Flying Standby: What to do in Amsterdam

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 6, 2011

One of the best things that you will experience when flying standby, is hearing the on-board announcement, “Flight attendants prepare doors for departure!” Once the cabin door shuts and the seat belt is fastened you’ll know you’re going.
With the hotel paid and reservations confirmed, you will feel secure in the fact that you’ve made your flight. Any anxiety of a tardy passenger bumping you from the last remaining seat, causing you to miss your departure swiftly melts away. Trust me, you’ll be able to unwind and enjoy the ride.
And this month it is off to Amsterdam!
Upon Arrival
I wouldn’t recommend an airport shuttle into Amsterdam Central unless, of course, you have considerable baggage and don’t mind getting stuck in traffic. Besides, full airport shuttles drop each visitor off at separate hotels strewn about the city, so you won’t really know whether you are going to be the first or last to arrive at your hotel, wasting valuable hours in the process.
Trains are timelier, more efficient and conveniently located within Schiphol International Airport. The short commuter trek only lasts 15 minutes to Amsterdam’s hotel district, and costs just €3.60 for a one-way trip.
Oh, the Sights You will See
One of Amsterdam’s most well- known and famous icons is, and will always be, Anne Frank. It goes without saying that no trip to the Netherlands would be complete without visiting the rooms of the Secret Annex, which have been meticulously maintained.
If touring the Anne Frank House is the first thing on your to-do list, you will definitely want to arrive earlier in the day. More than likely, there will be a time-consuming line to get into the museum.
Before you arrive, grab a hearty breakfast. For a delectable and affordable meal, be certain to try a traditional Dutch pancake! The ‘Pannekoeken,’ are more akin to French crepes than the buttermilk pancakes we are accustomed to here in the United States. If you are in an adventuresome frame of mind, top yours with apple and Grand Marnier!
Only a block away from the Anne Frank house is The Pancake Bakery, proclaiming itself as, “a world-known pancake restaurant loved by all.” Accompany your morning delicacy with a European cappuccino. Together they will put a spring in your step, and tide you over for the wait to get in the Anne Frank experience.
Flowering Tulip Fields
Another ‘do not miss’ this time of year in Amsterdam, is a tour of The Keukenhof Gardens and Tulip Fields. This excursion takes you on an unforgettable, picturesque drive through the Dutch countryside. Once you’ve arrived at the gardens, the tulip spectacular awaits. Billed as one of the most photographed locations in the world, the tour costs 49 Euros, and is seasonal with flowering lasting only eight weeks! Peak blossoming season this year is from March 24 to May 20.
Hop On, Hop Off… Canal Cruise
To save a little wear and tear on the feet, try a Canal Bus!
The boat cruise is an enjoyable and peaceful way of getting to all of Amsterdam’s top historical or notable sights. You’ll pass many noteworthy attractions and be dropped off at all major museums. A two day pass runs only 3 Euros, with the option of getting on and off at your leisure!
Van Gogh Museum
The world’s largest collection of Vincent van Gogh paintings are housed and stored in this famous 1970s-style museum. Currently “Picasso in Paris, 1900-1907” is on exhibition running daily, through May 29. If travelling by public rail from the Amsterdam Central Station, take tram 2 or 5 to the Van Baerlestraat stop.
Often compared to the Musee du Louvre in Paris, the giant Rijksmuseum is the considered to be Amsterdam’s finest museum. Unfortunately due to long lasting hold-ups in renovation, displays are limited. So I encourage you to do your homework on this museum. Once there however, don’t forget to visit one of the two gift shops!
The iconic ‘I amsterdam’ letters in front of the Rijksmuseum, are a photo opportunity waiting to happen!
Also please note: the facilities do not have an eatery; however, many of the surrounding bistros may offer a 15 percent concession.
When it comes to the value, the US dollar is still not standing up well against the Euro… So don’t be timid, ask for a discount and who knows, you may receive. Hey, every little bit begins to add up.
In my opinion, nothing tops the fashion and museum district for great shopping. Designer brands, fine dining, cultural entertainment and so much more.
It goes without saying, however, that there is extensive browsing to be found in vibrant Dam Square.
What’s more, be sure to stop and sample the street markets or take in a local art show. Who knows; you may just discover the next Vincent van Gogh or stumble onto a beautiful and valuable piece of artwork.
The Waterlooplein Market located right in the middle of the city center is less traditional and more avant garde in its offerings. Nonetheless, it is an enjoyable and laid-back shopping experience.
Europe is go, go, go…
Traveling in Europe tends to be all about go, go, go… More than likely you will find yourself frantically scurrying from this landmark to that landmark.
Considering you have limited time and a full schedule of ‘must sees,’ it is only natural to want to experience all Amsterdam has to offer… Nevertheless, as you can tell from this column, I personally am not always so interested in that hectic pace, and doing the tourist thing.
I often enjoy hanging back, eating the bread of idleness and sipping from a glass of red wine at an open-air bistro. I cherish simply taking in the sights and sounds of Amsterdam, as well as observing the locals in their own element.
At some point, I would encourage you to do the same, and just disengage.
After all it’s just another Amsterdam vacation.
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