Air France makes some good coffee, and doesn't skimp on the food, which is actually not bad. Customs into the EU was fucking painless. We'll see what happens on the flipside.
Everyone on the plane was really nice, and I found that I could get along with my very rudimentary French. 'Please', 'thank you', 'I would like some coffee', and 'where can I buy cigarettes?' I've got that shit down.
I arrived at Schiphol Airport around 9AM. Schiphol is a huge mall, with parking for airplanes. But the train station is right there, and a short train ride later, I was at Amsterdam Centraal Station.
My hotel is right across the River Ij from Centraal Station [map], so after quickly getting my bearings, I walked over the bridge to Prins Hendrikkade. The hotel was actually closer than I thought, so I overshot it and walked along the Ij for about fifteen minutes, which was nice, since it was Sunday morning, and no one was out. Amsterdam was covered in thick fog, and I had it all to myself.
When I doubled back and got to the hotel, I found that they didn't have my reservation on file. Hotels.nl apparently screwed up. "Science damn tha Intarwebz!!" But no worries, the hotel had a room available, and were able to make good on the deal. I had to wait until around 1PM for them to get the room ready, though, so I left my backpack at the hotel and walked around some more. A lot of places were closed up, it being Sunday and all, but a handful of supermarkets, cafés and coffeeshops were open.
The Apple Reality Distortion Field is in full effect, by the way. My hotel is right around the corner from the Amsterdam Apple store. Not intentional. I laughed out loud when I saw it.
I stopped into a coffeeshop next to the hotel, bought a joint and some coffee, and sat down to read The System of the World. This place was too noisy, though. Bling bling hip-hop blastin' at 9AM on Sunday morning after a transatlantic flight is not good. So I left the coffeehouse and walked into the bar on the corner of Prins Hendrikkade, right next door to the Hotel. It turns out to be (or so they claim) the 'oldest bar in Amsterdam, since 1606'. Nice, quiet pub, with a couple of old dudes shootin' the shit with the barkeep. I ordered a beer and sat down in a corner to read. So far, it seems like people keep to themselves here. I guess it's the whole tolerance thing. It's nice. We should try it sometime.
At about 12.30PM, I walked down to a cheese store and bought some Camembert and a baguette. Stuffed them in my bag, and walked over to the hotel. My room was ready.
The room is awesome. It's compact, efficient, and cleanly designed. It feels more like a ship's cabin than a hotel room. The bed is comfortable, the safe is large enough for my laptop, and the internet is fast, wireless & free (as in beer). You have to put your keycard in a slot to turn on the electricity to the room, which probably saves loads on power.
As soon as I hit the room, I crashed. Big time. I slept till midnight, watched some TV, ate the baguette and cheese (I wish I could have brought my Leatherman, dammit), fell asleep again till 9AM. Lots of burning cars on Al-Jazeera, the pope spewing some christmas mass popery, but nary an infomercial in sight. CNBC Europe had a couple of decent news-documentaries on. European TV lower thirds are nice, by the way. They're cleanly designed and easy to read.
Woke up today, bought a toothbrush and toothpaste (I always forget those when I travel), and after doubling back to the hotel to brush my teeth, walked around some more. Lots of places are closed, but I'd say that about 35% of businesses are open, and there's no in-your-face christmas decorations, loud music, &c. It's nice. There are plenty of people on the street, I would gather that some areas can get hairy on busy days, especially the narrow passages and alleys between buildings. This is the touristy section of town, so it's full of headshops, cheap coffeehouses, and souvenir shops. Not a lot of outdoor cafés, since it's the dead of winter, but the weather's nice enough for it. Bought a coffee and chilled out on Dam Square for a bit, listening to a busker play guitar.
Now I'm going to figure out the schedule for the rest of the week, and then find me somewhere to eat. To my surprise, Bodies: The Exhibition is in town, and I'm really close to the Netherlands Maritime Museum, (which features a replica VOC East Indiaman), and the temporary home of the Stedlijk Museum.