The day is here. Months of planning, weeks ofÂ preparation, and an entire day of packing and we are ready to head out with our bikes for a 2 1/2 week trip in The Netherlands and France.Â This first day went according to schedule. Left our car at Portland Airpark, and those guys are great.Â They stop at the trunk of our car, loaded the 2 bike cases and 2 suit cases for us, and took us right to the terminal door. The baggage handler/scanner guy seemed unfazed when I told him the two cases full of steel tubing and cables were actually bikes. Says he sees them all the time. Â The flight was a non-stop to Amsterdam, that left right on time. We were on the plane for nearly 11 hours.Â And while NW airlines is nice, I think we still prefer to fly SAS.Â Two movies, two meals, two tv shows, and two books each. Sunny and warm when we touched down early in the morning.Â We easily wheeled our four large suitcases through customs quite quickly as they didn’t feel the need to search or question us much at all. Purchased train tickets in the airport, and took the elevator downstairs which put us directly at the train stop. TrainsÂ go between Schipol airport and Centraal station every 15 minutes and its about a 20 minute ride.
The tracks in this part of the city follows a major highway, whose trafficÂ seemed a bit slow, perhaps owing to the early morning commute.Â Â I was particularly surprised by the abundance of graffiti on the cement walls along the roadway and through the industrial areas.Â Really no different than home, I think I just expected better over here.
Our hotel, the Ibus, is just a couple hundred feet away from the front doors of the Centraal train station, which made it a simple trek to get from the train, out the station down the sidewalk and into our hotel, where our 7th floor room was awaiting.Â We checked in at 7:30 am and our room was ready which was a nice surprise, as we expected we would have to wander the streets like the homeless tourists we were for several hours until they let us in.
Like most European hotels, the room was small, but it overlooked the city, the canals and Centraal stations bike parking garage, capable of holding 7,000 bikes.
After regrouping a little, we were off to scope out our futureÂ train connections, find Internet access for later, and get some breakfast.Â Honey has done considerable research on amenities throughout our trip, and she knew of a great cafe inside the station.Â So, we stopped at the Grand Cafe for breakfast.Â The decor seemed right out of Casablanca. Dark carved woods, potted palms, murals, tall ceilings, large bar.Â After convincing the waiter it would be easier for all of us if we could see an English menu, I discovered Dutch apple pannekoeken, and their penchant for very good, strong coffee.Â Â Perhaps due to its strength, its always served in a smaller cup than you see in the states, and they don’t do refills.Â We thought with a little coffee and a walk we could keep going throughout this next day, even though we had been up for something like 18 hours already.Â That didn’t work so well, and we decided maybe a 3 hour nap would be nice. After that, a walk-around in the city, and found a sidewalk cafe to eat again, back to the room til sunset then out again for some wine on a terrace overlooking a canal where we could watch the boats and the bike riders.
Back at the room I began the process of re-assembling the bikes.Â It seems to go a little faster each time yet reattaching the front wheel, the pedals, racks, handlebars, bottle racks, fine tuning brakes, wheels, chains, cyclometers, and accessories, in a cramped hotel room,Â takes about an hour for each bike.Â We stayed up as late as we could thinking this might help us sleep.