And we're off! After many months of waiting, planning, and anticipating, we are finally off on our first Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT) trip. Because our final destination in Tanzania is such a long trip, we chose to take advantage of OAT's 3-day stopover in Amsterdam. It would break up the long flight to Africa and allow us to acclimate to the big time change.
In anticipation, I pre-planned our days in Amsterdam with several city walking tours and museum visits. Now as I write this sitting in the airport waiting to fly to Kilimanjaro, I realize I may have overdone our scheduling a bit. But honestly, I also don't know what I would eliminate. Here are a few highlights. I would have more, but I am still figuring out how to transfer photos to this blog. Bear with me.
The Barbizon Palace, the hotel booked for us by OAT as part of the stopover, is located right across from Central Station. It is a prime location to get to the old, medieval part of the city which includes the Red Light District along with an abundance of history, restaurants, shops and people watching. This city center is the orange/rust color section on the map below. As the city grew, layers were added much like an onion, making rings around the original section.
Upon our arrival to the city after traveling more than 15 hours and losing half a day, we were tired but ready to see the sights. I had arranged for a private walking tour which turned out great because it gave us the lay of the land, so to speak. That said, because we were tired (an old), Marielle, our guide, adapted the tour to fit our needs and desires which worked our perfectly. I can't say enough for these private tours because they are very flexible unlike a large group that must stick to the published itinerary.
If one picture could capture the feeling of Amsterdam, this is it. The houses line the canals and narrow streets like soldiers standing at attention. Being that the city is built on clay and sand, houses are built on wooden stilts. Hence, they are not always perfectly plumb. But their regularity and orderly window placement fascinates my artistic and photographic eye.
In addition to canals, the city is also known for its bicycles. And we learned quickly to be both aware and wary of them as they are everywhere.
As a cyclist myself, I enjoyed seeing all of the different sizes and shapes of bikes, most of which are different than my road bike at home. Here, most cyclists ride fat-tired bikes with upright seats and handlebars. And because the city is basically flat, they sure can go fast.
Apparently, cyclists have the right of way over all other traffic including cars, motorcycles, and pedestrians. As a result we learned to look both ways not once, not twice, but multiple times before walking anywhere. And then, when you think you are good to go, commit and move quickly. As can be seen by this photo, they ride close and fast and it's the pedestrian's duty to get out of their way.