Day 8 - "No Particular Plans" - Amsterdam

June 17, 2013

When the plans were being made for this trip, I figured two and a half days in Amsterdam might be too long.  So I had two days set aside for day trips.  I wanted to go to Brugge.  Elias found a place in the Netherlands that had tons of windmills.  Today was scheduled for one of those days.  Yesterday, we were at dinner or lunch or something and I asked Elias if he wanted to do a day trip tomorrow or if we should just keep hanging in Amsterdam.  He voted to hang in Amsterdam.  Which was honestly fine.  I think we are both slowing down.  Scratch that.  I KNOW we are both slowing down.  So we figured we could keep ourselves busy in Amsterdam for one day longer.  

Since we didn't have very secure plans today, we started off easy.  And we decided we needed a Starbuck's treat for breakfast.  I mean, it's been 8+ days since Starbucks, so that's enough time to suffer some chai withdrawal.  Our 9 Tram would take us right by the Starbucks in Rembrandtplein Square.  Perfect.  Though the tram wasn't being overly cooperative yesterday.  We waited for a significant time for our tram to show and once it did...wildly filled.  This seemed to be the issue for us most of the day on this line.  Something was off.  When we boarded, I went to the second conductor (many trams have two conductors) to purchase two 48 hour passes.  He was out.  So I asked for two 24 hour passes.  He was out there too.  Which was a problem since I just had a €50 bill.  He told me not to worry about it.  So I didn't. 

We walked into the Starbucks and it was much bigger than any Starbucks I'd ever seen.  Three stories and plenty of seating.  I do love that the sizes are the same everywhere.  Tall Chai, please.  As we sat in the store, a group of four or five people came in, taking pictures of everything around.  They had to have been from other Starbucks.  The manager came out and talked to them for a while and I listened in.  The store was the largest in Amsterdam and possibly Europe.  Cool.  It was a nice breakfast for both of us.  

Looking for things to do today, I found a botanical garden that I thought might be a good thing for us to do and Elias didn't object.  We waited (a while) for our 9 Tram and went back towards our hotel.  I had a coupon for a 20% discount and on the coupon, it gave the tram stop for our tram.  Well, this was a tram stop that didn't exist.  Seriously.  I knew where the garden was in relationship to the zoo.  When we got to the zoo, I knew we went too far, so we got off the tram and walked to our next stop.

The Hortus Botanicus was a nice enough place, but when we went in, Elias couldn't have been less enthusiastic.  Which put a mild damper on the moment.  It also had less flowers and more greenery.  I wanted flowers.  But they had a butterfly garden, so that was something.  We didn't stay too long.

We decided to find a late lunch.  Someplace where we could just sit and relax.  The other day, we were on a tram and saw what seemed to be a fun area.  Maybe a little touristy, but where there was a lot going on.  After getting off the tram at Leidseplein, our senses were a little on alert.  Where to go??  There was a decent area that was very Heineken-branded, with an outdoor area and an inside terrace.  Elias hasn't been too keen on sitting outside for meals.  Granted, it has been cold and at times drizzly, but it has surprised me that he has been pretty anti-outdoors.

Our stop at the Grand Heineken Cafe was a little bit perfect.  We sat in the terrace area and grabbed cider (Strongbow!!), a sandwich and bitterballen.  Here is the story about bitterballen...it's a Dutch snack, with beef or veal, beef broth, butter, and flour (to thicken).  The mixture is combined and cooked, then cooled and rolled into balls to be deep fried.  They taste like fried cream of mushroom soup.  We first had some at the wedding the other day.  We had more today.  We will probably have more tomorrow.

As the lunch winded down, a woman came and sat near enough to our table.  She ordered tea and an apple pie.  And as we continued to eat, she ignored both items.  For forever!!  We liked the look of the pie so much that we ordered one (along with another cider and coke).  Our pie was delivered and mostly eaten before she started on hers.  The apple pie was glorious.  The crust was more cakey than pie-ish.  I'd like to figure this recipe out in the fall.  Yum!!

When we drove through the street the other day, Elias found a MINI Cooper store.  I thought it was a dealership, but nope.  It was a store that sold MINI swag.  Cars aren't sold here at all.  We loved it and had a long chat with one of the workers.  Both of us ended up with a T-shirt and a MINI pen.  Good times.

We thought we might try to go to the Concertgebouw since they had an English tour of the concert hall at 5p.  If we hadn't spent the time chatting with the MINI worker, we'd have probably made it.  But we didn't.  It wasn't a big deal.  And I wasn't sure they would even have tickets.  But it was an idea for the night.  As we walked to the concert hall, we saw a sight I never considered my eyeballs would witness.  An old man wearing only a black speedo getting on a bike right next to us.  It's every bit as weird as you'd think it would be.  And the weather was still chilly, so..just so weird.

Our day tomorrow will be spent in the museum area, so we really didn't need to be here today.  But since we were walking to the concert hall, we could take a gander at the scenes for the next day.  It was here where we finally saw the iamsterdam sign.  I'd wondered where that was going to be!!  There was a whole park area and sculptures and all kinds of fun things.  Three puppies were frolicking off leash.  Guys were throwing the frisbee.  It was a really nice area.  I look forward to going back tomorrow.

We did something today I have never done on a trip outside of the United States.  I'm not too proud of this, but...we stopped at McDonald's.  I know.  I KNOW!!  But, McDonald's here has Twix McFlurries (please don't tell me they do as well in the States.  I can't handle that knowledge.).  Elias zeroed in on the McFlurries when we were in Den Bosche and I told him we could go while we were here.  We actually tried last night, but they turned off the ice cream machine already.  So we had it here.  The verdict...it was good, but with any caramel plus ice cream dessert, you have to be wildly careful since caramel hardens up quickly and hard.  I had a few bites and then handed it over to Elias. If there's one thing I wouldn't be able to handle on the tail end of the trip, it would be a broken tooth.  Ugh.

We actually made it an early night tonight.  Tomorrow is going to be spent at museums (an actual day planned in advance) and we have to be up and at 'em moderately early.  Plus, we've been up late the last few nights.  Sleep is needed...

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