Amsterdam – The Adventure Overview

November 23, 2008 at 7:57 pm 15 comments

Whew. I’m back from a week in the Netherlands. I got to spend three days sight-seeing in Amsterdam before heading south for business. With travel companion, Ryan Somma, we ended up packing in a lot of stuff into a three day visit to the city. It is going to take me a while to parse through the photos and already I tally up at least eight different blog posts I could do. But I figure it would be best to start off with a overview/summary.


Thursday afternoon, I dropped the dogs off the boarder and we made our way to the airport. In DC, we boarded a large Boeing 777 and we were off.

Ryan Somma and I on the plane to Amsterdam


Seven hours later, between 6-7 AM local time, we landed in Amsterdam, got our luggage and boarded a train. As the early morning views whizzed by, Ryan observed, “There is a surprising lack of logos.”

I believe I replied with something about as enthusiastic as “Mmpf.”

We got off at the Centraal Station. I was well aware that Amsterdam was a bike-centric city. I had been there briefly in 1995 and seen some impressive pictures from Tony Airaghi. Even with that preparation, when one gets off the Centraal Station and sees the mass of bicycles parked outside, the view is breathtaking.

A triple decker parking deck— FULL of bicycles

More bikes outside of the train station

We dropped the luggage off at the hotel, snagged some maps from the concierge and headed out to Anne Frank’s house. Along the way, we got to see plenty of the canals and house boats.

Houseboats on one of the canals. I love how they make use of the roofs and decks to grow plants.

Houses line a canal

The Anne Frank Huis was a good museum with moving testimonials and quotes. I had been there once before in 1995, but this time I had a new interest– The horse chestnut tree! While Anne and her family hid for more than two years, one of her few glimpses of nature was a horse chestnut tree outside her window. That tree is quite ill right now, but efforts are in play to keep it alive. Of course, there are no photographs permitted inside the house, but I thought I would outsmart the system.

“Let’s just walk around the block and take a picture from the street!” I told Ryan.

Little did we know, this tree is in a sequestered courtyard surrounded by buildings, so there was no view from the street.

Vicky’s Stealth Fail– there was no way to see the tree in the red area from any street.

Luckily, the Anne Frank House has a web cam, so I have the ability to see the tree whenever I want from the comfort of my own home.

Me looking at Anne Frank’s tree via the web

After Anne Frank’s house, weary Somma and I visited the Dam, the historical center of the city. At the Dam, some street vendors were dressed up as Grim Reapers and Batman.

Grim Reapers at the Dam

After that, we hit a local cafe for some lunch, stopped by a Hologram store and finally returned to our hotel for a well needed nap.

In the evening, we woke up and explored the city at night.

Amsterdam at Night

We had supper at an absolutely delicious India restaurant and got our first exposure to the famous Red Light District (Sorry, it is illegal to take pictures of the renowned Window Ladies)


Saturday was NEMO Science Center day! We woke up late, had an English Breakfast and then headed straight to the boat-shaped center. Although the museum is targeted for children, I found myself thoroughly engrossed with the displays. I was most impressed with the frank and uncensored information about sex that was available in a museum…for children (more on that later). I also enjoyed the Chain Reaction presentations they did throughout the day.

One of the many hands on displays at the NEMO Science Center– when the child holds the plasma ball and the fluorescent light bulb at the same time, the bulb lights up.

Two children start off a large chain reaction

Kids making giant bubbles at the NEMO Science Center

After a full day at NEMO, we saw a little more of the city, visited another Hologram store, we shared another great supper at an Argentinian Steak house and once again got to stroll through Red Light District on the way back to the hotel.

Another canal in Amsterdam

View of the city from the top of the NEMO building

We closed the evening with getting introduced to the BBC show, Outnumbered. We saw the wedding episode. Be on the lookout for it. It’s rather hilarious.


Sunday was full of unexpectancies. We set out to see Energetica, an energy museum we read about in the Fall 2008 issue of an Amsterdam tourist guide. Our hotel concierge gave us directions to the museum. Yet, when we finally arrived, we were greeted by a sign announcing the museum was closing in November of 2007… over a year ago!

Ryan by the Closed Sign

But never fear– we still saw a lot on this particular Sunday. We got our first introduction to a curious Dutch Christmas custom. We got to see the lovely Weinheim Park and a thoughtful Auschwitz Memorial. And probably my absolute favorite part of the entire trip– the Botanical Gardens. They are INCREDIBLE. More on each of those activities later. And of course, along the way, we got to see more of the city.

Flurry of activity near the Centraal Station

Modern buildings and a church from 1614

Sunflower growing in an apartment window

After that day was done, we took a train back to the airport and picked up a rental car. We were off to our next destination– Bergen op Zoom.

Only… with a complication. I…uh…. I sort of, kind of, left the driving directions at home. After some amount of stress, further aggravated by me not knowing how to turn the car on (you have to put the brake on before you turn the key), it was Somma’s web-enabled Cingular phone to the rescue. He pulled up Google maps and we managed to find our way.

More pictures of my Amsterdam trip are available on my Flickr site.

And never fear– there are many, many more Amsterdam posts to come. 🙂

Entry filed under: Amsterdam, Travel.

links for 2008-11-18 Amsterdam – Zwarte Piet

15 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Amsterdam - Zwarte Piet « TGAW  |  November 23, 2008 at 8:33 pm

    […] 23, 2008 On the way to the closed Energetica museum, Ryan Somma and I passed a large crowd congregated around the […]

  • 2. Amsterdam - Wertheim Park « TGAW  |  November 24, 2008 at 8:08 am

    […] 23, 2008 On Sunday, after visiting the closed Energetica Museum, Somma and I wandered over to Wertheim Park. This small but inviting park is a remnant from when […]

  • 3. Aaron  |  November 24, 2008 at 10:28 am

    Um, isn’t that how you start your car in the US? 😛

  • 4. TGAW  |  November 24, 2008 at 11:03 am

    @Aaron – Don’t know about other cars– but you do not have to hold the brake down on the Nissan XTerra in the U.S.

  • 5. Clint  |  November 24, 2008 at 11:19 am

    I have to put the brake down to shift out of park.

  • 6. TGAW  |  November 24, 2008 at 11:31 am

    @Clint – Yeah, I have to do that too and that might be the difference. Our rental car did not have a “Park”– it only had neutral with a parking brake.

  • 7. Amsterdam - Wertheim Park « TGAW  |  November 24, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    […] 24, 2008 On Sunday, after visiting the closed Energetica Museum, Somma and I wandered over to Wertheim Park. This small but inviting park is a remnant from when […]

  • 8. chriggy  |  November 24, 2008 at 3:12 pm

    Having driven a stickshift in the past for several yeras, it’s pretty much become a habit for me to have the brake pressed when I start a car.

  • 9. gaugeyagee  |  November 25, 2008 at 10:09 am

    In my old stickshift, I could start the car just by turning the key. My current car, I have to have the clutch pressed in or it won’t start, even if I have it in neutral.

    I guess there are many different variations, hehe. Note to self: press clutch AND brake in while the car is in neutral whenever starting a new car.

  • 10. chriggy  |  November 25, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    In my old car, it would also start by just turning key. One day Shannon started it without pressing the clutch or the brake. In a parking lot. Bad things happened.

    Hence, my habit 🙂

  • 11. Clint  |  November 25, 2008 at 4:16 pm

    Ironically, I once had trouble starting Carolyn’s car *because* I always put the brake down. So it can work both ways…

  • 12. Outnumbered « TGAW  |  November 26, 2008 at 8:00 am

    […] 26, 2008 On Saturday in Amsterdam, I got to see an episode of the BBC comedy, Outnumbered. It’s about two parents struggling to […]

  • 13. Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam « TGAW  |  December 1, 2008 at 12:20 am

    […] 1, 2008 My favorite, favorite, favorite part of the trip to the Netherlands was an afternoon at the Hortus Botanicus, aka the Botanical Gardens. Area-wise, the gardens are […]

  • 14. Wedding Behind the Scenes: Tree Tablecards « TGAW  |  March 10, 2010 at 10:01 am

    […] aren’t even related. The tree Anne Frank peered at from her attic is also a Horse Chestnut. Ryan and I visited it in November 2008 when we were in […]

  • 15. Joshua  |  October 8, 2014 at 1:58 pm

    You share interesting things here. I think that your blog can go viral easily, but you
    must give it initial boost and i know how to
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