LANGUAGE: Dutch is the official language here, but almost EVERYONE speaks English—and they speak it quite well, so there is very little language barrier here—which is VERY nice. The TV programs are sometimes in English with Dutch sub-titles (if it is an American or English movie or program) but most programs are in Dutch. Intercom announcements in the stores are usually Dutch and many times store personnel may greet you in Dutch, but as soon as they know you speak English–they speak to you in English. I think the only person we have come in contact with that didn’t have wonderful English skills, was a waiter at an Italian restaurant—who primarily spoke Italian….
FOOD: Our hotel includes a breakfast buffet that includes an assortment of breads and muffins, scrambled and boiled eggs, meats, cheeses, cereals, fruits, juices and coffee and hot chocolate. So, usually after eating some scrambled eggs, bacon and fruit with yogurt over it, I usually make a little sandwich from the bread, meat and cheese and wrap it in a napkin to save for my lunch along with a piece of fruit. I have noticed that others do the same thing, and some of the team has started doing it too. Jon was unsure how appropriate it was, and was somewhat secretive when he made a “to-go” sandwich over the weekend. Today, after making my sandwich and taking some more tomatoes and cucumbers (I love my veggies), I sat down to begin eating the veggies, when the hostess asked me if I wanted her to wrap my sandwich. LOL I was actually thinking of eating the sandwich, but since she offered, I took her up on the offer and she brought me a big sheet of foil. They then came and offered me foil each day to wrap my little sandwich! 😉
So far, our dinners have included some Dutch fare: small meatballs with a ground meat mixture, breaded and fried, served with mustard to dip it…I don’t remember what it was called, but it was quite good. Like France, they have many good breads–tough for me to resist, but I think I’m doing OK. We have also had some good Italian meals (seems to be quite common here). Jon noted in an online review of Amsterdam restaurants that when people go out to dinner, they are looking for something OTHER than Dutch cooking… 😉
Probably one of our most memorable meals was this past Friday at the Italian restaurant where the waiter didn’t speak very good English. We had veal scallopini with a special entree: Pasta Flambé. They put a gravy-like sauce with spices and mushrooms along with cognac in a pan and set it afire. Then they poured the cognac mixture into a huge wedge of cheese that had a bowl-like hole in it and stirred it around, melting some of the cheese. Then they added pasta and stirred some more. The result tasted something like a stroganoff. YUM!!!
On Saturday, we must have been feeling a bit homesick and could not resist eating American food at the Hard Rock Café (we split BBQ ribs). Then we had a great steak at an Argentinean restaurant on Sunday. We feel like we have done OK with our food intake (usually splitting meals and skipping desserts), but we both felt like we ate too much of the Italian…but boy was it good!
ATTRACTIONS: We are thinking about doing the museum canal route next weekend–it takes you from the Amsterdam Central Station to several of the museums (including Anne Frank’s house, which I really want to see). The ticket is good for all day and you can get off and on as often as you want. I think it costs about 18 Euro. We DID tour a diamond polishing museum (where they, of course, try to sell you diamonds). We liked a necklace there that was regular 4377 Euro, on sale for less than 2000 Euro 😉 There are many art museums here too—Van Gogh, Rembrandt, and a large museum with many famous artists.
Walking along the shopping areas (and there are miles of shops) we have seen that Amsterdam still has Christmas lights up and it all looks very beautiful and festive. Many days, I have walked into the central town area (probably about 1.5 – 2 miles), to window shop and then taken the tram (similar to our MAX) back to the hotel. The tram costs 1.60 Euro for 1 ride or you can buy a strip (which we did this weekend) of 15 for 7 Euro. On Sunday, as we walked around the shops we found ourselves at Central Station, which is 3.88 miles from the hotel (according to Yahoo Maps), so we walked 4 or 5 miles yesterday.
Farewell for now,
Jon & Vicki