Amsterdam

Amsterdam

I’ve really been pushing this post off for far too long, but I promise I have a good excuse. I’ve been actively studying for my CPA exams, and with the entrance into “adulthood” – balancing work, studying, a social life, and a blogging life has become quite difficult. Something had to give – and sadly blogging was one of them. Since my last post, I passed a few more portions of my exams, but I still have some more studying to go. Hopefully in a few months I’ll have completed all parts and can actively blog again. Here’s to wishful thinking.

 

Amsterdam

 

Any-who, the end is FINALLY here, enjoy the last of our backpacking trip through Europe with our trip to Amsterdam.  Paris (read about it here) was icing on the cake because James and I realized we had some extra money to play with because we maintained our “cheap” mindset a little too well at the start of our trip. We were very excited about Amsterdam because we got to splurge on any and everything we wanted.

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The Flight

We landed in Amsterdam at 2 p.m. from Paris, and let me tell you this flight was without a doubt our best flight, and was just the pick me up we needed. I decided to splurge on these flights and got us tickets on AirFrance. Let me tell you, the free food and drinks was a pleasant change from our “pay for what you get” cheap -o flights we had been doing.

 

Transportation to the City Center

From Amsterdam Schiphol you can take a train directly into Amsterdam Central. At the time for us a one way ticket cost us €2.95 ea., and we were able to get into the city within 20 minutes. There were tons of kiosks throughout the terminal and we were easily able to purchase the tickets. We selected one way tickets, because the round trip tickets were only valid within 24 hours – not that helpful for us.

 

Accommodations

Prior to our trip we had closed our bank account in England as we had ended our study abroad and no longer needed the account. When I booked our hostel, I ensured they were locations that didn’t require a prepayment and could be paid on site, in person. The hostel, Amigo Budget Hostel, decided to charge our card the day of our reservation for the and since it got kicked back due to the account being closed they cancelled our reservation. I was quite frustrated due to the fact that I picked it specifically for the purpose that no prepayment was required to avoid this issue. Fortunately once we got to the hostel, I was able to sort it out with them and got them to agree to honor our reservation.

The hostel itself, was fine. You got exactly what you paid for. The rooms were in okay shape, there was definitely not enough bathrooms for the place,  and you had to pay a deposit for your keycard. On top of it all, they moved our rooms on the second night. This for us was extremely annoying, because we had booked this hostel months ago, and on the second night we were forced to relocate to a room where one gentleman was so terribly drunk we could not sleep. In the end James got so irritated he went downstairs and demanded we get moved into a different room and they accommodated and we thankfully got moved to much quieter room, but the experience in itself was not great. Also, the worst part of this hostel was probably the stairs. When I read the reviews on Booking, I really thought people were exaggerating saying how atrocious the stairs were – but it’s really far worse in person.

Luckily for Eli, he stayed in a separate hostel from us on this trip, and after James and I had checked into our hostel we parted ways on that first day. As it turns out, I found out I had family in Amsterdam and James and I decided to meet up with them on the first day while Eli explored on his own.

 

Family Introduction

My aunt Angelie had relocated to Amsterdam many years ago, and I was able to meet her and my cousin Jyoti for the first time. Since we had money to spare, James and I decided to get a 24 hour travel card for the two of us at €7.50 ea, and took the subway to my aunt’s house. It was such a great moment for me, not only because I was able to get to know my family, but I was also able to introduce James to more members of my family. Anne and Jyoti were so kind and hosted us for dinner filled with a traditional meal and followed by a traditional dessert. Beyond getting to know Angelie and Jyoti, it was fascinating learning about the differences in work life, social norms, and cuisine between the USA and The Netherlands.

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The City

The following day James and I had planned to meet up with Eli in a specific location to create our game plan for the day. Eli had gotten a tad bit lost, and while waiting for Eli, James and I decided we would do the Heineken Experience Tour, as it included a tour of the factory, along with a canal ride. Once Eli had finally met up with us and we informed him of our plans, he decided to explore some more on his own as he wasn’t entirely interested in the Heineken Experience.

I think for me this day in Amsterdam ended up being one of my favorite days because as much as I loved traveling with friends, it was nice to spend some quality time just James and I. To be honest, it was also nice to bicker without feeling the need to hold back because we were with others…surprisingly though, we didn’t bicker at all on this go round – go us! We spent the day walking around the city, and sightseeing a little! We really wanted to rent bikes, but after 10 days of non stop walking my legs were not having it. We ended up using our 24 hour card to utilize the tram system throughout the system.

Pro Tip #1: The Public Transport in Amsterdam is very strict. You must check in, and check out when you’re on a tram. I found Amsterdam much stricter than other cities i.e. Budapest where you could easily get on the trains without paying due to the lack of guards monitoring. In comparison, the trams on Amsterdam had someone monitoring at all entrances/exits.

The Heineken Experience – Rock the City Tour

The tour cost €18 ea, but since we had this extra money we needed to spend we opted to do the Rock The City tour at €25 ea. It included a tour of the Heineken Factory, two free beers at the Heineken bar, a canal ride to the A’Dam lookout, and for an extra €5 once at the A’Dam tower you could go to the very top and ride the swing!

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Having done the Guinness Factory, I was expecting this to be very much the same but I was pleasantly surprised. I found Guinness to be far more informative, and educational, whereas the Heineken experience was more interactive and “fun”. There were rooms with games, and little attractions you could partake in which I personally felt made it more enjoyable. When you enter the building you’re given a bracelet with two Heineken pins, and in order to redeem your two free beers you must return the pins. You do however get to keep the bracelet – score, free souvenir.

 

After the factory tour, you then go to the docks located just in front of the factory and board the Heineken Boat to cruise down the canals. You could choose to pay for additional drinks while on the boat if you wanted, but maintaining our frugality we chose to enjoy the view for free. At the end of our ride, we were given Heineken engraved bottle openers – you can imagine how pumped I was about this second souvenir.

The boat dropped us off at the A’Dam tower, where you can take photos with a green screen behind you – and frankly James and I had a lot of fun doing this. We then opted to pay the extra €5 ea. and go to the top of the tower to ride the swing.

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Now when I was told you could go on a swing that swings over the edge of the building, I thought this would be thrilling. My adrenaline would be pumping, I’d be terrified but exhilarated. Well as it turns out – no, not the case. This was quite a calm, and soothing swing, that ever so slowly swung over the edge a few times. Regardless, while it may not have been the action packed, thrill seeking ride I was hoping for, it was still a magnificent view of Amsterdam.

 

 

The 9 Streets

Following our tour we took a recommendation of my aunts, and moseyed on over to the shopping area. The “quaint canal-district area” was strewn with boutiques, cafes, coffee shops and restaurants. It was such a pleasant way to walk around and see a part of the city, and to people watch. My aunt said that it’s quite common to walk around all the cheese shops and sample all the Dutch cheese. Now if you don’t know me that well – I am obsessed with cheese. So obviously, James and I spent our time walking around sampling cheese. In the end I ended up buying a wheel of cheese to bring home to the U.S. because I’m a sucker.

 

 

Anne Frank House

The Anne Frank House was a must for me. We waited on line for about 2 hours, in the freezing cold, to purchase tickets at €9 ea. You can easily book the tickets in advance but due to the unpredictability of our travels, I preferred to buy everything on site. The wait to me was worth it.

For those that are unaware the museum is the actual site of the home in which the Frank family hid. Anne’s father, Otto Frank, insisted that the annex must be presented in the exact manner in which it was left after the Nazi’s ransacked it. He did not want any renovations, improvements, additions of furniture etc. added – he wanted to home to look as bare as it had been left by the Nazis.

When you enter the museum you first enter into a lobby of sorts with pictures of various members of the Frank family and quotes from Anne’s diary engraved on the wall. I believe this building was built adjacent to the home, in order to make it a functional museum. Once you have completed that portion, you enter the home through the hidden door behind the bookcase and climb the narrow steps that the Frank family once did. The bookcase itself is enclosed within a glass case for preservation.

It is truly humbling to see the living quarters that both the Frank and the Van Pels family were forced to share in an attempt to survive. For me walking through the annex, was extremely emotional, and extremely important. I think it’s crucial to remember that mankind was capable of such terrible atrocities, and can easily repeat those actions, and as sad as it is – this museum is a constant reminder, and an inspiration to do better. In addition to touring the annex we saw Anne’s actual diary, which was quite fascinating to see.

I think my favorite part however of the entire museum was towards the end they played a video of people commenting about the Holocaust, and there was one clip that stuck out to me most. One woman said while it’s important to recognize the horrors that occurred to Anne Frank and her family and friends, these horrors occurred to so many people. For every Anne Frank, there was another person, less popular, less known, but equally terrible outcome. That to me was very grounding, because while it’s quite easy to think of Anne Frank during this time, millions upon millions of people died. We as mankind need to prevent atrocities like this from ever repeating.

If I had any grievance with the experience it was simply the people in attendance. I found that there were many, rude and insensitive people, that were walking around, taking selfies, causing a bit of a scene, acting like they were at an amusement park, in a location that was somber at best.

 

The Red Light District

Did you really go to Amsterdam if you didn’t visit The Red Light District?

We certainly did not venture to the area for “shopping” purposes, but we were curious to see what exactly it was like.

Pro Tip #2: Do not take pictures in The Red Light District. It’s extremely frowned upon, and you’re likely to have someone take your camera and throw it in the canal.

Still yet, I managed to sneak a quick picture – because if nothing else I’m a risk taker…just kidding. I’m not entirely sure what we were expecting when we ventured into the district, but we found it a bit underwhelming. Maybe its because we were looking solely out of curiosity, and not desire, but we found many of the, ladies, that were working, disinterested. I’m sure if one were venturing into this area for business/pleasure, they may have found it more fascinating than I did.

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Cafe / Coffee Shops / Coffee house vs Coffeeshop

An important distinction needs to be made. There is quite a difference between a cafe, and/or coffee shop / coffee house with a coffeeshop. At a coffee shop, or coffee house, you’ll find actual coffee, a cafe is a bar, and a coffeeshop is where you’ll find pot/weed/hash whatever you want to call it. It should be easily obvious as you walk into one – but just in case you’ve got a hankering for coffee and work into the wrong place, now you know!

 

 

The Good Eats

When we visited my Aunt and Cousin she treated us to a traditional winter meal in Amsterdam. We started off with a creamy and delicious tomato soup, followed by a dish consisting of mashed potatoes and sausage with gravy. For dessert we had a pink cake-like pastry. On our way to my aunts we made sure to stop and purchase a bottle of wine as a thank you gift. Now, we could have bought her something terrible, or great, I really have no idea. We bought it on the recommendation of the shopkeeper, and it was only €10.

Pasta Pasta

We wanted to do one sit down dinner, as is our norm when traveling. We settled eventually on Pasta Pasta, because the prices were quite fair, and there were various options, and most importantly the portions looked quite large and we were starving. In we went, settled down and put our orders in ready to eat. Not even ten seconds after we put our orders in, James spotted a mouse above my shoulder on the wall. Me being me – I jumped out of my seat and moved away from the mouse. It was literally right by my shoulder, and there was no way I would sit there and be able to eat wondering if the mouse would hop on me. When we informed the staff, they were indifferent, and kinda were along the lines of “oh well.” That was about enough for James and I, and we decided to eat elsewhere.

Burger n’ Shake

After our failed attempt at having a sit down dinner, we ended up at Burger n’ Shake. I got a “Vegetable Halloumi” burger, while James got a ‘Beef and Spicy” burger. Both were reasonably priced at €5.50 ea. and delicious. We topped off our dinner with a mango yogurt shake to share at €3.50.

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Street Eats

Breakfast

The following morning we got breakfast to go, and went to a bakery and just bought an assortment of things to snack on. We purchased some olive focaccia, mediterranean focaccia bread, and apple pastries all for €10. They were absolutely delicious, though I somehow didn’t manage to get a photo.

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Frietsteeg

Again, on my aunt’s recommendation we made sure to get ahold of some fries – Dutch style. They were topped with ketchup and mayo and it was absolutely delicious. There’s something quite different with American mayo, and the mayo that was on these fries. It didn’t taste like I was just eating fat. It was so good, and for €2.00 for a small order it was a steal. We also ordered a fried slab of cheese, not entirely sure what it was called but it was tasty as well and only €1.50. Very much like a mozzarella stick – but different.

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Van der Linde ijs

Another terrific recommendation by family was to visit this wonderful ice cream shop. Let me tell you, this was hands down the best ice cream I’ve ever had. The only thing that’s come close was the gelato in Italy. This ice cream is just pure cream, nothing else, and whipped till it becomes a beautiful, tasty scoop of frozen goodness. The best part? It only cost €1.10 for a scoop. In addition we purchased some delicious chocolate dusted treats or – Slagroom truffles as they’re actually called, for €2.

 

After the Anne Frank Museum we decided to return to Van Der Linde ijs and get some more ice cream. To James’ utter disappointment, they were closed. We ended up settling for a random bakery where we picked these delicious treats. I honestly don’t remember what they were called, but I do remember how tasty and decadent they were, and for €6.5 it was worth it!

Transportation to the Airport

As the end of our trip came to a close, we had one more flight to take – back to England! We got up early, around 4 a.m. and took the Night Bus 757 to Amsterdam Central. The bus cost us €4.50 ea., and once we got to Amsterdam Central we bought another one way ticket to Amsterdam Schiphol for €2.95 ea. Shortly after, we were on our flight back to London Luton!

 

Miles Walked: 16.3 miles

Breakdown

  • Day 1 Miles Walked: 4.8 miles
  • Day 2 Miles Walked: 11.5 miles

 

Total Cost James and I: $98.20 on prepaid flight, €219.50 in Amsterdam

Quick Overview

  • Euros spent: €219.50
  • USD spent on prepaid flight: $98.20

 

  1. Beginning  balance of Euros:€351.61
  2. Total Euros spent:€219.50
  3. Ending balance of Euros: €132.11

 

Breakdown of costs

Prepaid Flight Cost:

***ALL 9 Flights Totaled Roughly $301 ea. per 7/17/16 conversion rates. This portion:

  • Flights to Amsterdam: $98.20 USD.
    • CDG-AMS 12:340:-13:55

 

Cost Incurred in Amsterdam: €219.50

  • Post Card: €1
  • Food: €62.70
    • Bakery €10
    • Frietsteeg €3.50
    • Burger n’ shake €14.50
    • Van der Linde ijs €4.20
    • Dessert €6.50
    • Wheel of Cheese €14
    • Bottle of Wine €10
  • Transportation: €35.80
    • Four one-way tickets Schiphol to Amsterdam Central & vice versa €2.95 ea, total €11.8
    • Two 24 hour unlimited GVB public transport tickets €15
    • Two night bus tickets, €4.50 ea, €9
  • Hostel: €42
    • Amigo Budget Hostel for 2 nights €21 ea.
  • Attractions: €78
    • Heineken Experience; Rock the City Tour €30 ea, total €60
    • Anne Frank House Museum €9 ea, total €18

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2 Comments

  1. May 21, 2018 / 6:15 AM

    I like your blog! Nice and cheap trip, well done!

    • Itinerary Shelly
      May 24, 2018 / 12:14 AM

      Thank you!

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