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We were warned about the narrow & steep stairs in Amsterdam before we arrived.
We were staying in an apartment of one of the people on HomeExchange, so before arriving, we squared away our answers for the stairs via emails.
Me: "Is the bottom floor street level or are there stairs to get into the house? (Husband doesn't like a lot of stairs while traveling with large suitcases!) A few would be okay."
Her Response: "The bottom floor is second level and the top floor is 3rd level. The stairs are just two or three and not very steep."
The Reality: 15 steps from the sidewalk to the "bottom" floor. Enter the front door and 15 steps to the main level. Bedroom is on next level: 15 steps to 3rd level. So 45 steps to crawl into bed! Technically, there ARE two or three stairs (we call them staircases), and by the way - for Americans, they are VERY steep. In old farmhouses we called them "suicide stairs".
Hope these stairs help offset the calories going in!
When we arrive, it is cold and rainy and blustery. Our host was kind enough to have some eggs, oranges, grapes, cheese and wonderful tea and biscuits so we were set for the night without going out.
I don't mind cold and I don't mind rain, but I do not like wind and the first night sounded like a South Dakota blizzard going on right outside the bedroom window! The next day was more of the same, so with a cold that I was fighting, we decided a "down day" was needed and a day off from sight seeing. We strolled the local neighborhood, found a laundry where we dropped off a bag of clothes, a coffee shop with wonderful sprouted bread sandwiches and pastries, a cheese store, a pharmacy and a grocer. We are set!
Since it was a rainy day, I made Barrie sit through two movies: "Moonstruck" and "The Proposal". He never watched many movies until we met so he tells me that he is catching up on movies and I am catching up on travel! Sounds like a good plan!
That night Barrie cooked dinner and we enjoyed the first home cooked meal in over a week. A bonus to the meal were the most wonderful tomatoes we have ever eaten. I never can understand why it is so hard to get the quality of fruits and vegetables at home that we have in Europe.
On our second full day, we know we have to venture out or time will slip away too fast, so we take the tram and find our way to the Van Gogh Museum. Two hours later, we are still standing in line - outside - in the cold, damp and wind. Did I mention that I hate wind? Terrible crowd management - they had many large groups and even though we had our passes, we were left in the line like everyone else. Then it dawned on us - Spring Break! All the kids are out of school and here we are right in the middle of the fray!
We finally gained entrance to the museum and absolutely loved the beautiful art. Van Gogh has always been one of my favorites and I ask the question, "Can anyone be truly brilliant and gifted and not be mad?" It seems like with great genius comes great madness.
Our next day is planned for the Anne Frank house, walking around City Centre, the Red Light District and the markets. You know what they say about the best laid plans, right? We catch another tram and make our way to the Anne Frank house to find worse crowds than the day before at the museum. Three hour wait! Neither of us want to spend that amount of time waiting in line, so we hop on a canal boat and take a scenic tour of the canals.
Interesting trivia from Amsterdam: All the people here keep their curtains and drapes open so that other people can see in. They believe if you close your curtains, you are hiding something. It is a reflection of the culture and the closed curtains in the red light district!
By day four, my cold is worse and Barrie is now getting sick. So we have another day of staying "home", exploring the local neighborhood that is now pretty familiar and shopping for groceries for another home cooked meal. We love being able to walk to the grocers and shop for only what we need for that day. So little wasted food when you shop like this and everything is fresh. Very few canned goods are sold here.
We both agree we could live here! We definitely will be back as we still have things we want to see. But for now, it is time to say good-bye to Amsterdam and start our next adventure. Time is going much too fast.