Tuesday, March 24, 2015

AMS Revisited

It seemed to us there were lots of changes in Amsterdam in the 3 years since we last visited.  Our Feb trip was our 3rd time.

The first indication was at breakfast on arrival.  The bakery cafe no longer accepted cash -- Only credit cards with a PIN.  We noticed through the week, many establishments, including supermarkets, have gone that way as well.   So we ended up with cash left over.  If you have a credit card that charges a foreign transaction fee on top of a foreign exchange fee, it can add up.

We also noticed the price increase -- A coffee, small freshly squeezed orange juice, 3 pastries came to 24 CAD.  Nowhere near big city Norway prices (would be double) but high for what we remembered from Amsterdam.  Perhaps along the same line, we noticed a great number of Teslas and other high end cars on the road.

When I inquired about the changes to payment options, I was told that it was considered safer and more hygienic for workers not to manage cash.  There seemed to be more emphasis on employee personal safety this time around, although we didn't notice any increased feelings of uneasiness around the city.   

Another thing was that 1 and 2 cent Euro coins were no longer accepted.  Found that out the hard way when I paid for the use of a washroom at a mall with change and was abruptly scolded.  How was I to know?  It is legal money after all.  Apparently it saves banks millions a year not having to process small coins...

A new venture started just days before our arrival in west Amsterdam called De Hallen.  Super artsy concept and food.  This was our neighbourhood the first 2 visits.  We think they have a real winner here.

We took our first canal cruise and really enjoyed it.  Recommend going on the last one of the day so you can watch the light change over the water as you go.  Makes it more magical.

D "manned up" and finally ate a raw pickled herring sandwich.  He had been working up to it every visit but couldn't do it until this year.  Actually thought it wasn't bad.  He may go for the sliced version, straight up next time.

Iberico ham, spanish tapas, Argentinian food were noticeably well represented.  There seemed to be more chain style restaurants (not fast food) too.  Ate lots of Iberico ham (made me miss Barcelona very much), freshly made Stroopwafels and poffertjes -- Will never go for the packaged kind again after that...

We stayed in a new to us neighbourhood this time around -- De Pijp -- Vibrant and trendy (for Amsterdam).  Would for sure stay around there again.   We don't go to Amsterdam for the food (sorry if I offended anyone) but for the atmosphere.

I almost knocked over a cyclist while walking along a typically narrow road (I apologized profusely).  It took a couple of days before I stopped using my ears.  Bikes can be incredibly silent.  I think I had become so used to noise in all the other countries I'd recently been to and assumed I would hear any signs of impending doom...

Last week, I heard back from a representative of the taxi company I sent my note to about the fare to the airport being charged twice.  She apologize for the experience we had with their driver and offered to transfer the 50 Euro back to us.

I was away and couldn't get the banking info back to her until recently so we will wait and see.  International money transfers out of Canada are a pain in the behind, takes weeks and costs around $35.

Hopefully their system sending it to us is more straight forward.  I cut and pasted my bank's instructions in hopes it will make sense to them.  Either way, I am pleased with the integrity the company has shown.  I wish I had the contact info of the fellow we rode with so I could tell him of the response.

 Our apartment door required 3 keys and they all looked like these.

Lining up for fries...

Huge claws on him.

Found our favourite dutch apple pie -- Cafe Papeneiland.
Fuzzy picture -- Too excited to dig in to re-take.

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