Grabbed a quick breakfast at Caffe Belmondo by Zuid station and hopped on the train to Schiphol airport – 2,60 euro. Very quick subway ride. Icelandair offers 1 free check-in baggage on arrival; two on the departure flight. After we checked in, we had to walk 20-30 minutes to get to our gate. Along the way, they have little area such the forest park where there are charging stations that you physically bike in order to charge your phone as well as a huge comfy communal sofa seating area and an outdoor terrace. The weather was perfect the day we left Amsterdam which sucked but at least we missed the flash floods happening in Italy.
I used the bank machine when we arrived at the airport and got 20000kr which is equivalent to $186CAD. Our Airbnb host’s brother picked us up and brought us to our accommodations. 8000kr each way for all 4. We are renting their Lexus for $55CAD/day. Our Airbnb was about 10-15 minute drive outside of Reykjavik. Ricky is our driver this trip. For dinner we went to Snaps (horsgata 1 | Odinstorg, Reykjavik 101) for dinner. I got Kir Royal 1200kr and Baccala Provincial which is salted cod with tomato sauce and fingerling potatoes 4100kr. We then ventured to a nearby grocery store – Hagkaup to grab food for breakfast. The hotdog stand unfortunately was closed by the time we arrived. There aren’t any traffic lights but roundabouts instead.
Netto, Bonus and Hagkaup are the cheap grocery stores, a few stay opened late. Gas is expensive with the lowest being 95 octane at 227.9. No need to tip but if service is good then you can leave a tip of 5-10%. There aren’t many trees here as it’s very windy. The water is so good here that you can drink from the tap BUT if you use hot water, it will smell of sulphur. The staple vegetable here is the potato. After the collapse in 2009 when importing was too expensive and difficult to get, they had to live off the land and cultivate what naturally is provided such of lamb and potatoes which makes for great tasting dairy and lamb (all grass fed).
-To see the aurora borealis – You need it to be really cold and a crisp night where there are no clouds to catch the northern lights.
-When opening a car door; hold the door as the winds will pull it open
-DO NOT SPEED IN ICELAND – IF CAUGHT; WORLD’S MOST EXPENSIVE SPEEDING TICKET
The train ride went smoothly but alas it was also raining in Amsterdam upon arrival. The office for tourism was closed so we couldn’t pick up a iamsterdam card for our next two days. We did get a 1 hour ticket for 2,80 euro and hopped on the 13 and got off at the end of the line. About a 20-30 minute tram ride. The tickets are magnetic striped and you need to tap it to get on and off. We are staying at an Airbnb that is pretty big but a little far from everything. We were all starving so we went to the local grocery store Albert Heijn to grab things for breakfast and then saw that there was one restaurant still open. We had Turkish food at Hunkar restaurant (Lambertus Zijlplein, Amsterdam) where the waiter didn’t really understand English so we got the hunkar special plus a Turkish pizza.
Got back and we planned the next day and did laundry. I was about to shower after Ricky who said the shower took a while to drain. I hopped in and turned on the shower to see the drain was backed up and brown and black clumps came up from the drain. The neighbor Victor from below came up to complain about the leaking in his apartment coming from our unit as its the fourth time this week. Good thing about Airbnb is that you can contact the host whenever you need them. Our host was very responsive.
We made sunny side up eggs with bacon and hagelslag which is a Dutch breakfast staple of a slice bread with butter and chocolate sprinkles or flakes. We took the tram back to central to pick up the iamsterdam 48hr city cards which grants us 48 hours unlimited travel as well as admission to certain places and discounts for others. The first thing we did since it wasn’t raining was the canal cruise that took an hour. From there we wandered a bit before hopping onto a tram to Stedelijk Museum which is similar to MOMA.
We caught a late lunch/early dinner at Pompa (Willemsparkweg 6 1071 HD Amsterdam) where I had the fish and chips (14 euro) and a cassis juice (2 euro). The fish was so fresh and the chips were tasty too however took forever to get the table. We went down the street to the iamsterdam sign then hopped back on the tram and venturing the streets and into the red light district. When we originally walked through the red light district it was too early for the prostitutes to be working the windows. We settled for Chipsy King and grabbed a large frites with Belgian mayonnaise. Around 10PM, we went back to the red light and the prostitutes were in full swing working their windows. Prostitution is legal here. For a transaction to go through, the person chooses which woman they want and then open their door. They come to an agreement on what they want and from there pay and finish the transaction. Originally, Aaron wanted Vlaamse Frites but we couldn’t find it until later on and we obviously had to try it.
When we got back to the apartment, Victor the downstairs neighbour had updated us on the status of the apartment and the leaking. There must be a pipe underneath the flooring that had burst because when you step, you can feel how squishy it was and it was the whole apartment. I thought it was the design but each the wood floor paneling has dark marks the edges which is actually water damage. The host whose apartment we rented gave us a full refund as we need to find a new accommodation.
We booked Citizen M for the following night.
We had bought groceries for all three morning so we ended up eating two days worth 14 eggs, bacon and sausage. Then off we went.
Switched over to Citizen M hotel (Prinses Irenestraat 30, 1077 WX Amsterdam) where it’s similar to a capsule hotel but washroom ensuite. It’s tight quarters and no privacy if you are sharing. There is a curtain and cylinder doors to use the toilet or the waterfall shower. We took the 51 train from Guid station and headed over to central and walked to the Library where it has a panoramic view over the harbour. On our way over, the street in front of Central Station was closed off for their Santa Claus parade. Their culture features a blackfaced character. We stopped by the restaurant on the main floor of the Library called Vapiano (Oosterdokskade 145, 1011 DL) where you get a card in the beginning and goto whichever station and tap it. Amsterdam is very tap oriented technology as our bus pass and room key are also tap technology.
After lunch we went across the bridge and went Science Center Nemo. Very kid oriented but interesting to say the least. I prefer Exploratorium in San Francisco much better. It was raining and cold outside so we went back to Citizen M. Mimi and myself watched two movies in the room while the boys took naps. We took the 5 tram back to Chinatown where we ate at A Fusion (Zeedijk 130, 1012 BC ) run by Cantonese/Dutch/English speaking people. Pineapple fried rice, lamb in black pepper sauce, seafood curry and bubble tea in total around 92 euros.
We went to La Bottega di Finestra (Platnéřská 89/11 110 00 Praha-Staré Město) for lunch. It also serves as a small grocery shop as well a cafe. We got there after breakfast time but we’re still able to get the eggs Benedict. I also got the hot chocolate with chili flakes and the chocolate before you add the flakes was intense and dark. We also grabbed dessert. I went for the millieu flaky and creamy. In total 395kc. Mimi and myself split from the boys and went for a walk ourselves and did a round of the Jewish quarters (Josefov) which technically we walked our first night. We saw through a little peek hole in the door the Jewish cemetery.
Returning to the apartment, we packed and off we went to Mustek station right down the street from us and took the bus to Dejankiv station to board a bus to take us to the airport. 32kc. I came into Prague changing $200USD but got screwed by the exchange booth so technically i had $140USD worth of cash for this leg the trip and left with $5. So strange to think I’ve spent so much but realistically i didn’t.
I regret not going to la degustation du boheme in Prague where it would have been maybe $80 for a 6 course meal which on the Michelin list ranked of the best.
Air France flight was quick. We grabbed the RER B to Gare du Nord station where our hostel for the night was. We booked Smart Place but when we got there, they said we had been upgraded to another hotel just down the street called Vintage Hostel – seemed like a downgrade to be honest. Since we technically didn’t book directly to Vintage, they wouldn’t give us free towels and also the carpet in our room was coming up that we couldn’t open or close the door properly without a little bit of elbow grease.
111414 – Paris – Amsterdam
I woke up early and watched a partial sunrise from the balcony before heading down to the lobby for free breakfast with Mimi. We packed our things and stored our bags at the luggage storage at Gare du Nord. You have to get it scanned first before you can put it into the lockers. 9,50 euro. A rainy day in Paris but we walked the streets. Headed over to Sacre Coeur to see the view from above and tried to find Montmartre cemetery but failed so we walked down to the shopping district to Galleries du Lafayette and onto the main street with high end stores such as E Guyard, Chanel, and Colette. We ate in the Water Bar in the basement of Colette which was Batman comic themed. I had the cheeseburger and a small juice. On the main floor, I purchased a surprise bag for 20 euro. It’s filled with fun things but geared towards kids. We wandered the streets some more before we walked back to the train station and boarded a train enroute to Amsterdam.
1106-2014 Europe – Milan, Zurich, (enroute via Salzburg & Munich) Prague, Paris, Amsterdam, Iceland
My friends (Mimi, Ricky & Aaron) found the crazy one-way flight deal for $177USD (From New York-Milan; a week to get to Prague-Paris-Hong Kong). We did however alter it so we would goto Amsterdam and then a layover in Iceland before returning back to Toronto. In total, we travelled for 2 weeks.
If you haven’t joined and booked with Airbnb yet, follow the link and get credits for your first booking. www.airbnb.ca/c/ruu
Here is the itinerary.
11/06 – Toronto – New York – Milan
FLY – YYZ-JFK; JFK-MXP
11/07 – Milan
AIRBNB – District 13 – Milan
-Meet Mimi & Aaron at MXP Airport
-Malpensa Express train to Milan Cadorna Station
-Walk around Corso Como
-Dinner – Eataly
11/08 – Milan
-Piazza Del Duomo
-Lunch – Osteria al 29 Pizzeria
-Basilica di Sant’ Ambrogio
-Chinatown & Navigli
-Dinner – Gia Como OR Da Oscar OR Osteria Luna Piena
-Chinatown – Massimo del Gelato
11/09 – Milan – Zurich – enroute to Prague
TRAIN (Trenitalia)– Milan – Zurich – Prague (Train went on strike) – DETOUR
-walk around Zurich
-Lunch – Brasserie Federal
TRAIN – Zurich – Salzburg – Munich (detour)
11/10 – Enroute to Prague
BUS – Munich – Prague (detour)
AIRBNB – Prague 1
-walk old city
-Dinner – V Kolkovne
11/11 – Prague
-Lunch – Bistro De France
-John Lennon Wall
-Midday snack – Café Savoy
-Dinner – Pho Vietnam
-Dessert – Café Louvre
11/12 – Prague
-Lunch – Café Lovre
-Dinner – Kolkovna Salavran
11/13 – Prague – Paris
FLY – PRG- CDG
-Breakfast – La Bottega Di Finestra
-walking the Jewish Quarters
TRAIN – RER – Gare Du Nord
HOSTEL – Vintage Hostel
11/14 – Paris – Amsterdam
TRAIN – Paris – Amsterdam
-Store luggage at Gare du Nord
-Lunch – Collette
-Galleries du Lafayette
11/15 – Amsterdam
AIRBNB – Amsterdam Nieuw-West
-Dinner – Hunkar Restaurant
11/16 – Amsterdam
-Central Station – Pick up iamsterdam card (2 day pass)
Buffet breakfast to start the day. Europeans like their deli meats, cheeses, plain yogurt and hazelnut spread in the mornings. After breakfast, Christian dropped us all off at Centraal Station for free time. Being September, it was windy and chilly. We took the tram (#2 or 5) down to the IAMsterdam sign and surrounding area. The tram was pretty cool I guess – a preview of what the LRT (Light Rapid Transit) is to come in Toronto. A 24H pass is 7€ and basically when you enter the tram, you just tap the box and it will beep; to exit you need to tap again to let you off. The line for the Van Gogh museum was pretty long and the Rjksmuseum was under construction so we decided to walk the same route of the tram and get to see the city and hop back on when it got closer to the time to meet up.
We ate at Allstars Diner for lunch where I got a apple pancake. The syrup isn’t as good as Canadian maple syrup but it wasn’t bad. While you are in Amsterdam, you need to get yourself stroopwaffel whether you prefer to eat it with or without a coffee is up to you. Stroopwaffels are 2 little waffles with caramel inbetween and the perfect treat when you grab a coffee; you place the waffle on top the coffee and wait for the caramel to melt – delicious! We didn’t have enough time but you also need to have some moo frites – french fries with mayo. The weather had changed and there was a light drizzle as we waited for the whole group to gather and load back up onto the bus. Amsterdam has so many bikers and bikes everywhere and just like what I learned in Sociology of the everyday living, it’s organized chaos with lanes dedicated to pedestrian, tram & bikes etc. What I find particularly funny is that the police here drive Volkswagons while the taxi drivers drive Mercedes Benz or Audi cars.
Off to Rhine Valley – St Goar in Germany.
Facts of Germany:
The highways are called Autobahns.
The highways used to not have speed limit as Hitler didn’t want his tanks to be stuck in traffic.
Germans are convinced that driving faster is safer as you need to pay more attention.
Population of 82 million.
in 1990, Germany became unified.
German fashion sense is shorts, socks and sandals.
They are proud to have unleashed David Hasselhoff to the world.
When Oktoberfest comes around, Germans get dressed up in their lederhosen & dirndl.
Germany is 1/3 of the most industrial countries and one of the starters for the EU to get together and unify the use of the euro.
Older cars need to pay taxes so rare to see any older cars.
1200 breweries. Produce over 100 million litres of beer a year. German beer is brewed to the laws of 1516 – no preservatives therefore no hangovers.
Rhine valley is mostly famous for the wine they produce and the castles. German white wines are generally sweet riesling grapes that have to be handpicked as the vineyards are on hillsides. Often one vine will produce only one bottle of wine as the dry freeze process is tempermental. Besides Canada, Germany and one other countries are known for their ice wines.
On this tour, we unfortunately miss Oktoberfest by a day or 2. We finally got to St Goar around 6-630PM where we went to the Beerstein shop and saw some of the limited edition and Oktoberfest beersteins. There was also a Birkenstocks store where it was literally 75% less cost than in Canada as it is made here and is sold at factory manufactoring price – 35-45€. There was also the largest freestanding cookoo clock and you could purchase a smaller version if you wanted. We had our group dinner at Hotel Montag serving up German cuisine including cured meats and spaetzle. Our hotel – Winzerhaus is about 30 minutes away from St Goar. As Sophia had mentioned, that night was to be a quiet night after the wine tasting to recuperate from “amsterdamage” for those who went a little too hard. We went to Urbarer Winzerkeller for wine tasting for 8€. There are 2-3 groups of 3 travelling on this bus so each day, we battle on the bus to see who gets the room of 3 or room of 4 where a single traveller joins the room of 4. We had Elizabeth “Tay” from originally Chicago but lives in Tuscon, Arizona join us. She’s a funny lady and has a little one year old girl at home. Each of us had our own bed however our room was at the very top floor and it was only stairs.
Woke up at 5AM and left around 630AM on a very brisk morning. The thing is with Contiki, you have restriction on the weight and size of your luggage (20kg) so that morning we had 3 Contiki tours leaving simultaneously lining up to get our luggages weighed and on the right coach bus. Our tour guide was Sophia, a fellow Canadian (French Canadian) who looks like the blonde version of Selma Blair. She is very friendly and very informative (there will be tons of facts being injected into my journals sporadically that are told by Sophia). Our driver was Christian and he is beyond what words can describe but is one crazy upbeat guy. His parents were originally from Sicily and Morocco but he was born in France. We are a group of 51 so it will be interesting – I have the best seat in the house – the very back middle seat so I had all the leg room. We headed to the Port of Dover (we saw the white cliffs of Port Dover) and took the ferry over to France – Galais enroute to Amsterdam. We also passed through Belgium. Being on a bus with around 50 other people, Sophia had multiple icebreakers. We did a version of speed dating to meet the other people on our tour which was cool.The youngest on the tour is 18 and oldest I met was 30 from places such as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Mexico, USA, Japan, London and also a few Canadians. I even got complimented on my accent… thanks…?
Facts of Belgium:
Belgium has Arnold Schwarzenegger-like cows because they are chemically enhanced.
Belgium is also known for Smurfs, Tin Tin, french fries and the world’s tallest man.
It’s the Japan of Europe with a population of 10 and half million.
Facts of Amsterdam:
The population is 17 million for Netherland- 750,000 in Amsterdam.
More than half of the country is under sea level.
They built canals and dykes to create housing and farming.
There are more canals in Amsterdam than Venice.
12 million bikes in Holland alone with 200,000 bikes that end up in the canals.
Some of the best museums are located here such as Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh and Anne Franks’s house.
Pickled herring is a dutch delicacy.
They drive on the right side of the road as opposed to London or Australia where they drive on the left.
They are also known for pancake based foods such as mayo and frites and salted licorice.
Edam and gouda are dutch cheeses.
Yes marijuana is legal. The limit is 5 grams per person if you purchase weed. Mushrooms have been recently banned since 2008. However, you cannot smoke a joint in the street or cafes.
Prostitution is legal and about 25,000 prostitutes work here however they are part of a union called the Red Thread.
We finally arrived in Amsterdam at our hotel for the night – Hotel Nieuw Slotania. The final 2 girls that were to join our trip had arrived. Being a group of 3, one of the latecomers stayed with us. Her name is Alanna and she is from Australia and is our age. She graduated from uni for Exercise Science. Dinner with the group – buffet style and then a “booze” cruise – unlimited drinks for a 90 minute boat ride along the canal. The tour bus drove us to Centraal Station where we boarded the boat. Inside had seating and a bar in the back. It was beautiful to see the different parts of Central Amsterdam. We then docked and majority of my group went to a Sex show where people have sex on stage in front of you. We (Crystle and Klarice) opted out and explored on our own to find some cake to celebrate Klarice’s birthday before heading back to the hotel.