Visited Amsterdam

My wife, Judy, and I were in Amsterdam in April ’05 after a tulip cruise (good value) aboard the Viking Pride of Viking River Cruises (Woodland Hills, CA; 877/668-4546 or

We usually arrive a day early in Europe to get over our jet lag, and this time we spent the night before we boarded at the Victoria Hotel (Damrak 1-5, 1012 LG Amsterdam, the Netherlands; tel. +31 [0] 20 623 4255, fax 31 [0] 625 2997 or visit

The public rooms were pleasant. Our spacious room on the third floor had a sitting area with love seat and coffee table; TV with CNN and BBC, and a nice, modern bath with tub and shower. Although our room overlooked the Central Station and there was heavy bus, tram and auto traffic right outside our window, it was absolutely quiet! The price was €140 (near $181) including VAT and 5% city tax.

Because we were tired, we ate in the hotel. The meal was excellent. My wife had veal three ways: grilled, pot-roasted and in sausage. I had grilled monkfish on the bone. The price, including three glasses of wine, was a reasonable €60 ($78). We sat on the glassed-in terrace where we had a view of the crowds going into town from the train station.

Breakfast in their coffee room (I hesitate to call it a coffee shop because that has a different meaning in Amsterdam!) cost €20 per person, so we went back to the restaurant, where we got a full breakfast including ham, two kinds of cheese, juice, coffee and a large basket of bread and rolls with butter and jam for €7.50 each. We went back for the breakfast after the cruise because it was good quality and good value and nicely presented.

Key-Point Wash (49 Nieuwzijds Voorburgwhal; phone 020-624-65-14), a self-service laundry, is conveniently located across from the Ramada Hotel. For €8.50 you can leave up to six kilograms of laundry and pick it up in two hours, washed and folded. . . or you can wash and dry it yourself for €5, including soap.

Four of us ate at Oud (Old) Holland (Nieuwzijds Voorburgwal 105, Amsterdam; tel. 020-624-68-48) for €96.40 ($125). This included four dinners at €15.50, a bottle of good wine for €19.50, a large bottle of mineral water, three coffees, a cappuccino and one apple pie — good, simple Dutch food.

Restaurant Haesje Claes (Spui­straat 273-275, 1012 VR Amsterdam; tel. 020 624-99-89) is a wonderful, old Dutch restaurant. We arrived without reservations at about 7 or 7:15 p.m. and got the last table; people after us were turned away.

Rillettes for my wife and herring for me came with a large and very nice green salad with tomatoes. My rack of lamb (€20.50) was cooked pink (but not bloody) and divided into seven delectable chops. My wife’s fish of the day, Tong Schar (I don’t know how that translates, but it was a white fillet of a sole-like fish), was absolutely fresh and nicely cooked. The entrée came on a bed of vegetables accompanied by a pan of oven-browned potatoes.

With a bottle of 1999 French Bordeaux for €27 and two espressos, the total was €83.40 — not cheap but very fine. Our waitress was charming.

Our disappointment was Tempoe Doeloe (Utrechtsestraat 75, 1017 VJ Amsterdam; tel. 020-625-67-18), described by the guidebooks and our hotel as the best Indonesian rijstaffel (rice table) in Amsterdam.

Four of us arrived on time for our reservations, rang the bell and were seated. The waitress seemed also to be the maître d’. She asked if this would be a new experience and when we said, “Yes,” she suggested an appetizer and the rijstaffel.

The appetizer was a satay of beef that was wonderfully seasoned plus a large prawn (head on) — one plate for each of us. Then the warmed rijstaffel condiments arrived, three trays of six small dishes each, in ascending order of “hotness.” None was hot enough for our California tastes.

The chicken, beef, pork, vegetables and tofu were satisfactory but not outstanding. We had a large bottle of (flat) carbonated mineral water and three tap beers.

The lady came back to our table at the end of the meal, said the cash register was out of order and asked if we would like an itemized bill or just a total. Gullible me, I said a total would be all right. The total was €166.80 ($216) for four! The rice table should have been €26.50 each, and to this day I do not know how much the admittedly nice appetizer cost. We felt victimized.

We took in a fine performance of the Concertgebouw Orchestra and had dinner before the concert at Bodega Keyzer (Van Baerlestraat 96, 1071 BB Amsterdam; tel. 010-637-37-37), right next door. The food was good and we recommend it, but it is pricey. Our bill was €84.05 for two. Number 5 tram goes right there.

Alameda, CA