Sunday, July 22, 2018 – Travel Day
We are on a very convenient flight - United Flight 909 – departing ORD at 5:55 PM. On this trip, we got a ride to the airport – we were at the airport at 4 PM. We used the kiosks to check our baggage (easy) and then hiked half the length of Terminal 1 to the TSA pre-check line. Pre-check was very fast but travelers in the regular security lines snaked around the whole terminal – looked like a long process. We crossed under to Concourse C and our gate C21 was just a few steps away. We found seats and waited. The good news was that our plane was at the gate and being readied for flight.
Boarding was orderly – we had priority boarding (Group 2) and got on the plane and settled in very quickly. Our aircraft is a B767-300 (2-4-2 configuration). I had opted to buy pricey ($145 and $175) premium seats 19K/L for the 8 hour plus flight to Amsterdam. (NOTE: They were both supposed to be $145 but after I bought the first seat the second seat jumped to $175; not only are United premium seats pricier than American but this stunt with the prices is annoying) Despite the price gouging, the seats were great and would certainly make the trip more bearable.
On time takeoff – our flight plan took us over Newfoundland, just south of Greenland and Iceland, over Ireland and England and into AMS.
Above the Clouds
Sunrise – Two Hours Out
Over England – 40 minutes Out
The Netherlands Coastline
The flight was smooth with the seat belt sign on for a short stretch (false intel – no chop). Our Kosher meals (pasta with meatballs – new caterer) were very good. This supplier 86d the crappy cole slaw and also included some chocolate mousse for dessert.
Our pricey seats were indeed roomy and comfortable. You could watch movies on your pads or on the seat back screens (both high quality). There were lots of movies but I opted for “Lara Croft”, which I liked.
Monday, July 23, 2018 – Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Our flight arrived 30 minutes early (tail wind). The trip must have been longer than I thought because the flight computer had us traveling 12,500 miles, more than half way around the world. Wow. Actually, an amusing computer glitch.
Passport control was quick and easy. Our bags arrived in a reasonable time. The plan was to take the train from Schiphol to the Central Station and then the tram to the hotel. We bought train tickets at the kiosk with our ATM card (a PIN was required for our credit card) – 5 Euros pp – boarding the train is very difficult with heavy bags.
At the Central Station, we followed confusing signage for the trams. I recalled that the trams were just outside the station. After a lot of searching, we found the waiting area for tram number 2 (3 euros pp again with a debit card) to the hotel. Again, hoisting our suitcases on the tram was not easy and the tram moved so fast and made such sharp turns that you had to hold on for dear life (while also hanging on to your bags). We got off at Keizersgracht Stop and walked one huge block to 618 (every number in the 600s belongs to a house) and the Keizerhoff Hotel.
The hotel is family owned – we were met by two women – the owner and her mother - and were told that the room would not be ready for an hour. There was no check-in area – just a large room with seats and couches. It was very warm and the only cooling was with a fan. The hotel does not have room number but rather it uses movie star names. We were in the Rita Hayworth Room. You can tell that by the picture on our hotel room door.
Our room at the top – Center of the Three
Our room was on the third floor – this is Amsterdam so no lift – just 50 winding and low clearance steps. The room was big enough but very hot (Sun facing) with no AC (the price you pay for an historical hotel) – we had our bags brought up (impossible for us) and borrowed a large fan from the hotel for the room. The temp outside was about 86F and about five degrees warmer in the room. Humidity came along with the heat. Note to self: No historic hotels next time.
The room has a nice view of the garden as well as the neighbors across the way.
We took a look at the garden and it certainly is a beautiful space – somebody has to work hard to keep this looking good. We thought about sitting on the couches out there but it was really hot.
Someone nicked a street sign and it now hangs on the back wall of the hotel.
After our mini-tour of the hotel and grounds, we left the hotel to shake off some of the jet lag and walk around Amsterdam. I did get a nice picture of Ellen alongside the Keizergracht Canal next to the hotel.
it was very hot and humid and we were soaked in no time. The main street to take to the City Center is Vijzelstraat, which runs to the Muntplein. The street crosses a main canal, the scenic Herengracht Canal.
On the way, we stopped at a spa given to us by the hotel lady but it was too warm to get a massage because the spa (and others we found) had no AC.
The Muntplein is home to the Munttoren or “Mint Tower”
an interesting tower that has a spire and cross. It is called the “Mint Tower” because coins were produced there in the 17th century. The tower was also part of the medieval city wall serving as a gate.
We continued our walk and arrived at Rembrandtplein or Rembrandt Square. The square, renovated in 2009, displays a statue of the artist (ca. 1855) and a bronze version of one of his paintings, “Night Watch”(2006). This installation toured the world but returned in 2013.
We had dinner at Pasta Place – we ordered fettuccini and salmon in a cream sauce (the order got mixed up and it came in tomato sauce) and mixed salad and beer – the waitress, who was from Israel, tried to fix the dish by recooking it with some added Alfredo sauce but that didn’t really help. The bill – paid by credit card – came to about 25 Euros.
It was too hot to continue walking so we went back to the hotel.
Dutch TV is pretty much the same as TV around the rest of Europe (although, I think HGTV was available).
Another thing, there were insufficient plugs for our electronics. The plugs themselves were not in good shape.
We were able to stay awake until 10:30 PM.