Trip 38/ Day 1-2
Since our last trip to London & Paris in October/November, 2021, we’ve been planning this trip to Amsterdam to visit Keukenhof & Floriade. We visited Keukenhof in 2018, but it’s so large, we estimate we only saw half of it; Floriade is only held once every 10 years. Our route takes us first to Philadelphia, then on to Amsterdam.
A federal judge in Florida invalidated the latest extension of the Federal face mask mandate and based on what we’re seeing in the airport, maybe 10% of people are wearing masks (we are). More interesting still, will be what we see in Europe as we travel around.
I decided to pay up for international cell data this trip, with a 15GB plan for 30 days ($50) in addition to my Google Fi plan (separate phone, the data plan is $10 by the GB). Normally, we’ve scooted by using T-Mobile’s free international data, but it’s really slow (2/3G) . We can tether to both phones, so data connectivity should be better, though it will be interesting to see if I get 5G, or only 4G LTE (still much better than 2/3G).
We transited thru Philadelphia with just enough time to walk to the other terminal, where boarding shortly began.
The flight over from Philadelphia was about 7 hours. We were almost an hour later arriving than scheduled due to departure delays, but otherwise uneventful and little sleep for either of us.
Unsurprisingly, Schiphol Airport (world’s 3rd busiest airport by passenger totals) has changed since we flew in here >3 decades ago! Shopping has always been a strong point for the airport. While we didn’t stop to shop, (another pin on the map for the HWT 😉) the abundance of shops and restaurants puts most other international airports to shame. We waited in line for immigration clearance for almost an hour. For most of this time, they had one (!) agent servicing non-EU arrivals, which was most of them and unlike the UK, no e-gates where you can breeze thru. Unlike the American airports, Schiphol requires wearing face masks.
We bought tickets for the train into Amsterdam Centraal (trains take 13 minutes and are frequent) for 5.70€ ($6.15) each. Arriving in Centraal, we bought two, two day (slightly better pricing for multiple days) Metro/ tram tickets for 29€ to get to our hotel and around town. The hardest part of using the terminal was deciding how many days’ pass to buy, but you can buy more passes at any of the tram stations. It’s a short walk from the subway exit to the hotel.
Amsterdam Centraal is the travel hub for a large part of the Netherlands. Even if all you’re doing is traveling in Amsterdam itself, all of the Metro and tram lines ultimately connect here. From here, we’ll travel onward when our visit to the Netherlands comes to an end. We’ve found the travel app City Mapper really handy. It maps out directions to your destination to indicate the trams/metro line numbers required, shows you on the map if you’re going the wrong direction (hey, it happens) , suggests which cars are usually the least crowded, and alerts you when it’s time to get off. While it does not have every city, it’s very useful.
We could not check into our hotel room (Invictus Games are going on in The Hague and the hotel is full) , so we checked our bags and ventured out to find something to eat and see the flower market (Bloemenmarkt) , a floating flower market. In a city with soooo many tourists, I’m sure the hotels were devastated by the pandemic and the reception at the hotel was obviously very happy to see returning guests. We took 2 trams and it only took a few minutes to get there. Crossing a street in Amsterdam, you’re not really concerned about auto traffic, but bicyclists are the pedestrian hazard (and we to them), coming silently down the bike paths on each side of the street and Trams on each side of the street. You really have to look out for cyclists.
It’s a beautiful, almost cloudless day here and being Friday afternoon, starting to get crowded. Cafes are predictably busy with people sitting at tables outside enjoying the sun. We shared a lovely warm Stroopwafle and a latte at a small café near the Singel canal.
It took longer than I’d hoped for the “high speed” data to kick in and I had to text with T-Mobile support to make sure if/when it would be activated. But it finally was activated, and instead of free 2/3G where I got 0.03MB download speed (you forget how miserable that was until you try loading a web page), I now get 121MB. I tested my Google Pixel using their Google Fi service and I got ~90MB; either one are pretty decent.
Though we have not done a lot of sightseeing today, we’re headed back to the hotel. The combination of 7 hours time change and no sleep on the plane is taking its toll.
Going to a local grocery store is always interesting, both in terms of the selections and relative prices. There’s an Albert Heijn across the street from us. We bought a few things, but the interesting part was comparing. A 500ml (~16.9oz) Diet Coke in a plastic bottle was 1.19€ ($1.28) , but a 50cl (~16.9oz) Heineken was 1.25€ ($1.35); $.07 more for beer than soda. It pays to go local! They also had cans of Coke Zero in flavors I had not seen before (vanilla, raspberry, cherry). And, this grocery chain only takes cash or credit cards issued in the Netherlands (so US Visa won’t work). First time I’ve used cash in quite a while.