We made it to Amsterdam and have been adjusting to the time difference. The flight on KLM was not bad for a ten hour flight. It was much better than the American Airlines flight we took to Europe five years ago. We had been a little worried that our carry-on luggage was a little oversized as we had stuffed them as fat as we could get them for our three week journey but they popped right into the overhead bin with no resistance at all!
We had paid about a hundred bucks a piece for a seat with extra legroom and it was worth every penny. It wasn't quite business class in width and other amenities but I really think the leg room was at least comparable. We were really able to stretch out our long legs pretty well.
The extra battery for the laptop was unnecessary. KLM offered so many entertainment choices that we barely used the entertainment we had brought with us. We looked at our magazines a little and napped briefly at time. I walked around the plane a couple of times.
We also didn't need the sandwiches that we bought for the price of gold at the airport. We ended up throwing those away. KLM gave us a nice dinner soon after we were in flight. and enjoyed the two good meals that KLM provided. I had also brought a bag of snacks and we did dip into those a few times. I had some cashews and some cheese. Ten hours is a long time for only two meals.
The Dam in Amsterdam. This is "the center" of Amsterdam. Cobblestone streets. Masses of people. Street artists.
The Amsterdam airport was huge of course. It didn't feel like we were ever going to go through any "customs" like you do in every other country. I thought we were practically out of the airport but still couldn't find the exit to the train and finally had to ask someone. We were told that, yes, there was a "customs" we had to go through and told where to find them. We showed our passport and were out. Nobody asked about anything we were bringing in with us.
Next, we found the train station and went to get our tickets. We got up to the window to buy them and it turned out that they did not take credit cards or American A.T.M. cards! Thankfully, I had prepared months ahead by buy Euros and just had to quickly dig them out. I guess I should have put a few in my wallet before leaving home- just one of those details I forgot.
The train was a non-stop to the City Center. Milton looked exhausted and I nagged him to wake up and pay attention to the possibility of pick-pockets as the train platform was crowded. I guess I was tired and a little overly paranoid as I am sure
that this train platform is no more risky than any in San Francisco or Seattle or anywhere else we have been. But we were exhausted and distracted and a little lost and I guess all that feeds into a little feeling of vulnerability. Our train came and it wasn't packed at all like I thought it might be. It was actually a very comfortable non-stop express into the City Center.
We walked from the City Center train station to
our hotel, rolling our little carry-on's behind us over the brick and cobblestone streets. I don't think there was an inch of smooth pavement the entire distance which made me worry a little about the little wheels on our bags. Each of the bags can be converted to back packs by unzipping a little pocket that holds two shoulder straps but as exhausted as we both were, neither of us wanted to pack our bags on our old, tired backs. The wheels held up and we made it to 301-303 Singel, The all non-smoking Estheria Hotel, on the Singel canal.
After checking in and being brought to our room, we were delighted to find the quality of the room exceeded expectations! Although it was a bit fru-fru, as if somebody's, Southern queen, very fay gay uncle had decorated it, (and not quite our butch blue color taste), it was beautiful, once you got past t
he huge magnolia flowered red wallpaper print and the gilded faux antique chandelier over the bed.
A fringed lampshade matched the curtains. Clashing color and prints everywhere but when all put together, like something out of La Cage au Folles. The bathroom was fabulous with a huge jacuzzi type bath and separate shower and double sinks.
The next day after arrival, every time we went through the exquisite lobby, we had to step over movie cables and be directed through by people there making a movie in the hotel. We found a restaurant for breakfast that we had already picked out before leaving San Francisco. Later, we took a leisurely canal cruise as we are still recovering from jet lag and just wanted to relax and still get oriented.
We had an incredible Indonesian dinner at Katntjill and de Tiger. In our extensive research before leaving San Francisco, we had picked out this restaurant for it's famous food- you order a set menu that includes a variety of dishes. I'm not sure if the word is "Rustaffels?" It is a little like Dim Sum in that there are many dishes with just a little bit of each thing. It was all delicious. The weather was perfect for sitting at one of the tables outside. In fact, the weather has been perfect ever since we arrived.
At the Anne Frank house, we read about how good people were manipulated by right wing propaganda and fear mongering of the times and how one group of people was turned against another group of people through heated rhetoric, nationalism and religious fervor. ?? Hm.
It is interesting to contrast the right wing oppression of Anne Frank's time with the left of center Amsterdam of today with it's social freedoms. It makes one think a lot about what freedom is and types of freedom. It is a place where it is legal to smoke marijuana in a coffee shop or to sell ones body, but I don't think handguns are as readily available as they are in the U.S.. There is nowhere that feels safer, walking down a dark alley late at night than in Amsterdam. There seems to be such a freedom from fear rather than an embracing of fear. There is no Fox News here to incite and agitate and propagandize and lie to the people. I love my own country of course but there definitely things we can learn from others. I appreciate the liberalism of Amsterdam. The people we meet and see appear better educated and generally healthier. There doesn't seem to be an obesity problem here. We see no homeless people on the streets and the streets are clean.