12-hr layover

Trip Start Jun 19, 2008
Trip End Sep 04, 2008

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Flag of Netherlands  , Noord-Holland,
Saturday, June 21, 2008

KLM gave me the great opportunity of having a 12-hour layover in Amsterdam.  It was enough time to ease into some of the initial aspects of traveling such as adjusting to a different time zone and foreign setting.  The ATL-AMS flight was 8.5 hours.  I was assigned to seat 42E, which translates to row 42 (out of 43 rows) and the one middle seat in the row (out of 7 seats).  In other words, I was stuck in the 2nd worst seat in the house.  It was 15 minutes before departure and nobody came to sit next to me.  Right as I was throwing my hands up in the air for a hurrah, a lady squeezed into the seat.  She kept fidgetting and spilling over my seat.  When the plane took off, she suddenly ducked and grabbed my inner thigh.  As if it were the last helicopter out of Saigon with people shooting at us from the ground.  I offered her my hand and fed her some sleeping pills. 

The plane arrived in Amsterdam around 7:45am.  I don't know where everyone went, but the passport-check-and-welcome-to-Amsterdam area was so deserted that I was convinced that I had made a wrong turn.  I got a round-trip train ticket to Amsterdam valid for one day only (6.40 euros + .50 service charge).  It was a LOT easier to get the ticket from the counter than trying to figure out the machine.

I headed to platform 3, as the ticket lady told me, and asked a person for confirmation.  He said I was on the wrong platform and that I should go to 2.  So I did, full of gratitude.  When I boarded the train, something was sketchy...  so I asked, which stop is the Centraal Station??  And about 3 guys answered that I was on the wrong train.  So I got off and transferred.  So my advice, just listen to the ticket lady because your ticket oddly doesn't tell you which platform to go to.  Also, the platform may have different trains, so make sure you get on the right one.  If you miss, you can always transfer.  It really wasn't a big deal.

I arrived at the right station around 8:50am.  I rushed out in excitement.  AMSTERDAM!
The construction sites had overtaken the majestic central station, so I wasn't too compelled to walk around in that area.  What could be open at this hour?  It was too early in the morning for museums, tours, and such... I turned right and entered Haarlemmer Straat. 

Haarlemmer has a pretty dense number of coffee shops, and I came across Barney's, one of the best- not if THE best- coffee shops in town- if not the WORLD.  I was hesitant at first because the place looked empty.  There was 3 workers and 1 guy chilling.  But then again, you don't exactly expect people to rush over at 9am.  At first I saw it as a small, low-key shop.  But no, Barney's was more like an EMPIRE.  There was Barney's Farm next door.  Across the street was Barney's Uptown.  I asked one of the guys what the difference is.  He answered (with accompanying hand gestures), "There you can drink and smoke, there you can eat and smoke, here you can buy and smoke."  Coffee shop is an infamous euphemism.  Barney's at Amsterdam is nothing like the Barney's Coffee at the mall or Barney's New York.  

I hung out there for a while, absorbing the guys' great wisdom.  The young guy who worked there said "the farm" is a separate shop because coffee shops are prohibited from selling the goods and seeds in the same place.  They interestingly complained about how their government is getting so lame and strict.  One of the guys said that the government is enacting a new law in 2010 so that coffee shops cannot be less than 500m from a school.  What constitutes a "school" anyway?  The government could go, plop, here's a daycare center, you guys must go.  I definitely saw a daycare center at the Red Light District.... Later during the walking tour I learned that the city stopped new coffee shops from coming in.  The existing ones can stay; they can only get shut down.  Still, it was pretty funny to hear these complaints because we Americans think Amsterdam is like a haven.  I guess there is a limit to Dutch tolerance.  

The FREE New Amsterdam walking tour started around 11 (there's another one at 1, everyday).  I met the guide at the info center in front of the station.  There were a lot of people, and when we walked over to the dam square, there were a total of 80+ people!  Luckily there were 3 guides who took different routes, so we weren't a giant mob clouding the streets of the city.  The tour was fairly comprehensive and contained interesting historical information.  The guide told us the significance of several buildings that I would've never even noticed.  She was trying so hard to make it entertaining, and I thought it was, but the crowd- despite the young median age- was terribly lackluster.  We had a lunch break at a cafeteria type of place.  I really liked the group.  I hung out mostly with a girl who's studying abroad in U.K. and had to fly out for a few days due to student visa issues or something.

After the tour, we went to Barney's, again (only because it was really close to Anne Frank House, where the tour ended).  I had signed up earlier for the FREE canal tour at 4pm (St. Nicholas Boat Club, 3-4 tours a day, you can bring your own booze, smoke, whatever)... but I never made it.  It was just sooo far!  I was allll the up in Barney's.  I regret it now, but it was either that or the Van Gogh Museum, and I had already purchased the museum ticket online (10 euros, same as the booth price).  I like Van Gogh, but at this point, I was just tired and wanted to chill.  Van Gogh is a little out of the way too.  The e-ticket definitely pushed me to go to the museum.  So I somehow made it there and saw only 3 people in the ticket line, a big contrast to the Anne Frank House which definitely had a line visible from 100 yards away.  

After Van Gogh, I did some souvenir shopping, sent a postcard out, and rode a tram back to Centraal Station for FREE (just hop on when there are a lot of people).  Now I am in the airport.  Schipolt sure is an efficient airport; it only took 15 minutes to get to my gate.  So for those who have a short layover, you don't necessarily have to rush back to the airport 2 hours before your departure time. 

Alright, NEXT!!
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Jackie on

Thanks for the trip report. I was just looking for things to do on my 12-hour layover in Amsterdam. This was great!!!

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