Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Amsterdam part 1

Brendon spending some time with happy little Michael while his parents did their last bit of packing for our world-wind trip to Amsterdam.
We were up early and got the two trips to the station done on time. Graham then wanted to just check that we had everything and asked if I had the bahn card. I didn't. I knew he had bought this for me for our train trip to them, but didn't realize that it was also used for this booking. So the decision was quickly made that he, Asher and I would go back to the house, get that and then drive to Bremen to meet them there for the next connection. We didn't have time to get to the house and back for the the Otterburg train's planned departure time. The train ended up being 20 minutes late - so we would have made it - but as Graham's phone went flat - they could not call us to let us know.
Graham and I had a nerve-racking trip to Bremen. There was so much traffic and it was pouring with rain. We knew what time the next train was due to leave and we only just had enough time to make it. We had planned to park at a shopping centre - a 5 minute bus drive from the train station.
I love this photo at the train station - with Dads and daughters.
We parked and knew we only had about 15 minutes. Graham mentioned that there were 2 trains, one took 5 minutes and the other took 15!!!! So we HAD to make sure we got on the right one. He checked the map and realized we were at the wrong bus stop. So we quickly crossed two roads and got to the right one. Thankfully the rain had eased by now and we didn't get too wet. We were also very pleased to see the bus was due to arrive within 2 minutes. We got on the correct bus (5 minute drive) and found Brendon, Aleks and the other 2 children waiting at the entrance. We made our way to the platform and found that our train was late. So all that rush for nothing. :-) It sure did add to the adventure of it all. ;-)
The train was not very busy, so we had loads of space. We had the 4 seats opposite this too.
Welcome to Amsterdam.
And what a beautiful central station. We arrived around 1pm and our first goal was to find a place for lunch. We had been advised to stay off the main road (tourist prices) and rather head down the smaller streets to find more value for money.

Below: Crossing our first canal and what a great view of these very typical Amsterdam houses.

Everyone seemed to recommend a canal tour - and we spotted one of them here. Our plan is to do that tomorrow. At least you get an idea of what it looks like from the outside. :-)
So we got to the smaller streets and started our search for a place for lunch.
Our first thought was fish (as Asher loves fish) but we ended up at a steak house. One big sales point was the "sit down and eat" aspect as we just wanted to get everyone fed asap. The food was delicious and the spare ribs and chips reminded us of Spur Steak House in South Africa. Even the lighting was like Spur. So funny that we would get this experience in Europe (taking us back to many memories growing up in SA).
Then we made our way to our accommodation for the night. On a boat! The value for money for this was excellent. We knew it would be small but I was really excited about this. What a unique experience.
Our check in was early in the afternoon - so we were able to drop off our bags and explore the town more easily.
Some of the boats around us. Brendon knew Rachel would especially like this one.
And this is how close we were to the station.
Asher having a chat to Michael before we headed out again.
We had their double stroller with - so the girls rode in that for a while.
We managed to find a ATM to get some cash and had a good laugh. Graham went first and I thought it was in Dutch - so I was trying to follow along. I then put my card in and it was all in English. Graham said his actually came up in German - but he was thrown because he was expecting Dutch. While other machines we used would ask for our language preference first, this clever machine just read the card to know what language to use.
Left: Girls having fun together.
Right: The streets were much busier now and we had quite a few experiences with the cyclists. It's funny that I would get this guy in the photo though - I think he was the only person we saw on a racing bike - with a helmet. Most of the bikes are like those below - with wide handle bars that allow you to sit upright while you ride. And helmets are not a legal requirement here or in Germany as they are in New Zealand.
A lovely one of Brendon and Asher at one of the canals.
And then Graham and his family with a very busy street behind them.
As a friend well put it - this street was really clogged up. :-)
Doing the real tourist thing. :-)

Below: We got into the centre of town to see the Palace on Dam Square. A nice opportunity to have a photo with my brother. :-)
Soon after this we gave up the hope of reaching Ann Frank House and so Brendon, Asher and I headed back to the boat. I will leave the rest of the photos for the next post.

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