Welcome to Amsterdam!

After a relatively a stress-free flight, we arrived at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam and hopped on the 197 bus that was to stop within meters of our hotel. Unfortunately, I — the queen of planning — had forgotten to print out a map showing the directions from the bus stop to the hotel. Mind you, that would not have helped since we got off at the wrong stop. So much for planning. We stood on the street with our bags (already too heavy) and looked around helplessly at the throngs of bicycles, the trams whizzing by, the glitter of sun on the nearby canal. I did not have a clue which direction to take to the hotel! Fortunately, a kindly taxi driver spied us standing gormlessly at the edge of the bicycle lane. We hopped in and within minutes were pulling up in front of the Hotel Fita–about a three minute walk–and 10 euro cab ride away. However, we did not know in which direction the three minutes lay so the 10 euros for the taxi was well spent. At least the bus in from the airport cost just 4 euros each.

The Hotel Fita turned out to be a jewel of a place. It is a family hotel located very close to the Museumplein–location of the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh museum. The spacious room included a balcony overlooking a leafy green street and what turned out to be one of the comfiest beds I’ve ever slept in. And the price was more than fair–quite a bit less than home for something similar, especially since breakfast was included.

And so after testing out a great shower with awesome water pressure, I set off for a stroll around the neighborhood. It’s always a thrill to first step out into the streets of a European city. So many people! It took me quite awhile to get up the nerve to try crossing the street. The bikes bear down on you from all directions (or at least it feels that way). But after a few hours I realized that the traffic in Amsterdam is much, much calmer than I remember. I think they must be limiting the number of cars allowed into the center. The streets feel pretty much empty except for taxis, trams and of course bikes–hundreds and hundreds of bikes.

We ventured out for our first meal in Europe around 7 pm at a restaurant recommended by one of the guys at the hotel. While a bit on the pricey side (but less than what we’d pay for a comparable meal in Vancouver), the food was pretty darn great. We both got filet mignon with tons of fresh vegetables. Fantastic! On the way back to the hotel, we stopped into a massive, sleek supermarket to pick up essentials — grapefruit for Gregg, a knife, some tasty single-serving desserts, and chocolate for me! And then back to the hotel to pass out around 10 pm. It was still light out but we didn’t care. Thank goodness the room was dark and the neighborhood super quiet. It was almost like being back on Bowen. But not really…!

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