A fusion of food, travel and photography.

ATM Cards in Amsterdam

Twenty Years in Paris – Part II

Amsterdam is as charming and picturesque in September as it is in spring or summer. The canals and narrow houses lining them glow beautifully in the Autumn sun or after the evening lights appear, which happens as early as 5:00 p.m. in the fall season.  Regardless of the time of year Amsterdam never fails to provide its visitors with plenty of eye candy and a magical experience not soon forgotten.

A picturesque canal in Amsterdam.

This year we chose the Renaissance Hotel near Central Station due to its location and room availability for payment with Marriott Rewards points. The nicest hotel in the city is the Amstel Intercontinental, but after several stays there we have found its location, on the other side of City Centrum, to be an issue. Amsterdam is a city best seen on foot and an extra mile from the action becomes an issue for anyone with sore feet.

Dam Square in Amsterdam.

Don’t expect great food in Amsterdam unless you are a fan of pickled herring and the local fare. Most people visiting Amsterdam are not Dutch, however, so the fact that many tourists are visiting to take advantage of the local sex trade or readily available marijuana products provides multiple opportunities for mediocre food. Having experienced the scene numerous times in the past, we chose a local bar owned by a Frenchman that serves very good dishes and offers two varieties of one of our favorite meals, cheese fondue. Sitting outside along the canal was part of the magic that makes a special evening in Amsterdam

Westermarkt in Amsterdam.

For a few years now we have been hearing stories about how Europe is using credit and ATM cards with a computer chip embedded in them that allow an additional level of security for the local banks. After inserting the card, you must enters your PIN number before the transaction is processed.  Nowhere had we read that now in Amsterdam the only way of retrieving cash from a ATM is by having one of these cards. American banks have not embraced this more expensive option of offering cards with smart chips so we were very much caught off guard when we discovered that as of earlier this year, Americans could not withdraw cash from an ATM in Amsterdam without one. Not knowing the current status could present a very difficult situation to anyone expecting to withdraw local currency as needed. (Updated 12/20/12: U.S. ATM cards do work is some machines in Amsterdam. If you look at the picture on the machine and it shows a small, rectangular “chip” in the center of the card, your U.S. card will not work in that machine. Look for another ATM that does not show a picture of the chip and you will be fine retrieving cash from your account.)

Canal boat tours through the waterways of Amsterdam are a must-due for any first time visitor. Much like visiting Las Vegas, once you have experienced it for the first time, repeat tours are only necessary for die hard fans. Wanting the opportunity for some photos that would be different from the throngs of tourists, we hired a private captain to take us on a unique water tour of the canals of Amsterdam. The one hour boat ride was a truly unique experience.

After running dangerously short of cash, it was time to pick up our rental car and head for Brussels. It is only a couple hour drive from Amsterdam to Brussels without stopping or experiencing traffic issues. During rush hour, traffic can easily add an hour or more to the trip, so stopping for lunch turned our trip into a half day transfer.

Brussels is the business and financial center of Belgium. Not only is it home to the EU but it has great restaurants and nightlife for a day or two’s visit. Arnold may have made the phrase “muscles from Brussels” famous, but in fact the muscles served at many Brussels restaurants are indeed famous in their own right. Cooked in beer, white wine or marinara sauce, the barnacled beauties are not to be missed on the menu.

From Brussels we took a short one and a half hour TGV train ride into the Paris Gare du Nord train station and hopped into a taxi for the 20 minute transfer to our hotel on the Champs-Elysees. Mon Cherie, our city of love and lights. Check-in, a quick stop at the corner grocery for diet Cokes, water and a bottle of champagne, and it’s almost time for what Paris does best, dinner.


8 responses

  1. Tarla McCann

    I was in Amsterdam in June and had no problems getting cash without the smart chip. Also I must add that there is so much more to Amsterdam than the sex trade and marajuana. The city is rich with history and culture and there is very nice cuisine as well. I dined at many very nice spots including Nevi which is also on the waterfront and close to Central Station. Check it out next time you’re there! Also try bitterballs as a snack alongside your ale. I was lucky to be traveling to Amsterdam and touring the city with my boyfriend who grew up there.

    November 21, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    • Hi Tarla,

      Thank you for your comments. I agree that the city has much more to offer. That’s why I have been going there for 20+ years now. It is one of the loveliest cities in the world and becomes pure magic when the lights come on at night. For several reasons, Amsterdam remains one of my top 10 favorite cities. The point I was trying to make is that the majority of tourists are not there for the sights. Every weekend, thousands of Brits (especially), Italians and other Europeans head to Amsterdam for the nightlife, like Americans go to Las Vegas. To indulge in their specialties (and I don’t mean the food).

      I’m sure having a local tour guide would make a huge difference, especially if he is your boyfriend! Was that your first visit to Amsterdam? If so, I hope you fell in love with it like we have.

      November 21, 2012 at 11:44 pm

  2. Carole

    The pictures are top drawer. Loved all of them, but the last frame is the best. Of all the philosophers I have studied, this says it all.

    November 21, 2012 at 9:53 pm

    • Thanks for your kind words Carole. That was a sign on the door of one of our favorite glass shops in Amsterdam. Couldn’t resist posting it.

      November 21, 2012 at 11:49 pm

  3. If you’re disappointed by the food and the ‘green’ tourists you should venture further than the Damrak and De Dam. That part of the city has been sacrificed in order to keep the rest special 😉
    You don’t have to go far though- in De Waag in Nieuwmarkt, the ‘Italian Quarter’ on Tweede Tuindwarsstraat, or just look at our blog 🙂

    November 22, 2012 at 6:12 am

    • Thanks for your comments Laura. I agree the further away from Dam Square the better, but even off the beaten path, most of the over one hundred restaurants we have eaten at throughout the years have been somewhere between good and OK. The service is also hit or miss. We did have one outstanding meal one year but when we went back a year or two later, the service was so bad we left halfway through our meal. My point is, go to Amsterdam for the history, architecture, canal houses and museums. Just don’t expect it to be a culinary destination like Paris, for instance.

      November 22, 2012 at 10:33 am

    • I am going to be back in Amsterdam just before Christmas and would love your recommendations for a nice restaurant. Somewhere you might go for a special occasion?

      December 4, 2012 at 1:22 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s