Trip Start Nov 29, 2011
Trip End Dec 10, 2011

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What I did
Canal Cruise with Blue Boat Company

Flag of Netherlands  , Noord-Holland,
Saturday, December 3, 2011

Our first bottle of wine and toast! At the Miami International Airport, we found a  surprisingly good fresh fish sandwich & salad with marinated beef.  We raise our glasses  - Cheers! To our upcoming trip!

We meet our first Dutchman as our third seatmate in the plane. Zander, short for Alexander, is a pilot with KLM and was on holiday now returning back to Haarlem so he can start flying again on Monday.  Tall with long legs and a broad smile and blond hair, we talk about planes, maintenance and the training that KLM provides pilots.

Ambien makes my eyes grow heavy and before I know it breakfast is on my tray and Harvey gives me a nudge to wake up.  As we descend for our landing, out the window we see lots of water, flat land and a modern windmill.  Coming in for the landing, Harvey & I always hold hands, and I always listen to and feel the power of the engines.  It really is a wonder that we have been transported at over 500 miles per hour across the Atlantic in approximately 8.5 hours and who knows what experiences lay ahead of us for the next six days!

As we walk out of baggage claim, Dennis our driver announces himself with an ipad with our name prominently displayed.  He leads us to the nearest cash machine (not called ATM here) and to his parked car.  This is one of the cleanest parking garages I've ever seen, with the space painted for each car. Dennis provides some description of the areas we are passing through and  we quickly arrive at Hotel Fita.  We are greeted by Martign who helps us with our bags, draws us a map for orientation and shows us our rooms.  We are drooping and agree to a short nap with plans to join in about an hour.  Two hours later we meet downstairs!  We go for a walk to purchase our museum passes (called Museumkaarts) that will allow unlimited access and no entry lines for a flat annual fee (even though we’ll only use them for 6 days, it’s a value).   Hotel Fita is literally around the corner from the Van Gogh Museum so we try there first but find the line too long, so we walk a few blocks to the Rijksmuseum.  Here we walk right in and purchase our Museumkaarts.  It feels good to be out walking in the brisk air!  We’re bundled up with our winter coats, scarves, gloves and we’re feeling toasty warm.

We now have only a short walk to the dock for the Canal Cruise.  But watch out!  That’s Karen and my mantra as we follow Barry & Harvey as we all cross the streets.  Between the cars, bicycles, trams and pedestrians it’s a challenge to cross some of the busy streets.   It’s a good thing we had our nap and can be alert skirting through the bustle of the vehicles, bikes and people.  In Amsterdam there are 1 million bicycles & 800,000 people – they come from all directions!  And this is winter – can you imagine how many more people are out in the spring, summer and fall? 

I love the architecture of Amsterdam.  It’s on a human scale with the buildings just a couple of stories high.  Disney couldn’t recreate the patina and sense of age and place that Amsterdam evokes.  Canals, bridges, gabled roofs, bricks, some plain some ornate fronts all have a timeless quality.  We walk to find the canal cruise kiosk.  There is a boat leaving in a few minutes at 4:30 and we get on.  We happened upon a magical time of day – the last moments of daylight, then dusk and dark.  I love those glistening lights reflected on the water.

We open a bottle of wine over dinner at Canaletto, Hobbemastraat 108, an Italian restaurant around the corner from our Hotel Fita.  It’s has a charming, warm feel.  We make a toast to a warm and inviting Amsterdam!

                              "The journey not the arrival matters."

                                                                            -T.S. Eliot

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