Monday, September 29, 2014

Lessons Learned: Amsterdam and Paris

This was the view from our bed at the Maison Rika.  Notice one car, but a LOT of bikes...


What an adventure THAT was!  Belovedest and I had a wonderful time - of course we did - we were together.  And we learned some things that I think are worth sharing...

  • If you're connecting from a plane to a train, buy your train tickets in advance, even if you can't guarantee that you'll be on time. (and of course, you can't guarantee, because you're flying in, and planes are delayed)  It's MUCH less expensive to purchase train tickets in advance, and you'll be assured of a seat.  B and I had been promised by a couple of different people that it was ALWAYS easy to get train tickets from Paris to Amsterdam - au contraire, my friends!
  • When buying train tickets, even if you don't know your return time for sure, buy round-trip tickets.  Exchanging a ticket that's the wrong time is much less expensive than purchasing one-way tickets for each leg of the trip.
  • If you're delayed in a city for more than six hours, the first thing you do is sit down and make a plan.  The temptation to check your luggage and run out the door willy nilly is great, but ten minutes of thinking about what you'd really like to do can save a day of otherwise wandering aimlessly.  You might also have time to make reservations for a great meal...
  • When things get frenzied (i.e. you're late to your guest house and your cab driver is trying to drive you into a canal, taking the longest possible route), just take a deep breath.  Focus on what matters, which in this case is reining in the cabbie, and THEN worry about your housing.  Trying to multitask leads you to confusion, in which you NEITHER take care of crazy driver, nor text your guest house, and then mislay your cell phone for SEVEN days. (seriously, in a hidden pocket of B's briefcase, which I NEVER use...)
  • Don't feel that you must do the "done" things in a city.  B and I did not see ONE prostitute in Amsterdam.  We know of them, we've seen photographs of the physical environment in which they work, and we agreed that we might find it more unpleasant than edifying, so we chose to avoid that neighborhood.  I know some people will be aghast that we were in Amsterdam and chose to NOT go there, but we are happy with our choice.  Your happiness is what really matters, after all.
  • If you have a great meal, go back to that restaurant more than once.  You're not under contract to visit different restaurants every night (unless you're a travel/food writer), and the delight on the faces of the staff when they realize that you came BACK (as well as the champagne with which they might toast your return) makes it all worth it.  And you can try the other stuff on the menu that you had to miss the first time!
  • Pack less.  We saw MISERABLE people in the airport, on the subway, on the train, in the streets - all of them shackled to luggage.  Sometimes, preposterous amounts of luggage.  One couple in our Paris hotel must have been wretchedly crowded in their room...
Lots more to come - what I saw on the streets in Paris (although why didn't anybody ever tell me how handsome the men are in Amsterdam????), what I bought, our amazing room in Amsterdam etc. etc.

Nice to be home with you all,
love,
Janice


                       
NOVICA


23 comments:

  1. I am Dutch and I am so happy that you did not visit the Red Light District. I find it sad that Amsterdam is famous for prostitution and coffee shops. The city is so much more than that.
    I would love to visit Paris!

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  2. Welcome back!!

    I hope the fire (at the airport) didn't affect your coming home too much!

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    1. It didn't affect our flight at all! I'm sure there must have been some residual effect somewhere, but we were fine - thanks for thinking of us!

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    2. Strange, this internet, no? You were who I thought of when I saw the news story. I am glad you weren't affected by it.

      So sorry for the folks who were & still are =(

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  3. Sounds a great trip despite a few problems, and good advice. In the past few years I've had the chance to revisit a number of cities and found the trips so much more relaxing than a first visit when there seems to be so much new to learn and do. Exploring the less well know areas tourists rarely reach allows you to glimpse real life in the city, and is often less frenetic.

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  4. Welcome back!
    How wonderful you visited Amsterdam. I have been living there for four years, now residing in another Dutch city in the far North. And I definitely agree on the handsome man ;) Glad to say that I can call one of them my Mister.
    I agree with Jessica, the red light district - although infamous - is nothing compared to all the other beautiful parts this city has to offer. Did you have time to take a canal boat tour? Or just walk the grachts at night? The latter was one of my favourite things to do. Oh, the magical lights of the city centre on a cold october night...

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  5. It's good advice to buy advance tickets, especially in foreign cities where you barely speak the language. We bought our train tickets from Hamburg to Cuxhaven in advance and printed them off at home. We discovered that English wasn't as widely spoken as we thought it would be, so it was good that we didn't have to struggle too much with the language.

    Regarding taxi drivers, I had to take a taxi in Valladolid on my own and was slightly worried that I might be over-charged, so I made a point of chatting to my driver in Spanish so that he realised that I live in Spain. The price was very reasonable, even after I tipped him, which was a relief.

    My Mum and I visited Amsterdam many years ago during a short cruise holiday and we did the canal boat tour. It's such a lovely city that I would definitely like to return.

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  6. The Red Light District is not what it was (which I think is a good thing) but I don't blame you for avoiding it. The only unfortunatel thing about doing so is that some of the oldest architecture, etc., is in that area and is worth seeing. Maybe next time!

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  7. Welcome Home! I'm glad the fire didn't affect your flight. Thank you for the posts while you were away; you are very thoughtful and I truly appreciate the work you put into your blog for us.

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  8. So glad you had a wonderful trip. There are always life lessons to be learned, lol. Thanks for sharing some of yours.

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  9. Glad you made it home safe and sound. I visited the red light district in the early 90's. It wasn't all that. You didn't miss a thing. I'm looking forward to your next posts. I truly appreciate all you do for us on this blog. I know it's no small feat to put the posts together.

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  10. The only reason we were in the red light district was to go to the hidden (Catholic) church. It was in the morning. Not much action in the area at that time. I loved your comment about packing light. No matter how many times people hear this, some just never get it, and they pay for it later. What ARE they thinking?

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  11. It sounds like a lovely trip. There is so much wisdom in not trying to "get things done" in a city. Usually strolling the streets as a "flâneuse" is the best way to experience the city. I enjoy frequenting the same café rather than feeling obligated to dine somewhere different each meal. Avoiding the frenetic is always sound advice.

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  12. It would be so frustrating to misplace your phone! Sounds like you rose above those challenges and are home safe and sound. What brand of carry on luggage do you recommend and what did you pack? I am going to Paris and south of France for two weeks in May and want to look well dressed but I need to fit it all in one carry on. Thoughts?

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    1. Yes, I was wondering about that, too. Did you take everything you showed on the 8/29 Packing for Paris, Again! blog post?

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    2. Tomorrow I'm going to talk about what I packed, and how I could have done better! But I've been carrying a hard-sided Tumi 20 inch bag for about 5 or 6 years. It looks like it's been drop-kicked through about 50 airport cargo areas, which might be accurate, but it's still holding together. I'm not replacing it until it blows apart! I know that Tumi is expensive, but I can't recommend their quality (and their customer service) highly enough.

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  13. Agree with your list of do and don'ts, especially frequenting the same restaurant and pre-purchasing train tixs. Did you like Amsterdam? We had mixed reviews. There were so many people and bikes. If we do it again, we will focus on the museums and spend less time wandering around. The locals were pleasant. We loved Bruges: Amsterdam, not as much. Theresa

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    1. We loved Amsterdam! Much of it had to do with the peace and quiet of the place, and the amazing generosity and kindness of our hosts. Crowding doesn't much bother us, since we live in downtown Chicago and are quite used to it - the bikes delighted us, because we're very "pro-bike" and Chicago isn't very good about that. We must visit Bruges....

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  14. It's one thing to skip the must-do red light district; quite another to skip the must-do museums!

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  15. I love Amsterdam and glad you enjoyed it. Writing now from Lyon. It's my first time here. Wed it's off to Nice for a few days. Thanks to you my friend and I were able to pack lightly and not be those people over loaded with luggage. Going back home may be a different story :-)

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  16. Finally getting around to catch up on your blog. So glad you had a wonderful time. Sorry that I did not mention those very handsome Dutch blokes... I thought about it though. :))

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  17. What has always amazed me is the amount of stuff Americans pack and they still look as if they are getting ready to wash the car! They seem to forget they are visiting major cities so people are dressed for business and shopping. You can be comfortable and wear comfortable shoes while still looking as if you cared. And I am American!

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  18. Yes, yes, yes! About the packing light thing. I've moved from a carry-on wheely case to just a shoulder bag for overnight stays. It's SO much easier to walk a few blocks to the hotel or whatever without dragging a damn case behind you.

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