Amsterdam Day 1

We ate our final breakfast at Brodjie Smits this morning, and had to hurry to barely catch the 8:02am IC “Intercity” train to Amsterdam.  Due to track work, we had to take a bus for a middle part of the trip (from ‘s-Hertogenbosch to Zaltbommel), but we still arrived in Amsterdam around 10am.

We exited the beautiful train station, and walked over to to nearby three-story bike park that was visited in Amazing Race once. The Dutch really love their bikes! We then walked to our hotel for the night – Hotel Internationaal ( – to drop our bags. We then walked to Dam Square to begin the sightseeing route JT had planned out. We sat at the national monument for a while, regretting not having a guidebook to explain everything around us, when we noticed an umbrella with “free tours” on it.

Katie had read about how some companies are going with the model of hiring independent contractors to give ‘free’ tours on a tip basis. We decided to join a tour (30-person, free, 3-hour) and were assigned to Alexander, who grew up in the Netherlands but went to college in the US. We decided that we could just leave the tour if it was bad and we could pay what we thought it was worth if we stayed. As we were the 7th and 8th person to get there, we figure we got the best guide 🙂

In the end, we really enjoyed the tour! It was a great introduction to Amsterdam. The tip-based scheme really works for the consumer, as you get a guide who is motivated and you can pay what the tour is worth to you. We gladly tipped him â‚¬15 – a deal for both us and him!

After the tour, we stopped at a cafe and got beer and ‘nachos’. The nachos consisted of Doritos and a cup of guacamole and a cup of sweet salsa.  We then walked along the canals a bit, saw the West church, and saw a peaceful courtyard where women who wanted to live a pious life but that didn’t want to be nuns would live. The courtyard is still restricted to just female residents, but tourists are allowed to visit certain areas.

We are both feeling pretty sickly (sinus infection type illnesses), so we went back to the hotel around 5pm to check-in. It’s a small 1-star hotel over an old but active bar, but it seems fine for one night. JT even convinced the bartender to give us a welcome shot at check-in. 🙂 The bartender chose to give us jenever (the drink gin evolved from). It was excellent!

Around 7pm we left the hotel for our 7:40pm reservation (tickets â‚¬9 each plus â‚¬0.50 each online reservation fee) to see the Anne Frank house. Katie had recently read the book in preparation, and found the house to be interesting. The self-guided walking tour also answered some previously unanswered questions, like ‘how was the diary saved?’.

We then had excellent pizza for dinner, and then met up with 11 people from Austin Villa, Dutch Nap Team, and Berlin United. We had some drinks, but the we decided to call it a night although they were moving on to another bar.

Katie in front of the Amsterdam train station.

The massive bike parking lot by the Amsterdam train station.

Our free tour group (the guide is on the right, wearing the red lanyard around his neck).  At this point, he was talking about how the buildings were purposely built such that they are wider (and hence slant outward) at the top.  This is for two main reasons – to make lifting furnature into upper windows easier (via the hook that is at the top of almost every house) and because property tax was historically based on just the footprint of one’s house.

One of the pretty canals of Amsterdam.

The smallest footprint house in Amsterdam.

Our second floor room at Hotel Internationaal in Amsterdam.  The shower and toilet were down the hall.

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