I used my headband mount for my Gopro Hero 4 Session and took some video as I walked from my hotel over to the Amsterdam Centraal Station to buy a train ticket the day before I had to leave town. Sure I could have done this on that morning but I wanted to get it done ahead of time in case I was running late, and I also was planning on walking around that day anyway.
I’m sure I looked like a doofus but I don’t care. I decided to leave the video raw as I shot it and not apply any kind of stabilization, in an attempt to make it look as much like really walking around in person, as possible.
After I bought my ticket inside, I recorded myself walking back out, past the religious lady who was street preaching on the corner, and then over to a cafe I had never visited before.
The Flying Dutchman Cafe was a pretty nice place with a large tabby cat who acted like he owned the place. I happen to like seeing animals in bars, that are comfortable with people around them.
One of the things that I like to do when I travel is visit the international location of US Fast Food chains and see how the menu items might be different than the ones here. I stopped at a McDonald’s location in Amsterdam and the first thing I saw was the ordering kiosks. I had seen these before in Germany and Spain.
I ordered a couple of low cost items. A bacon cheeseburger and a chili chicken sandwich.
The bacon cheeseburger looked and tasted pretty much like what I am accustomed to.
The Chili Chicken sandwich was a small chicken patty topped with lettuce and what I would say was sort of a sweet and sour sauce with a little bit of chili pepper in it. Not bad but not great. Cheap.
The total cost for all of this was only three and a half Euros.
On my last day in Amsterdam the walk back to the train station and the ride to the airport was uneventful.
If you read my Vancouver trip report, you might recall the “SSSS” I got on my boarding pass for the Vancouver to Seattle flight on my return. Guess what?
Yep, down there on the bottom of the boarding pass I got from KLM at check in is those 4 repeating characters. Another swab down and luggage search in the name of security theater.
I was able to spend some time in the KLM Lounge after I cleared Immigration to leave Europe. I like the lounges in AMS as they are much nicer than most in the US.
My return flight from AMS was on a Delta Airlines B767 that took me to Detroit. I watched the rest of the Mr. Robot Season 1 episodes as well as the Black Mass movie. I didn’t get sleepy as this was a daytime flight.
DTW is a fine airport and this time of year I really don’t mind flying back into it or Minneapolis (MPS) if the connections work out better for timing. I picked this over earlier in the morning departures so I’d have a bit more time in Amsterdam.
Once I cleared Immigration and Customs and security back into the airport, I found the Delta Skyclub and had a little time to relax and recharge before going to the gate for my next flight.
Checking the upgrade list showed that I was #1 and as it turned out I did get upgraded into First Class on this less than two hour flight from Detroit to Atlanta. That was nice and the flight was uneventful.
Once in Atlanta I had about an hour before my next flight, the last one of the day that would bring be to Daytona Beach was to board. I just chilled out and once again watched as I was upgraded into First Class just before boarding. This was really great and not totally expected as I was flying on a points reward ticket. The order for upgrades puts people on paid tickets ahead of award tickets, so needless to say I was rather pleased to have gotten upgraded on 2 out of the possible 3 flight. Delta doesn’t offer no cost upgrades to it’s frequent fliers on the two long flights I took to and from Europe.
I did get some sleep during the flights between Detroit and home. I had a really good time in Amsterdam and it remains one of my favorite places to visit. I would stay at the same hotels again and will probably plan enough trip there around the same time next year. I hope you liked reading this trip report and the others on my blog.
The path I took when moving from the first hotel, over to the new hotel took me back past the Amsterdam Centraal Station. I was really hoping I would complete my move before the rain or hail returned. I had decided to book a smaller room and save some money during the part of my trip that I was going to be staying alone. I found and booked this hotel on Expedia.
It wasn’t very far away, and in fact I could see the backside of the three buildings that contained the hotel rooms, as I walked past the Damrak and the assorted tour boats that dock there.
I had to walk another block past the buildings that back up to the Damrak to find the front entrance to the Hotel CC.
Even though the interior was thoroughly modernized, it was readily apparent that this hotel was housed in some older buildings that were adjacent to each other.
My check in was super simple and then I walked a short distance over to the Hofje van Wijs where I hoped to use a Bitcoin ATM.
I sat indoors at a table that faced a window and watched people go by for about an hour as I had a couple of beers and just relaxed.
It turns out that the Bitcoin ATM had recently been stolen from this place, and I wasn’t able to sell any of mine for Euros. I was able to pay for my beers using Bitcoin which was kind of neat and no more difficult than using a credit card. I’m planning on writing some more blog posts about Bitcoin over on my technology focused blog. I’m glad I had some US dollars that I could exchange for Euros with me as a Plan B.
By the time I left the sun had come back out, and the outside seating area looked rather nice. I continued my walking and stopped every so often to take a picture or video.
My next stop after some more walking was at Cafe Old Sailor in the Red Light District. This is a place I have been in many times and one of the things I like is that they serve Amstel beer. This isn’t the “light” version we see in the states.
I walked around some more and then stopped in at the Bulldog Mack Cafe for a couple of Extra Cold Heinekens. This is the same beer but it’s served at a colder temperature. I find that helps to keep it from getting warm when you are taking your time drinking it.
I saw the China Sichuan Restaurant just down the street from my hotel and the reviews on Google looked pretty good. I stopped by there for supper.
I got some sesame seed covered shrimps and the pork and vegetable Chinese noodles and liked both of them. It was pretty busy when I went, and I ended up eating another meal there before the end of my trip.
The next day I tried some of the “New York Pizza” from one of the many locations of this chain in Amsterdam. I found that it was good and quick, but the crust was not what I would consider to be authentic NY style.
This week long trip to Amsterdam started with a bad case of the lice. Not head lice, or pubic lice, but instead the kind that’s found in the airport, “gate lice”. This term is commonly used over on the FlyerTalk Forums which I frequently read and post to, and refers to the crowd of people standing around, and usually in the way of an airport gate.
I used a Delta Skymiles points redemption to get a round trip ticket from Daytona Beach to Amsterdam for an annual get together with a friend in one of my favorite places.
The free WiFi was working better inside the Daytona International Airport than I recall in the past.
I use Google’s Project Fi for cellular service on my Nexus 6 and noticed that it was connected to T-Mobile’s Band 12 signal and also the free WiFi service while I was inside the terminal at DAB. I write posts that are more technology focused on my other blog.
My first flight was to Atlanta on an MD90 followed by a short layover and a visit to the Delta Skyclub. Even though the time in the air is only about an hour, I was able to get a Delta Inflight Survival Kit. Bad kids, crying babies, and loud talking adults are some of the reasons I order this combination to increase my personal comfort.
My Inflight Survival Kit contains Woodford Reserve, Coke Zero, and Biscoffs. Often I will save the Biscoffs for later use.
Inside the Delta Skyclub in Atlanta, I saw some tables that wobbled and spilled wine onto a visitor. There were also some guests that conducted a business conference call in public. I heard some things that in my opinion they should not have been talking about while using a speakerphone in a public area.
I boarded an A330 and settled into my Coach class seat for a long overnight flight during which I got no sleep. Instead I watched multiple Mr. Robot episodes and the Entourage movie using the plane’s GoGo Inflight WiFi and my Nexus 9 tablet to access Delta Studio.
There was a screen on the back of the seat in front of me that offers in flight entertainment, and if you don’t want to use your personal mobile device to watch, you can use that built in screen. I used it for showing a moving map with flight data while watching entertainment on my device’s larger screen. This same system is also found on some of Delta’s planes which have WiFi but lack built in entertainment screens. If you fly on Delta, you should know about Delta Studio and the app you need to install in order to access it in flight.
I was pretty awake for the 5 AM arrival at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. This is my favorite airport in Europe and one that I am very familiar with. I exchanged some Singapore dollars for Euros and got coins for the train ticket machine so I wouldn’t have to stand in line to buy a train ticket. Your US issued credit card usually won’t work in the machines, because it’s setup for Chip and Signature, and the machines expect Chip and PIN cards. I waited until I was in Amsterdam to do this money exchange because the way that it would have been handled in Atlanta would have required 2 exchange fees and resulted in less money back to me. (SGD-> USD – fees, and then USD->EUR – fees)
It was King’s Day, a national holiday with almost all workers having the day off, and that plus the early hour made for a quick and easy train ride into the city. In fact the inner city was closed to vehicle traffic and some other travelers on the train said that they were told that a taxi cab all the way to their hotel would not have been possible on this day. It was a quick walk from the Amsterdam Centraal Station to the Renaissance Amsterdam hotel. I have spent many nights at the hotel and I am familiar with it and the area around it. I would recommend it to people going to Amsterdam as long as you compare room rates. Many of my stays have been made using Marriott Rewards points which make it a good value for redemption when the room rates are high. While walking to the hotel I went past where vendors were setting up to sell to the crowds that would soon fill the blocked off streets for the day’s celebration.
I grabbed a quick bite to eat at the buffet in the elite guest lounge. The effects of jet lag hit me around 9 AM in the morning so I slept for a little while in the hotel room. This room was easily twice as large as the one I will talk about in part 2 of the trip report.
I was back up and out for drinks and then supper which was a delicious grilled piece of pork for me, and an unlimited ribs special is what my friend ordered. I got to try a couple of the ribs and they were good.
One thing that I have noticed in Amsterdam is that they list the weight of meat servings prominently on menus. This was in a small place just around the corner from the hotel that I’ve visited a couple times before, called Madre Maria. If you go there and like garlic, get a side of garlic sauce for your meat and for dipping your french fries into.
The next day started with a nice walk followed by breakfast at a place called “Pancakes and Waffles”. My friend wanted pancakes and chose to have American style pancakes while I opted for a Dutch Breakfast of eggs, cheese, and meats. My breakfast was pretty good.
The hotel has a pretty good breakfast in the lounge for guests with elite status but typically we don’t eat there for every meal and instead will go out for some variety.
The rest of the day was spent walking and stopping into places for a quick beer or coffee. We stopped at the Kadinsky Cafe for a while when the rain was coming down pretty good. The WiFi at this place didn’t work so well but like many places in Amsterdam, the password was posted inside so that customers could check email or do what they needed. My friend was not using data on his cellphone during this trip and took advantage of these stops and the connectivity provided.
Like I always do, I made a point of trying as many of the local beers that I hadn’t tried before, whenever possible. The rain stopped and after some more walking we stopped into a Cafe named “Louis”.
Here we saw one of the many cats or dogs that spend time inside of businesses. The black cat at this place seemed pretty happy to lay on top of a heat vent, and pretty much ignore everyone around him.
Later in the day we saw some coffee shops and other businesses that are spread around Amsterdam and cater to those seeking a different kind of refreshment.
An alternative to walking around sightseeing in Amsterdam is taking one of the many boat cruises that navigate the narrow canals of Amsterdam. I watched as these boat’s captain’s expertly navigated the turns and intersections of canals near by.
I still haven’t taken one of these tours but it’s on my list of things to do when I’m in Amsterdam on a hot summer day.
The temperatures during this trip were nice when the sun was out, but when it was cloudy or raining it was a little chilly due to the wind.
Cafe Kolbalt was the next stop on this walk, drink, use the restroom and repeat tour. In general the cafes seem to have a good selection of different beers on tap, while the higher volume tourist places seem to serve a lot more Heineken or Amstel.
We stopped into the Cafe Tapas Bar for supper and were pretty happy with our selections. Sadly I forget to snap pictures of our food before we ate it. That sometimes happens when I’m really hungry and the food looks really good.
The next day was when my friend had to return to the US and I needed to check out of this hotel, and move to another hotel which I had never stayed at before. There was actually small hail coming down at one point in the morning, and I waited until that storm passed before checking out and changing hotels.
It all started with a deal on a ticket to Vancouver that I posted about here, in February. I had never been to Vancouver but many of my friends and co-workers who had told me I should visit, and that they thought I would like it. I bought a ticket, and here’s my trip report for a visit in April 2016.
I made an early morning drive to the Orlando airport because this is where the cheap ticket was available. I typically check fares from Daytona Beach, Orlando, and Jacksonville, Florida. Some of my fare alerts are generated by AirfareWatchdog, which is an advertising affiliate of this blog.
In Orlando I use an off airport parking lot that is equipped with EV chargers. My car is usually re-charged before my flight leaves, if I arrive more than 2 hours prior to departure. In this case the Chargepoint app on my phone shows charging beginning and then dropping to a very low rate.
This early in the morning the airport isn’t too busy. I think it’s because many families don’t book 6:00 AM departures. After clearing security, I stopped into the Orlando airport Delta Skyclub and had a Bloody Mary while waiting for boarding. If you fly enough miles as a frequent flyer with an airline, they may grant you access to their clubs on international flights. You might also receive access via a credit card as one of the benefits for the annual fee.
They are using Ballast Point Bloody Mary mixer now with Stoli as the complementary vodka. I liked this spicy mix. You can see that I was travelling with just a small Briggs and Riley roll aboard and a small Swiss Army pack. That’s my default travel luggage combo when I don’t have to take suits or a notebook with me. I’ll even use that for trips over a week as long as I have some way of washing clothes while I’m away. Not checking bags and having easy to move and store carry on luggage is liberating.
I’ve used a variety of travel software to help me, and although I still use TripIt I am really find of how well Google Now works on my Android and Androidwear devices. By forwarding mobile boarding passes to my Gmail address, Google Now can automatically create reminders and a Google Now card. The screen below showed up on my phone and tablet, and reminder messages also popped up on my smartwatch.
I cover technology in more depth on my Technology Blog, but mentioned this here as it is travel specific.
I flew from MCO to SEA on a updated Delta 757-200 which is an older twin engine jet that in this case had been updated with some new interior lighting, entertainment systems, and additional coach seats forward of the 2nd door. I had aisle seat just behind the coach forward lavatory which meant great legroom with an occasional whiff of whatever they use in waste storage tanks. My seatmate was from Denmark and when he spoke it sounded like Dutch to me. I bought a GoGo smartphone pass for on board WiFi for 24 hours for $8 which worked well for my stock market monitoring and checking email. The pass to do the same thing on my tablet or a notebook costs twice as much. This lower cost option can be hard to find. I had to go to the GoGo website and log into my account, and then select “all passes” in order to see and purchase it.
The Seattle Delta Skyclub in the terminal of my arrival and departure was crowded. There was a line to check in and line to use the bathroom.
I was upgraded for flight to YVR on smaller regional jet. My carry on bag fit in the overhead. It was a short flight and GoGo Inflight worked well. After landing in Vancouver there was a long walk to the Immigration hall, followed by a long line. Eventually I used a kiosk and then was only asked where I flew in from by a person as a final check. No stamp was placed into my passport.
My Google Nexus 6 smartphone took a while to find a signal. I wrote a blog entry on my Technology focused blog about roaming with Google Project Fi service in Vancouver B.C. You can read about it here.
I went to train platform and got a Compass card with a day pass for the Vancouver train system. I used a credit card in an automated machine to purchase and place credit on this card. The train station was at the airport and it was easy to do.
I took the train from the airport into Vancouver to the Yaletown stop. I must admit the 1 kilometer walk to my hotel was all uphill and it kicked my out of shape ass. I like that my smartphone and smartwatch are tracking my activity and that I can look at Google Fit or their displays to see how many steps or miles I have walked in a day. When I travel, my activity numbers shoot way up compared to an average day sitting in front of my computer at home.
I found a nice non-corporate hotel to stay in for this trip called The Burrard. I found it on Expedia and that’s where I also booked it. I checked into The Burrard around 2 pm with no problems and then unpacked in the room. I wrote a post about the technology in my guest room over at my technology focused blog. You can read about it here.
The hotel’s free WiFi worked great and I used Google Maps to search for places to walk, visit, eat, and drink. One day I went to Joe’s Grill for breakfast and it was very good. This place had a high review rating on Google and it deserves it. I got there before the morning rush, I think since I was on east coast time.
You know a it’s a good place to eat when a bunch of cops meet there to eat and drink coffee. There were also a lot of other customers but you have to figure these guys are locals, and could take a meal break at any number of places, but they pick this one.
After walking during the day I’d usually end up at a place called Scores on Davie for drinks. They have good beers and mixed drinks at Scores on Davie. I had also used Google search and ratings to identify this as a place I might want to visit for beer and was not disappointed.
I got a to go pizza from Megabite on the way back to the hotel one evening. I was not familiar with this pizza chain but the toasted sesame seeds they use on their crust and the rest of the pizza’s toppings was pretty good and also pretty cheap.
It was overcast and threatening to rain most of the time I was in Vancouver. Of course the sun was predicted to be coming out after I left town. At least the USD to CAD exchange rate was in my favor.
I went out for brunch and stopped at Korean BBQ place called Ribs that I just happened to see. I love Korean BBQ and this was a no brainer for me to pick.
I had a really good meal. I liked that I was able to get a lunch sized portion of ribs and not be too full. I could have easily eaten a full size meal of these and gone back to the hotel to just sit around, but that’s not what I wanted to do.
I walked back over to Scores on Davie to return an umbrella they let me borrow the day prior, and then had some mixed drinks and beers.
I tried a Bloody Caesar for the first time. It’s a Canadian twist on a Bloody Mary. They use Celery Salt on the rim and there’s some Clamato juice in the mix. They also make them with a bunch of fried foods on top.
Some folks next to me were celebrating a birthday and started with some shots. It’s a sports bar kind of place that also does a pretty good business selling food for brunch, lunch, and late night.
I found a listing for Peppered Oysters at the Banana Leaf restaurant on the way back to my hotel and thought I’d go back later for dinner but it turned out that I didn’t get a chance. That’s on my list of things to do the next time I return to Vancouver. Instead I bought a 6 pack of beer at the state store. Alexander Keith’s ISB or something and I must say that I was very UNimpressed.
I spent some time in my room working on blog updates using a small portable Bluetooth keyboard which I’m going to review soon enough on my technology blog. I’m really keen on not taking a notebook along when I travel but being able to use a tablet for everything I want to do, including things that require a good bit of typing. On my last day’s morning, I found that it was easy to check out of the hotel and walk down hill to the train station.
I used my credit card to put $10 CAD onto my transit card, the smallest amount possible. Fare to airport was only 1 zone instead of 2 due to the weekend. Ending balance after ride was $7.xx. I have a mass transit card which I paid $6 CAD for and a balance left on it. That’s enough of a reason (and the oysters I missed eating) to return to Vancouver again, isn’t it?
When you have troubles checking in online, it might mean that you have been selected for extra security screening. Don’t try to apply reason here because the airline computers aren’t using it when selecting people for the “SSSS” status in most cases. Babies get selected along with grandmothers and other folks like me.
I got an SSSS indicated boarding pass for my first flight, from Vancouver to Seattle. I’m a trusted traveler which means my bio-metrics are on file, and I have passed some form of a background check and interview. I was able to use the Nexus/Global Entry lines to skip a lot of people that were waiting in the security queue but once I got to the front, I still had to get swabbed, patted down, and my luggage searched. After security I went through the US CBP pre-clearance facility and had no issue using the Global Entry kiosk to skip those lines. This is one of those places where you sort of “re-enter the US at the airport while still in Canada”. It works almost the same as a re-entry in a US airport, except by doing this in Canada, your plane can arrive at any domestic gate in the US since you are pre-screened and isolated from the rest of the airport before you board your flight.
There was no Delta Skyclub in YVR but I stopped at the Priority Pass club which I was granted access to due to my AMEX Platinum card. It’s food offerings included Sweet and Sour Pork with Garlic Rice which was actually OK. I had a little of that prior to my flight back to the US.
The flight from YVR to SEA was short and uneventful. I used my Gopro Hero 4 Session to take some video when taking off from the Vancouver airport and climbing out. It’s pretty much raw footage with ambient sound and the first time I’ve used this camera this way.
Once I was back in Seattle I saw that the Delta Skyclub locations in the airport were no where near the gate of my departing flight. There was a United Club and a Priority Pass club that were in terminal A but I walked over to terminal B where my next flight was due to depart from. Boy was I glad that I did.
I went into the new American Express Centurion Studio which is an more exclusive airline club for Black and Platinum AMEX cardholders. Folks with other kinds of AMEX cards can also purchase admission for the day. It was sort of small and didn’t have a full sized buffet when you compare it to the other Centurion Clubs around the world but otherwise it was nice and close to my gates. I hung out here for a couple of hours until my red eye flight back to Orlando was ready to board.
I was fortunate again and I got an upgrade on the flight. I settled into my First Class seat and tried to doze off during the overnight flight, without much luck. My arrival back into Orlando was at about 5 AM in the morning, which was great timing to allow me to get on the road and back home before the morning I-4 commute got busy.
I had a great time on this trip and would definitely recommend Vancouver as a good place to take a trip to visit. My flights with Delta airlines went well, and my frequent flyer status paid off with 3 out of my 4 flights being upgraded to First Class despite the fact that I purchased an inexpensive ticket. I would stay at the Burrard Hotel again if my plans took me to that part of the city again. All in all this was a really nice trip for me.
Please feel free to use the contact form on this site if you have any questions about my trip report.