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DDF, or the DansDeals Forums, turned 11 last week. It’s invaluable for tips on travel, miles, and deals, but the best part has been the real life friendships created.
There’s an entire board dedicated to facilitating meetups between members.
I’ve even gone on trips with friends made through DDF, including some epic adventures like the United Island Hopper, the Arctic, and Antarctica.
When Delta offered a flash sale on business class suites for just 98K miles last November, I knew that I had to book something.
Currently you can earn up to 80,000 miles on 6 different Delta cards, read more here!
DDF member AJK and I talked about the sale and we wound up booking travel to Amsterdam together with our wives.
We only planned to stay 48 hours there as the shorter timeframe would maximize the odds of the trip actually happening. People often ask me “Is it worth flying somewhere if I only have x amount of time?” I always believe in going somewhere for the amount of time that you can and make the most of it. That doesn’t mean I would go to Hawaii for 5 days and try to see 3 islands, but if the only option was to spend 3 days there, I’d go and enjoy one island to its fullest. That’s why I’ve gone across the pond for 48 hours in Rome, and 46 hours in Paris.
But between my 17 month old deciding that she had no intention of weaning herself from nursing and Mrs. AJK unable to make the trip either, AJK and I decided just a week before the trip that we’d be going ourselves.
The Amsterdam Master Thread on DDF and the Rick Steves Amsterdam Guidebook were invaluable for trip planning.
I often plan trips a week before travel, but I wouldn’t advise doing that with Amsterdam as we ran into a few issues.
- The Anne Frank House releases 80% of their tickets 60 days in advance and 20% on the day of admission. They no longer sell any tickets in person.
- The Van Gogh Museum also no longer sells tickets in person and they sell out of tickets weeks in advance.
- The Rijksmuseum special “All the Rembrandts exhibition” also requires ticketing weeks in advance.
So I set off scouring the internet trying to figure out how to resolve the conundrum.
There are several museum passes to save some money in Amsterdam, but those wouldn’t help us get into sold out museums.
I found Vereniging Rembrandt, which includes admission to the Rijksmuseum (though not the special exhibitions) and the Van Gogh Museum. However it takes a week and a half to get the membership card for that.
Another option was joining the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum, though that would be pricey.
Eventually I found Tiqets and they were selling tickets to the sold out Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum with the exhibition.
Anne Frank tickets go for sale at 9am Amsterdam time, which is 3am on the East Coast. Not exactly an ideal time, but I did want to see what is was like in advance. I went on the site at 2am and was put into a digital queue that said I had no chance of clearing. By 2:30am I cleared the queue, but nothing was for sale. At 3am there was another queue with thousands of people and it said I wouldn’t clear it, but then it cleared me and allowed me to buy tickets for that day.
I figured I could probably handle buying tickets in Amsterdam on the day we wanted to go, but based on a tip from DDF I checked the alternate option to buy tickets to the museum with an introductory program. The dates we needed said sold out, but after clicking on the actual date rather than relying on the calendar it let me buy tickets anyway. I guess that means they must use the same IT staff as United does to get their calendar to show that saver award don’t exist but then they actually do exist once you actually click on a date…
The whole system seems pretty buggy, but the lesson is similar to trying to nab those saver award tickets. Check early, check often, and click on dates even if they say sold out.
Surprisingly, I couldn’t find any resale market for any of the hard to find museum tickets.
The next order of business was cancelling our wives’ tickets. First I split her ticket onto its own record locator. There was a schedule change that made the connection in Detroit go from 101 minutes to 79 minutes. When I called to try to get the redeposit fee waived based on the schedule change the agent said that a 60 minute schedule change was required in order to get the redeposit fee waived. I asked if that meant that Delta could have changed the connection to 42 minutes and still not offer to waive the fee?
She offered some longer connection options but had to get a manager when I pressed for a refund. The manager gave the approval to redeposit the miles without a fee.
AJK’s connection was cut shorter as well and had the same luck over the phone.
I noticed that we could both change our flights and have a 3 hour connection in Detroit. That would allow for delays and if things were running smoothly, allow us to go grab a bite to eat during our connection. We had no problem changing our flights over the phone thanks to the schedule change.
I signed up for a free trial of CLEAR which allowed me to skip the front of the Pre-Check line in Cleveland and Detroit and meant that I didn’t have to take out my ID. It’s a pretty sweet service as I can get through security without worrying about any lines.
I used my AMEX Business Platinum card for access to the Airspace lounge before the flight and used the free GoGo WiFi passes that the card provides on the flights.
My flight from Cleveland to Detroit was scheduled for 51 minutes and took off 25 minutes late No matter though as were only in the air for 20 minutes and landed on time.
We hopped in an Uber and stopped into Kravings for some to-go burgers for dinner on the flight and at Zeman’s Bakery next door for some pastries for breakfast in Amsterdam:
Then we went to Jerusalem Pizza for lunch. The personal pies there cost between $4-$6 and are certainly unique and worth trying!
We tried the plain pie:
But the winner of the day was the BBQ Chicken Pie. OK, that sounds pretty gross to me but AJK insisted on it. And boy was he right as it was amazing!
We also got cheese sticks that were good. It was a little annoying though that they charge extra for sauce and that we had to wait in line again to get it. Would much rather see that built into the price than the nickel and diming.
After lunch we took an Uber back to the airport and were in the lounge in just minutes thanks to Clear.
One area where Delta is really trailing their competition is their lack of a premium club for business class passengers. It really shows in Detroit where the SkyClub looks like it hasn’t been renovated since the Northwest Airlines days. Worn out furniture and non-functional outlets are the norm here. Delta markets their business class experience as DeltaOne, but this was certainly not a premium start.
With nothing worth staying for in the club, we went to the gate and as one should always do with their miles, made a left turn after boarding.
Delta’s A350 business class cabin is gorgeous:
The suites and the lighting are great, but what really gives it an open feel is the lack of overhead bins in the center section. The flipside of that is if you don’t board early, you won’t have overhead space anywhere near your seat. Late to board passengers were very upset about that.
I think I’d rather a more cluttered cabin than have to part with my carry-on bag, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on the conundrum.
I booked suite 2A, which is the bulkhead:
In general, the downside of the bulkhead is that you are closer to noise from the galley.
But on the plus side you get a much wider footwell.
The Delta A350 seat is no exception with a wide footwell on the bulkhead:
And a narrow footwell on non-bulkheads:
AJK snapping pictures of his seat, 3A:
A major con of the even-numbered suites is that they are far from the window and nearer to the aisle:
However on the plus site, they also have a ton more storage space than the odd-numbered suites:
Seat 3A, with the seat next to the window, but very little storage space:
As we were snapping pictures of the cabin, AJK directed me to look at seat 3B with his mouth agape. He discreetly took a picture:
Was that Bill Belichick? It sure looked like him, but why was he wearing a Michigan sweatshirt?
After texting some friends who said it looked like him, I gathered the courage to go up to him. Alas, when I said that my son was a fan, he only asked, “Of Michigan?”
AJK joined the conversation and while I was certain at this point that it was not Bill Belichick, he was absolutely convinced that it was Bill Belichick after he told a story of some people coming over to him at a restaurant and asking for a selfie. That made for an interesting conversation as AJK spoke as if this was Bill Belichick and I spoke as if he wasn’t. When he complimented me on being brave enough to come over to him, I was sure that it was not him, while AJK was convinced that it was.
75% of DansDeals Instagram followers voted in a story that it was the legendary coach. But he was far too friendly to be him 😀
Delta only serves champagne and Orange Juice as pre-departure drinks in business class, which I found as odd. The flight attendant told me that there was no way to get seltzer or even cold water!
I settled into the suite, which is nice and relatively private. The wall doesn’t go very high, but it still does give a nice semblance of privacy.
As usual, the Borenstein appetizer course was served frozen solid.
But I was impressed that less than 48 hour after Pesach we weren’t being served a Kosher for Passover meal!
The hot entree was a chicken curry with couscous. Having just eaten lunch recently though I just took a bite of it:
Dessert was served as its own course, but was not edible:
AJK enjoying his suite. As you can tell, the walls on the suites don’t go very high and certainly wouldn’t be confused with the new Emirates 777 suite with walls that go all the way to the top. That being said, it is very nice to just close those doors and enjoy the relative privacy on a plane:
The flight time on the Delta A350 from Detroit to Amsterdam is not ideal for sleeping. We departed Detroit at 4:19pm and I just was not tired.
Halfway through the flight it’s not even 8pm EDT. How are you supposed to sleep on the flight?
It didn’t help that Delta uses leather seats in business class, which I find to be very uncomfortable for sleeping. Delta also doesn’t provide a mattress pad as airlines like American and United do, which means you’re directly on the leather or you have to use the blanket at a mattress pad. #FirstWorldProblems of course, but a mattress pad is something that would definitely enhance the Delta business class experience.
I tossed and turned, but was not able to get any sleep and all too soon the flight attendants came through the cabin with breakfast.
The kosher meal consisted of frozen orange juice, frozen fruit, and a frozen roll:
The hot entree was a rubber egg and a a latke:
And less than 7 hours after takeoff we were in Amsterdam at 5am local time (11pm EDT). Like I said, it was just not a great flight time for sleeping and it would be enough to have me look for alternate options in the future as I was now dead tired starting off the day.
I wanted to daven and shower, so we started hunting down airport lounges before clearing customs. The KLM lounge only works for KLM arrivals, not for Delta arrivals. We went to the Yotel, which is a hotel in the terminal. The offered day rates on shower rooms for about $20, but that wouldn’t have any space to daven.
We found a Priority Pass lounge, but it turns out the lounge also charges $20 if you want to use the shower, so we davened and AJK remembered that he was hungry. We still had our burgers from Detroit and to my amazement, he went at ’em. As he pointed out, it may have been 7am in Amsterdam, but it was only 1am back on the East Coast!
We cleared customs at 7:30am and then caught an Uber to Keukenhof Gardens. Amsterdam is famous for its tulips and in the Dutch Golden Age some tulips traded hands for more than the price of a house before the market crashed.
Keukenhof is in tulip country and features simply amazing tulip gardens. It’s only open in the spring time and we had the good luck of having planned a trip to Amsterdam without even knowing that!
It’s located near the airport on the opposite side of the city, so we decided to start the day there.
Google Timeline for 4/30/19:
We arrived as they opened at 8am, which was perfect as it was before the crowds started descending on it.
You know you’re not in the USA anymore when the lockers are free!
They even fit my large carry-on bag, so we were able to stow it while we toured the grounds:
Pictures do this place no justice and nothing can describe the smell of it. But here’s a sense of how amazing this place is:
There’s even a traditional Dutch windmill that you can climb up:
Might need to go down a size there, AJK:
After walking around for an hour and a half it started getting more crowded and I was completely zonked. How tired was I? I mentioned to AJK how vivid the wooden tulips were at the gift shop as if they the real thing. It was definitely time to head to the hotel, though not before buying a bouquet of said wooded tulips in a Dutch Delft China vase for my wife. Pretty flowers that won’t die in 48 hours? Score!
We had wanted to try out both the Waldorf Astoria and the Andaz, but the Waldorf refused to move my king room booked with points to a room with 2 beds. They said that they couldn’t put a rollaway bed in that room either. I asked for a Diamond upgrade, but they insisted on a significant charge for a room with 2 twins, so we cancelled that reservation.
In the end I used 25K points per night for 2 nights at the Andaz. The base room there also only had one bed available, so I used one of my Globalist confirmed suite upgrades as the suites can accommodate a rollaway bed.
I called the Andaz at 9:40am and asked when our room would be ready. They said it was already good to go, so we hopped in an Uber and went to checkin.
They were having problems setting up the room keys when we checked in, so we waited around for a bit for that to get resolved and then went up to our room.
We asked about the rollaway bed and they said it was already in the room. It wasn’t, so we called to let them know about that.
There is a free minibar with some drinks and a Nespresso in the room:
Andaz suite bedroom:
Andaz suite bathroom:
Dutch Delft china sinks:
The shower doors are mirrored from the outside:
But when inside you are able to see out:
There’s even a TV in the bathroom:
The bathroom has wallpaper with interesting facts and the history of Amsterdam:
After an invigorating shower and charging up our electronics it was time to hit the streets.
View from the Andaz elevator:
The Andaz is located on the Prinsengracht, one of Amsterdam’s picturesque canals:
Perhaps the biggest annoyance in Amsterdam is that good kosher food is so far out of the central part of the city and off the public transportation grid. We hopped in a 20 minute Uber ride to go to Pizza & Co in the main Jewish community in the south.
Google says they open at 9am, but they actually open at noon:
We got there at 11:45am as they were opening their doors, so that worked out well.
An overly sweet drink at Pizza & Co:
We were excited about the pizza here, which some people had said was some of the best pizza they’ve ever had.
I mean, it was edible and certainly did the trick, but I wouldn’t say this is very good pizza:
The highlight was probably the fries:
After lunch we hopped in a Uber to go to the Van Gogh museum. We arrived there at 12:30pm and had 12:45pm entry tickets, so we were placed into a queue and were able to enter at 12:40pm.
I’m not a a big museum person, but in a city famous for its world-class museums and master artists, this is the place to start.
We started off with a exhibit of David Hockney’s works and how he was inspired by Van Gogh.
We rented an audioguide and it was invaluable for providing Van Gogh’s life story and the meaning behind each painting. His style is so unique that you can’t help but be drawn into it:
The museum doesn’t only have Van Gogh’s works, it even has his supplies on display:
You can use the audioguide to hear more about any painting if you have the time, or you can opt for the highlights tour which does a great job of showing you the pieces you can’t miss and the fascinating background behind each one:
Van Gogh’s The Bedroom is one of my favorites.
It’s also interesting to see Van Gogh painted by his roomate compared to his self-portraits:
Van Gogh’s Almond Blossom:
Van Gogh’s final painting was unfinished and was actually displayed upside-down in the museum for years until experts corrected it:
Van Gogh Museum:
We spent 2.5 hours in the Van Gogh Museum before walking to the Rijksmuseum:
Alas, the Rijksmuseum was only offering audioguides to people that had reserved them in advance. They did have an app, but that’s a lot more difficult than using an audioguide with headphones.
There was a long line to enter the All the Rembrandts exhibition. It’s entirely possible that we fell asleep standing in line.
Rembrandt self portrait:
Rembrandt’s “The Jewish Bride”
Rembrandt’s Daniel in the Lions’ Den:
Rembrandt’s Night Watch alone is worth the price of admission:
There’s even an aviation wing in the Rijksmuseum:
We spent an hour and 40 minutes in the Rijksmuseum and then walked to the Heineken Experience. We got there at 4:55pm, though we had 5:15pm entry tickets, so we found some seats nearby to rest our weary feet.
It was pretty amazing to see the rush hour traffic whiz by…on their bikes. Men and women in formal business attire all commute via bicycle. And not one would be caught dead wearing a helmet. Literally, despite seeing thousands of bikers from young to old, we didn’t see a single one wearing a helmet.
Even packages get delivered via bicycle:
At 5:15pm we entered the Heineken Experience, located in the former Heineken brewery before they outgrew it:
Most of the Experience consists of viewing Heineken ads and waiting in slow moving lines:
After walking past rooms and rooms full of ads they talk about how they make beer, which is a standard part of any beer factory tour:
You walk through the old brewery:
And are taught how to pour the perfect beer before getting your first taste:
There are lots of opportunities to buy things, like personalized beer bottles:
Then there are several rooms full of games that you can play:
And then you are given 2 full glasses of beer:
Before you enter the gift shop and have more opportunities to be parted from your cash:
Overall I felt like the Heineken Experience was not worth the time and expense unless you have time to kill. It costs $20 and is pretty much 90 minutes of waiting in lines to play a couple games and drink a couple beers. I’ve had a better time on free beer tours like Sam Adams in Boston.
At 7pm we hopped in an Uber back down south to go to H’Baron Restaurant.
We started with some bread:
And then had some vegetable egg rolls that were decent, though nothing special.
And then we waited, waited, and waited some more. Service here is at a very relaxed pace. And we were very tired.
How tired? Someone sitting across from me may have happened to doze off and start snoring at the table 😀
An hour after the egg rolls came our mains. We split a burger, which neither of us cared for very much:
But the ribeye steak made it all worthwhile. It was sliced right at the table and it was simply excellent! Perfectly cooked and with a great crust, we enjoyed every bite:
AJK devoured this delicious creme brulee in about 7.5 seconds:
While I relished this absolutely phenomenal lemon meringue pie:
Dinner took more than 2 hours and there were some hits and misses, but overall we were very satisfied. We walked to Jumbo, a nearby supermarket for some yogurts and then took an Uber back to the Andaz. We were so tired that within mere seconds AJK fell and stayed asleep for the night in his clothes and with only one leg on his bed!
As a Hyatt Globalist I emailed the hotel asking if I could get a kosher breakfast instead of the Globalist free breakfast and was told they would be happy to do that.
They brought a nice spread to the room in the morning.
Alas, it had a sticker that it was cholov stam:
But the rolls, jam, and the wedge of cheese that was actually cholov yisroel were great to have:
I also had Shefa yogurts that I bought the night before from Jumbo. They are from Antwerp and they are amazing! Easily the best yogurt I’ve ever tried.
I would have liked trying out the local kosher bakeries for breakfast, but they are just too far out of town to get to.
Google Timeline for 5/1/19:
We had 9:30am tickets at the Anne Frank House, which is also located on Prinsengracht. We left the Andaz at 9:15 and walked down the canal:
We started with the intro tour, which gives some background into Anne Frank’s story and the house that she hid in:
On the left is Anne’s father Otto, serving in the German Army in World War 1. On the bottom is the birth of Anne:
You can view pictures of Anne in school:
And pictures of Anne and her sister and family:
Anne was far from unique. Thousands of Jews in Amsterdam went into hiding during World War 2.
It was her diary that propelled her to be a symbol of hope against evil. There are many version of her diary in dozens of languages, though a new complete edition of both versions of her diary is being released in a few weeks.
After the 30 minute introductory session we went to go into the house and were given an audioguide.
If you have read the diary, then walking through the home will be meaningful as you walk through the rooms described during the years of hiding.
The tour starts on the first floor, which was the warehouse of Otto Frank’s company, Opekta.
For hundreds of years, Jews flocked to the Netherlands to live in peace without being relegated to a ghetto. But there is no country where a higher percentage of Jews were murdered than in the Netherlands.
The Nazis drafted the Dutch and many were all too happy to roundup and hand over Jews. But then again many citizens helped hide Jews during the war.
Why were over 100,000 Dutch Jews murdered during the war?
Many of the locals and the Dutch police were complicit with the Nazis, but another reason was the precise records kept by the Dutch. The Nazis knew exactly where the Jews lived:
A coded postcard from the Franks to relatives in Basel, likely hinting that there were going into hiding.
The original bookshelf that hid the secret annex, where the Franks would hide for more than 2 years:
Anne’s older sister shared this room with her parents:
The original marks on the wall tracking Anne’s and Margot’s height can still be seen:
Anne shared a room with Dr. Pfeffer:
The original postcards that Anne describes in her diary can still be seen on her walls:
The entire tour through the house is in one direction, so the attic where Peter van Pels lived is closed off as it only has one access staircase. A mirror lets you see into the room and at their only source of natural light:
The Franks were discovered in August 1944 and this manifest shows their names on the final train from Amsterdam to Nazi Camps.
The righteous gentiles who helped keep the Franks hidden and alive:
After the war, Otto Frank returned to find out that everyone else in the house had been murdered during the war. He didn’t want the house furnished again, but he created a model of the house as they knew it:
The experience is moving, thought-provoking, and gut-wrenching. With heavy hearts we headed back out into the streets at about noon. A pall of shame seemed to loom over the city, at least in our eyes.
We walked to Dam Square and hopped on a tram to Machane Yehuda restaurant in Chabad of Amsterdam. We bought an all day public transportation pass aboard the tram.
After a few stops the tram’s driver made an announcement in Dutch. The passenger next to me asked if I understood the message and proceeded to tell me that there was a truck blocking the way and that there would be a delay of several minutes. She asked where we were going and told us how long it would take to walk versus waiting it out.
I just tried to imagine that happening in another city but couldn’t. Everyone we encountered in Amsterdam was beyond friendly.
Chabad is located in the Albert Cuyp market, where you can buy souvenirs and if you keep kosher, only dream of eating the heavenly smelling freshly baked stroopwaffles.
Chabad of Amsterdam:
The restaurant and a small grocery is in the basement:
As we walked into the restaurant I noticed some items for sale, including kosher stroopwaffles. They’re great!
We started with Pita and dips:
The menu was quite limited as it was just a couple days after Pesach. The only options were Pargiot with potatoes:
And meatballs with mashed potatoes:
The food is certainly more heimish than fancy, but it was located close to town and it sure did the trick.
We ran out to catch a tram to the Portuguese Synagogue, but it wound up departing 2 minutes early, so we went to catch a subway to another tram. Google Maps was invaluable in calculating the best routes.
Like the rest of the city, the subway is just shockingly clean. I was looking at a route map while connecting to another tram and once again, a local came over to help me understand which lines would work.
It’s worth taking the public transportation to encounter so many nice people, but the Uber rides had their own excitement as well.
One driver shared his story of how his family got fake passports in Africa and tried using them to get to New Jersey. His father successfully got to New Jersey, but he and his sister and mother were busted in Amsterdam. They were sent to a room for hours, where eventually they ran out of the airport. They lived without papers for a decade and now they’re Dutch citizens.
Who knows about the veracity of that, but it was certainly entertaining.
We got to the Portuguese Synagogue at about 2pm and got an audioguide to tour the grounds. The audioguide here mostly talked about Jewish rituals and wasn’t all that useful, though some part about the unique customs of the community were interesting.
While Jews flocked from Spain and Portugal to Amsterdam due to the Inquisition, the Synagogue became known as Portuguese due to the hostilities between Spain and the Netherlands.
Amazingly, the Portuguese Synagogue survived World War 2 intact:
The shul is known as the Esnoga, from the Ladino word for synagogue.
It’s stunning inside, but in a far simpler way than the Great Synagogue of Rome that I wrote about here.
There is no light, heat, or air conditioning inside the 17th century structure.
As you walk around the Shul the audioguide shares some interesting and some not that interesting information.
The women’s section is upstairs:
Artifacts were hidden from the Nazis in the walls:
You can walk around the grounds to see the mikvah and other parts of the complex:
If you’re in Amsterdam for Shabbos, the Portuguese Synagogue makes for a unique place to daven and you can eat meals at Chabad, which is 1.2 miles away within the eruv.
- The Waldorf Astoria is 0.4 miles from the Portuguese Synagogue and 0.9 miles from Chabad, and is within the eruv.
- The Andaz is 1.1 miles from the Portuguese Synagogue and 1.2 miles from Chabad, and is within the eruv.
- The Marriott is 1.3 miles from the Portuguese Synagogue and 0.9 miles from Chabad, and is within the eruv.
- The Hyatt Regency is 0.6 miles from the Portuguese Synagogue and 1 mile from Chabad, but note that it is not within the eruv.
- The Intercontinental is 0.7 miles from the Portuguese Synagogue and 0.7 miles from Chabad, but note that it is not within the eruv.
After 45 minutes we went next door to the Jewish History Museum, which is included in the same ticket:
The lower level has artifacts from the Dutch Golden Age:
Some of it was rather shocking to see in person:
While the upper level explores the history of Jews in the Netherlands:
The museum is housed in the old Ashkenazi Great Synagogue:
After walking around for half an hour we hopped in an Uber to go for an Amsterdam City Segway Tour.
Segways are such a fun way to see a city. I took one in Paris a few years ago and loved, so I figured I’d see how it was in Amsterdam.
It turned out that we were the only people on the tour. The guide asked us if we had been on Segways before and we answered that we had been, so he took off the speed limiter that is often used on Segway tours so that we could cruise at maximum velocity.
The guide wasn’t kidding, he took off and zoomed ahead at full speed.
Amsterdam is a city jammed full of bikers, pedestrians, and cars, so Segwaying at full speed was a bit nerve-wracking at first as I got my bearings and made sure not to plow into anyone or into any canals!
But soon enough I got more comfortable and it was really amazing fun.
We toured through the city at high speeds, stopping to learn about interesting houses and buildings, like this mansion built by 2 brothers:
And Rembrandt’s house and his rise to riches and poverty due to his free-spending ways:
Or to learn more about a bar on the locks that will take you for a ride when it rises and is lowered:
Taking a photo break on Amsterdam’s famed Skinny Bridge:
The Amsterdam National Maritime Museum was one place that we didn’t have time for, but when I return with my kids one day it will definitely be on the list:
The replica of the Amsterdam, that sailed for the Dutch East India Company between the Netherlands and the East Indies, is part of the Maritime Museum:
We covered an impressive distance across town on the Segway and the best part was how much our guide was clearly having an amazing time as well.
We covered over 7 miles on our Segways and rode for 40 minutes longer than scheduled. Our guide was super friendly and everyone we encountered while riding was friendly as well. Amsterdam is one happy city!
Our guide was so great I’ll leave his website here in case you’re looking for a guide in the Netherlands.
Included with our Van Gogh ticket was a boat canal tour from Centraal Station, so we walked over there next. We waited about half an hour in line for the tour.
Outdoor seats are quire limited, so we sat inside rather than wait any longer for another boat. The windows open, which allowed for some fresh air. But boy was this touristy:
Passing by the Amsterdam replica ship again:
The cruise covers several of the city’s canals:
The tour lasted an hour. It’s certainly better than the lame boat tour I took in Paris as the sites are viewable from the boat in Amsterdam as opposed to Paris. That being said, I don’t think it’s a must do, though it probably would have been much better on a smaller, less commercial and more expensive boat tour.
JJ went to Amsterdam 7 years ago and wrote in his trip report that the most fun he had on his trip was renting a paddle boat and driving around the canals for a couple hours. He also noted how friendly the locals were. We didn’t have time for that, so it’ll have to wait until I return with my family one day.
We caught an Uber back to H’Baron at 8pm for dinner. Last seating there is at 9pm.
A different bread was offered tonight:
We started with a soup and a couple of appetizers that once again, were not great. The soup was far too salty and the other dishes were pretty bland:
But saving the day once again was their extraordinary Ribeye:
We even used the bread to make sandwiches with the leftover ribeye to bring on the plane. They gave us foil to double wrap them so they could be heated on the plane:
Not taking any chances, we had the lemon meringue pie again and it was still heavenly:
Once again, we went to the Jumbo supermarket for some more yogurt and I also bought a bunch of boxes of stroopwaffles for friends and family back home. They all loved them as well!
The Royal Palace in Dam Square:
The canals at night:
Back at the Andaz:
The next morning we had an early breakfast. The Shefa Tropical and the Apple-Kiwi yogurts we bought from Jumbo were just amazing. Wish they sold them in the US!
We didn’t get a canal view from our room, instead we had a view of this rooftop. I bet they weren’t happy when the Andaz opened!
Google Timeline for 5/2/19:
We took an Uber from the hotel at 7:30am for our 9:20am flight. It only took 19 minutes to get to the airport.
The Rijksmuseum has a free exhibition and gift shop in the airport that I walked through:
The KLM Crown Lounge is nearby and I went up to the 3rd floor. They give out these houses filled with Dutch gin to their business class passengers and they are on display in the lounge:
That reminded me that JJ had said we needed to try the Dutch gin while there. Forgot to do that and they had none on tap in the lounge. But it’s always good to have a reason to return to a fun city.
On the 3rd floor is an outside deck where you can relax while plane-watching:
Soon enough it was time to head to the gate and board the flight back to Detroit.
Most of the cabin had already boarded and so my bag had to be stowed in the back of the other side of the cabin due to Delta’s very limited overhead space in business class.
This time I was on the right side of the plane in seat 2D. 2A has a snack basket perched next to it for the cabin, so 2D is probably the best seat on the plane.
I was hoping to catch some views of the tulips as DDF member boruch had recommended in the Spring, but it was too cloudy to see anything.
The meal was catered by Stogel out of Antwerp. The last time I had a Stogel meal was on USAirways and it was something I wouldn’t feed to an animal:
Delta also uses Stogel meals, but luckily they spring for the regular frozen version instead of the shelf stable meal. I wouldn’t call it good, but it was nearly as edible as the Borenstein meal from the US, which is a fairly low bar:
The hot entree was soggy shnitzel:
I asked the flight attendant if they could warm up my double wrapped steak sandwich, but was told that was against their regulations. Oh well.
While I was farther away from the window in my even numbered seat, I did like all of the extra storage provided, such as this space for my laptop bag:
And this cubby for other junk. The odd numbered seats may be closer to the window, but they have no storage.
I noticed there was an empty seat in business class, so I took the extra blanket and pillow back to my seat. Using one blanket as a mattress pad and with a much needed 2nd pillow, I slept straight through most of the flight home. This is another area where Delta is sorely lacking.
The DeltaOne suite with doors is very nice, but it could sure use more of the amenities that United provides in Polaris business class upon request, like a mattress pad, a gel pillow, slippers, and more. The lack of a premium lounge for premium cabins passengers that American and United offer is another glaring omission by Delta. As is the lack of choices for the pre-departure beverage.
Flight attendants on both airlines are typically mediocre and this was no exception. But that’s OK, I don’t expect Japanese service from a US airline. But Delta needs to polish up the rest of their act to match the expectations set by a business class suite with doors as the seat by itself is not enough to differentiate it. It certainly has the potential to be great, but it just isn’t close to that as it is now.
Before arrival there was a snack, with no hot entree. At first the salmon was pretty good, though a few bites in I got the fishiest tasting bite of salmon that I ever had and I was done with that.
We landed 70 minutes early and I got through customs with Global Entry and no checked luggage in just a couple of minutes.
I noticed that there was an earlier flight I could catch, so I asked the agent at the luggage recheck desk about moving to it. She said there was one first class seat available, but that the change fee would be $75.
I mentioned that United waives the change fee for going standby while in a connection city, but she just shrugged. I figured I might as well use $75 of the airline fee credit I had available on my AMEX Business Platinum card. I’ve been meaning to change my airline from AA to Delta after AA gift cards stopped working for the annual credit, so I called to switch the airline. As I was on hold the Delta agent said she was afriad that I’d miss the earlier flight, so she said that she would make the change free of charge.
Alas, the earlier flight wound up being delayed, but I still arrived home in Cleveland an hour before my originally scheduled flight.
It was a wonderful trip, though it would have been nice to have a 3rd day to do things at a slightly slower space and fit in a couple more activities. But there’s no shame in taking what you can get and having something new worth returning for. Any more time than 3 days would likely be overkill, but would make for a good opportunity to explore the Dutch countryside or even take a train to Antwerp.
Amsterdam may not be quite as picturesque as Venice, have food as good as Paris, or have the history and pizza or pasta of Rome, but it certainly holds its own thanks to the plethora of things to do and the friendly locals. I never once had any problems walking around with my Yarmulka and Tzitzis out, which is more than can be said for some European cities.
Have you been to Amsterdam? Share your thoughts in the comments!
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75 Comments On "Trip Notes: Flying Delta’s New A350 Suites To Spend 48 Hours Exploring Amsterdam’s Museums, Kosher Restaurants, And More"
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For van Gogh aficionados and nature lovers, there’s also the Kröller-Müller Museum on the grounds of the Hoge Veluwe National Park, both are amazing to visit.
Thanks, will have to check it out next time 🙂
Lol that’s not belichick
exceptional trip report as usual.You really give people a feel for the place.
it must take a lot of time and effort to put the report together
You also somehow always work out getting fees waived
for someone going to europe for the first time for a week what 2 cities would you recommend for 2 adults no children
Key to getting fees waived is to be polite and kind, but also being persistent.
What sort of interests do you have?
I suppose there are also times that you don’t get the fees etc waived… But why write about those?
your right it should really depend on the persons preferences
no interest in food
museums less so
anne frank house would have been up my alley
thinking of london but can’t decide on the second city
Scenery is not London. why not Zurich/Prague/Vienna?
Belechik has attached lobes, the guy in ur photo has free lobes.
Many people are not even aware that this difference exists by people. Look around and you will be surprised by how many people have attached lobes.
You got me at the Shefa yogurts from Antwerp, you gotta try the dairy products from Antwerp probably the best in the world!!!
Better than Cheskie’s in Montreal?
If we had a 3rd day, we probably would have made the trek to Antwerp. Anything else interesting there besides the dairy goods?
Kleinblatt, the world’s best kosher patisserie
You really did a lot in a short period of time. AMS is a great city!
Gotta take advantage when you just have 2 days!
Though if this were a couples trip it would have been less aggressive.
Keukenhof is indeed a spectacular place. There are blogs that give daily updates about the growth of the flowers, etc. Definitely worth planning a trip during the weeks its open.
There are also some pretty interesting outdoor markets – if you have time to just stroll around the city.
I guess you didn’t make it to the red light district 😉
Would absolutely recommend trying to plan a trip when Keukenhof is open, but I’d still go even if it was not open.
Which outdoor markets are you referring to? Wasn’t terribly impressed with the Albert Cuyp market. Didn’t make it to the flower market.
Best place to smoke a joint?
Thanks for sharing. Your pictures are stunning!!
I just wanted to mention that the falafel pizza in Detroit has been my fave since I’m a kid. Have you ever tried it?
Shame I didn’t know. I’m a big fan of good felafel pizza.
Next time 🙂
Lovely… But still drooling for the Antarctica wrapup!
Thank you for sharing. Love your trip reports. WAA was truly amazing hotel, whole heartedly recommend it next time your in town.
They were so stubborn about charging to confirm the twin room even though I’m a diamond.
Was pretty off-putting to be honest.
Had a similar experience when I first checked in. That they wouldn’t honor an upgrade… I was polite and persistent and they ended up upgrading us. Rest of the stay was flawless. And it’s a beautiful historic property.
Odds are I could have pulled it off in person. Or if I emailed the GM.
But that’s why I’m such a big fan of Hyatt. No muss no fuss and I’m in a confirmed suite on a points stay and with kosher breakfast delivered to the room. No need to grovel or beg.
Thanks for the report. I will also love some Jewish info, like where are the shuls with active minyons and any interesting rabbonim or shiurim in the city. After all the food doesn’t seem like much to write home about 🙂
The active Jewish community is in the south where the restaurants are.
I included Shabbos suggestions in the post.
I think H’Baron was very good, all things considered.
Thanks for a beautiful report!
Totally agree on the Shefa yoghurt as an Antwerp girl!!
Imagine living in NY for years already and not being able to enjoy any of the yoghurt choices here…
Time to start an importing business 😀
Or any amazing, real baked goods/pastries
If you ever have time check out the diamond museum next to the Portuguese shul. I think it’s free and you see how these diamonds are literally crafted in front of your eyes. It’s not in a gated area so as you go room to room you are literally stepping into their workplace. It’s amazing how they let you get do close to very very valuable merchandise….. Haven’t been there in 10+ years but I wonder if it’s still around.
Dan, how were you able to apply a Globalist Suite Upgrade to a points stay?
That has been allowed since they invented the stupid Globalist name.
how were you able to cancel your wifes ticket without paying 150 dollars to redeposit the miles, or did you pay the 150 fee?
I didn’t pay. I wrote how in the post.
whops i should have read it more carefully
How do you split a ticket on to its own Record Locator?
Just call and ask.
I know it is not what you did here, but is there anything to do to change a round trip to two separate one-ways? I’m asking specifically for United but am also curious in general.
Glad you missed the Rembrandt House, the crowds are big enough already (at least in summer).
Awesome TR. I’m from Spanish Portuguese descent. My father grew up in Amsterdam, and my grandmother still lives there. I often visit, and was impressed that everything you felt about the city and your different ratings of the activities were so on target!
It hit me though, that I would definitely have asked a stewardess about “Bill” to confirm if the person seated there was indeed named “Bellichik”
My guess is they won’t tell you who another passenger is.
If you don’t have a problem with cholov stam you can usually ask for the regular breakfast which IIRC is a chobani yogurt and minute maid orange juice and a danish
It’s not the good ‘ole USA. None of said products would carry a hashgoch, no o-u or the like.
IME for flights out of the US it generally is American chobani especially on Delta
While the Regency is closer to Portuguese, it is out of the eruv. We actually switched from Regency to Andaz Friday morning as Andaz is in the eruv. It is about a 25 minute walk away from Portuguese and is doable. Both hotels are nice. The Regency feels like a boutique hotel and is brand new. Simple but nice (feel more like a Hyatt centric than a classic Regency).
Thanks. I’ve updated the Shabbos section.
The Chicken Curry seems to be the meal for the last year on Delta from JFK. I’m not a curry fan, but it actually is decent. Borenstein meals for the most part I find to be decent. Not sure why there is no variety though. Was a beef dish for like 1.5 years and now seems to be Chicken Curry for the last year.
Stogel meals are vile. The entire dish isn’t edible, but the Schnitzel (also ALWAYS the main course) it decent enough. The Salmon (snack entree) is always fishy and gross. Delta seems to use Stogel from all European cities. Including London where the much better Hermolis is available….not sure why they don’t use Hermolis there like the Virgin flights do
I’d imagine Stogel is a lot cheaper than Hermolis.
On KLM ex- AMS we got a local Amsterdam meal. Food was good. The pre-arrival snack was a warmed Falafel. Better than the usual try of catfood (this was in Y)
What was the hechser on it?
Someone told me the KLM meals are Ralbag/Triangle K.
Mine were Rabanut of Amsterdam (same as all the restaurants) ex AMS, and under a Brooklyn/Heimeshe hechser ex JFK. Could be they changed (I traveled a year ago).
Everything looked fine to me.
FYI. Pizza and Co doesn’t have a hechsher.
According to Chabad (and my personal recollection) they are under the regular Amsterdam hechsher.
They had the same AMS teudah as everywhere else.
Crazy how you packed into 2 days what took me almost a week to do (plus Keukenhof). Price of travelling with a baby, I guess.
True story. Can do a whole lot with just 2 guys.
I went to Amsterdam in May 2018 with my daughter. I will NOT return there. It is VERY DANGEROUS to walk the streets. Why?, the bicycles are silent killers. They sneak up on you in the narrow streets and will run you over. In Amsterdam all bike riders have the right of way. Years ago it was charming, now walking is a dangerous activity.
Thank you Dan, for such a beautiful trip report about my home town. Did you have some herring while there? Best Herring in the world!
Your DDF posts were a help as well!
Did not have herring, though I’m not a big fish fan.
we were just in AMS and did the anne frank house too. were able to score day of tickets so we got very lucky. i thought photography was not allowed throughout the museum?
It is. Maybe the Dutch didn’t want to enforce it on someone dressed as a clearly religious Jew?
I was amazed that you were able to take pics in the museums. For years, Amsterdam’s museums had a strict no photography policy. This was true even 2 years ago. The House of Bols is an interesting experience. It costs $18 US and includes a specialty cocktail. Probably nicer for your wives. Skip Antwerp and go to Brugge. Way more to see than Antwerp. But all trains pass thru Antwerp to everywhere else in Belgium, so you can still get yoghurt.
Can you please elaborate on this sentence regarding the fish tasting fishy.
“At first the salmon was pretty good, though a few bites in I got the fishiest tasting bite of salmon that I ever had and I was done with that”
just curious why you didn’t try either Carmel, or if you wanted the best interesting deli – Sal Meyer… both are much closer.
Thank you Dan – this was an AMAZING write up. Now I want to vacation in Amsterdam! Seems like you planned everything perfectly – perfection is hard to come by, we know – some of the greatest planning still doesn’t cut it 100% – but it seems you definitely had the time of your life! Again – thank you!
And we did!
Great write up, Dan. I went to Amsterdam earlier this year and relied on much of the info in the DD forums for planning help. I did a few things differently than Dan so thought I might post here to give a different perspective.
1) Rather than flying first or business, we flew Norwegian for $320 per ticket. No bag, no lousy meal, no pre-selected seat. Great new planes and great service for those looking for a bargain fare.
2) We went in January. Sure its cold and shorter days, but on the plus side there were no crowds at the tourist attractions. Was able to get Anne Frank tix only a few days before. Didn’t book anything else in advance and had no lines to get in.
3) I had originally booked the Marriott. My rate included EUR 30 per person for breakfast. When I requested Kosher breakfast they said they would be able to accommodate for an additional EUR 25 per person per day. That would mean I’d be spending EUR 55 per person for the breakfast in Dan’s picture. That did not seem like a good deal at all so decided not to stay there.
4) Since we were there over shabbos, we stayed at the Holiday Inn in the frum neighborhood for the whole stay. It was EUR 120 per night (less than half the price of the Marriott and similar hotels in town). It is clean and comfortable for a short stay. They have a kosher breakfast (included) and it is down the block from the subway and tram stop. We bought a 3 day unlimited metro card and basically used public transit to go everywhere. Ubers here and there only if particularly tired. But we hopped on and off buses everywhere. We downloaded the transit app or used google maps and it was all very straightforward. Frankly since the attractions in the city center are a bit spread out, it may be the same amount of time to some attractions from the HI as it is from a city center hotel.
5) Plus the HI is near the shuls and in the frum community, whose hospitality toward us was exceptionally welcoming.
6) The other plus of staying at the HI is that it is down the block from all the kosher restaurants. We actually like H.Baron a lot and also had a decent meal at Sol Meier (before going to watch an Ajax game). For lunches we stocked up in the kosher grocery. At night after a late dinner you can just walk back to the hotel and don’t need to go back to the center.
I’d definitely recommend going, even if just for 2 days.
We will be in AMS for 4 days following 4 days in Israel. What did you do for cell service? Verizon International doesn’t work there.
Also, does it make sense to buy the IAMsterdam travel pass which include entry to museums?
Verizon certainly works.
Google Fi is great for international service.
What would you say is the best way to get around in Amsterdam?
Was also wondering the same…Rental car not an option?
I am Daniel, the guide from Amsterdam. Somebody booked me on your reference. So I just came by to take a look. Beautiful and thorough review.
Thank you for your endorsement. Really appreciated!