Amsterdam, ik hou van je.
My time in Amsterdam was due to a last minute schedule change. Once I knew I was going there though, I was excited. I will definitely be back. It very closely rivals Paris as my favorite city in Europe now, maybe even in the world. Sigh, I’d go back in a minute, no questions asked. I could live there too.
I left Vilnius on a late Thursday morning and had a layover in Riga. Riga I love you but you’re tiny and your airport is not the place I want to have a layover, but there were some Stockholm Arlanda passengers who were delayed and the airline summoned them to collect their “drink vouchers.” I appreciate the effort, we are getting shafted by the airlines here in the USA.
I arrived at Amsterdam Schipol at about 5:00 pm on a Thursday afternoon and the second I exited the jetway, I knew I wasn’t in Eastern Europe anymore. There was English on the signs! I mean there was mostly Dutch but I had never been to the Netherlands before and I know that a huge percentage of Dutch people speak their own language, English, and probably some French, Flemish, German, or something else as well. They’re a very educated people and multilingual. I didn’t encounter a single person who didn’t speak perfect English. So that made following the signs to the train very easy. It also made purchasing a train ticket from Schipol to Amsterdam Centraal very easy. I believe the one-way ticket was about €10.
The train ride in itself was about 30 minutes and my hotel, the Park Plaza Victoria, was right across the street and plaza from the Amsterdam Centraal. it was so convenient! I recommend it if you are staying for a short time in Amsterdam and want to be near the train station, or if you want to be close to the Red Light district (haha). I liked the location and walked everywhere from the hotel. It is a pretty nice hotel considering it is in a major city in Europe. It is older and the outside of it is beautiful, the rooms were clean and a bit worn. I stayed in a hotels.com pre-paid room in the Victoria wing on the second floor that had windows facing the inner courtyard so my room was not filled with light as those website photos may suggest. But, it was not gross by any means. It was clean and the staff were wonderful and helpful. There was a conference going on at the same time and for someone on a budget at the end of a nearly two week trip, the hotel was nice enough for me. I am not one to splurge on hotels, I’m only sleeping there.
After arriving, I settled in to my room and unpacked a few things because I had a friend meeting me for dinner! My friend, Boudewijn, lives in Rotterdam and took the train to meet me for an 8 pm dinner reservation. We met in Reykjavík last year and had a lot of fun on tours and talking and exchanged info so that we could keep in touch. When I had the schedule snafu, I contacted him to ask about meeting me in Amsterdam and that’s how I chose to spend a night there.
We met outside of the Amsterdam Centraal station around 7:30 and had a nice, leisurely walk and catch up session on the way to Lion Noir. We stopped a few places along the way for him to tell me what some of the landmarks in the area were and just to people watch. It was my first walk through the city and I was already won over with its charm and the flow of people, bicycles, cars, trams, and scooters. Everything flowed so well, I was and still am, seriously impressed.
Lion Noir seemed to be a very popular place and it was very good - I recommend it! We shared a bottle of French Pinot noir and I had the duck. We also shared a chocolate cake type of dessert that I don’t think is still on the menu. It was a delicious meal with fantastic company and great service. A nice balance of friendly and standoffish service, which I prefer as I hate having someone hover over me.
After dinner we walked to a hotel bar near the train station to have one last beer before Boudewijn had to head back to Rotterdam. I was also tired from a long day and ready for bed and it was nearly midnight. But, a great time was had by all. I was excited to spend most of Friday in Amsterdam seeing some highlights and wandering the city. Again, I was a little sad to see a friend go though. It was very nice to see him because it was not awkward at all, some people you can just pick up where you left off, as we did.