Monday, October 07, 2013

European Vacation 1 - Amsterdam

We were blessed to be able to spend nearly a month abroad in the European Union and want to share some highlights!! IF ONLY we could do this every year!

First and foremost, and as usual, we put a considerable amount of time into our preparation prior to departure, and recommend everyone traveling with a wheelchair do the same. Most of the summer was spent reading, researching, and reaching out to hotels and activity providers via email to make sure our vacation was as accessible as possible!  Finding hotels wasn't easy, and required persistence, and it helps to know exactly where you want to be and when. For the first 12 days of this 19 day excursion, we had my parents with us, so I had a buddy in planning - always a plus, thanks Mom! And to boot, Craig had a partner in access needs - my father is a "slow walker" due to MS. So as a foursome, we made a great travel team!  Can't wait to do it again!

Our itinerary was set last year, in late 2012, when United Airlines freed up its mileage plus block for September 3 to Amsterdam. From there we knew we were going to visit Belgium - where exactly and for how long was yet to be decided - and that we would end our vacation on September 19th and fly home from Paris.  SO all we had to do was fill in the blanks!

First stop: AMSTERDAM! Exciting....
In Amsterdam, it behooves one to stay near Dam Square, so that daily excursions could embark in any direction, on wheels or on tram, and not have far to go - or return.  So that's what we did. We found the Hotel Krasnapolsky to have one accessible room (which many hotels seem to have adapted - one and only one, so early booking is a must!). Despite some issues with air conditioning (who thought that would be an issue in September!), the room was awesome: roll-in shower, lots of room, comfortable bed, tiny but working elevator to the 2nd floor. In many other regards as well, this hotel was truly awesome. From the Winter Garden breakfast dining are complete with ramped entry to the free wi-fi and centralized location, Krasnapolsky is a great choice. On the high end of price, but well worth the bucks.

Our highlights in Amsterdam were many - too many to explain in at length, so we'll be brief:
  • Dine with the pleasant locals at a pub in Dam Square, an Indian Restaurant off Spui (shpoh) Street, or a red light district coffee shop and you'll find that the people are easily the nicest on the continent. Chat them up, they'll open up their world to you. Dining highlights: Cafe Ouest, Kantji and Tijger, Cafe van Kerkwijk, and De Bolhoed. 
  • Sit at any intersection in a busy part of the city and watch the bikes go by. It's truly wondrous!
  • Ask for disability discounts at museums, most of them have them. We loved the Hortus Botanic Gardens and Rijksmuseum, and skipped Anne Frank (most inaccessible). The Royal Palace was passable (rooms started looking the same after a while, but the architecture is amazing). 
  • Take a canal tour with City Canal Cruises - great lift down into the boat from the dock!
  • Worry not about the taxis! All are eager to please, and if needed, ask for a van. 
  • Worry even less about the trams! What a great way to get around, wheelchair seating is in the second half of the tram, make sure you find one with a wheelchair symbol (every, or every other one, every 10-20 minutes). 
All in all, this was Craig's favorite stop on our Euro-whirl-wind-tour. His reasons: the people- always his favorite is a friendly city!, the bikes - truly an entertaining passtime, and the Krasnapolsky! Nice work travel team!

Stay tuned for Belgium and France! 

Our highlights in photographs, as expected!

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