The flight wasn't completely full, so we each took a row of seats and stretched out for the night. We were able to manage a few hours of sleep out of the 7and1/2 in the air.
Customs and baggage retrieval went smoothly and we finally were on terra firma in Amsterdam. My thoughts went back to the Russia period, when arrival at Schiphol Airport was akin to going to Legoland. It didn't disappoint this time either. We decided to have a coffee in the outside cafe while collecting our thoughts, disentangling from the enticing shops, and getting the train schedules straightened out.
We discovered that it was a national day of mourning for the Malaysian Airlines victims. All flags were flying at half-mast and at 4:00 all activity was to stop for a moment of silence.
Once collected, we bought a new SIM card and a short-term plan for Willem's phone so that we could use it in Europe without paying a fortune for service; and the tickets that are good on all public transportation. The tickets are like debit cards (similar to the DC metro), and you can use them on buses, water taxis, trams, subways, and trains (except the bullet train).
We took the train from the airport directly to Rotterdam Central Station, then from Central Station we took a tram that stopped directly in front of the hotel. The hotel is the Maritime, a lovely small no-frills hotel in the same vein as the Seaman's Hotel that I stay in when visiting NYC. The main difference is that this one is right on the river. Our room is on the top (7th) floor with a huge window that looks out over the river and onto the Erasmus Bridge.
I'm afraid I haven't worked out how to incorporate photos when blogging from the iPad, so I'll have to do a separate album when we get back.
Shortly after we arrived, Willem's cousin Eleke called and invited us over. She and her husband Friedrik have a gorgeous condo 2 buildings down from the hotel, with the same views. We sat on their balcony, drank wine, snacked, and talked for a couple of hours, then went to a local bistro for mussels. The waiter told us that that day was the first day of the mussels season, so we were in luck.
After dinner we went back to Fred and El's for coffee and more wine. We talked until well past 2:00 and ended the evening with a shot of genever, Dutch gin.
Back at the hotel, we fell into bed and didn't wake up until the maid service knocked on the door around 10.