6 Hours in Amsterdam… well actually 5…

I was looking forward to writing this blog… my first time outside of Amsterdam Airport…

I been through Amsterdam airport about 18 times now, since Delta started going through there with acquisition of Northwest.  I had layovers anywhere from 1 to 4 hours… and  I heard you need good 5-6 hours to venture out of airport and see places.  On my recent trip, I had a 6 hour layover coming back from India, so I decided to give it a try.

I researched a bit on what you can do in 5 hours and there were quite a few helpful blogs/articles.  I wanted to get a “feel” for the place before venturing out on my own, or even spend a day or two there.  So I checked out the tour details at the kiosk inside of airport…. 45 Euros – for a 2.5 hours tour.  Reviews said, these tour guys will back in time and won’t miss your flight… found out that their first tour leaves at 8:30 a.m. and since my flight was going to arrive at 7:30 a.m. from Mumbai, I was going to have plenty of time…

As it turns out the flight from Mumbai was 45 minutes late and we landed around 8:15 a.m. – I got out of the plane and rushed to the tour counter and the board said next tour is at noon… since it was 8:31 a.m. The lady behind the counter was apologetic, and I thought my lost my opportunity this time, and started wondering if I should go out on my own… then she called the driver and said they haven’t left the airport yet, and we can run down if I wanted to go… I said Yeah, and she confirmed my passport was US and we started our speed walk to the tour van.  I had to clear immigration and it was a breeze and within 10 minutes we were at the curbside and I jumped in to the waiting bus.  The 5 people already on the van were a little agitated due to the wait and one of them even said if he missed his flight, he is going to fine me… later we all became good buddies 🙂

So here we go…

My primary purpose of the tour is to experience what life is like in Amsterdam.  I know a lot of people want to go there to “cure their Glaucoma”, or peek through windows of Red Light district.. both of those were not on my agenda… I have been to about 15 countries so far… and it is amazing how many things are “common” between all humanity…

Our van driver was quite good in English and funny… I was still trying to wake myself up and get into a groove… of course, there is a “talker” on the bus who started asking all kinds of questions… good thing, he was asking what I was thinking of asking.. about elevation, people, taxes, transportation, etc.  When I heard their tax rate (VAT or something) is 21% I realized what we had is not bad after all.  The tour was going be mostly driving around with only a couple of stops… I was ok with that… but, our first stop was a Cheese Factory… Come on… after all this time, you are not going to show me weed or red light district first… Cheese Factory?  I guess it is a popular stop since there were other tour buses there.  I didn’t take any pictures of the people trying to explain how they make cheese and wooden shoes, I want to get on with the tour.. but we end up spending almost 25 minutes there walking through gift shop… I know better not to buy any “crap” that Lesli will throw away.

Back on bus, we started going through backroads and next popular spot was the windmill.

Iconic Windmill
Iconic Windmill

I guess this is a big photo op… the driver/guide offered everyone to take their picture in “reflection.  I did the best I could with my iPhone and also tried to get the flowers and water… but not the same without full gear.

Almost an hour into our trip, I was starting to get antsy… we only have 1.5 hours left and one of the fellow passengers wants to be back by 11 to catch his flight.  We convinced him that he can still catch his flight if we return by 11:30, so we can squeeze every minute out of the trip.

When we finally reached the city, I can see the real beauty and appeal of it.  The whole city is full of canals and roads on each side, narrow, barely enough to fit one car and no matter how many turns we took, there was always another canal in that direction.  After a few minutes, I lost track of what is where and just started enjoying the scenery.  Yes, we drove through the street with “Red windows”.. even that early in the day there were girls sitting in chairs behind it…

Canals connecting the city
Canals connecting the city

The buildings (including the RijksMuseum) were outstanding… most of the building sidelining street are almost same height, stacked next to each other and tiny.  BTW, we saw the world’s smallest apartment/hotels – just one window wide and 3 floors high.  Of course there are a lot (I mean a lot) of coffee shops with brownies, but also neat roadside cafes, restaurants, boutique shops… I am sure you can spend days enjoying food and window shopping here.

Best Seeds in the world? What kind of seeds?
Best Seeds in the world? What kind of seeds?

Then we came across this world’s best seed store… obviously they are not selling Tulip seeds… all windows are decorated with weed plants… Good for them.. instead of trying to fight it, make it legal and tax it 21% or higher…

More than anything else, what impressed me most about Amsterdam is the transportation.  I have never seen so many buses, trains, trams, bicycles in any western city.  I guess they don’t have many options.  With such narrow streets and passage ways, either you adapt or get stuck in traffic jams.  It was nice sunny day, but still a bit chilly, but everyone was on the streets.  Moms driving kids around in their limousines..(bicycle with double basket seat in front), people jogging, walking, using scooters, boats, what not…

One of the passengers dropped off at the Canal cruise.  I didn’t have time to do it this time.  Another one stepped out at the museum and was going to take a train back to airport.  I know I will get more opportunities to do some of these things in future, now that I feel a bit comfortable with the city and getting around it.

We drove back to airport on one of the few “highways” they have and back at airport by 11:30 a.m., a quick passage through immigration again and I was in the lounge by 11:45 a.m. Read though my emails, freshen up and at reached my gate by 1 p.m. and took off around 1:4o p.m.

Even though I didn’t get to see a lot, or capture some of the beautiful sigths, I enjoyed getting out into the city.  I need to pack my camera bag, and spend a full day and get to the Tulip Gardens to get a full experience of Amsterdam… City of Love.

One thought on “6 Hours in Amsterdam… well actually 5…

  1. Nancy Ledoux

    Prasad, Next trip please do not forget your camera. A trip to the Netherlands is on my bucket list.
    Nancy Ledoux (Lesli’s friend and Lana’s mom)

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