Amsterdam Journal

September 15, 2011

When I tell people what we did for vacation this year, I often get an incredulous look or a comment like, "Interesting itinerary!" All I can say is, there were places I hadn't been in Europe that I wanted to see. With an invitation to meet my in-laws in Rome, this seemed like a good opportunity to see some new locations!

So where did we go during our eight nights away? We flew from San Francisco to Amsterdam for two nights, then took the train into Germany where we stayed one night in Cologne (fantastic, amazing cathedral!); the next morning we took another train to Koblenz, where we boarded a boat to travel up the Rhine River, through a UNESCO World Heritage-protected region with a castle around every bend. We hopped off the boat in St. Goar and took another train to Mainz for one night. The next morning, we caught a train to Frankfurt , and flew to Rome for our last four nights.

Here are a few notes from our Amsterdam segment….

• Ten hours in an economy class seat is not a great way to start a vacation. Sell your clients on business or premium economy if they can afford it

• Amsterdam is a lovely city and I highly recommend it. The destination combines well with London and Paris, Brussels, and Germany…less commonly with Italy, but it can be done (I am living proof of that!).

• One of the surprises (to me) was that because Amsterdam is so far north, it stays light in the summer until almost 10 p.m., which gives you more time for sightseeing and wandering around the city ... which by the way, feels very safe to wander around in. It’s a great place to be a tourist!

• Classic’s transfer company, The Dutch Connection, goes out of its way to make Classic customers comfortable, and offers an impressive array of day tours. If we'd had more time, I would have loved to do a day trip into the country. April and May are great months to visit tulip farms. I'd love to see them (and the windmills) on my next visit!

• Sofitel The Grand Amsterdam has an interesting history, including a period as a former city government building. The hotel offers a complimentary daily tour that covers historical highlights…including the wedding chapel, the ballroom, and a famous Karl Appel mural that was covered up for decades due to its political sensitivity. Appel based the design, “Inquisitive Children,” on starving children who were begging in the aftermath of World War II. In addition to viewing the hotel’s most interesting public spaces, the tour offers a sense of the city’s history, as well

• Unique selling feature at Sofitel The Grand Amsterdam: the spa-jetted tub that faces the flat-screen television in the junior suite bathroom wall. You can sit and soak and watch your Soap all at the same time! The in-room espresso maker also was popular during our visit….

• BEST INSIDER TIP for Amsterdam sightseeing: Tell your clients to order their Anne Frank House Museum tickets online and print them at home before they leave. Anne Frank tickets are sold only at the door, or are sold online for certain time slots. The online tickets often sell out. This tip will save your clients a long, long wait in line. Other museum tickets – the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh museum – can be acquired at the concierge desk from the hotel (bring Euros, because you’ll need to pay cash)

• Speaking of the Anne Frank house, Classic’s other hotel, The Pulitzer, a Starwood Hotel, is nearby. We loved the bar at The Pulitzer and especially the friendly waiter who sold us on trying the city’s native dish: a fresh (raw) salty herring. Yummm! (really!) The bartender made special drinks for us, or at least he claimed he did. You can try ordering “Mark’s Sunrise” if you visit….

• Then again, there’s always the beer. Those who like beer tell me it’s very tasty

• Sofitel The Grand Amsterdam has a great central location, close to the Dam (square) and within walking distance of the art museums, canal boats, and … the red light district! The famous neighborhood was deserted when we walked through it on our way to Centraal Station our last morning there. The rail station is within walking distance of the Sofitel only if you can handle your luggage by hand…otherwise, clients would need to take a taxi

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