Monday, 23 April 2018

On the Road Again

Back to travelling after spending the winter renovating the bathroom. And, back to Amsterdam where we spent our month back in 2011 after we retired. We had ideas of other places to go, but my daughter is going to school in the Netherlands, and coming to ADam gave the chance to see her.

Our flight over was uninteresting other than we got to fly on Air Canada's newest airplane, the B737 MAX, on it's 2nd or 3rd revenue flight, on the Calgary to Toronto leg. We were on a 787 from Toronto to AMS; that bird was nice but my goodness, do the wings ever flex up during flight.

We got into AMS on time. We were supposed to be met at the airport by a driver sent by our accommodation, but after waiting 45 min, found he wasn't going to show. Instead we had lunch at the airport, then took the train in to town and walked over to the apartment. We tried to stay in the same place as last time, but it was not available. Instead, we are 2 canals farther from the station, but still in a beautiful canal house.
Living room 
Another view
A quick kitchen inventory told us we were short LOTS of things, but topping up would have to wait for groceries.

Our first day, Saturday, was spent in a mad dash to arrange things.

  1. SIM card for the phone. ADam doesn't have many phone stores, other than a few of the biggies like T-Mobile and Vodaphone, who's SIM cards and plans are pricy. My daughter told us to go to a grocery store; our local Albert Heijn didn't sell phone cards that I could tell. The big Heijn in town near Dam Square (that was our neighbourhood store last time) did, however, only at the Service Counter. There are lots of "cheap brands" but the service counter folks knew exactly nothing about any of them. I got a Lebara card for €10, then paid €5 for 1 Gb of data I needed and another €5 because she didn't know if the card came with any talk or text (it did, so I didn't need it).
  2. OV Chipkaarts: As I wrote here and here, these are confusing under the best of conditions and downright stupid at others. We got them at the GVB office at Centraal and were told how to validate them at the automated machines so they would work on the rail system, too. We tried but the process has so many steps that the lady glossed over that we would discover it didn't work the next day. Par for the course for OV-Chipkaarts.
  3. Bike rental: We had plans to do a bike trip around the bulb fields and wanted to get bikes in ADam and take them with us. I found a place on line with cheap bikes but it was just impractically too far from Centraal for us to use. So we found another that has possibly the most expensive bikes in town (€13/day including insurance; I could have got them for €9 elsewhere) but were very convenient for what we wanted to do.
  4. Kitchen gear: From cutting boards to sharp knives to an oven mitt to a measuring cup, we had a long list of basics to get. After trying some street markets, two dollar store/euro store equivalents, Xenos and Big Bazar, side by side on Kalverstraat near the flower market, came to rescue.
  5. Groceries: My daughter was coming into town that night, so feeding her was the plan. On the bight side, we've done this here before, so between Heijn and Jumbo, we got a bunch of stuff. As expected, the grocery stores here are not like mine at home; far less selection, far smaller packages. But the prices are significantly higher than last time I was here; they are Canmore prices, only in Euros instead of dollars, so ~50% higher than home. Cheap wine is no longer cheap; very little is less than €4 any more.
Along the way, we had typical ADam experiences.
The canal in front of our house
Cheese in the market 
Mushrooms in the market 
Bike parking 
Who has the right of way? 
Traffic jam, ADam style
As we settle in, we are finding more things that are "issues". We have some burned out lightbulbs and no spares. The internet is good, but only works in the living room. We're short more things for the kitchen than we thought. The dishwasher beeps warnings to us that the manual -- in Dutch -- can't help us with; we have yet to make it work. We rearranged the furniture so we can better look out the window at the canal traffic, though the morning sun beats in the windows making it impossible to sit in the window before 1 PM. The bedding is WAY too warm for the 15° overnight temps, and there's no alternative to the monster down quilt, so the bed's either too hot or too cold (where's "JUST right?".

Still, we are here, it is warm (24°) and it is spring (it was winter when we left, and snowed yesterday).

Next up: riding with my daughter through the bulb fields.

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