I considered Iceland. But airfare was very expensive. Rental cars start at $100/day before the extra charges. It is an all around expensive island. [Then it became was, as half a year after this their inflated economy collapsed and the exchange rate fell 50%.]
I then considered Newfoundland. Fares, when I looked, were only $580. But the island is hilly and it would have been a car oriented trip, and rental cars for one person aren't cost effective.
Then near the end of June I was figuring with people not flying then frequent flyer miles might be easy to use. And with air fares up they would be a good value. I have hundreds of thousands of miles on Continental, thanks to my sole credit card being on Continental for over 20 years. I get online and try Amsterdam. I was right. For only 50,000 miles round trip I could leave almost any day in July or August. I tried leaving in a few days, but not all dates were available for return for the 50,000 points. So I moved it ahead a week. The days will still be long. The end result? For 50,000 miles and $130 in fees I got a ticket worth more than $1200. And I would have a bicycling vacation.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
I would be leaving from Newark Airport. I have always ended up taking a car service there, and a train home. As my flight is 6:35 PM I couldn't work that day, so I would have plenty of time to use public transportation to get to the airport. Maybe I could even bicycle from Newark Penn Station? I had some directions from danielc. But there is the problem of getting to the left airport exit. I corresponded with Dan. He sent me a Google maps path. It had a picture of the exit on Route 1/9 Service Road in front of the Anheuser-Busch Brewery. I'd have to get from the right side to the left exit. This would be with traffic moving 40 miles an hour. An alternative is to enter in the northeast corner of the airport where you can go under the NJ Turnpike, but that is a much longer trip.
I bicycle to the World Trade Center to get a PATH train. I pass the Brooklyn Marriott and see a Golden Touch bus dropping off lots of flight attendants. I wonder if they came from Newark and was the bus returning? A few blocks later I find out, as I see the bus head to NJ. Could I have gotten a ride?
I had checked in online. There is a special counter for those that have done so. It was fairly easy to check my bicycle. They watched me put it in its bag. No problem whatsoever. No mention of an extra charge. I asked for a fragile sticker. He couldn't find one, so I ran over to the main check-in and got one. Hopefully that will keep it from getting 500 pounds of other luggage dumped on top of it.
When picking my seat online I saw there were lots of empty seats. I got back online and picked one in the middle of the middle section. There are only three seats in the middle, but it will give me a chance to lie down. (We fly with 80 empty seats.)
On the flight the meals were plain and unexciting, but they were gluten-free. Breakfast was only double fruit. Eggs would have been nice. I ate my first pemmican muffin.
All is fine at Schiphol Airport. My bicycle comes up the odd-size belt. I get my train ticket. I get to the platform before the first train that I had in my notes. Fortunately I ask an agent. I just missed one that wasn't in my notes, but I learn that my train switch is not at Amsterdam Centraal, but Amsterdam Sloterdijk. Had I not had this conversation I would have gone to Centraal.
I head to Centruum. I bicycle around. I'm disoriented. I had forgotten to take the compass out of my bag and clip it to my handlebar. It is a gray day. You can't really tell which direction the sun is. Finally I find the tourism office. I buy some maps, but I'm not sure about my hotel. She gives me some directions on my map. None of my maps are good. The copies from the hotel were on an inkjet in draft mode and are difficult to see. The free map is twisted so north is not up, and the only highlights are the stores with ads along the edge.
With some help I make it back to the hotel. As it is across the street from the train station, I just have to find that.
I've decided by this time that I will rip up my Lonely Planet, and save the ripped out pages.
At the desk I find that my room is not yet ready. It was now only around noon. I check out the out-of-town maps I bought. I plot my two full day trips. The next day, Friday, is the touristy cheese market, so I need that full day for nearby stuff. Texel Island is out. That solves the late weekend breakfast and late first trains to Texel. One trip will be to the east, and the other to the south and west.
My room is ready. She describes how to get there. It is on the front. There it is noisy. I had asked in my e-mails that I be given a room in the back. She says that request wasn't entered in the reservations system. After a while she has a room. The downside is this one has stairs. I won't be able to bring the bicycle into the room.
In the room I try to rip my Lonely Planet. It turns out to be quite easy. I knew it was stitched in sections. I was able to pull out a section, and then rip for the sheets I wanted.
I head back to town. First stop is the Grote Kerk. The church has been taken over by a foundation that now maintains the buildings. They charge admission for a museum inside. They also use it for performances and parties. I bicycled to get to the park that is on the bank of the Singel-gracht. On some parts of it I had to walk my bicycle. I found the Molen van Piet (windmill), but it was not open. When the market is in operation everything that is open will be open.
I make it back to the tourism office. I get a Horne map, plus the 1:50,000, which is my favorite for getting around the countryside.
I then go upstairs to the Cheese Museum. Even though I don't eat any milk products, it was interesting to see how it was made.
The view is right over the square. It is a perfect picture opportunity. On my way out I ask if I could get back in the next day for a picture. She writes a note on my receipt and says I can try.
Back downstairs in tourism I find where the Indian restaurant is. I find it. It is dinner only and expensive. I go across to de Bios [closed April 23, 2012] and order a steak and baked potato.
I find the main cash machine is not working. I head back to my room and the train station. I get cash there. I check the train schedule. The last train out of Horne is past midnight. On weekends the last bus is from Medemblik.
I find Victorie Park. I decide I'll bicycle to Brøek op Langedijk. The Lonely Planet says 8 km northeast. This would be a short ride. The Museum Brøeker Auction is there. The LP says open till 9:30 PM on Thursday. [I later see that hours are shorter in the summer.]
I head out of town. On the map I see Heerhugowaard to the northeast. I head there. I pass windmills on my way out of town. Four were in a cluster. I lose track of where I am going, then I find myself on the road north of Heerhugowaard. With help I get directions toward town. I pass the forest park. Eventually I realize I'm trying to find the wrong town. I head northwest. After crossing the train tracks, instead of continuing northwest I headed southwest. I went way below Sint Pancreas. I bicycled through Sint Pancres, which I could see that I would be backtracking on.
Eventually I get to Brøek op Langedijk. I find the museum closed. I head back through Sint Pancres. I loop way out of the way to get over the train tracks. I reenter Alkmaar again passing the windmills. I bicycle down Lange Straat, just as all shopkeepers pull down the shutters at 9:05.
I find Sumangali, the Indian/Sri Lankan restaurant. They use coconut and milk products. It is very Southern Indian. They were unable to explain in English what the difference was between dishes. I could make out a word here and there. I pick one with Madras in the name. I had the chicken, a side vegetable, and some lentils over a pile of rice. It was a very tasty meal.
I get back to my room at 10:20.
Friday, July 11, 2008
I'm up early enough that I'm walking around outside a little before breakfast opens at 7:00. At 7:00 I find the usual: eggs (these somewhat between soft and hard), cold cuts (I just took the chicken and salami) and orange juice. Fresh fruit was minimal. No water.
I return to my room. I have a couple hours until the cheese market gets going. I end up taking a nap. After that I head out. There is a brief shower. I find the cheese surrounded by people. All the cheeses are covered by tarps to keep the rain off. After a while it clears and they are pulled off. All along a woman is giving a commentary, though mostly not in English. They start putting on their show. I go up and get the pictures from the Cheese Museum on the second floor. I had no problem at all using the receipt from the day before to get back in. I got more pictures from the semi-protected area at ground level.
I am now ready to start the Herring and Hemp Route which covers 30 km across the former Schermer-island. I head east. I take the Voormeer, which runs south of Noordhollands Kanaal. This was a mistake. Not only was the road rough there was no way to cross the canal. I ended up going south to a large bridge. I make a turn and bicycle under it. This doesn't look right. In a park I ask a fellow. Basically I have to go back. At the other side is the bicycle path. This is N242. I follow N243 until I can make a turn towards Zuidschermer. [The correct way to get out from Alkmaar is shown on the Leeghwaterroute map.]
Below Zuidschermer I can turn towards the route, but I'm on the west side of the Schermer. I can follow on the wrong side until I reach West-Graftdijk. I then bicycle through West-Graftdijk to see what I missed, as my side at that point was agricultural. I am now following the route.
I follow it to De Rijp. This is the end and start of the route. And this is where there is a tourism office, museum, and restaurants. The later being important, as it is now way past 1:00 and I'm hungry. (And I forgot to pack Larabars and pemmican.) I stop at Het Wapen van Münster. I get a steak and the chips fried in olive oil. It was basic, simple, and an expensive way to eat. And it was good.
I get up to pay the bill. I was expecting €18.50 for the steak. The total was €23.90. They charged me €5.40 for three 200 ml glasses of tap water! You can find my details on this experience at The Most Expensive Tap Water in the World.
I stop at the Dutch Reformed Church (Grote Kerk).
I'm now starting the Herring and Hemp Route. I follow it to Schermerhorn. I stopped at the Museum Schermer Molen. I then continue onto Grootschermer. I buy nuts and water. From there I leave the route and take the short cut to Graft.
In Graft I switch to the Leeghwaterroute. This will take me through the World Heritage the Beemster, Heschermer and the Eilards Polder. But I'm doing it in reverse. This makes it hard to follow the commentary and directions. Back through De Rijp gets me back to the route beginning and to start it backwards. Since both start and end in De Rijp this would be the best place to start and end. Maybe one can bus to and from here?
I bicycle along the Zuiddijk. I turn and zigzag to get to Middenbeemster. Then I took a couple of zigzags to Westbeemster. Then I missed a turn, and I ended up at N243. I did not go back. Instead I took N243 to Schermerhorn. There I would be back on track.
The route goes up to Ursem, but I will be on that stretch the next day when I bicycle to Hoorn. Instead I take Lange Molenwag to get to the northwest. Then I can turn down to Stompetoren to get N243 into town.
[In hindsight I would have done the above differently. First you have to decide that you will do both the Herring & Hemp Route and the Leeghwaterroute in the same day, which I did not set out planning to do. Start with the Leeghwaterroute and jump into the route from the Alkmaar spur and follow it in the correct direction to De Rijp. Then switch to the Herring and Hemp Route in its entirety. Then when back in De Rijk pick up the Leeghwaterroute until the spur to take you back to Alkmaar.]
When I reach the ring road on the other side of it is the road to the Centruum. But I missed how to follow the detour and head south. I find a woman getting on a bicycle. She's going to Centruum. She will lead me. We go round about, and then we cross the bridge to Victorie Park on the north side, which is the key to success.
I head to Sumangali for another reasonable and filling meal. I need to ask about a Sri Lankan restaurant in Den Haag. But when paying I forgot.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
I awake to it pouring rain. There is no reason to rush to get up. I make it to breakfast at 8:30, a half hour past the start. The fellow says the forecast is for rain all day.
As I head out it clears somewhat. I had only occasional sprinkles until I was entirely in Hoorn. Then I had a steady rain. My shoes were waterproof, but the wet pants dripped onto my socks, so they got wet.
The ride I took to Hoorn was the scenic route. It was over 30 km. I went via Rustenburg, Ursem, Avenhorn, Oudendijk and then up the coast passing Scharwoude. At the Hoorn train station I found when trains leave from Enkhuizen. My knee is starting to bother me, and I doubt I'll get past there. I bicycle the walking tour. It was Saturday, one of their two open market days. I went into the Westfries Museum. It was a very complete museum. I then went across the street to check the De Waag Café - Restaurant. I've decided I won't pay for tap water. I ask first. Yes, they charge for tap water, unless you buy some other beverage. I walk out. I've already eaten some nuts. I have a Larabar. I have water on my bicycle from my hotel room.
I head to Enkhuisen following the coast. The path is on top of the dike. I come upon a large area covered with paraskiers and windsurfers. I watch for a while. By luck when I'm in Broekerhaven I pull into a small marina. I see a bicycle route sign. The number routes leave the coast and get into Enkhuisen via city streets. I go that way.
I reach Enkhuisen after 5:00. The tourism office is closed. I will have no local map. The Zuider Zee Museum is closed. I see this is a major outdoor museum. They recommend a half day. I did not realize this, as I usually don't research the town until I arrive. I clearly did not do this day right. I should have taken the train to Hoorn. Then after realizing it was another 20 km to Enkhuisen I should have taken the train to there. Then bicycled to Endemblick, and bused out of there. I really should return the next day.
I have the Lonely Planet pages. I can find many of the things, but not the waag. Apparently it isn't as important a site as LP makes it out to be.
I head to the train station. I get there at 6:22. The train leaves in one minute. I try to buy a ticket. The machine will not accept my credit card. The train pulls out. I try my ATM card. Nope. I try another machine. My credit card worked at the Schiphol train station!? I go find a place that breaks up my paper money, so I have enough coins to buy a ticket.
I have a few minutes. I go bicycle to find the Zuider Zee Museum. It is on the other side. They boat you across.
On the train I catch up on my notes.
In Hoorn I have to switch trains. I lug my folded bicycle across the platform. I get grease all over my pant's fly. Now the pants did have some mud on them—the dike was very muddy in one place—but now they are unwearable until washed, and may still not look too good after that. I definitely need to bring more long pants on trips to Northern Europe. I brought two long pants and one pair of shorts. I don't know when I will be able to wear the shorts. Hopefully I can on wash day.
Back in Alkmaar I head to the Sri Lankan restaurant. This time I pick a Ceylonese dish. I liked the Indian ones better. I asked about restaurants in Den Haag and Amsterdam. He says they are the only Sri Lankan restaurant in the country.
I'm back in my room before 9 PM. I've decided I will skip the 9 AM breakfast and head to Enkhuisen early. I read that there is a walking tour map of Enkhuisen. I don't recall seeing one at the Alkmaar tourism office. With the Enkhuisen tourism office closed on Sunday I won't be able to pick one up there.
Sunday, July 13, 2008
I decide I can eat a pemmican and Larabar on the train. I'm at the station before a 7:16 train. But on Sundays the first train is 8:16. Plus I don't have the needed coins for the machine. The ticket office opens at 8:00. At this point I decide I'll stick around for breakfast. The museum does not open until 10:00. Without the walking tour map there is nothing to do earlier. If I can get started by 9:00 I can eat a quick breakfast and make the 9:16 train. Besides my knee is still a little sore, so I'm not entirely sure I'll bicycle to Medemblik. I now have an hour and a half to kill before breakfast. I clean the mud off my bicycle. I do some walking around the station area. I had bicycled the proper way to the station once. From my hotel, it being beyond the station, it is shorter to bicycle the back way; which totally lacks in charm.
I walked in the park along the canal. I return to buy a ticket. The agent says the machines outside of the major areas don't take international credit cards. (And for ATM cards for cash it may be major banks only that will accept them.)
I wanted to see about buses to De Rijp. As noted above, this is the start/end of the two polder tours. But the bus agent is closed on Sundays. I case out the path from the hotel to track #2 by bicycle, and where the entrance to cross the tracks is.
I'm out front ready for breakfast before 9:00. We can get in about 8:50. Within minutes the place is full. I'm not the only one wanting an earlier breakfast. Eggs don't come out until 9:00, which gave me a chance to eat the cold cuts first. I have no problem eating the four boiled eggs and making it across to the station by 9:16.
My new technique is to fold the bicycle on the train. They also take regular bicycles for a fee. For the switch in Hoorn I will unfold the bicycle and wheel across the tracks for my train switch.
My switch in Hoorn is a couple tracks away. I would have unfolded no matter what. And I have time. There is a 10-15 minute delay for the local train. Then it goes one stop. An announcement is made. I get others to translate. There is another 10-15 minute delay. They have to wait for another train to cross first. One woman says they are used to it. So my planned 10:10 arrival won't be. Then at another station they have us get out and wait for the next train. By turning our train around, they can put it back on schedule. We, and the people waiting for us at Enkhuisen, were now 30 minutes behind.
In Enkhuisen I find the tourism office open. Lonely Planet must have been wrong. I buy the walking tour guide map. It is almost impossible to read. Someone took a map. Then they ran a highlighter over it. Then they printed it gray-scale on dark blue paper. Then the legend was facing west.
I asked the tourism woman how to get to the Zuider Zee Museum. She mentions the ferry out the back. I mention I have a bicycle. She still touts the ferry. I lock up my bicycle as a ferry is about to leave. Our first stop is outside the harbor at the car park. This is where we buy tickets and get joined by the motorists. Then we go back into the harbor and over to the museum. It takes a half hour in all. I learn that I could have bicycled to the museum in five minutes. In contrast to Skansen in Stockholm, where every date is represented with an example, this place replicates entire villages. I went through all of the outdoor part.
The indoor part is not next to the outdoor part. It is outside the main entrance. I take the ferry back to my bicycle. The woman starts asking people were they are going. Everybody is going to the car park, until she gets to me. After I replied station she stopped asking. At the station I'm the only one getting off.
I stop at the snack places across from the station. The ones with fries have separate fryers for the other foods. I order a large portion. I pig out.
I use the walking tour to get to the indoor museum. This is a mix of new art and old. Of interest was its collection of boats and collection on whaling. Especially of interest were the early videos of whale striping.
I continue following the walking route. I get a bit confused twice, both times due to construction: a bridge was missing and a road was cut. But I do find the entire route, even if I missed things. Back at the station plaza I buy 200 grams of cooked shrimp. This is a convenient food to snack on.
I have plenty of time. I had already decided that I would not be bicycling to Endemblik. My knee wouldn't be able to take it. With my extra time I've decided I'll stop in Hoorn on my way back.
I get off in Hoorn. I retrace the walking route fixing where I went wrong. I try to follow the text. Then I take the train back to Alkmaar. I stop in my room. I make it back to Sumangali a little after 8:00. On Sundays they don't like to stick around for late customers.
I spent an hour walking part of the Alkmaar walking tour. With the text not in English all I could do was to find each number the best I could.
Monday, July 14, 2008
I get to breakfast around 7:15. There are no other customers. Apparently on Sunday night they don't have many guests. I learned checkout was 11:00.
I asked at the bus station about getting to De Rijk. You can only get there by bus by first going to Purmerend, which is way past it.
I spent a couple hours walking the walking tour. I picked up some free maps at the bus station and saw a little different walking tour. I followed both, taking pictures of the numbered spots along the way. Maybe I can get them to send me the English text, so I know what they are.
I got back to my room, collected my things, and made the 10:45 train with seconds to spare.
I check in. I now have a single for all nights, but I still have to switch rooms in the middle. My first two nights I'm off the lobby; then I move to the second floor.
I take an hour nap. I realize my camera battery is going down faster now. While I brought my charger, I was not able to find my European converter plug before I left. I ask at the hotel for a converter plug. They do not have one. They suggest asking at tourism. I need to go there anyway.
At tourism I buy the walking map and ask about the converter. She suggests a few nearby shopping streets. I start down one. I ask in a variety of stores. I realize that the easiest will be to buy a new charger cord and that will have a European plug. I return to tourism. She circles Grote Markstraat in Den Haag, a street with department stores, saying many places sell Nikon cameras. I head to my room to get my charger. I should be able to charge during dinner. I just miss a tram. I have a 10 minute wait. It is 5:30. Stores will close at 6:00. At 5:55 I'm dropped off at the street. I walk quickly down. No camera stores. I do see a computer store. And yes, they have the cord. I was just in time. He locks the door behind me.
Having only had a Larabar for lunch I look for a place to eat. The tourism woman gave me a booklet. The two Indian restaurants listed are back at the beach! (The booklet is a Scheveningen directory and not a Den Haag one.) I walk around. I find one, but it is closed Monday night. Monday night is not a big dinner out night. I find Gauchos Grill, an expensive Argentinean steak house. I ask about tap water. They do not serve tap water. One must buy bottled water. I leave. Then I enter Dudok. Tap water is served and it is free. I stay and plug in my charger. A little boost will ensure it makes it until dark. The meal was the basic tenderloin steak with potatoes and some vegetables. It was fine.
I walked around. I walked through the Palace Gardens. Then I walked all the streets in the antiques and lifestyle district. Then I walked down the art street. (I was using a small Z-Card map.) Then I took the tram back to my hotel.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
I was at breakfast at about 7:30. I had my usual eggs and cold cuts, washed down by orange juice and water. I had three museums that I wanted to visit. I learned that it would be just two strips to my first stop, the Madurodam. This is an outdoor miniature of The Netherlands, all in exactly 1/25 scale. It was very amazing. The only problem I saw with the miniature city is the large carp swimming in the canals. They would be monster fish. If any of these little people fell in the first bite would get you at the waist. With the second bite you would be gone.
After the Madurodam I could have walked all the way to the Panorama, but I took the tram for part of the way. Then I took the long way to get there. What I thought was a passageway was no longer. Eventually I found the Panorama. I then had a walk to the Escher Museum.
I had been given an Escher book back in my college days. So most of what I saw was familiar. In the video it did note that in his later years his print selling was primarily to Americans. Yes, it was to the hippie crowd.
I decide I can pick up the "Art and Antiques Walk in The Hague" walking tour at number #7. The other walking tour I have goes the other way. This one will end in the area for dinner. I now have four "I's" marked on my map for Indian restaurants in old Den Haag. But first I check out the art again in the Lange Voorhout.
This tour will take me down shopping streets, so mostly in areas I've already been. I do make a detour to include a walk up Nassauplein. I then find the corner of Scheveningse Bosjes [forest]. I get back on tour and end it at the Grote Kerk, the end of the route. I then head for Restaurant Himalayan, the place that was closed on Monday. The sign includes the whole region. I see that they are open for lunch. The first "Indian" one I've seen that opens that early. I have a basic filling Indian meal.
It's now only 6:15. My next task is to find an ATM. That was easy. There's one. I wander around. I have the urge for a Larabar. Maybe if I eat some fries it will fill me. I ask at a couple of places. They only serve fries with a meal. I go into a McDonalds. I ask for the ingredients chart. No one knows where one is. They go asking one another. I pick up a placemat and turn it over. There it is. The employees had no idea it was back there. The fries are gluten-free.
I take the tram back to the beach getting off before my stop. I walk along the restaurants along the beach. There sure are enough of them. I have the urge for some fruit. Other than the Larabars there hasn't been any fruit in my diet. I go into a McDonalds and get their fruit cup. I return to my room and still eat a Larabar.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
The next morning I'm ready for breakfast at 7:30. I find a display with all these little cards for sights. All three museums that I went to had discount cards. I could have saved €2.50 and gotten a free postcard.
I take my camera into breakfast to take a picture of the ocean view I have while I eat breakfast. My camera is dead. It is completely dead. Yes, I left the camera on, but it had been on the entire trip. Back in my room the battery seems to be taking a charge. I walk my laundry to the Laundromat. I have to be back there by 5:30. I find a large camera store. Back in my room the camera is still charging, but when put in the camera it shows full. I'll have to top off the battery each night.
I've decided I'll try bicycling. It has been two full days with no bicycling. My knee seems fine. I bicycled to the sand dunes, but did not find a bicycle path.
I can bicycle the "Royal Kilometers" walking tour + bicycle route. I want to get the most scenic route into town. The route to the Laundromat leads me to Nieuve Scheveningse Bosjes. On my way to my hotel I had walked my bicycle along the outskirts of it. Now I could bicycle right through it. I could then get over to Scheveningse Bosjes and then into the city on Scheveningseweg which allows me to pick up the route at #15. I follow the commentary and take pictures of most. When the tour ended I was hungry. I thought that there were signs that the Himalayan restaurant had lunch. I bicycled there and found them closed. I bicycled around and went for the 200 grams of shrimp.
I took up the route, this time from the start. Again I try to get pictures of all the highlighted buildings. I made a digression to bicycle through the Paleistuin [Palace Gardens]. Then for the way home I bicycle a new path through Scheveningse Bosjes. I passed Westbroekpark, but did not go in. I got my laundry. Now I did not have the bungee cord to strap it on the rack. I had walked it there. I realized I had no cord when passing the place on my way into town. So I balanced it on my seat and walked the bicycle. I looked for a supermarket. I found one. I wanted nuts. They had the ones I liked, but they only had two packages. I ate one and put the other in my pocket.
Back at the room I checked my pants. He had gotten all the grease off the fly.
After a nap I headed out. It would be better to bicycle first and have dinner later. I bicycle through Westbroekpark. I then return to the beach and pick Bombay Palace to eat. The vegetable side dishes are expensive. The meal cost me much more than any Indian meal so far this trip.
After dinner I go for a bicycle ride. I bicycle along the beach towards the south, until I reach the harbor. I find another Indian restaurant along the beach. I'm having difficulty taking pictures. I find the camera is still in manual from a panorama early in the afternoon. So all the pictures I took this afternoon had the wrong setting. I then bicycle back, picking up a McDonalds fruit cup along the way. It will get me a little fruit in my diet.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
I'm down at breakfast before 7:30. After breakfast I rest for a few minutes. I've decided I'll bicycle to Delft and take the train back. I go a new way to Den Haag, more in line with how I entered Den Haag five years before on my day trip from Haarlem. I found the entrance from the path through the dunes. I bicycled out Zwolsestraat.
It started to rain. It was getting heavy. That, plus my knee wasn't perfect, I decided to return to my room and take the tram to Delft. At the hotel they suggested a one-day return ticket. I bought one at tourism, and if I want to stop for dinner in Den Haag on my way back it would be strips for my last leg.
At Delft I'm not sure where to get off. The tram goes past Delft. I end up getting off at the train station. At least it got me down there and I wouldn't have otherwise. I found the tourism office. It moved since my old map. They had four walking tours with much overlap. I bought two. I learned that there are no Indian restaurants in Delft. There was one, but it closed. It was market day. I found a fruit stand and bought a tub of raspberries. I found a fish stand and bought some plain shrimp. I bought the smaller ones. They were very salty. I ate the bag of nuts. That, plus the water I was carrying, was my lunch.
I walked both of the walking tours. I did not follow the commentary. I just walked them stopping for the churches. A highlight was walking up all the steps of the tower on Nieuwe Kerk and taking panoramic pictures at the two levels.
I hopped on a tram and got off in Den Haag. I wanted to try one of the other Indian restaurants. I was heading to one, but I passed Ramna and went in. The menu had good descriptions in English. And the vegetable side dishes were less than a vegetable entrée. It was fine and filling.
I walked around Den Haag a little and then caught the tram back to my room. Looking at my guide book I see the Kurzaal Bar mentioned. I go for a walk, in the rain of course for this day, and walk around the Steigenberger Kurhaus Hotel and don't see an entrance. Maybe it is off the lobby inside?
Friday, July 18, 2008
I am at breakfast at 7:30. There is still no one else when I leave. The woman says the hotel is fully booked.
I rest for a while and then go for a last walk. I check out and take the most direct route to the station. It was a slight improvement over the route I came out on. Then approaching the station I decided to take a detour through Haagse Bos. I missed a turn and bicycled through more of it than I planned. I then used the streets to get back to the station. I tried my credit card in a machine. It was again rejected. After buying my ticket at the window I learned there is an agent surcharge. So it is best to have lots of coins to feed the machine.
I head off first for a cash machine, as this hotel prefers cash. Then I went to the Leidseplein for a small tourist outpost where I bought a new map. My old one has my 2003 route marked on it. There was a better one than I bought, but for some reason it was rendered upside down.
I thought Boom Chicago was around there, but I could not find it, and it wasn't in the chunk of Lonely Planet pages that I had with me.
I head off for Dam Square. I decide I should look down the side streets for Indian restaurants. And right at the first street I look down I find two. An expensive one first; then an inexpensive one, Bombay Inn, which is open! They are open for lunch and dinner, and stay open for all in between. [A year later when editing this report I find that it now doesn't open until 5 PM.] I order a 4:30 PM meal. It was a lot cheaper than in Den Haag!
I continue walking towards the Dam. I find a fruit store and get a small box of raspberries fro €3.95, double the price in Delft. So Indian food is way down in price and fruit is way up!? I then paid a visit to the The Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum. On my way back to Dam I find a small shop that sells French Fries. There is nothing else for them to get contaminated with. I ended up sitting at the World War II memorial eating fries.
I headed back to my room via the Rembrandtplein and Fredericksplein. The latter was kind of chopped up with roads and a tram going through it. I called it an early night.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
It rained hard over night. I missed the 7:00 breakfast start. Now this is the free breakfast I get for paying for the room with cash and not a credit card. Well, it was early and free. There were no eggs. There was a bowl of cherry tomatoes, but nothing special. I had the spiced beef and orange juice. I tried an apple. It was totally tasteless and it was going bad in many places. In other words, it was old.
I return to my room and rest. The rain may have stopped, but it was still quite wet.
At 10:00 I'm ready to go out. The window is now dry, so at least it isn't raining. The sky is completely overcast.
I head towards the Rijksmuseum. I see a sign for some hallway being free on Saturdays from 12-4 for a few weeks starting now. It is now 11:00. I can easily kill an hour walking around. I head southwest then cut over to walk up the Museumplein. This is all new, so it is a lot of open space and young trees. I cut over east to go look for the Indian restaurant that the front desk circled on my map. I found a market street. There was a fruit stand. Boats of raspberries were only €1. I bought one. Many of them were moldy. He gave me another. It was only a little better. I guess the price was the "old" discount. Further into the market I found another fruit stand. This time they were €1.25. They were almost all okay.
I found the Indian restaurant and took a menu. I then headed back to the Rijksmuseum. It was €10. The free is something else. It did not take all that long to go through the exhibits. Back outside it was pouring. Then I found the renovation project room, and then I found the entrance to the renovation itself. I learned that what I saw was a temporary highlight of the collection to tide us over until the renovations are complete. In the main hall they are stripping off layers of paint and plaster to restore the original underneath.
I then passed a Delftware shop, the Jorrit Heinen. I looked in and found a mug that could be an upgrade at the office. But it was the first and only such shop I'd seen. I had more days. And I was headed in the direction away from my room. She would be open each day until 6:00.
I continued on to the Van Loon Museum, a 17th c. canal house. Then I went to the Rembrandtplein and then to the Museum Willet-Holthuysen, another 17th c. canal house. On my way back through the Rembrandtplein I see a French Fries place. I order a big. The guy pulls them out to check. I can see that they are already overdone. I get him to take them out. I toss out some of the hard little chunks into garbage cans to make it through the okay ones.
My next stop is the Amsterdam Historical Museum. It is just before 4:00. In two minutes it will go to half price. The young woman says there is a lot to see for just one hour. I don't want to have to come back this way. I go in at 4:00. By being selective I am able to make it through in one hour.
This walking plus four museums was making me tired. I stopped for a cup of tea. One of the advantages of rarely drinking caffeine when on holiday is it works when needed. And the sun actually came out.
It was time for dinner. I decide I'll return to the one from the night before. His unbundling of the rice saved me a little money and was unneeded carbs, after the French Fries. I would come in the back way giving me all new streets. But I misread a turn and entered the Leidseplein from a new street. And there were two more Indian restaurants! And there was Boom Chicago. I walked around the corner to the Bombay Inn.
I mentioned to the owner that I had found two more Indian restaurants. He replied that there are eight, and he described where they were. After the meal I set out to find them. I could find seven. One was not where he described it. Then it started to pour. The streets had been filled with people. Now they were deserted. Everybody was huddled under some cover. I got wet for a little while, and then I found a place where I got a mango smoothie to wait it out.
Then back to my room.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
I'm up before 7:00 to get my bicycle out from their courtyard. I then chatted with a woman and her father about things to do and vacations to take. (Mom, husband, and kids were still in bed.)
I rest. I decide to bicycle Waterland. But first to the tower that was suggested on the east side. This front desk fellow didn't know what was suggested. On the map he picked the Montelbaans Tower. But reaching there I find it is never open for tourists. In the distance I see a museum [which one?]. That must have been it.
I find the ferry behind Centraal Station. I go across. I use the Lonely Planet page to follow. It isn't clear how to get to the west bank of Noordhollands Kanaal. It seems the ferry debarkation point moved.
Then I came to an overpass that is filled in. I bicycled through a forest a little ways, and then on my return I see the detour signs. They are only facing in the direction opposite to the way I arrived. The detour takes a long ways around.
I continue on. There is another bicycle detour sign. I'm not sure if I made it the way the route is on the topographical map I have, but I do get to Schellingwoude, and then Durgerdam, and the Uitdam. It rains on and off, as it does for the entire day. My pants are wet, but at least they aren't dripping.
I come to the point where I have to decide whether I make a four mile detour to Marken, which is at the end of a peninsula in the IJsselmeer. Actually it was an island that is now connected by a causeway. It is past lunchtime and I'm hungry. I bicycled to the Marken Harbor. There are take out options: shrimp, fries, and raspberries for €3, but I find a bar/restaurant and go in. I ask about the tap water. Only the first glass is free. I stay for a steak and fries. All of a sudden the place is full. When I came in there were people at tables outside, but only one inside table was occupied. I see it is now raining.
I bicycled over to the church and museum. The church on Sundays is only open for services. I go to the Marker Museum and watch the film. The main uniqueness that is emphasized is the traditional clothing. Having been an island they developed a style of their own.
I then bicycled back on the causeway and on to Monnickendam. Later looking at the map I see it would not have been much longer to take the ferry to Volendam, then bicycle to Monnickendam from there. But the Lonely Planet said doing so would lengthen the trip considerably.
Entering Monnickendam I find a forest park. I detour and bicycle around the Hemmeland.
After I get to the other side of Monnickendam I come to a map. I see I can follow the route for 6.7 miles, or take a shortcut for 6.2. I go for the shortcut. It is scenic only towards the right. To the left is the motorway.
I bicycle in and through Broek in Waterland. I follow the route, but then I'm just using my compass. I find a ferry (I gather there are several going to different places north of Amsterdam) and in no time I'm back at Centraal Station. I cross under the tracks on a different tunnel. I look for a Schiphol specific departure board. I can't find one. So I head east and find the entrance for the morning, and there is a board. Trains to Schiphol go under many different labels.
I bicycle through the red light district. They are roads, so no bicycle restrictions, but the crowds of people keep you from going fast. Back at the hotel I put the bicycle in the back.
I look in my Lonely Planet and see that there were quite a few things that I could have looked for in Monnickendam. Instead I just gave it a pass-through. Maybe when I went through it in 2003 I found more? There is no trip journal for that trip, so I don't know.
I've decided I'll try the local Indian restaurant, the Taj Mahal. I have their menu. I pick a dish and head over. It was a decent meal. I walk around and head to bed.
Monday, July 21, 2008
It is a steady rain when I awoke. I don't bother getting up early. At breakfast the apples are gone. Maybe there were too many complaints about all the bad spots?
On foot I head to the botanical gardens, the de Hortus. It is raining too much to take a map out. But with asking only once, for confirmation, I made it there. There were not many people there for a rainy Monday morning. There were several greenhouses to hang out in away from the rain.
I decided next would be the Van Gogh Museum. I have a little difficulty finding the entrance. I found the extension into the Museumplain, but nothing to point to the entrance. Again it was raining too much to take out a map. I did pass a very long line waiting to get in the Rijksmuseum. Fortunately the Van Gogh line was shorter.
The place was mobbed. (What do you expect on a rainy day?) But if you were willing to stand further back you could move more quickly.
After the Van Gogh it was time for a canal cruise. I had a 20 minute wait. I ran off and found a place for tea. The canal cruise had what I wanted to avoid: commentary repeated in four languages. The windows were all fogged up. I opened mine. I could see out my side, but I could not see anything out the other side. I figure you could take it twice sitting on each side.
After the cruise it was approaching 4:00. I had until 5:00 to make it up the Westerkerk tower. The blue tourist map I purchased to mark my routes on showed a #6 tram taking me right there, but at the sign at the stop it wasn't listed. I pull out my free mini map and the #6 was gone from this location. As it was beginning to clear up, and for the first time this day it wasn't raining, and I was right near to my hotel, I decided to get my bicycle and ride to Westerkerk. I did. The next tour was not until 4:30, so I found a place making 100% fruit smoothies. I had orange juice, banana, and mango. It was great. I run down the street drinking it to get back on time. (If I can't get fruit at breakfast I'll drink it.)
The tower was nice. I took pictures for a panorama. It was drizzling a little.
I then bicycled to see the long line for the Anne Frank house. It was way too long.
My next stop is Vondelpark. It was mostly not raining. On my way I find a street going off to the side with a lot of shops. I take a detour.
A loop through Vondelpark isn't possible. Much of it was under renovation. So for a long section I was on the outside. Then when I was back inside I bicycled on some footpaths to see the back of what I was missing.
I go to put the bicycle away. I just hope it won't be raining for my ride to the station in the morning.
For dinner I head towards the Leidesplein. I take a street I've not walked on. The first Indian restaurant I see, Madras South Indian Restaurant, I stop in for a good meal. Then it was back to my room to pack up and get ready to leave.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
The phone rang to wake me up. It really did only take 15 minutes to bicycle to Centraal Station.