Day 7 - "We Always Get There in the End" - Amsterdam
June 16, 2013
I don't know who we are anymore. We are sleeping in and leisurely moving around. We NEVER do that!! Then again, we are on Day 7, with one traveler who has never been on a trip this long and another traveler who hasn't been on a trip this long in a while (not to mention said traveler is getting older and may not be able to travel at such high speeds for as long as they have done in the past). So that is our new normal for the rest of the journey. The alarm goes off, we sleep a little longer. And it is glorious.
Elias was hungry for breakfast this morning (shocker!!) so went downstairs to the hotel breakfast. Now, I thought this breakfast was included in our room. It wasn't. I wasn't jazzed about spending €17.50 for a breakfast buffet, but Elias was actually hungry and it was a Sunday, so I sucked it up. We got downstairs around 1045a. Nothing too crazy. The waitress asked if we wanted the buffet or a la carte. I didn't know there was an option, so I asked what that entailed. She said if we wanted drinks, it would cost about the same for the buffet. Ok, I would do that. She then proceeded to tell us we needed to sit in a different section. Ok, we moved. After we got our first pass of a breakfast, the waitress came back and said they were shutting down the buffet because they needed to freshen it for the Lunch Buffet. We were free to go up one more time for whatever we wanted, but it would close immediately. Sigh. Bad form, restaurant. If I'm paying a crap-ton of money for this, we should not be rushed. Especially if you are the ones that convinced us to go buffet. Whatever. I grabbed all the bacon left and we ate and got the heck out of there.
Our day wasn't going to be massively heavy anyway. We knew we had a 445p tour of the Anne Frank house. Other than that, we were up for anything. So our first stop was Rembrandtplein Square. I saw this square yesterday and was struck by a statue with a bunch of other statues around it. This seemed like and excellent photo op area, so it was good to start. Turns out, the main statue is Rembrandt (duh!!) and the other statues are the people in the Night Watch. Cool!! We couldn't get a clean picture of the entire statue due to the tourists. Then again, we photobombed other people's pictures too, so...
In the square, we stumbled on an art fair. Kind of makes sense for where we were. We walked around a little bit to see if anything caught our eye. And one piece did. It was a long, thin, colorful painting of tulips and a windmill. The colors go very well with my house and I think I was meant to have it. We talked to the artist for a few minutes and left, but I kept thinking about the painting and Elias told me I needed to buy it. The only part that wasn't cool was I had to lug it around the rest of the day. Luckily, it was light.
We walked towards Centraal Station and into Dam Square. Kind of like Grand Place in Brussels, it was a square with large ornate buildings. Unlike Grand Place, it was a touristy mess. When you see a Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum on the corner, you know it is a bad sign. But again, in the middle of Dam Square, a lovely American girl asked if we wanted her to pray with us. A curt "No" was said and we walked away from her quickly. (Sidenote - wtf is with the praying people?? They are all over Amsterdam and they are beyond annoying.) In the middle of the square, three people stood on soapboxes. One was dressed as Batman. One as a Roman Gladiator. One as a Grimm Reaper. Sigh. We took our requisite pics in front of the buildings and got the heck out of Dam.
As we walked further towards Centraal Station, we got to more touristy places. Elias had mentioned the Amsterdam Dungeon a few times. We were walking right by it and I walked over to get a pamphlet. Elias freaked out a little, "I didn't want to go IN there!!!!!" Good. It looks like the schlock at Wisconsin Dells. But he mentioned it several times, so I figured it was something he found interesting. We wandered into a few souvenir shops and scoped out some stuff to pick up later. It was time to figure out how in the world to get towards where we needed to be for the next few hours.
There's something about the walk from Centraal Station that screws my brain up. I can't find where we are on a map. I can't find where we need to go. So we wander. Every so often, there is a street name that I can find on the map, and I can't figure out how we got there. But those moments are few and far between. We always get where we need to go in the end, but I don't think Elias is always convinced we'll find out way to where we need to go.
A few blocks away from the Anne Frank House, we made our way to the Pancake Bakery. This restaurant is a little bit touristy, but tasty. And we knew we had to have pancakes. Elias picked a banana chocolate pancake. I had a ham, cheese and pineapple one. The pancakes were good. Thinner than US pancakes, thicker than a crepe, but not by much. It was decent timing too. The tour of the house was in an hour and a half, then we had dinner plans after.
We were a little early for our house tour, so we hung for a while at the Westermarkt where we popped a squat on a monument. This was also the place where I remembered Elias's phobia about pigeons/birds. He was sitting and minding his own business and once a pigeon showed up, he eyed it warily. When the pigeon's brothers showed up, Elias moved quickly to the other side of the square. I pointed and laughed. Ahhh...family...
The biggest recommendation I have for someone going to the Anne Frank House is to get your tickets In advance. There is no reason to wait in line. We keep reading this, but the people just queue up around the corner. Seriously, buy them. Unless you dig waiting in line. That's up to you. As I looked at tickets in advance, I saw there was an extra 30 minute "lecture" that could be purchased that gives you a better feel for the house. I was all over this lecture since I've never read the diary (I know!! Leave me alone.). It was a really nice touch and I completely recommend the additional few dollars. The woman giving the talk showed us where the family and world was during Anne's life. It also gave us an idea of the players in the story.
Once the 30 minutes were over, we began our walk through the house. The house is not furnished because Otto Frank believed it should be empty to represent the losses of life at that time in the war. It really was something to see. Not just the rooms and the stairways (treacherous), but the visuals as well. This all happened within the last hundred years. There is photographic and video evidence of this family. Of the horribleness that went on at this time. I just couldn't wrap my head around the fact that people did this to other people. Or that one person was able to create a scenario that caused the world to change so drastically. Yes, I've seen videos and pictures and history books about this time, but the goal of the Anne Frank House was to show how the war and how the restrictions based on religion affected one family. They did their job. And now I really need to read the diary.
One of the things I learned as I began researching the vacation was that Amsterdam had a huge Indonesian food scene. Who would have thunk it?? I knew we had to try Indonesian food. Though I was concerned about Elias. He is always ready to try anything, but his palate isn't quite where it will be in a few years. I just hoped he'd be ok. I made reservations at a restaurant called Blauw a few weeks ago. This place was recommended by a Travel Channel rep I met through Adele. She went there and Travel + Leisure featured it. But first, we had to get there.
I could find the restaurant on a map, so we are starting off better than normal. While we waited for our tour at the Anne Frank House, we looked at a tram map. We could take the 1 or 2 Tram and get in the area. We just had to get to the 1 or 2 Tram first. The only way I could easily find was to go back to Centraal Station. Fine. That is easy and wouldn't take forever. The biggest issue is the tram map on every tram stop does not show the name of the stops. Fail. So we have to guess. Which is tricky. Especially if we don't have detailed memory knowledge with the map of the city.
So we set off on Tram #2. I knew this tram went south of the park. I just didn't know how long the park went. And I winged it and got off at a stop. Which added a good...let's say 20 minutes of walking to the restaurant. Oh well...we got to see what some different neighborhoods looked like.
I knew Indonesian food consisted of something called a rice table (Rijsttafel). It was described as Tapas. I didn't really know what to expect. So here it goes. It's like Tapas. Helpful, right?? We ordered the meat, fish and vegetable rice table. The servers brought over 15-20 small dishes. Two were rice (white and fried), two were skewers (chicken and beef), two were pork (I think), two were fish, one was goat, and the rest were varying veggie dishes. Fried banana, something with a deep fried caramelized potato, shredded toasted coconut (possibly my favorite), cucumber in a sweet vinegar oil, a curried hard boiled egg...I could go on, but I really don't know what was put in front of us. We just ate. Elias claimed to like it, but not as much as the Ethiopian food from earlier in the year. I really enjoyed it, but definitely should have had a glass of wine (I hadn't had water all day and went through two large bottles during the dinner). I think I would have eaten more if I hadn't had pancakes earlier in the afternoon. But it was very tasty and I am interested to see if they have anything like it in Chicago. If any city would have something, it would have to be Chicago.
I was concerned about the tram back to Centraal Station, but knew there had to be a better way to get to the hotel. I asked the waitstaff and their answer floored me, "Oh, it's easy. Turn right and then turn right when you get to the next street. The stop is on the corner. Son of a...
We made it to the hotel and after a bit of FaceTime with the folks, we turned in. Or we tried to. This whole light all night thing is seriously messing with my brain. Seriously.