Czarina’s Amsterdam Adventure – Part 2

67385791_2350863545164903_1859054079855034368_nSince reading her book as a child, I’ve dreamed about the day I would get to see Anne Frank’s secret annex. I was so glad we booked ahead of time because the lineup is huge, even in the early morning. It is a solemn and moving experience that hurts your heart and brings tears to your eyes. Learning more about what she and others experienced still leaves me reeling and should remind us to see the humanity in all people. The stillness of that annex and her words will be with me forever and I hope any traveller to Amsterdam takes in this time capsule to commemorate her and the other victims of WWII.

Not far from the Anne Frank House is where we rented a boat to cruise the canal on our own. The sun came out for our little adventure and we packed a picnic with wine, cheese and other goodies. I loved having our freedom and doing it on our own, but it isn’t easy! There are lots of boats, turns and bridges to watch out for. This was by far the highlight of my trip to Amsterdam and something I will never forget. For those who aren’t comfortable doing it on their own, I tried the 1 hour guided canal cruise too! Seeing the city from the water is a must.

I love the diverse food options here! Looking for delicious Italian cuisine? Look no further than an Italian restaurant called Impero. My pasta was cooked in a flaming cheese wheel…. sending me into flavour overload and into a food coma! I also visited Amsterdam’s “Food Hallen” located in a trendy, up and coming area. It’s basically a big food court in a historic building filled with hungry hipsters. Tons of vendors to choose from and specialty bars, plus some live music. A foodie’s delight!

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Off to Sweden!


 

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Czarina’s Amsterdam Adventure

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When life sends you to Amsterdam, you must eat pancakes (aka Pannenkoek)!

Amsterdam is a city bustling with amazing sights, a rich history and delicious food. Everywhere you go, you feel positive energy all over and it can’t help but put a smile on your face. The Dutch are quite possibly the friendliest people I’ve ever met. Look out for their bicycles peddling down every road. They aren’t so friendly if you are in the way… yikes!

We are staying within walking distance to some of the must sees: Dam Square, Red Light District, Anne Frank House, Amsterdam Central Station and more.

67643791_342898019973217_9138694329957613568_nThis lady needs to see it all in the four days we are here and I had to start with the classic Windmill Tour to Zaans Schans. Just a short drive from Amsterdam, takes you to this little quaint town where you learn all about the pioneering methods the Dutch used to prepare everything from wheat, paint, cooking oil and more using these beautiful windmills. It’s incredible what they were able to achieve using wind power back in the day. It’s even more fascinating that all the windmills remain operational 600 years later. We were not expecting rain but the downpour didn’t sour the mood at all because there was plenty of Gouda cheese samples to enjoy. And shopping for shoes always makes me happy… even when they are wooden clogs!

By night, we were curious to see the infamous Red Light District where the streets are just insanity! Tons of foreigners, including us, come to get a glimpse at the spectacle and learn more about the oldest profession in the world. Do not take pictures of these hard working “ladies of the night”. They are not afraid to come outside and hit you over the head.

Uber has been key to take us to some of those attractions a little further like the Rijksmuseum and the Heineken Experience. Both tours can’t be missed since the Rijksmuseum has a lot of different art pieces important to the Netherlands and Heineken gives you an incredible tour and beers at the end! I would have never guessed that Heineken even had a “ride” which I liken to a mini Universal Studios experience.

Time to hit the canals and visit Anne Frank’s house…

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Annette & Joanne’s Avalon River Cruise – Part 3

We had 2 days of sleeping in and enjoyed all the activities on board the ship as we sailed along the river admiring the beautiful scenery.  We even took part in the power walking class on the sky deck.    Our next stop was a visit to the Kröller-Müller Museum with its fabulous collection of paintings by Van Gogh, Monet and Picasso to bring a little culture to our trip.

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Then on to our next stop and the highlight of our trip the Keukenhof gardens, also known as the Garden of Europe.  There are more than 7 million tulips, daffodils and hyacinths that fill over 32 hectares with colour and fragrance. These gardens are only open for a total of 8 weeks during the year.

We ended our trip with a canal cruise in the wonderful city of Amsterdam.  Our experience with Avalon Waterways was amazing and we would definitely recommend it to everybody wanting to see Europe.  Can’t wait to cruise again!

If you are interested in a river cruise of your own or have any questions about the experience, you can reach Joanne by calling 306-934-3400 or emailing joanne@uniglobevacation.com.

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Annette & Joanne’s Avalon River Cruise – Part 2

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We boarded our Avalon river cruise which was docked just 5 minutes from the Mövenpick hotel. We sailed on the Avalon Tranquility which can accommodate 130 passengers.  We walked into our panoramic suite and were amazed by the floor to ceiling, wall to wall French balcony.  What a great way to watch the scenery go by.  After a leisurely lunch we took an optional excursion to Zaanse Schans where we saw windmills, cheese making and watched a wooden clog making demonstration.  Then back to the ship for dinner and evening entertainment.

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Amazing food onboard the Avalon Tranquility

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Clog Making

Our highlight the next day was our tour to the bulb farm where we saw tulips growing inside and outside.  We learnt all about the lifecycle of the tulip and just what it takes to grow the world’s most beautiful flowers in land reclaimed from the sea.  We also saw an amazing hyacinths field in full bloom.

We loved experiencing the Dutch culture as we wandered around the towns on guided walking tours which were included in our cruise.  It was such a beautiful day in Kampen that we decided to take in the true dutch culture in the local square by sitting on a patio people watching and having a few beverages.

Windmill

Stay tuned for more from our sailing onboard the Avalon Tranquility.

Check out our Instagram for more photos from Annette & Joanne’s trip as well as pictures from all of our team’s travels.

Annette & Joanne’s Avalon River Cruise – Part 1

We flew with Westjet from Saskatoon to Calgary then KLM to Amsterdam.  Both flights were uneventful which is something we all want when we fly.  It was our first time on KLM and it is a very good airline.  The direct flight was nice.

Appies from club lounge at movenpick Amsterdam hotel

Perks of the Executive lounge at Mövenpick Hotel

Upon arrival in Amsterdam we decided to take a cab from the airport to the Mövenpick hotel.   The cab ride was $80.00 Euro.  That was a very interesting experience! They drive very fast and in and out of traffic but we made it to the hotel in one piece.  The Movenpick hotel was a very nice hotel and it included breakfast.   It was very handy as it was right next to the cruise ship terminal.   We walked from the Movenpick hotel to the city centre it was about a 20 minute walk.

We spent our first day in Amsterdam wondering around the streets on our own taking in the Dutch lifestyle.  We stopped  at a local pub and had a local cider,  then wondered around  the different shops and stumbled upon the red light district.  We stopped for supper at a place that had a hot dog in a pizza bun and a waffle coated in chocolate.  All was very interesting.  Thankfully we brought our heavier coats as it is chilly as you walk around especially at night.

Tomorrow we’re on to our next adventure the Avalon cruise – Tulips of Northern Holland.

 

 

 

Budapest to Amsterdam – Amanda’s Avalon Cruise Part 4

Here are my thoughts on my last few days in Europe.

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Rudesheim was a cute place. We went up the cable car to the top and saw a huge statue that was built in commemoration of the union of Germany.  Here we visited Siegfried’s musical instrument museum where they had old musical instruments that played by themselves using punch-hole strips of paper. They had lots of music boxes there of all kinds. We sailed through the Rhine Gorge that had many very old beautiful castles.  Some are ruins and some are used as hotels today. Also, I saw the rock of the legendary “Loreley”. Luckily our captain didn’t get wooed. Haha.

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Cologne was nice and more modern than what we were accustomed to seeing. The Cathedral there is very large and was hit during WW2 but is still standing and has been restored.  My favorite thing about this city was the Lindt chocolate museum the Schokoladenmuseum,haha. During our free time we went to the museum and it was interesting to see the whole process from beginning to end of how they make the Lindt chocolate we see today in stores. We even got to sample some fresh made chocolate while there.  YUMMY! ☺ We saw a bunch of different molds of all sizes.  I went to the gift shop and bought some very delicious chocolate items.

In Amsterdam we hopped onto a canal cruise to tour some of the older downtown part of the city.  I got to see houseboats where people live on the canals.  I can’t imagine living on a boat but at times it was more cost effective for the inhabitants there. The canals are small and parking is very limited. The most used mode of transportation in Amsterdam seems to be bicycles.  The streets are very crowded with cyclists and bikes parked everywhere.

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We had a lovely lunch at a little local restaurant called Haesje Claes.  It had traditional Dutch food and was very good. I would recommend it.  We also did a windmill tour in the afternoon at Zaanse Schans – not far from Amsterdam. I learned a lot about using windmills as a power source. My favorite part of this tour was seeing the demonstrations. We saw limestone grinding by using a complex gear system using wind power. There was also a Gouda cheese making demo. Best of all was seeing how they make their world famous wooden clogs. It used to take a while with knives and other tools. Now it takes about 5 mins as they have a machine that is similar idea to key cutting machines to form the outside of the shoe.  Then they have a tool system to cut out the hole for the foot.  Apparently these shoes are very comfortable and wearing wool socks inside is definitely the best. The shoes are water proof and like steel toed boots for protection as they are very hard.

At the end of the cruise we had to say goodbye to our new friends and to all the wonderful staff on the ship who catered to us hand and foot. I was sad to leave Europe as this whole experience was such a wonderful adventure and felt like going back in time in a sense.


For those who may have concerns about sea or motion sickness on a cruise, there are no worries about this on a river cruise as you don’t feel it at all.  I do recommend getting a cabin around the middle of the ship.  At the back you get more of the noise and vibration from the engine, at the front you can hear a lot of people traffic and music from the lounge in the evenings.

My overall experience with Avalon was phenomenal. The staff were great and got you whatever you needed.  The ship, cabin and amenities onboard were wonderful.  The cities we visited were all interesting and amazing in their own unique ways.  This trip was definitely a great combination of relaxation, friendship building, amazing architecture and education about history.

It was recommended to me that if you want to upgrade to a higher cabin category (if available), do that before you leave home as it is much lower in cost than if  you try when onboard.  When considering booking a river cruise, the best pricing and availability are available further out from departure.  The earlier you book the better.


A few tips about travelling to Europe:

  • It costs money to use public bathrooms most places I travelled to in Europe this trip.
  • Remember to ask about tax free purchases when shopping.
  • The weather is best over the summer as some places get colder and even have frost or snow during the winter.
  • Bring Forint (HUF) when travelling to Hungary and Crowns (CZK) for Czech Republic. Euros were used everywhere else I went.
  • Make sure to bring an adapter with 2 round prongs in Europe.  A converter may be needed as well as their power is 220Volt.
  • Pack for all types of weather, shorts and t-shirts, to pants and warm shirts. Make sure to bring a light jacket as the wind can be cool and it rains from time to time. A small umbrella could be useful as well.

 

Watch the video of my cruise here:
AVALON WATERWAYS – Cruise Ship Tour

If you have any questions about Avalon or just River Cruising in general please feel free to reach out to me!  You can call me in Saskatoon at 306-934-3400 or email amanda@uniglobevacation.com.

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