One of the pluses to my recent trip to the UK was an eight-hour layover in Amsterdam, where I'd never before visited. After doing some online research about Schiphol airport and train transport to and fro Amsterdam's Centraal train station, I decided I'd have about four or five hours to visit the city. Who knew when (if?) I'd be back? Quelling any fears of missing my connection to Newcastle-upon-Tyne (a nausea-inducing thought), I made plans for a quick trip.
Herengracht canal. Can you see all the bikes parked on the bridge?
First I highlighted my top priorities: the Van Gogh museum and the Anne Frankhuis. After studying a map, I saw it would be impossible to do both. I opted for the Anne Frankhuis. To free up more time, I bought my ticket online before I left home.
Amsterdam is rightly famous for pancakes, so I planned to visit the Original Pancake Bakery. Fortunately it's located on Prinsengracht, just a few minutes' walk from the Anne Frank House. I also wanted to stop in Pompadour, a famous chocolatier, and just wander around a bit.
I also padded my timetable for a few malfunctions:
If you exit the restrooms at Schiphol and see a small machine off on its own that looks seductively like an ATM, do not fall for it! If you do, your card will get stuck on the slot, you will have to seek out several different types of assistance, your already-tight timetable will get tighter, and you'll feel like you're going to vomit. If you are "very lucky," the only facilities management people who have the authority to save your card will be on duty. They will be friendly and smile indulgently at your self-deprecating comments. They will ask to see your passport before handing over your ATM card and saving your life. They will then point you around the corner to the REAL cash machines.
Don't ask me how I know this to be true.
Getting into the city was fairly easy. I eschewed the self-service ticket machines and bought my ticket (round-trip for that day) from a human being so I could make sure I went to the right platform. Amsterdam's Centraal station is well situated, but it's not at the heart of the city. You have to walk a few blocks for that. A good map is a necessity; the city layout can be confusing and trusting your sense of direction is a big mistake. You don't want to wander into the Red Light District. (No, this did not happen to me. If it had, I'd confess.)
Along the Prinsengracht. I loved the houseboats here.
The Original Pancake Bakery is fabulous! I chose the apple and bacon pancake and a latte. The pancake was platter-sized, thin, and crispy around its edges. Fresh apple rings and three slices of bacon were cooked into it. There were three syrup offerings: two bottled (one regular and the other caramel) and a third in a crock with one of those honey-dipper thingies. That was my favorite.
Pompadour is teeny-tiny. I squeezed in with four other people to ogle the chocolates and pastries in the two display cases. (There's also a miniscule eating area with a few tables -- all occupied when I was there.) I asked about a few chocolates and chose these: one dark chocolate-covered caramel, two cocoa-coated truffles, and two "lemon," which I discovered to my delight were slices of dried, sugared lemon covered in dark chocolate. I know -- it sounds strange, but it's my new favorite.
My visit to the Anne Frankhuis deserves its own post. Check back soon.