May 12, 2012

Best of Holland (Day 1, 12 May 2012)

I haven't slept in I don't know how many hours but here we are in Amsterdam on Trafalgar's Best of Holland programme! While Nick familiarises himself with his own product, I'm tagging along for the fun of it...ah, the perks of being married to a travel executive.

We had an uneventful plane ride, had a rather friendly guy seated next to Nick (ooh, a flying Dutchman!) who chatted with him on and off. Ordered the boy the Hindu non-veg meal and it looked pretty good compared to my rendang and rice. Dessert was a panna cotta that they used real vanilla beans for, yum! I killed time by watching 'The Vow' and 'One for the Money' but I hardly slept on the plane except for a couple of hours here and there.

Once we landed in Schiphol, we had more than an hour to kill before our transfer so we went into a couple of shops and the supermarket before having a bite at Burger King, where I had mini Dutch pancakes.

At the appointed time we proceeded to the waiting area to meet with our travel director and fellow morning arrivals, there was quite a number from Canada and as expected they were all much older than us. Our director is Ananda Hilgeman, she knows Nick is from the company so I'm sure we'll be well taken care of though he prefers to remain incognito to the rest.

The ride to our hotel, The Eden Manor Hotel took less than 30 mins and unfortunately our rooms were not ready yet. So after a short briefing and collecting a map, we headed out to take tram no.7 just around the corner to the museum district and PC Hoofstraat where the fancy shops are located.

Picked up a few items that some people had requested from Gucci and LV but was not really impressed by the range or the service. The Chanel was busy when we went in and my boy had offered to buy me sunglasses but I was too impatient and turned him down thinking I would find something else he can sponsor...DUH!

We had a lunch appointment with Tsolmon, she lives in Holland now and the plan was to have Indonesian food at Sama Sebo. It was also mine and Nick's 'I' date, 'I' for Indonesian rijstafel since the two countries have a long history and I wanted to see how authentic the flavours would be. As Tsolmon was running late, we ordered for ourselves first, getting the individual Nasi Goreng set instead of the rice table set because it would have been too much food.

The rice came loaded with a little bit of everything, from towgay to beans, a grilled banana, rendang, satay, begedel and giant keropok. It was a big portion and we struggled to finish but it was quite tasty. The sayur lodeh we ordered was more like a soup than a lemak gravy though.

Tsolmon arrived midway and had the same thing as us. She brought little gifts for the kids and I had some for Alistair and Maxim too, along with bags she requested from Charles & Keith, and chicken rice chili she had been craving. After lunch, we went to a couple more shops and then settled down for a quick cup of coffee before we parted ways.

Back at the hotel, we managed to get our room, it's a cute and compact room, modern decor...very orange. Amenities are basic but can't expect too much on these tours. After freshening up, we were all set for our welcome reception to meet the rest of the group and see Amsterdam from the water.

I was introduced to Phebe, from Nick's PR agency and Zalina, a travel writer from Malaysia. Nick was hosting them as well so we had some Asian kakis to hang with.

Ananda and our driver Mark took us to the boarding point, just opposite the Rijksmuseum and there awaited our canal cruiser. There was more Indonesian food served onboard and we sat with Zalina and Phebe. It was a leisurely ride, almost 2 hours long and we got to see some interesting buildings and sights. There's some nice architecture in Amsterdam, and of course the houses along the canals are lovely and quaint too.

We saw tonnes of bicycles and passed numerous bridges and at one particular one called the Skinny Bridge, the captain/guide on the boat said it was good luck for married couples to kiss as you pass under, to ensure a long union and so of course the boy and I had to keep with tradition! We were too fast for a photo though! And so ends Day 1.

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