, use the confirmation number and go to another machine.  When we tried the second machine to book my friend’s ticket, it wouldn’t let us do it.  It probably took us, with help, about 90 minutes to book and print our tickets.  The agent was really helpful, told us what track it would be on and pulled up on his phone the stops we would be making and had me take a picture of his phone with my phone.

Our last night we had plenty of time to say goodbye to those we met, exchanged email addresses or FB names for those we wanted to stay in contact with and packed our bags.  Now we were off for an adventure on our own – Dusseldorf!

 

Beginnings – KLM and Amsterdam

We usually do one big trip a year and this was our trip as we were heading to Europe for our cruise down the Danube as well as time on our own doing some exploring.

I’m a points hoarder so for this 7 hour flight, I chose for us to fly economy class on KLM.  The flight was just a little over 7 hours and I kept thinking of all the other trips I could go on by saving the difference between economy and business class.  I had transferred 25,000 American Express Membership Reward points for each f us (total 50,000 points) over to KLM in order to make the one way booking.  I was very impressed with economy on KLM, the food and with our service from the flight attendants.

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I’m not going to bore you with minutia details but everything on the flight worked out fine though I would have liked to have a larger entertainment screen but what we had was fine.   After all,  we did want to sleep.

We arrived around 7:30 AM in Amsterdam and the plan was to walk around the city, the flower market and the Rijk (it was closed the last time we were there).  When we arrived we went to the ticket office at the airport to purchase a  24 hour transportation ticket to go into Amsterdam.  Yes, we could have used the unmanned kiosk but since we were using a chip and signature card we wanted to use it first at a manned kiosk.  Downstairs we went to catch the train into the Central Station.

amsterdam train map

I found the train system very user friendly.  Above the track it shows the next 3 trains, where they are going and what time they should be at the station.  We got off the train just before we got to the Central Station and went looking for something that I again hadn’t been able to do during our last visit – eat Dutch pancakes!  You know, those little dollar sizes  saucer shaped pancakes that are sprinkled with powdered sugar and boy, were they good.  A serving is a platter of 12 of them.  I really didn’t think I would eat them all but you know what – I did and I did it quite easily.

dutch pancakes

Next stop on the bus – The Rijk Museum.  The more I travel the more I realize how much I appreciate and enjoy looking at some of the works of the famous Old Masters and this museum certainly didn’t disappoint. The museum, to our somewhat sleep deprived mind, seemed a little confusing and we kept asking directions to find certain exhibits. Nevertheless, we enjoyed our time taking in the paintings of Vermeer, Rembrandt, Raphael. Botticelli and many more.

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After walking around the city and going to one of my favorite places, the flower market,  we found that we were tired.  Really tired.  We still had about three hours before our flight to Nuremberg.

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Rather than wandering around more, we decided to catch  the train back to Schiphol Airport.  Clearing security was no problem and we found where the gate was for our next flight.  But then an amazing thing happened – we found an area that had loungers for us to get comfortable in and actually (speaking for myself) catch up on a little sleep.  Actually I lied…I think I slept about two hours in those loungers.

Our little hopper flight took us from Amsterdam to a city I had not been to before – Nuremberg.  Another train ride from the airport to the central station area where our hotel, the Holiday Inn – City Center was located.  Once we were settled in , we began to explore this city that I am so glad we happened to be in.

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More to come!