Thursday, January 20, 2011

Whirlwind Amsterdam, Day 1 :-)

We loved London and felt that we really needed another day to be able to see the rest of the sites.  I am sad that we missed Buckingham Palace and the National Museum, but there is always a next time.

On Day 4 of our trip, we hopped on Eurostar and made our way to Amsterdam.  Since we paid for the more comfortable class, it was nice to be served some food on the train.  We should have done this for our Amsterdam to Paris trip too, le sigh.

We arrived in Amsterdam's Centraal train station around 3pm local time.  It was perfect timing since we could check-in at the hotel, eat dinner, and then explore in the evening.  As I mentioned before, we used Starwoods points for our entire 10 night stay in Europe for free.  I chose the Hotel Pulitzer in Amsterdam since it has great reviews and is considered one of the more romantic hotels in town.  We were told that the hotel consists of 25 old canal houses that were renovated and combined to make one beautiful looking hotel.  Each time we went up or down a set of stairs, we were entering a new canal house.  Neat!
Photo credits: Hotel Pulitzer website.

This is our room, and we loved it.  The bathroom had a heated floor, which was a fun bonus for some odd reason.

Our room had a blocked canal view, but I still thought it was gorgeous.  Too bad I forgot to take a picture at night, when it looked better with the lights.

The hotel introduced me to my first ever stroopwafel.  If you've never had one, you are missing out.  They are absolutely yummy, caramel-filled cracker like snacks that I could eat all day.  We brought back a bunch for family and friends and everyone ate the last crumb in a few days.

By the time we checked-in and freshened up in our room, it was time for dinner.  Friends told me about the famous Rijsttafel dinners in Amsterdam.  It's an Indonesian meal that means "rice table."  Our hotel sent us to a place down the street called Restaurant Long Pura, which was great since we were starving despite it still being fairly early in the evening.  

Mr. J decided to start with a cold glass of this stuff.  I didn't like it but he said it was decent.  Ignore me since I don't like beer to begin with.

We chose this version of the Rijsttafel, with 12 small plates to sample plus 1 large plate of rice to accompany everything.  It was a great way to get introduced to Indonesian cuisine!

We were completely stuffed after dinner so we decided to just walk around and see if we could find the Red Light District while it was still early.  It was a great way to work off the food we ate and discover Amsterdam by foot.  Before we left, some friends gave us great advice and warned us to mind the bicycles.  Those cyclists are serious and will not hesitate to run you over if you get in their way, so watch out!

We probably walked for about 15 minutes from our hotel before we finally ran into the infamous Red Light District.  See those fancy metal markers with the red lights?  They tell you when you walk into the neighborhood.  I didn't notice them at first but it was pretty clear after a while.  Also, no one really explained to me that the Red Light District is bigger than just one street.  I always assumed it was like Bourbon Street in New Orleans.  I didn't know that it's a large neighborhood that you can easily get lost in!

 One of the more famous shops was mentioned in my Frommer's city guide:

This is one of the canals in the Red Light District.  Lots of places on either side of the canal fulfills every single stereotype ever said about Amsterdam and this neighborhood, heh.  As the evening went on, people crowded the sidewalks and they got pretty rowdy. 

I was pretty tickled to find this as we walked around:

We got tired early that night, so we headed back to the hotel long before normal people would have wanted to eat dinner somewhere.  lol.  On our way back, we saw the monument across from the Paleis Amsterdam.  It was pretty cool and imposing in its evening glory.  Sorry for the blurry pic :-(
The palace itself was going through tons of renovations so all we saw was a sheet draped over the whole thing:

I am glad we went to bed early that night since we did a lot of sightseeing on day 2. 

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