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Going Dutch

SmarterTravel

Author: Christian Dew
Date of Trip: February 2015

I am a frequent visitor of the Netherlands and I love all things Dutch. Born and raised in America, a southern girl with a wanderlust mind, the Netherlands has a special place in my heart. Have you ever wanted to see the North Sea? Take a train through the Dutch country side? Visit an old windmill? Go to a concert to see one of your favorite artist? Then I invite you to come and join me on this reading adventure of Going Dutch!

I took this trip with two of my children who had never been abroad so I did a lot of tailoring so they could get adjusted to the time, the jet lag and I didn’t want to just throw them into the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam so we spent a couple of days in The Hague to just unwind, relax and do some acclimation to the culture. It was a wonderful choice!

Before you travel abroad, I always recommend making your money exchange before you leave the United States. Just to get you settled in the first day of arriving in the Netherlands, I suggest you take at least two-hundred euros. You will possibly need more depending on the amount of dependents traveling in your group. Some banks in the United States have foreign currency on site so you don’t have to wait. If you do have to wait for your exchange, it is usually around two weeks.

Our first day arriving at Schiphol, we decided not to go straight into Amsterdam but instead, we took a train to The Hague. You can purchase your train tickets for the NS (Dutch Railways) at the yellow ticket machines (kiosk) located in Schiphol Plaza. I would suggest getting a one way, one day pass train ticket (chipcard) which cost about eight euros for one way if you plan to spend a couple of nights which I highly recommend. The OV-chipkaart is usually for those who are citizens of the Netherlands. These machines only take a credit/debit card with a chip on the card. If you need to pay with euros, you may do that at the Service desk which are also located near the ticket machines in Schiphol Plaza. Hold onto your ticket so you can check in and out at the train station ticket poles located as you go to the platforms. For more information please check the NS website: www.ns.nl/en.

Travel time from Schiphol to The Hague is a 30 minute train ride and a view of some beautiful country side. Once arriving at The Hague Central Station, we purchased a tram ticket and took tram #17 to Statenkwartier (exit at Gemeentemuseum/Museon-stop for bus or tram) where we stayed at the four star, World Hotel Bel Air The Hague. From the tram stop, it is about a 5 minute walk to the hotel. The hotel itself was amazing, the rooms were clean, comfortable, quiet and the panoramic views were just beautiful. Great views of the North Sea. The hotel staff was pleasurable, friendly and very, very helpful. We could not of asked for a better staff! Breakfast was included in our room cost which was a little over two-hundred euros for three nights. I can’t say enough about the hotel and it’s staff. For more information, please click on the link www.worldhotelbelair.com

Taking a tram into the city center was a lot of fun. We didn’t really know what all to do or visit since it was raining so heavily the days we were there but we made the best of it by exploring the shopping district, going to Starbucks and just letting our curious minds wonder the old, brick sidewalks with umbrella’s, smiles and happy thoughts! My children enjoyed it that way and it was easy for them to get acclimated to the change. We took an afternoon and explored Scheveningen beach. That was my favorite thing to do!! It was really chilly but we took the time to enjoy the sights and sounds of the strand boardwalk, walk on the beach, get some pizza, pick up some groceries and then we retired to the hotel for the evening. Since it was February, it was not as lively as it would be in the summer (of course) but there is plenty to do and see. If you like to do some gambling, you can also check out the Holland Casino that is located in the heart of Scheveningen. For more information on Scheveningen, please click on the link www.scheveningenbeach.com

The Hague has a beautiful culture and with it being the Netherlands seat for it’s government, you will find a lot of rich history about the government. I highly recommend visiting the city but it is not an easy day trip as far as trying to see all the historical buildings and really getting a feel for the city. It would certainly require at least a two nights stay so you can enjoy it the way it is meant to be.

We packed our bags on day three, checked out of the hotel and headed back to Schiphol. We had reservations at the Holiday Inn Express Amsterdam – Sloterdijk Station. From Schiphol, this is a ten minute train ride. It cost about three euros to travel on the NS train to Sloterdijk Station. This hotel was also a great hotel, great location, amazing staff and everything about it was superb. Free breakfast, free wifi, cable television and amazing water pressure when you take a shower!! The train station next door has a food court so you can grab a few meals there before going into the city center. Kelly, the front desk attendant, along with her colleagues, were the best I have ever seen in the industry and I am a flight attendant who has been in many hotels with my job. They went above and beyond for us to help us get some details taken care of.

The hotel is located next door to the train station but you can not hear any noises from outside. The rooms are soundproof, quiet and comfortable. Once you have had a great nights sleep, you are ready to take the bus or the train to central station. I recommend using the bus since you can use your Iamsterdam city pass card for free fair. It is so easy that you won’t believe how easy it actually is! For more information on the Holiday Inn at Sloterdijk Station, please click on the link http://www.ihg.com/holidayinnexpress/hotels/us/en/amsterdam/amsop/hoteldetail

What to do now that you are in the city of Amsterdam? There is so much that you really need to come more than once! As always, I do recommend you purchase the I Amsterdam City Card. It truly is your key to the city! There is so much about that little card, that you must see the link so that you can take the time to explore all the information such as free city transportation, free canal cruise, free entry to popular museums, discounts on restaurants and more. It is a must have when traveling around Amsterdam. For more information on the I Amsterdam Card, please follow the link www.iamsterdam.com

Ever wondered how the Dutch use windmills? What was the real purpose of using them or how do they function? Then you should take a trip to Sloten Windmill located in Amsterdam. To get there, you will need to take tram #1 until it stops at Baden Powellweg, then a short 10 minute walk. The I Amsterdam card will get you free entry to the Sloten Windmill. It is run by volunteers who do an excellent job of showing and telling you the history of the windmill. You will learn how it works, do some interactive, hands on experiences with the volunteers, enjoy some good ole Dutch humor from the volunteers and don’t forget the gift shop! I found some really nice gifts to bring back home and they were very reasonable as well. This really is a must see experience!! There is a great french fry eatery right beside of it so you can eat some of the famous french fries and mayonnaise. You can’t miss the little building for it is nothing but french fries. I had never seen so many french fries in my life! That is certainly a must do but make sure to grab a lot of napkins! To do some research before you go, here is the link http://www.molenvansloten.nl/en/

If you are seeking a photo tour, using your own camera to capture some of the non tourist spots along the canals then I highly recommend one of the best in the city and that is AmsterSam. When touring with Sam, he will welcome you as if you were family. His passion for photography and the love of art will inspire you to take some of the best photos you have ever taken. He is very knowledgeable about the city, has a love for Amsterdam and speaks fluent Dutch, English and German. He may speak French and Spanish too but I don’t remember. I do know he is the coolest guy you can ever meet and having fun is an understatement. He will even take some super cool photos of you and your traveling companions for a small fee. Each group fee is based on need so I do recommend speaking with Sam before you book a photo tour. He is very reasonable compared to other photo tours in the cit. Go check out his webpage, email your questions and then book your photo tour at www.amstersam.com

Attending a concert when traveling internationally is one of the coolest things I have done. Especially when you can see one of your favorite Dutch artist such as Anouk. We were able to go see her perform live at the Ziggo Dome. This is a beautiful venue located in Amsterdam. It is unlike anything in America. If you wear a coat to the concert, you can actually leave it with the attendants who give you a claim ticket and your coats are very well taken care of. I was amazed at such a service. It was nice not having to hold on to a bulky coat in a sea of people drinking beer and enjoying a great concert! Once again, you can take the train to travel to the Ziggo Dome. We took the train straight from Sloterdijk Station and it was really easy to get to. If you plan to purchase a concert ticket in America, use the Ticket Master webpage for international purchase. Make sure you call your bank beforehand so you can purchase internationally. When you arrive at the Ziggo Dome, there are many other venues next to the facility. It is all clean, all safe and plenty of lighting to direct you where you need to go once you get off the train. It was a great experience and I look forward to doing it again! To explore the Ziggo Dome, here is the link so that you too may enjoy one of your favorite artist www.ziggodome.nl

As you can tell, there is so much to explore in the Netherlands. The Dutch culture is innovative, exciting to learn about, easy to understand and there is just so much to do. I could write an article once a week about my travels there. There are many exciting things I continue to experience each time I travel to the Netherlands. What is exciting to me, as a traveler, is that there are still many places in the Netherlands that I am longing to explore. If you have never been, 2015 is the year to travel for the euro is the lowest it has been in a long time. The culture is wonderful, it is welcoming and you will find another reason to love the Dutch even more.

I wish you the best on your journeys and safe travels wherever they may take you.

Love, Peace and Happiness,
Christian Dew

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