Monday, October 16, 2017

Amsterdam - Day 3

After a very late night out, we didn't wake up until 11am on our third day in Amsterdam.
My husband loves to take long bike rides, so I knew that would be one of the activities we would do  for sure in while we were there.
So after grabbing some sandwiches, bananas, chips and drinks at a tiny market, we headed to Mike's Bike Tours for the Countryside Tour.
We set off in a group through the city before heading out into the countryside.
Just the two of us on our bike tour in Amsterdam on July 31, 2017.
We rode along the river for awhile until we reached the first windmill on our stop.
I loved the shutters and flowerbox. So pretty!
Here is Daniel our tour guide who was fabulous. The tour lasted a little over four hours and there were 16 total in our group. At the beginning of the tour, Daniel asked if there were any experienced riders who could help him out. So Mike definitely being one volunteered, which resulted in us bringing up the rear to make sure we all stayed together.

We reached the cheese and wooden shoe farm pretty quickly after the windmill.
The shoe maker was quite a character. He flirted with the ladies and gave some of the men a little trouble in a joking way.
 After the shoe workshop, we had a picnic lunch and then got back on our bikes.
Mike took a photo of me with my pink bike that had flowers on the handle bar at the stop where we saw some deer. At this point, Daniel also shared stories about how they used to flood the plains in certain areas as a defense tactic during the wars. But once there were planes, it wasn't as effective. This was definitely an interesting part of history that I was unfamiliar with.
We stopped at a second windmill before heading back. Our ride back to the city and the tour shop lasted about an hour. I'll admit it was a little rough for me at points that last hour because we didn't really make any stops. Mike bikes regularly so for him it was a piece of cake. And the first three hours were fine, so I am glad I had been riding a little bit on my bike at home to get ready for it before our trip. Four hours is a pretty long time to bike if you are not used to it at all. So I would definitely recommend practicing before a trip if any type of biking is in your plans.

After the tour, we grabbed some smoothies and headed back to the hotel to rest and have a facetime chat with the kids.

That night we had dinner at a place called the Downtown Grill which had excellent food, but not so great service. So I would recommend it, because honestly good customer service as far as restaurants in Amsterdam was hard to come by. As long as the food was good, we were happy.

We saw one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen while standing on a bridge over a canal.
Then we spent the rest of the night wandering through the shopping and entertainment districts stopping to look around, have some drinks and just enjoy the atmosphere.
Before heading back to the hotel, we decided to get some dessert (a waffle with chocolate, strawberries and whipped cream) to split.
One of my favorite parts of that night, was just sitting there next to the canal talking and eating a waffle!
So I would say our time in Amsterdam was well spent. We had so much fun hanging out with family and then just each other.

For my next post, we are on to Brussels, Belgium!

Steps - 18,689
Miles - 8.01 (not including the bike ride)

Monday, October 9, 2017

Amsterdam - Day 2

We didn't wake until 10:15am our second day in Amsterdam. So we grabbed some quick smoothies for breakfast and headed out to meet Mike's brother and sister in law at the Van Gogh museum. It was a nice walk from our hotel.
But it was a bit cloudy, and as we approached the museum it started to rain.
 This was one of the best parts about visiting Amsterdam for me!
Vincent Van Gogh has always been my favorite artist thanks to my grandpa Pete. He loved to paint for fun and made a few replicas of Van Gogh's paintings that were hanging in my home growing up! I remember when I was little seeing the Sunflower painting in an art book and exclaiming "my grandpa painted that!"
If you are ever in Amsterdam, I highly recommend going to the museum. I know a lot about Van Gogh, but learned so much more while I was there! He had a really fascinating life and to me was the very definition of someone who immersed himself in his work. Plus, I loved the information about his relationship with his brother Theo who was so supportive of Vincent.
Another recommendation would be to buy your tickets on line ahead of time. We stood outside in the rain for quite a while before being able to get in.
There is an entire room in the museum dedicated to his self portraits. Back home you are allowed to take photos without the flash. I snapped a photo of my favorite before realizing that photos were not allowed in that room. (whoops)  So I'm not going to post it here for that reason.
But I did absolutely need to get a photo of the Sunflowers for myself and my mom. I think one of the things I love best about Van Gogh's paintings is his use of texture. It's amazing. And being able to see it for myself up close just blew me away.
Hmmm...seemed just a little sacrilegious to me. But his painting of the Potato Eaters is another favorite of mine so I could see the humor in this.

After the museum, we headed to see the iconic I Amsterdam sign.
So many people there wanting a photo with it!
Just the two of us at the I Amsterdam sign - July 30, 2017

After lunch we headed over to Heineken for the Rock the City: Heineken Experience tour
This included a tour of Heineken and then a boat ride on the canals that went to Amsterdam Tower which is also known as A'DAM LOOKOUT. My sister in law bought tickets pretty far in advance, but I don't think it is something that sells out too quickly. 
Here are a few photos I took on the tour.
But the most exciting part came right before a little 4d ride and heading up to the rooftop bar.
Since Mike's sister in law usually would get a drink, they told us that she is pregnant with their first baby! Really exciting and fun news!

We didn't stay inside the rooftop bar because it was so loud.
But the view from outside was pretty.
We didn't take a lot of photos during our boat ride on the canals.
The actual tower is not very tall (lol), but a cool design.
Here are some views from the top on the inside behind the glass. In the top right photo you can see the Ferry that we rode back across the water to where our hotels were located.
 A view from the rooftop.
They had these great cushions to lounge around on up there.
My brother in law and his wife are such a cute couple! And then taking all these photos I was feeling a little left out.
So I joined them!
Just the two of us - Amsterdam Tower rooftop, July 30, 2017
Cone fries are a big deal over there and in Brussels.
My sister in law was really wanting a cone, so we found a pretty popular place with a long line.
But the line moved pretty quickly, so we had our fries in no time. There were a ton of sauces to choose from, but I settled on plain old ketchup.
The fry stand was right across from this iconic spot that you see in photographs all over the internet. Although, just like the scaffolding on Big Ben, it wasn't so picture perfect for us. This time we have some construction going on here.
This is what you would typically see. But we just had to laugh because it seems like there is always construction or scaffolding in our "famous" photos.
And the view behind where we were sitting.
We walked around for awhile afterwards before dinner.
Mike loves to bike and he really liked how bike friendly Amsterdam is.
This is one of my favorite photos he took at a bike parking area.
I really liked this building right next to the canal and that bridge!
We finally had a late dinner, I think around 9 or 9:30pm. Then Mike's brother and wife went back to their hotel because they were leaving the next day.

But Mike and I had another whole day to explore.
So coming up - Day 3 (our last) in Amsterdam - The Bike Adventure

Steps - 17,264
Miles - 7.4

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Amsterdam and U2 (Day 1)

I'm so glad our 8:20 am flight to Amsterdam was from the much smaller and easier to navigate London City airport. We did lose another hour in the time change, and our train ride from the airport was a little crazy. After we left the station, we ended up walking a bit and then finally just getting a ride from Uber to our hotel. We were pretty tired by the time we got to our hotel at 11:30, but thankfully our room was ready for us! We stayed at the The Albus Hotel which was in a great location in the city center.
(photo taken from the internet)
Each room was pretty unique, and I don't think any two were exactly alike from the way it sounds.
(photo from internet)
Our room was very similar to this one. Not very large, but definitely big enough for the two of us. The bathroom made us laugh though, because when we walked in the door, you pretty much walked straight into the shower. Definitely an open concept with just a glass partition separating it from the rest.

As we were entering the elevator to go up to our room, Mike's brother came up behind him to surprise us! He had come over with his wife to see U2 that night as well and had arrived the day before. Eight years ago, they had been with us in Dublin to see U2 and we had a great time hanging out. So we had been looking forward to our trips overlapping in Amsterdam.

Despite being a little tired, we decided to head with them to lunch at The Three Sisters Pub in a cool square right around the corner from our hotel. 
After lunch we decided to walk around for a bit before going back to the hotel to rest before the concert that night. 

This photo has so much I want to remember about Amsterdam. I loved the canals, all the boats on the water, the unique homes and architecture, bikes everywhere, and the crazy way they parked their little cars so close to the canal!

We walked by the Anne Frank house, but the "free" line was way too long to get in. If you are going to Amsterdam and visiting the Anne Frank house is on your list of things to see, I would recommend getting tickets well in advance. 

At this point, Mike and I headed back to our hotel for a nap before the concert. 
Ready to go see the band. Crazy lighting in our hotel room right? But it was fun.

We walked to the train station. And while waiting in the long line to purchase tickets for the train,  Mike realized he had left our paper tickets at the hotel room and wanted to have them just in case. So he ran back to get them and made it back just as I finally got up to the ticket machine. We bought our two tickets for the Metro and went to get on. It was packed!!! And it got more and more crowded the closer we got to Amsterdam ArenA. Thankfully the concert was indoors because it was lightly raining by the time we arrived.
Love that incredible stage. And what a great feeling to be down on the floor again.

Just the two of us - Amsterdam for the U2 Joshua Tree Tour, July 30, 2017
We didn't get there until around 6:30 pm, so we couldn't get as close to the stage as we would have liked.  
But we were close enough.
Quite the crowd behind us and all around us. General admission is definitely not for the faint of heart if you are going to be in the middle of it and are less than six feet tall. (lol) I could barely see at some points and it was hot and crowded at times. There are only a few bands I would do it for these days. U2 of course, Radiohead, The National, and possibly Noel Gallagher.
And look who it is - Noel Gallagher! His band was the opening act and I had been looking forward to seeing him a lot. I love Noel Gallagher! I always said out of the band Oasis, he was the brother with the talent. Anyway, it was great to see him live.
And then it was time for U2 and Joshua Tree. I will admit that I cried a little during Where the Streets Have No Name. I was thinking back to my very first U2 concert - another Joshua Tree tour back in 1987 where they opened with the very same song. And it was so great to hear it again and think about what this band has meant to Mike and I over the years.
That screen is amazing! And I love all the visuals that were directed by Anton Corbijn. He always does great work.
One of my favorite parts of the show actually was the segment with Beautiful Day and Elevation. Those two songs always get the crowd jumping! And during Beautiful Day there were a ton of colorful balloons floating around that were so fun. I hadn't seen or heard of that being done at any of the other shows on tour. I know they didn't have them two nights later in Brussels.

After the show was over, getting back to the train was insane! The station was just a short walk from the ArenA, but the crowd was all trying to jam through the first main entrance. Mike decided we were going to just walk to the next station where it wasn't so crazy. But as we started walking we noticed another entrance to the station that nobody had really noticed yet. So we managed to bypass a lot of the crowd and made it on the train and to the stop by our hotel around midnight. We grabbed some pizza from a little place close to our hotel and finally got to sleep around 1:30 am.

And just like that, our first day in Amsterdam was over!

Steps walked - 18,186
Miles - 7.8