I wrote this at 6:30 one morning when I woke up before the rest of the family.
Before I start this series, let me tell you that in no way am I complaining. We are really having a nice time, though some of the stories may lead you to believe just the opposite.
It’s actually been quite relaxing in spite of the few things that have not been perfect.
Let me start out by stating our mission for this trip because, if you keep that in mind, you can see how this trip has been mostly successful. Our goal in coming here was to see the Anne Frank House, to possibly ride on the canals, and I wanted a Starbucks Mug for my collection. That’s it. Oh, and Matt wanted to eat at Hard Rock. We really wanted this trip to be a budget one, in that we didn’t want to spend a ton of money.
I booked a “budget” hotel and found cheaper parking outside the city (8 € a day as opposed to 21 € a day) which promised a free ride into the city center and back. As I mentioned here I tried something new regarding our food so that we could spend less eating out. Also, before we left I determined what each activity was going to cost us and got that out of the ATM. (Sure, many of you don’t like to carry that much cash with you, so I’m not suggesting YOU do this. It’s just what I wanted to do for this particular trip.) I had actual envelopes marked “Gas; Orange Tulip hotel; Hard Rock Café;” etc.
When friends all over the world gave us suggestions of things to see we looked at each one to determine the location and price. Having already spent what we wanted to spend “on paper,” we really didn’t want to add anything else in. There was nothing else we saw that made us think, “Oh man, if we leave Amsterdam without having done that we will regret it for the rest of our lives.” I can assure you, had I left Europe without having gone to the Anne Frank House, I would have regretted that for the rest of my life.
We are going to the Corrie Ten Boom house and I’m very excited about it. Glad people mentioned it to us because otherwise I wouldn’t have known it was so close. I will say however, that Anne Frank has a special place in my heart since I studied her story in depth high school. I never dreamed in my junior year while sitting in Mr. Walker’s International Studies History class that I might one day get to visit the actual house where Anne hid for 2 years. Not saying Anne’s story is any more special, but it captured my heart while I was a young girl, not much older than Anne was while she was in hiding. That explains my deep desire to visit that place. I intend to teach the boys Corrie Ten Boom’s story in more detail when we get back into our school schedule.
So, with all that said, let me begin my journal of our trip. Remember, the stories I am telling you are funny and we see them as that. Frustrating, maybe. But ultimately, funny.
6 March 2012 – Tuesday morning and afternoon
We woke up and packed up the last of the things that couldn’t be packed the night before and got on the road 35 minutes late. (We know this about ourselves so we always plan to leave earlier than necessary so that, when we leave “late” we’re still on time.) Matt strategically put the Thursday and Friday snacks and lunches in the stow-and-go compartments so that they wouldn’t take up valuable car space, and left Tuesday’s between our seats, easily accessible. We didn’t overload our car as we’ve gotten better at packing light. Nothing like my backpacking friend by any stretch of the imagination (what she does is admirable!!), but lighter than we used to. It was here that we made our first mistake. See, I had planned for us to park at a P+R just outside of the city. I imagined us getting there, pulling everything out and doling out things for each boy to carry while riding public transportation. I expected us to be able to think and for me to be a part of the thinking process. I was going to look through all the things in the car, leaving nothing behind but the snacks/lunches in the stow-and-go compartments. Only, this isn’t how things went down. Not at all.
Detour #1: Park and Ride location was great. Perfect, actually. Before we unloaded all our stuff and four kids I decided to walk inside to the P+R kiosk to ask a few questions. I described our situation and the two attendants shook their heads. They explained to me that they thought it would be better for our family to take a taxi, which would cost us about 20 €. When I got back to the car, we decided that we would just park at the hotel’s parking which was stated, and I quote: “Parking on site is available for 21 € a day. No reservations necessary.” Glad we had that as a back up plan!
Detour #2: Off to the city. I had heard horror stories about how dangerous and difficult it is to drive in Amsterdam; “Worse than Paris,” they said. We were half a kilometer from our hotel when I said, “It’s not really that bad. Just have to watch out for the people riding bikes.” Never say that. Never. We were doing really good and were very VERY close to our hotel. A two minute walk, max. And then the GPS told me to turn right. I didn’t think I could as the road looked like a one-way in the wrong direction. I went past it thinking I’d turn around at the next one. Thanks to the fact that we were at Central Station which meant a lot of “no U-Turn signs,” it was a full four minutes before that happened. Ten minutes later we had gotten straightened out and were ready to turn right onto our street again, as my GPS was insisting that it was legal to do so. But this time Matt and I both confirmed that it was a one-way, going the wrong way. We drove around trying to get to the other end of that street but it was hopeless. We called every variation of the hotel’s listed number that we could find getting error messages each time. Finally I decided to park at any spot I could find and walk there, asking them to give me directions to the “on site” parking. When I arrived (thanks to my iPhone’s map function… dread seeing my bill next month but it was worth it) I asked them what to do. “Oh, just stay right there, a driver will come and pick your car up and park it. It’s 21 € a day plus a 10 € driver-fee.” So basically they don’t have on site parking and it’s 26 € a day. Annoyed, but what could I do?!?
I asked how to get the car any closer to the hotel and she said, “No, No, just leave it there.” I tried my best to tell her that it was a good distance away (five blocks or so) and that we had four kids and luggage. “No, No, just leave it there.” Her English was better than my Chinese so I just left it as it was. So when the drivers arrived and we filled out the paper work, we walked the five blocks back to the car and squished Matt into the back row with three boys, I was beside Parker, while the two drivers sat in the front seats. (No idea why there were two drivers.) He pulled up two blocks and said that this was as close as he could get us. We hurridly unloaded without me thinking about the food that was packed in the trunk. I had breakfast foods as well as treats for snacking on while walking around the city. Those all got left behind in the rush. “On site parking” my foot. I was annoyed about this for the entire three days we were in Amsterdam. Not only was the hotel’s website misleading about the price of parking, it was also misleading about the location of the parking. Were it “on site” I could go out and get whatever I needed from my car. So, I had budgeted 25 € for parking total and it ended up costing 52 €.
Isn’t this exciting and we haven’t even gotten signed in to the hotel, yet?!?
Detour #3: As we arrive at the hotel we walk up the narrow flight of stairs to the lobby. We had read that all of the stairs were going to be very narrow, as many of those who commented about the hotel had mentioned that. I got our key and the lady told me something about the bathrooms being in the corridor but at this point I was tired and didn’t catch it. I thought that maybe our room had a corridor in it and that’s where the bathroom was, because I had specifically booked the room with three bunk-beds and a bathroom. We climbed a flight of stairs that were a third narrower than the first flight.
Then we climbed another flight of stars, even narrower. Then we got to our room: 309. Just beside our door were two doors… a bathroom and a shower room. Hmmm…. Not exactly what I expected. By this time I was thankful I had done insanity for a few weeks because when I opened our door, I was faced with yet another FLIGHT OF STAIRS! IN OUR ROOM! We got to the top to find 6 individual beds and that we were in the attic. There was no way to block the stairs to keep Parker from falling down them.
About that time Matt arrived with a load of our stuff and I said, “I’m going back to the lobby. This is not the room we reserved.” At the desk the girl said, “I think this room better for your family.” I said, “Can I at least see the other room? The one with a bathroom?” She gave me the key and I went directly to it. Instead of up a total of four flights of stairs, this one is up only two flights. And, guess what? It had a bathroom inside and NO stairs. Who in their right mind would see a toddler and think that the room with a flight of stairs inside was better than a room with no stairs?
More tomorrow… most of the detours occurred on this day, I’m happy to say! The rest of the trip was great, except for the fact that I got annoyed anytime I had to pay for food when I had perfectly good food sitting in my car, unaccessible. (There is one more funny hotel story I will share but not in this post. Somehow this one turned out to be so lengthy I had to split it and share the rest of today’s experiences in a completely separate post!)