The Adventures of BJ and Tony Morris

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Amsterdam and Dusseldorf
February 2011
"Bucket List"

We literally slid into Amsterdam. It seemed like everything was on a slant for some reason. We were on the A330 aircraft, thankful for our business class cocoons, but really, Delta, could you redesign the reclining seats to be less of a sliding board? Fully reclined, there is nothing except catching your underarms on the seatbelt to stop you from sliding into a puddle in front of your seat. Once we landed in Amsterdam, we also stepped onto what we thought was an escalator, only to find that it was a moving sidewalk ramp, throwing us entirely off-balance.

We caught a train to the Zuid station where we bought 48 hour passes on the trolleys from a kiosk. The man who helped us with the machine cautioned that we should be sure to swipe our pass when we got on and off of the trolley each time or the card would be invalidated and we would lose our money. We picked up trolley #5 to Apollolaan station near our hotel, the Amsterdam Hilton. David, our hotel mentor, had shown us the benefits of achieving diamond status in the Hilton Honors program so our rooms were free, using Hilton Honors points and we were given access to the Executive Lounge which included a hearty breakfast, light snacks all day and hearty hors d'oeuvres and cocktails in the evening. BJ and Tony didn't room together on this trip since we had some non-couple travelers with us. BJ and Amanda went to their room, David and Tony to theirs, Pat and Steve to theirs. There was no real plan for meeting again so when the phone rang in BJ's room, she assumed it was Tony and answered the phone, "Hilton Hotels, how may I direct your call?" From the other end of the phone came stunned silence, and then a tentative, "Mrs. Morris?" It was the front desk asking if our accommodations were to our liking.

Since the Hilton Executive lounge was still serving breakfast, we headed up there to plan our day. We decided to go to the Van Gogh museum, but on the way, we determined that some refreshments were in order. The Bulldog Palace Coffee Shop was conveniently located on Leidseplein (plein means square for you non-Dutch speakers). 

We first went downstairs before we realized that the downstairs seemed to be catering to more of a druggie clientele. It was interesting to note the casual approach to the sale of marijuana, other drugs and paraphernalia. There was a booth in the corner where a man was selling marijuana products. The man wasn't at the booth when we passed by so we snuck a peek at the menu of items that he was selling. The menu was divided into 5 sections. Marijuana, Hashish, Special Offer, Pre-rolled Joints with Tobacco and Pre-rolled Reefers with pure grass. Everything except the Special Offer was 12. Special Offer was 25.

Before we left that section of the bar, we watched a transaction take place. A group of seemingly inexperienced tourists approached the man behind the counter and asked for his recommendation. The man advised them to buy a 4 pack of white-widow marijuana cigarettes but warned them to share one between them and not to smoke one each. One of the group asked where they could smoke and the vendor said they could smoke anywhere but not out on the street during the day where children could see them. They left the counter and we stealthily followed them upstairs to the bar area. We ordered some refreshments and watched what took place next.

Three of the group passed the joint around and there was a lot of coughing going on and they didn't really seem to be enjoying the experience. After a few minutes, we watched a couple of them stumble down the spiral staircase to the restroom. They didn't seem to be feeling well. We decided it was time for us to head to the museum.

After the museum, we had some refreshments at a nearby restaurant and then had fun playing around the "I Amsterdam" monument. It was a fun people watching spot! 

The remainder of the afternoon consisted of walking around and people watching. It has been a long first day so we headed back to the hotel and dined on hors d'oeuvres. We said good night and agreed to meet back at breakfast. Back in our room, we discovered that the hotel had delivered a valentine's surprise basket of chocolates, candies and strawberries.

After a breakfast of the best scrambled eggs we'd ever had, we inquired as to how they were made. "Butter, lots of butter", came the answer. I guess butter makes everything better!

Tuesday was a nice day for strolling around. The canals make beautiful vistas.

We were amused by the ignored "No Bicycles" signs in several shop windows.

We stopped for refreshments at Cafe International which was also the check-in desk for a Hostal. Europeans have a great attitude toward dogs and we enjoyed petting the dog behind the bar.

Wandering along one of the canals, we were surprised to find men using urinals right on the street. They were round green metal enclosures open at the top and the bottom with a drain below. 

We turned up a pedestrian alley and found ourselves square in the middle of the red-light district. We watched a dirty looking man enter the building of one of the pretty young girls and felt sorry for her. In Amsterdam, dispensing sex for money seems to be an accepted line of work. We passed a statue of "Belle" that had the inscription "Respect Sex Workers All Over the World".

We were hesitant to walk past a falling-down building that was propped up with logs.

We had a late lunch at La Pampa, a place we would not recommend. The menu outside gave reasonable prices but when we went inside we were presented with menus that reflected triple the price. We asked about the prices outside and the waiter said, "Oh, you want the special menus." He then gave us menus with double the outside prices. We argued again and were presented with yet another set of menus that finally reflected the prices that had brought us inside. The food was mediocre at best. Some of us had a thin brothy gulaschsuppe while others tried the steak or meat pie.

Next on our tour was the Anne Frank House. Having recently visited, some of the group elected to enjoy the warm hospitality of Roem with its delicious Apple Crumb cake while we waited for the rest to finish the tour.

We planned a circuitous sightseeing route back to the hotel but when the sun went down, the chill in the air forced us to find the nearest tram stop.

As we settled in for cocktail hour in the roof-top Executive Lounge, the skies opened up and the rain poured down. We decided to nosh on the hors d'oeuvres rather than venture out in the rain for dinner. Our favorite new sweet discovery was the Stroopwafels!  Sweet little crunchy waffles filled with a vanilla bourbon sauce.  We met a couple from Scotland and another couple from the United States.

David, Pat & Steve left Wednesday to fly home while BJ, Tony & Amanda made their way to Dusseldorf on the train. It was probably one of the nicest trains we've been on. The bathroom was even clean enough to sit down on the toilet seat if one was of a mind to.

At one point, the train stopped and the conductor announced that anyone who wished could get off and have a smoke. At the following stop, he rather sternly announced that no one should get off and smoke, emphasizing that they had their chance at the previous stop.

We arrived at Dusseldorf Hbf and experienced a bit of confusion at the ticket machine for the tram. We finally determined that we could purchase a ticket for four and just stamp it 3 times, saving the fourth trip for the next journey.

We had a bit of a walk from the tram stop to the hotel, but once again we were greeted with the regard that our diamond status deserves! This time we were able to secure an airline employee rate, but still on the executive level with access to the executive lounge. We found a nice fruit tray waiting for us in our rooms.

After we settled in, we met in the executive lounge where the attendant gave us advice about nearby attractions. She said the town of Kaiserwirth was beautiful at sunset. We understood her to say that it was a 20 minute walk from the hotel, so we started out along the river to be there by sunset. After 20 minutes of walking, we found a map that showed that we were nowhere near Kaiserwirth yet. 

We decided she must have meant 20 minutes by tram or car. We turned back toward the hotel and caught a tram to Altstadt so we could meet our friend Marin at Brauerei im Fuchschen.

Altstadt is a quaint little village. We wandered around until we found our meeting place. It was a crowded beer hall and there was nowhere to sit. We asked a waiter and he was kind enough to find a table that we could share with some other people. We sampled the Alt which was a delicious medium dark beer served in a tall glass. 

Marin arrived and tried to order a non-alcoholic beer since she was driving but they did not have a non-alcoholic beer. She ordered an alt and told us that it was considered rude not to have at least one. She told us of the feud between Altstadt and Kolsh about who brews the best beer. After a wonderful dinner of beer & brats, Marin drove us back to our hotel.

The next morning, we met for breakfast in the hospitality suite. We discussed renting bikes for the day and riding along the river to Kaiserwirth. We checked with the desk and were surprised to find that the hotel would provide us with bikes for free! The doorman took us out to the bike garage and adjusted the bikes for us. It was a beautiful sunny day for a bike ride.

Just before the bike path dumped us into Kaiserwirth, we found the lovely little outdoor cafe Alte Rheinfahre where we had some refreshments at a sunny table. There was a bit of a chill in the air, but the restaurant had blankets to warm us.

We passed the ruins of an old castle on the outskirts of town.

We rode around the town, making a stop at a department store to buy Amanda some gloves. We had a delicious lunch at Zum Einhorn.

After the day's bike ride, we decided to stay at the hotel for dinner. We enjoyed playing some of the card and board games in the hospitality suite then turned in early.

Departure day was pretty uneventful. We were running a little late so we decided to catch a cab to the airport instead of the train. We arrived in plenty of time to make it through security and take our places in our business class seats back to Atlanta.

Another great trip with great friends!