Archive for the ‘Netherlands’ Category

A Dutch Hotel

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

One more thing was missing from my post-series about my trip to the Netherlands: some words about the hotel I stayed at while I was there (well apart from Tulip Inn in Eindhoven). I was advised to stay at a place, not far from the location I had to visit, called Hotel Bakker. It is a quiet little hotel in Vorden, a small city in the south-east of the Netherlands.

For me it was the first time I was in a “non-commercial”, local hotel in the Netherlands, so it was an interesting experience for me. I was actually surprised, that everyone spoke well English, but then again, I was in the Netherlands… who doesn’t speak English there? 🙂 . Anyway, the place was OK for the price they charged for a room. It was not as fancy as the life-savior hotel in Eindhoven, but it was clean, it had free WiFi and it had a very friendly scenery: the rooms were all on the ground floor, with a back door to a common grassy area, there were small ponds with rocky edges all offering a relaxing and calm atmosphere to chill down a bit after a busy day working.

On top of that, I ate dinner almost every evening at the hotel. The food was… well, I think this is what fine dining in the Netherlands means: a quantity of nicely prepared meal which you can actually eat in one go 🙂 (usually it is quite hard to eat up everything when one eats normal food). The good part is: I was always a bit hungry by the time I got back to the hotel, so the quantity and the quality of the food was just perfect ;).


The Car Rental

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

After a troublesome evening, but great night at the Eindhoven Airport hotel, the next day I was ready to pick-up my car that I reserved at one of the rental companies. This time almost everything went smoothly and I was on the highway to my destination in no time.
Citroen C4
I wrote almost, because there was still an issue with the car rental: they do no accept VISA Electron cards. The truth is, I have never tried to book a car using that card, but after using it everywhere when I had to travel (in Europe and in the U.S.) it did not even cross my mind, that they may not accept it. Anyway, when I showed them a MasterCard they were more than happy (although there were no big differences, because both are debit cards and both have chips integrated…). Anyway, this was a lesson that I quickly learned and used all the time while I was in the Netherlands: they like MasterCards more than VISA Electrons, so be prepared 😉 .

Maybe a few words about the car I was driving: a Citroen C4. I must say I was a bit worried about the usability of the controls, because, we have to admit, we are talking about an artistic little French piece of equipment here… To my surprise everything was in order (just like a VW or any other car I am used to), with just a touch of French art (just enough 🙂 ). Another great surprise was the built in GPS (although it took a while until I switched it to speak in English 🙂 ) which helped a lot during my quest to find my destination among the potato fields 😛 . The car looked and felt great… until the moment people started to pass me by real easily… Yes, yes it was an economy car I know, but still… why won’t it accelerate?? Bottom line, no matter how fancy equipment it has, I would not trade my 11 year old car for it. Period.

The next most important thing with the entire rental was the invoice: I really needed the VAT number of the company I work at to be present on the invoice. This is a cumbersome operation each time we ask for invoices in work related business, but we are used to it, so I tried to explain the agent, that maybe she can put it to comments or somewhere. Maybe I was a bit pushy, maybe not, she instantly replied, that she know how to fill in an invoice… “Well,… OK…”, I thought and left her to fill out the company data. I was assured that the invoice will be ready the next day and that it will be mailed to me. Guess what, it was not e-mailed. Instead, I had to search for it using my reservation number and download it. Guess what again: the VAT number was missing 🙂 . So, as one can imagine, I have sent them a request to correct this mistake, but, you guessed, no reply since then 😉 , although “Here at Ssst we value your opinion” as the questionnaire title (which I received instantly via e-mail obviously) says…

So, the car rental started up quite well, I had some minor issues, but the end seems a bit disappointing… I never had such problems with other companies… Lessons learned:

  1. Use MasterCards in the Netherlands
  2. An economy car IS an ECONOMY car, do not expect miracles here
  3. Make sure you see the invoice filled with your own eyes if possible, otherwise there might be problems…

Update: The invoice arrived after a few days. Everything was OK. They have won back a few points… 😉 .


A Hard Trip

Saturday, February 1st, 2014

Although I like traveling, I was not really enthusiastic about having to go to the Netherlands for few days (after just a few days notice). Additionally it was not a simple destination: I had to go to a place which is not accessible using any public transportation means, and there aren’t too many hotel options to choose from. With the help of our client, the hotel part was very quickly solved and I was also permitted to rent a car in the Netherlands in order to get to the remote location. Things were looking good 🙂 .
Eindhoven Airport
After some searching, it also became obvious that the flight options from Cluj to the Netherlands are numerous and I chose the good old Wizzair flight from Cluj to Eindhoven. The flight itself was easy, because I left on Sunday evening (leaving most of my weekend untouched) and I was able to stay until Wednesday evening (leaving a lot of time to work with the customer). The only drawback was that it was scheduled to arrive a little late, which meant there were only limited car-rental companies to choose from (well, only one to be honest). I did not reserve a car ahead, because I wanted economy, but I had some problems reserving it online.

And now, the fun part (round 1): winter chose to switch up a few gears exactly on the weekend of my flight. This meant, that there were quite considerable flight delays to deal with. The one car rental company I based my trust upon, however, was open until 10 PM, so theoretically I had a 2 hour buffer for delays. In the end I had a 1 and a half hour delay in the flight (counting the quite slow response time at the airport baggage-belt), so I was well within the time limits.

The really funny part came next (round 2), as I rushed over to the car-rental company to get myself a car, and drive to the hotel (1 hour and 20 min drive) before 11PM (at the limit). Technically everything was well: the company was open, I could find them easily (great guidance at the airport) and an agent was there smiling and ready to help me… practically, I received some very disturbing news from the agent: “We have nothing…”. “What do you mean nothing?” “Well, we have no cars at all… maybe tomorrow morning?”. “Great.. :(“. Lesson learned: book ahead, do not trust the opening hours of the car-rental companies.

So: I have to get to my destination hotel in about one and a half hours, but there are no cars anywhere… not a chance… 🙁 .

The light into this dark situation actually came from the bright logo of the airport-hotel in Eindhoven: “Tulip Inn” (love them, we actually have a great one in Cluj also). I said to myself I will check them out. And so I did: I went to the reception and here I received some great news for a change: “We have room!” (and at a great price). I must say I was VERY pleased with the hotel services. The receptionist was very friendly, there was free WiFi (so I could reserve a car for the next day 😛 ) and a late-night lunch was possible at the hotel bar near the reception (I was served by the same friendly receptionist) at very reasonable price.
Tulip Inn Eindhoven

As bad as things have started out, I was able to sleep well that night, so no harm was made 🙂 . I was actually very delighted for the possibilities/services I received 😉 .


Den Haag

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

It has been a while since I have written my last post. It was a busy week, so I really did not find any time to finish my entry-series for the Netherlands. Yes, there is one more post, but this time it is not Amsterdam, it is the Dutch capital: Den Haag.

As I have already mentioned in one one of my older posts, the train ticket to Den Haag Centraal from Amsterdam Sloterdijk station was only €11.20, having bought a Dagretour(“Day-return”) ticket, meaning that we returned to the source station on the same day.

After a short travel by train (45 minutes), we arrived on a quite cloudy day to Den Haag. From there we headed to the nearest information point, which was actually almost in the city center. Actually there are very few information points, compared to Amsterdam: the first sign showing us, that this city is quite different. On the day we arrived there was a great parade for veterans, so the city was really in motion (and we could easily get information&directions from the coordinators of the parade).

Our first target in Den Haag was Madurodam, a miniature city, with most of Hollands’ famous buildings. It is a quite nice place to visit, especially if you’re with children. Nevertheless it is interesting to see as an adult also. The entry ticket is €14.50 (reduced ticket bought from the information point, one € saved 🙂 ). The mini-city is packed with tourists and children and can be very hard to follow the tour of visiting each building in order (there is a total of 198 buildings) and actually until the end of the visit I got quite bored of: got there, see, take picture, move on…

After Madurodam we went out to the sea-side, on tram No. 1 to De Pier. The beach is very nice, it was a great feeling to be on a long, sandy beach after the rocks of Liguria 🙂 … too bad it was cloudy and as we got out, it started to get even foggy. We sat down to a beach-club (open-space) enjoyed a pint of beer and happily concluded that people did not get scared of the not-so-good weather, they rather stayed and enjoyed the beach as much as they could.
Next stop, back to Den Haag city center. We visited the Dutch Parliament buildings Het Binnenhof, a lovely building from the outside, too bad we couldn’t get in… 🙁 . Anyway it was a nice place to just take a walk at. The lake near it was really beautiful.

So much for Den Haag, and our trip to the Netherlands. I can only advise everyone to visit at least once in their life these lovely places from the “lot-to-do-and-see” city, Amsterdam, to the tranquil and calm Den Haag. There are pictures of Den Haag on my Picasa account.

Amsterdam Vol. 3

Saturday, July 11th, 2009

Our 3rd day in Amsterdam was filled with plans to visit some of the more exciting places in the city. We woke up quite late (compared to how much we wanted to see), and headed out to the city center, The Dam Square. Here our first stop was Madame Tussauds, the Amsterdam version of the famous wax-museum. At the entrance we found out, that we could purchase a common ticket with The Amsterdam Dungeon for €37.50. Well, we said well’ give it a try.

At the entrance to Madame Tussauds, we met our first celebrity, with whom we could make a photo (no personal photographing was allowed in that area): the U.S. president, Barack Obama. Nice guy, taller than I thought 😛 . We then moved into an elevator, which took us up into a dark room. Here a giant figure descended, representing Holland. He presented himself as our guide and we could hear his voice (of course recorded) as we were guided through the first dark rooms of the museum, presenting the history of the Netherlands. Light turning on/off guided us through the route right to the point where we could make a choice: move on to experience the terror of pirates and some of the more scary stuff of history or just skip it (it is NOT for the timid at the heart). Well, we were brave guys… so we tried it… we came out laughing, but shaking 😀 . It is realistic: sounds, lights, smell and the addition, which is very cool. No photos were allowed in that area either, so sorry…
After the little ride in history we got up to a nice, quiet place, with an abundance of very famous persons’ wax figures. From here on it is all the excitement we had. Some of the figures were quite realistic, some… well some a bit not too good. At the exit we could buy our Obama photos I think for €8.00, but I am not sure of that.
From Madame Tussauds, it was a short walk on the Rokin street, to get to The Amsterdam Dungeon. At the entrance some strange figures awaited us, very friendly I must say. A guy was standing there for example welcoming people, asking where they were from, and even learning some words of their language.
As soon as enough people gathered (8-10), we were granted the entrance into the dungeon (No photos allowed). The whole ride is made up of a series of visits from one room to the other, each one having a theme. Along the way different actors guide you through, making the experience as realistic as possible. It was great, but for some reason, I think the Madame Tussauds adventure, we were not really scared this time 🙂 . There were two photo opportunities, (we could buy the photos at the exit): one at the entrance, and one in the mini-roller-coaster (that is quite interesting, too 🙂 ) (We payed for the 4 photos, a reduce price of €25.00).

Next stop was our visit to the Heineken Experience, which is not far away from the city center, really close actually to Museumplein. For this we have bought the tickets online for €15.00, so we could skip the line (it was actually not a long one). We were taken through the history of Heineken Breweries, and had the chance to experience first hand some of the tasks of beer brewing. We even got the chance to taste an initial juice made from squashing the grain (quite sweet). Then we went up a level, where there was a special room, to experience what it feels like to be a beer being brewed (quite funny). At the labeling section we had the chance to make our own customized label on one of the Heineken beers for €5.00 using credit cards (we could pick them up at the exit). A few rooms showing the later success story of Heineken followed including a larger room with the “Heineken Sport Experience” (I liked this). All in all it was great it was worth the money: especially because it had 3 beers included 😀 . Photos are allowed everywhere, with virtually no restrictions.

During our very busy morning and afternoon, we didn’t realize how much time has passed, and how hungry we got. We headed out for some great (not too healthy) meal… but where? Well, let’s try Hard Rock Cafe. It is a quite nice place located on the banks of one of the canals a little to the north from the Rijksmuseum. The experience was quite good, we ate a lot, we got filled up. Oh yes: our waitress was a very friendly polish girl, with whom we did chat along a bit, and found out some details about the city’s life 🙂 .
After our lunch (or already dinner I think) we went for a canal-trip on one of the long-boats of the city (€15.00) it is quite nice, although it was by far not the fun of partying people on their own boats…

So, I think this post concludes our visit to Amsterdam. A lot has been done, it was a very nice experience, and I’d recommend it to everyone, it is one of the best cities I have visited! Thanks again for our host, who let us stay in her apartment in this period 😀 . Photos here.

P.S. Red Light District? Well, don’t be so curious 😛 .