As I was standing in the walkway waiting for the Amsterdam security agents to check passports as we all exited the plane, I was longing for the 80° and sunshine Cape Town had given us as a going away present just a few hours earlier...and knew I was in trouble. The list of pros of only taking carry-on luggage goes on and on. However, there is a short list of cons, too. One of the items on my short list would be no room for tennis shoes. Although tempted to squeeze them in as I packed for the trip, I told myself I could tough it out in Amsterdam with only my sandals. "It's only for a few hours. How bad could it be?" I remember telling myself in a convincing tone.
Um, yeah...it was more than bad. It was harsh.
March 8th, 2012 weather in Amsterdam: maybe 40° F, windy, and 100% chance of rain.
There was no going back now, though, so off we went to see what we could see.
First task was finding the lockers in the airport in order to store our bags while in the city. Having done that with relative ease thanks to the airport being marked very well, we went to an ATM to have Euros in hand for the adventures awaiting us. Task two down, there was one last thing to do in the airport - train tickets to Centraal Station. Again, it was so easy to find the ticket station, and there was no line; things were going so smoothly. The gentleman told us what "train" to look for and off we went. Little did we know the numbers he gave us were for the station not the train itself. It was a minor mistake that ended up okay in the end. We had a luxurious ride on a train through town with a gracious attendant who took pity on us and did not charge us any extra and kindly directed us to the stop we needed in order to get on our correct train back to Amsterdam Centraal. As we exited the train, she even stepped out and caught my attention and reminded us of the new number we needed to look for at this station. Such a kind lady. She's probably still laughing...
Once on the correct train and headed toward our original destination the game plan became our focus. Part of me, my toes especially, wanted to just call it an adventure and head back to the airport. It was warmer and drier there. But, we were in need of lunch prior to returning, so we exited the train at Centraal and did a quick-see of our options: walking around the streets of Amsterdam in the pouring rain or taking an hour tour on a covered, heated boat ride through the canals. "Alex, I'll take canal ride for $200."
The tour of the canals was a great way to see and learn alot about Amsterdam in just a short amount of time. The arhictecture and design of the canals, bridges, and the homes/apt. buildings makes the city beautiful. Otherwise, at least on a rainy winter day, the city seemed very industrious looking.
After milking the lunch hour for as long as I could, off into the streets of Amsterdam we went. I knew from a friend who lived in the Netherlands for 5 years, that bicycling was the preferred way of transportation in the city, but seeing it in person was incredible. Bikes here, bikes there, bikes everywhere! They even built a parking garage near Centraal Station only for bicycles. It holds around 9,000 +/- bikes so I'm told. Crazy but cool.
There were a few window displays that drew me inside. The sweet tooth in me needed some attention and I was glad to give in as we strolled along. The desserts (yes, that is plural) that I enjoyed in the few hours we spent in the city were well worth the Euros and calories spent on them. Captivating to the eyes and scrumptious to the tastebuds!
After one last stop at a quaint cafe for a cup of coffee and crème brûlée, back to Schiphol we went. This time on the right train the very first try! Not nearly as luxurious as our first train ride of the day, but comforting in the fact that we, indeed, were heading in the right direction for the plane that would take us home. I was so ready for some Georgia sunshine and hugs from my boys!