June 2 – 5
We booked our flights on Delta and for a couple of hundred bucks apiece upgraded to Comfort Plus for all four flights (LA to Seattle, Seattle to Amsterdam, Munich to Detroit, and Detroit to LA), the extra legroom and free drinks well worth the added expense. We had a nice layover in Seattle, time enough for a relaxing drink apiece before boarding for the overnight flight ahead of us.
We landed at Schiphol airport late in the morning the next day, June 3rd and as is generally the case in most European cities and their airports, hopped on a convenient train into town. All Schiphol passenger arrival points are a short walk to the main station hall where Dutch Railways (NS) runs trains to Amsterdam Centraal station up to 10 times per hour. One-way tickets cost €5.70 standard 2nd class or €8.85 in 1st class – these prices include the €1 surcharge for buying a disposable ticket. As we anticipated using public transportation extensively, we opted to buy the Discover Holland pass for $30 dollars apiece. This would give us unlimited travel on all Amsterdam transit lines and get us into town on the NS Train.
Arriving in town a short time later, we walked out of Centraal Station into a bright, sunny, and very warm afternoon, temperatures not usual for this time of year bringing heat that would last us the entire trip. Our lodging for the next three nights would be the Unique houseboat in the center hosted by John, our first time on a houseboat out of all of our stays to Amsterdam. As we would be traveling by train the entire trip, one goal or requisite for travel would be that as much of our lodging as possible be within easy walking distance of the town’s train station.
That first walk though, given the heat of the day, the jet lag from the overnight flight and the uncertainty of where we were going made that half a kilometer walk seem endless. We persevered though and soon found ourselves at the walkway entrance to the houseboat where we were greeted by the woman who would check us in.
We would find ourselves delighted with the set-up, the small kitchen entirely adequate, the fridge stocked with some soda and a beer or two. The bathroom, although on the small size, was manageable and all in all, we’d gladly return to this location in the future as the neighborhood nearby had several restaurants and small shops.
Refreshed after a bit of relaxing, we set out to discover the neighborhood, along what would become a very familiar route. First walk across the busy street that parallels the harbor, the head along the Oudeschans until we hit Koningststraat and made a right turn and continue along checking out the shops. At its end one runs into Nieuwmarkt, a large plaza anchored by the Waag, a 1488 city gate that now houses a restaurant.
We eventually found a market where we picked up some supplies and then began the walk back to the houseboat, making a brief stop at a bakery to enjoy a piece of apple pie. We came out of the neighborhood and with the Centraal Station in sight, retraced our route to the houseboat, but noticing a beer kiosk open on a square jutting out into the harbor, we stopped to get a couple of cold ones.
Starting with my nascent days as a young beer drinking, Heineken has been a go to for me and so I was looking forward to this trip and being able to get a fresh version on draft. That was not to be the case during our first couple of days as we kept running into very good craft beer, as would be the case here.
It was a gorgeous afternoon, warm but with a brisk breeze blowing, that time on your first day in country when you know you have arrived, and the best is yet to come. We savored our beers and watched some of the patrons interact with the bartender as they obviously knew each other and that this place was familiar to them.
We returned to the houseboat and relaxed/napped until dinner time, when we walked back to Koningststraat and based on its good Trip Advisor reviews, stopped in at Eetcafe Vab Beeren for what would be one of the best meals of the trip. Just before crossing the busy street near our houseboat, we stopped to look at a bird standing in the door of a neighboring boat. We couldn’t tell if it was live or a model and would ponder this over the course of the next few days as we would see it a few more times, usually in another spot but still not moving.
We arrived at Eetcafe and entered its welcoming environs. When asked if we had reservations we replied no and at first thought this might mean no seating was available and were relieved when we were shown to a table near the bar. The place would fill up later, especially the comfortable looking patio out back.
As mentioned earlier in the post, Heineken would not be on the drinking menu tonight as they had four crafts on draft including a personal favorite, Tripel Karmeliet, a Belgian Tripel brewed by Brouwerij Bosteels in Buggenhout from a 3-grain (barley, wheat, oat) recipe rediscovered from a 1679 Carmelite monastery. At a little under $6 a glass, I’d be drinking two of them and Joanna would enjoy one as well. The menu here changes regularly and we were rewarded with two outstanding entrée options, for Joanna the Indian Lamb Curry (green rice, vegetables, and sambal) while enjoyed the Coq au Vin (corn chicken, mashed potatoes, and vegetables).
We both ate everything on our plates, perhaps a reflection of not having eaten much that day but more likely a result of the food tasting so good. To make it even better, the strong dollar (trading at just about one to one) would make all our purchases this trip more affordable and with generally reasonable pricing prevailing in Europe, our tab came to manageable $64. We’d landed well in Amsterdam and that first meal was a good omen for the start of trip, with many more to come.
Unique houseboat in the center: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/17049195?source_impression_id=p3_1662667277_BDdQ9egr%2Ff32MTbx
Eetcafe Vab Beeren: https://www.eetcafevanbeeren.nl/en/en-cafe-van-beeren-home/