I woke up this morning and realized today would be bittersweet...and it was. I was very excited because I knew we were going to Amsterdam, but very sad because I knew tomorrow would be my last day in Holland and end my visit with Simon.
Well, the morning started with a cloudy sky and cold sprinkles of rain. The forecast called for steady rain throughout the day in Amsterdam and the forecasters were correct. But this rain was light, sometimes a little heavier, and sometimes the sun shown for a few minutes, then back to rain. It seemed a lot like Arkansas. But I didn't mind the rain because Amsterdam was beautiful despite the rainy day.
After taking the bus to the train station, we left on the 9:54 am train from Delft. Our ride required no transfer of trains, but we did stop along the way...including a stop in Haarlem...NYC's Harlem's namesake. All in all it took less than an hour to arrive at Amsterdam's Central Station. From there we walked to Damrack 26, the address of the Canal Bus Tour.
It was so nice to ride this canal bus through the canals. We looked up at some wonderful houses dating back hundreds of years old. The bus was guided by recordings in Dutch, English, Spanish and French. It was a bit confusing at times, but interesting and entertaining. The destinations of the rides were determined by the green, red, and blue lines. We took the green line, getting off at our first chosen destination, the Rijksmuseum. I've always wanted to go this museum and I was not disappointed. So many great paintings by two of my favorites, Rembrandt and Jan Steen. The Night Watch, of course, is one of the most popular pieces. But the museum itself was just great. They are in the process of remodeling but it was still great.
We then took the canal bus (passing the Hard Rock Amsterdam Cafe, which was too far off the route...darn it!) and got off at the Anne Frank House destination. From there we walked to a nearby restaurant and had lunch. (We had wanted to eat at the restaurant across from the museum but it was so crowded with little room to breathe, let alone sit down and eat).
We ate at the Il Panorama on Herengracht street. No bad at all. A great meal. I don't know who told me that Dutch restaurants are horrible, but they were so wrong. Like America, many of the restaurants are from various ethnicities, but even the ones serving traditional Dutch foods like potatoes, pastries, krokjes, etc., are quite good and tasty. Their food is not bland and tasteless...at least not the restaurant food. And Simon is not a bad cook either. In fact, very good.
From there we walked several of the Amsterdam streets looking at furniture and various other stores. Finally, we made it to the Anne Frank House.
The visit to the house was very moving. I, like many teenagers, read the Anne Frank Diary many years ago. I saw the movie as recent as 3 or 4 months ago. Wow, is all I can say. They've done a wonderful of job making visitors re-live the experience of this family and group of people. In some instances the rooms are exactly the same, though others are also blocked off. There is a lot of integrity in this museum and it's very interactive.
After visting the museum store, we did more walking and stopped to do more canal-bus riding and then caught the train back to Delft.
Both Simon and I regretted not spending more time in Amsterdam. We didn't get to go yesterday because he had an important appointment right in the middle of the day. Oh well, a longer visit to Amsterdam is all the more reason I have to come back again sometime.
The vibe in Amsterdam is so casual and laid-back. Even a novice international traveler like me could tell the difference between a city like Paris and a city like Amsterdam. The massive rush, hurriedness, impatience and the massive amount of sophistication of Paris, is not felt at all in Amsterdam. The people are friendlier and more helpful, as well. Another funny thing is that Amsterdam is full of American tourists. I heard American accents in several locations. We even spent quite a bit of time talking with a couple from California and as well as with a New Zealander and Australian. It was so nice to hear English, in whatever form.
And, yes, for those of you who are curious, you can smell the pot that permeates from various coffee houses on the streets. We didn't step inside, but the smell was obvious. Nor did we take time to see the Red Light District. Seeing the Red Light District in Paris was enough.
Speaking of Paris, I will hopefully share more of my experience there in the days to come.
So, on the eve of my departure from Holland, Simon and I shared a final meal at an Argentinian restaurant here in Delft. Oh, how good the food was from there. Grilled and kept warm on a small grill (with coals and ash) that sat on the table before us. Steak, lamb, chicken, pork, ribs and corn on the cob (and frite, of course). It was all so good.
I will miss Holland and hope to come back some day really soon. It surpassed all my expectations.