We found our hotel every easily, only a 5 minute walk from Amsterdam Centraal. But since it's early (about 8:50 a.m.) we couldn't check in, so we left our luggage in the luggage hold and set out exploring.
Amsterdam is very easy do to by foot. I have to say, the very first thing I noticed was how dirty it was. I was completely shocked and not at all prepared for this. Piles of garbage bags everywhere and lots and lots of litter - cans, bottles, packaging, cigarettes, furniture, appliances, you name it.
It was weird. I think we may have arrived on their clean up day because later we saw these really cool street sweepers and crews of workers with brooms that looked like old "witch brooms" sweeping all of the garbage into it's path so it could sweep it up, and a power washer truck that followed along. Coming from a culture (and a personal strong belief) of no littering, I had a hard time comprehending just throwing a bottle or anything on the ground for someone else to pick up. Brian laughed at me because I had gum I needed to spit out and I refused to throw it on the ground (wrapped or not) and had to search for a garbage can to throw it in. Oh well, doing my little part. O.K., enough about all that.
Amsterdam is really beautiful. Lots of old buildings, lots and lots of canals, and lots of very friendly and helpful people. We walked around quite a bit of the city while waiting to get into our room.
This city is very liberal and some of the storefronts we saw were quite something. I took some pics, but they probably are not something I could/should post in this blog.
We decided to have lunch in a little pub we found - we ordered our lunch and then after while looked around and wondered where the kitchen was or where the food was made...and we joked that she ordered out for it. Yup! A short while later a woman walked in from down the street with two plates of food - and I mean open plates (not plastic or foam and not wrapped or covered) - our lunch!
We had ordered hamburgers and they were good, a bit different tasting than back home, but very good. So after a bit more walking around we decided to head back to our hotel and check in. We are staying at Hotel Multatuli. It's a small, neighborhood type hotel. Our room is VERY small, but very clean and pretty nice. By the time we got checked in, we had been up for nearly 24 hours and had done a lot of walking around. After a short nap, we we showered and were ready to explore Amsterdam again!
We set off walking again and found our way to the Red Light District.
As I mentioned before, Amsterdam is very liberal. I swear the phrase "Live and let live" was born here. We walked up and down the main street in the District and I think I got more of a kick out of the reaction of the Japanse tourists that were in front of us than the actual girls themselves, which was quite something to see! No pics of them, it's not allowed, but I did take a pic of the main street and canal (posted).
We walked some more and went in search of a cheap dinner....since we still did not have access to our money :( Desert first, right? Hey, we're on vacation! We had a chocolate waffle - AMAZING!
Next, everyone was walking around with these big paper cones of fries, so we shared one of those smothered in mayonnaise (delicious - and it's a good thing we are doing so much walking!) and then finished the night sharing a kebab. That was really, really good - spicy and really savory - YUM!
Back to the hotel to wind down and sleep...and after a few hours we were wide awake - at 4:00 a.m....I think it's going to take a little while to adjust to the time difference!
What a long flight! I know it' s not the longest there is at nearly 8 hours, but it was the longest single stretch that I have ever been on (I've had longer travel DAYS, but all of the legs of flight were shorter than this one). Neither of us slept much even though it was an incredibly smooth flight - kudos to the pilot and mother nature for that! So we arrived at Schiphol a little ahead of schedule. Great! Since we had no checked bags, we could cruise right off the plane and on our way. We headed through immigration to the kiosks to purchase our train ticket to go from Schiphol to Amsterdam Centraal station. So far so good. On the way we decided to go ahead and get some cash out of the ATM so we'd be set. Good plan, but FAIL! Apparently when we called the bank to let them know we would be using our debit card in Europe, they didn't take us seriously. No go on the cash. That also meant that our debit card would not work in the kiosk to buy train tickets. We tried our credit card....it asked for our PIN. What?? I've never used my credit card for anything that required a PIN, therefore FAIL again! Breathe. WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO! Joan Ketterman, you are the hero of the day! The Euros that you gave me before we left saved the day! I'm buying you lunch when I get back. So, we were able to buy our train tickets with the Euros we had brought along and then changed the little bit of American dollars we had into Euro at an exchange counter in the airport - which had a very poor exchange rate in addition to their commission. So our $140.00 only got us 84 Euro...and it's Sunday, which means that we can't contact our bank until tomorrow afternoon here ( Monday morning in the states). Amsterdam on a shoestring here we come!!