Blog Post #1:
Pre-Cruise: From Schiphol to City Centre Amsterdam
This is a trip I have been looking forward to for a long time. I have longed to see the gardens of the Keukenhof, the miles of tulip fields and the great cities of Holland. Finally it is happening, and in the best way possible – on board the European Waterways barge, Le Panache, that will cruise through the intitricate system of canals that crisscross the country.
Follow me through the canals of Holland as I explore the pleasures of this country which is spectacular all year, but especailly so in Springtime. The whole world has tulip fever, it seems.
The journey began inauspiciously.
Our flight on Air Transat, (www.airtransat.ca) from Toronto to Amsterdam, was delayed for five hours because of mechanical difficulties, but the airline was gracious and accommodating. We were given dinner vouchers to cover a meal in the airport, and the staff worked very hard to make sure that all passengers were informed of the progress.
Once on board, we settled in for the seven hour flight. Seats are a bit crowded in economy but generous in Club Class.
The best thing about Air Transat is the staff – unlike some airlines, these employees seem happy and are quick to help. Cabin crew member Christine was especially helpful, letting us sleep through dinner service and waking us up for breakfast. There’s a sincere feeling of welcome, a snappy tempo to service and a general light-heartedness that is nice to see.
Getting around in Holland is so easy. Once we cleared customs and got our luggage in Schiphol airport, we found the train to Central Station in Amsterdam and hopped aboard. The trip cost about 3 euros, and took around 20 minutes. It was a crowded train, and would have been difficult to manage with too much luggage, but we traveled with only carry-on sized bags this time and so it was easy to get on and off the train, and to park our luggage beside the seat while the train was traveling.
From Central Station, we walked to our hotel.
Amsterdam knows how to make tourists welcome. Outside the main station there are city ‘ambassadors’ who will help you find a tram, hire a taxi, or get to your hotel. They give out an excellent map to the city as well, which is very useful. It helped us find our hotel easily.
I know that most travel experts advise staying awake for the first day, going to bed at your usual bedtime on local time. But it was nearly noon when we checked into our hotel, and the bed looked so good.
We decided to grab a rejuvenating nap, and then at around three, set out for a tour of one of the world’s great cities.