Mostly Canals and Bicycles

Nuremburg was the end of the line for our cruise. We spent our last night on board, but it was cut short by our need to make an early flight. For some reason we (along with quite a few others) had been scheduled for a 6 am flight from Nuremburg to Amsterdam. So we had to get up at 3 am. (This is another reason I prefer independent travel – you don’t get stuck with itineraries that other people pick.)

But the cruise crew took good care of us, even now at the bitter end. They got up and made breakfast for those of us who could face it at 3 am. And they hired a bus to take all of us early-birds to the airport. It was a quick trip! They even sent a shepherd to make sure we got to the right check-in counter.

When we got to Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport we had to say our final goodbyes to our fellow Viking travelers. They were all going on to other places, but Karen and Joyce and I had planned a weekend in Amsterdam. Joyce had somehow got a later flight, so Karen and I were on our own. We located the transport company that I’d reserved for our hotel transfer, and they took us to the Apple Inn in Amsterdam. There we stowed our luggage and set off to explore the town.


(click on photos for a better view)

On the Street Where We Lived

Streets in Amsterdam are all lined with row houses. There’s never any space between them. Most houses are three stories tall, and some are even taller. And those stories are high – maybe 16 feet. The houses are often decorated with lots of color and trim, and topped with a flat facade that has no depth.


There are bicycles everywhere in Amsterdam. Every street has bike lanes (on both sides) and they extend across intersections. You have to constantly watch for bikes. They are parked everywhere, attached to anything solid, usually with a heavy chain and a huge lock.

Curved Street

Things to notice: the wide red bike lanes, the ugly wires for the tram, the beautiful row houses with their variety of toppings, the way the curvature of the row house fronts matches the street…

The central part of Amsterdam is a series of concentric circular canals – really half-circles. The canals are quite peaceful and beautiful, lined with trees and Dutch buildings of all sorts. Very photogenic. There are lots of great art museums in Amsterdam and the Van Gogh museum was at the top of our list. We also wanted to see the Anne Frank house but I checked online and all of the tickets were sold out for the weekend. The Apple Inn was outside the rings of canals, but we decided to walk down to it and see if we could get into the Van Gogh.

The walk down was interesting. The streets are filled with bicycles. Every street has a bike lane. The bike lanes are painted red (“red with the blood of people who try to walk in them,” said one tour guide) and as a pedestrian you always have to watch out for bikes. They come from all directions, and they come fast. The bigger streets also have trams running down the middle. Of course there are buses too. I didn’t see a subway/metro system so later, on the way back, we decided to try the trams. But I couldn’t figure out where to buy tickets. Karen got fed up with my looking, boarded a tram, and asked the driver – it turns out we buy them from him! Who knew?

Van Gogh Museum

The current feature in the Van Gogh museum is the exhibit of paintings that had been stolen and recently returned. This happened a couple of years ago, so there must not be a steady stream of Van Gogh-related news.

Museum Building

It’s really an excellent museum. It would have been better if not so crowded. But really, crowded is a good thing for an art museum.

Small Talk

I wasn’t sure if this coffee shop would feature coffee or marijuana! Fortunately I got my coffee, and Karen got her tea. And we got to watch the people go by.

We got down to the Van Gogh museum and of course there was a long line for tickets. But it seemed to be moving pretty good, so we got in it, and bought our tickets and a “multimedia guide” for each of us. This turned out to be a good idea. The guide was about the size of a small iPad and you could choose any language. It came with a headset and the guide would talk to you while showing pictures on the screen to correspond with your location in the museum. The museum was packed with people, but we enjoyed looking at Van Gogh’s art and learning about him.

We ate a small breakfast in the museum, but on the way home decided to find a place for lunch. We saw a interesting sign on the corner: “Small Talk Coffee Corner”. So we went in. The place was full – the only available seats were in a window. And omelets were on the menu. So for the second time on this trip we ate breakfast at lunch time in a shop window, and watched the street traffic. This would never happen in the U.S.

While we were eating Joyce texted us that she had arrived at the Apple Inn, so we went back to meet her. By 1:00 or so our rooms were available so we could move in to them. That’s when we realized that Mom could not have stayed at this hotel – the stairs were steepest and shallowest I’ve ever seen, and there was no elevator. But we managed, and the rooms were okay.

We decided to take a canal cruise. Our hotel concierge helped us; she gave us a discount coupon and told us about buying a 24-hour pass for the tram (the tram stop is down at the end of our block, very convenient). We took the tram down to the main train station – which is an amazing building, by the way. This area is packed with tourists and shops – it’s a mob. We got in the (long) line for the canal cruise and packed like sardines into the “Lovers Canal Cruise” boat. I enjoyed the cruise anyway – there were lots of interesting things to see and pictures to take, and I ignored the crowded conditions.

After the cruise we ate dinner at a barbeque restaurant, and took the tram back to our hotel where we slept really well. It was a long day!