Welcome to Amsterdam! Another new country on my list – I’ve never been to the Netherlands before. What? You thought Amsterdam was in Holland? It is – it is the capital of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (country), and in the administrative province of North Holland (there are 12 provinces, and one other is called South Holland).
Our morning excursion was an included and we had selected the Amsterdam Guided Running Tour. We were told it was easier than the last running tour, because there are lots of stops as the guide shows you various points of interest in the city. There were once again only 4 of us, including Sergio who ran with us in Cologne, and another guy Paul. Ironically the guide’s name was also Paul. Vanessa, the ship’s Adventure Guide, ran along with us as well. It was just over 4 miles, and we ran all around Amsterdam.
Amsterdam has an interesting “red light district,” which houses prostitutes. I took out my phone to take photos because there are actual red lights on the buildings and I figured since it was morning and not “working hours” that no one would be around. Suddenly I was yelled at by one of the residents – “no pictures, XXXX!” Oops – I felt really bad! I told the guide to tell me if we were going anywhere else that pictures were not allowed! Luckily, they didn’t take my phone, as evidently that has happened before too.
The running tour took 80 minutes, so we were back on the ship at 10:20am. After lunch there were options for additional excursions (at a premium) and we signed up for Amsterdam on Two Wheels into the Dutch Countryside. Yeah, didn’t really think about the wisdom of running for 4 miles in the morning and biking for 12 miles in the afternoon, but this was the only biking tour we really wanted to do. Two of the others were in the cities of Cologne and Dusseldorf, and the other was in Xanten but it was full before the cruise started (people who signed up in advance online).
There were 30 people signed up, so they broke us up into two groups. Each had a guide at the front who used the wireless mikes into our headsets, and a guide at the back to make sure we didn’t lose anyone. We went first onto a ferry and crossed the river to the north. We rode through little towns, the countryside with fields and cows, past a windmill, along canals, and lots of bridges.
There are actually more bikes in Amsterdam than people, because they have multiple bikes. Bikes pretty much rule the roads – they even have priority in traffic circles. However, you have to be very careful because bikers ride really fast, and you have to make sure and stay out of their way! The ferries are free and are for pedestrians and bikes and motor bikes/scooters. They run frequently to various points outside of Amsterdam. Near the ferries there are bike “hotels” – thousands of bikes locked up for those coming in from the suburbs to pick up and ride into the city. We actually only biked past one windmill, so we all stopped and the guide took our photos in front of it.
At about 7 miles into the trip, we stopped in a little town called Ransdorp and went into a café where they served us Dutch apple pie (or cherry pie), and beer or coffee or tea or soda. Then we had some time to wander through the little town, so we first walked down to the gazebo to hear the music that young people were performing, and then we went into the church and up the tower for a beautiful view overlooking the countryside.
While we were up at the top, we heard our guide come onto our earpieces calling us all to meet at the bikes. While we were climbing down, we heard him count and say he was missing 4 people. We emerged from the tower and ran over to the group, and the “back guide” called the lead guide and told him we were back. Oops! LOL!
Back on the bikes, through more towns, on to another ferry, and back to our ship. It was a great ride, and I’m really glad we did it! Vic said it was even better than he thought it would be too.
We are docked next to another Avalon ship (Imagery II) and saw another one at another dock nearby (Visionary). I asked Wendy (from Globus) if they were the same as the Tapestry II that we were on previously and she said that other than the color schemes, there was no difference. No need to tour those ships then.
Time for dinner and our last “port talk” – Rose talked about sightseeing tips for those of us staying in Amsterdam. For example, don’t go into a coffee shop thinking you’ll get just a cup of coffee. You will be handed a cigarette that does not contain tobacco, as it is legal to use marijuana in Amsterdam. Also, don’t take pictures in the Red Light district (yeah, I already know that one). She also talked about the logistics of disembarkation and luggage and transfers in the morning. Then the captain came out and we all had a glass of champagne to toast each other.
Once again another wonderful dinner, and I was surprised when they brought over a cake that Vic had requested to commemorate our 35th wedding anniversary! Vic had wanted to donate the cake to the kitchen staff but got distracted and instead they cut up the cake and brought it to everyone at our table.
We said goodbye with hugs, and saw that many around the dining room were doing the same. I know many new friendships have been forged on this sailing!
Sunday, August 19 Finish packing, breakfast, and then time to leave the ship. I thanked the gal who cleaned our cabin, gave a hug to the chef, and a big hug to Raluca (my favorite crew member) – she’s just so cute! And sadly, the time had come to leave the ship. The crew helped us take our bags off, and we took an Uber to our hotel. We were staying at the Renaissance, which showed it was only maybe a 10 minute walk, but it takes a lot longer to drive a car anywhere in this city.
Many bridges and small roads do not allow cars, thus one of the big reasons for the bikes because you can get anywhere in the city so much faster than in a car. Our room wasn’t ready yet (it was only a little after 10am), so we asked the concierge for some advice for a canal cruise. They gave us a booklet and we chose one that was on an authentic historic Dutch boat (used to be a tug boat) and included beer and wine and snacks.
eThe Renaissance stored our bags and we headed off to the Rijksmuseum. This museum was founded in The Hague in 1800 and moved to Amsterdam in 1808, where it was first located in the Royal Palace and later in this location. They have a few works from Van Gogh, including his self portrait, and a few from Rembrandt, including Night Watch. I had purchased tickets in advance, as I heard the ticket lines were quite long. They weren’t when we arrived, but by the time we were leaving they were growing. Backpacks weren’t allowed, but they have a desk at which you can check them for no fee
We decided to go to the café in the museum for coffee and tea and ended up having some snacks that were our lunch – apple cake (apple pie) and sugar bread. While we were waiting, we took the recommendation of the waitress, who told us to go to “Madam” tower for dinner, so I made reservations online.
We took an Uber to our boat ride. There were only 9 passengers, including us, an English speaking tour guide and waiter and bartender, and a captain. They did a nice job taking us through canals and describing history and points of interest. The “snacks” were a mix of pretzels and nuts and crackers, and cheese squares. But it was a good cruise and we were happy not to be on one of the large boats.
We went past one bridge where they pointed out that through it you could see through I think 7 other bridges. After the cruise, we walked over to St Nicklaus Church right across the canal – Vic had seen pictures of it in the guidebook and wanted to see it. It was very different from many that we had previously seen because it seemed dark yet colorful inside.
We went back to the hotel and got into our room, then headed to the Anne Frank House. This is one for which you have to get tickets online before you arrive. Ideally you should purchase them about 2 months before when the sales open up for your travel dates. Sadly many people don’t know this and there are many people standing outside taking pictures but can’t go in.
Anne Frank History
If you don’t know the story, Anne Frank was a young Jewish girl who lived in Germany with her parents and sister. When Hitler came to power, they left Germany and moved to Amsterdam. When the Germans came to Amsterdam in 1942, the Frank family, along with another family of 3, went into hiding in the top floors of the building that Mr. Frank owned. They hid there, with the help of a couple men who brought them food, for over 2 years. 28 They were elated when in June of 1944 the allies landed in Normandy and thought that the war would soon be however. Sadly, on August 4, 1944, German soldiers arrived and made their way into the hiding area and arrested them all. The men were taken to xx and the women to Auschwitz.
Anne and her mother and sister were eventually moved to Birken but Anne got sick in the horrible conditions at the camp and died. Every one of the 7 died except Otto Frank, Anne’s father. After he was released, he went back to Amsterdam. Eventually he took out Anne’s diary that she had him put away each night for safe keeping. It was a long time before he could read it, but he finally did and then had it published in 1947 to fulfill her wish of being a published writer. Anne Frank’s Diary has been published in 70 languages over the last 70 years.
The museum encompasses the original house and the building next door. At your ticket time, you line up and are brought into the entrance where backpacks are checked and you are given an audio device in your desired language. As you enter each room, it either automatically connects and starts your device, or you go to the “box” on the wall and bring your device close and it beeps and starts. You go through the warehouse and up into the offices, through the hidden door behind the swinging bookcase, and into the hiding area. It was part of 3 floors, with one bathroom, a kitchen/living room, and a couple bedrooms. There was also the attic, but we weren’t allowed up there. There were photos of the Frank family before they went into hiding, the “Hollywood pictures” she had cut from magazines and glued to the wall, and short stories she had written. There was a post card that Otto sent to his sister before he went into hiding. There was no furniture as Otto had not want it put back in. It is a very sad story, but an important one to experience and share.
After we left Anne Frank house, we went back to the hotel and stopped in the concierge lounge. Lots of dessert treats were out! We left and walked down to the Central Station, took the ferry across the river, and went to the tall building we had seen from our ship, the one with the swings on the top. We went up to the 20th floor and had a very nice dinner at Madam. There is a second restaurant that rotates, but it is very pricey and we were told by a few locals that it wasn’t worth the price. This restaurant was great, and the service was very good. The views were wonderful! How ironic, though – our table had a view looking down… at our ship! Of all the places in the restaurant we could have been seated, this was where we were placed. They have large diamond shapes screens that say “Touch me,” and when you do it tells you to turn/spin it. There are three buttons that change the view – one shows you that view in history, one shows is during daylight with points of interest noted, and one at night. Around the corner is a model of the building, as well as one of the town with lights that change as the timeline changes to show the progression and building of the city. Then we went up one floor to the observation deck and had a full view around the city. We also saw people riding on the swing as it swung out over the side of the 21 stories. No thank you!
Overall we had a great time. It is interesting to find a “new” way of sightseeing after all these years – we were surprised how much of Amsterdam we saw during our running tour. The ship was great, the crew was wonderful, we made new friends, and we made many new memories. Truly a great way to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary!