Archive for November, 2010

Amsterdam:The Dutch Bought Manhattan For $24 But What Does $24 (or less!) Get You in The Netherlands?

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

Four hundred years ago Henry Hudson and the Dutch ship Half Moon sailed past Manhattan in search of a shortcut to the Far East. In 1626 Peter Minuit, the Dutch Governor of Nieuw Amsterdam, bought the island from the Indians in Manhattan’s  Inwood Hill Park for $24 dollars in beads and trinkets.  The Flying Manatee recently visited Amsterdam in search of things to do for $24 or less.

Amsterdam is perhaps the most easily wandered city in Europe, on foot, by boat, trolley, train or bicycle, with much to see at every turn. Most everyone speaks English and is glad to help with directions. Go off on your own or join a free, three-hour guided tour. (

It’s easy to follow the history of the beautiful, gabled homes that line the waterways if you carry the “Amsterdam Canal Guidebook” while you stroll. Go by the Tower of Tears, where women once bid farewell to the sailors who left in search of riches. Henry Hudson and the crew of the Half Moon departed from here, and a plaque commemorates the date.

The Monday Fabric Market, the Noordermarkt,  in the Jordaan section of Amsterdam is Filene’s Basement in an open stall. Designer clothes, fabric, buttons, shoes and everything a stylish European woman would wear, at bargain-basement prices. Haggle with the vendors and you’ll walk away with a deal.

Take a brief respite with a stop in Cafe het Papeneiland, a bar dating back to  the 1800’s, where grilled cheese sandwiches and small plates of steak tartar, cheese and liverwurst go down easily with a cold beer. Lunch costs around 12 Euros ($15.75) a person.

Street food in Amsterdam is plentiful, inexpensive and a nourishing alternative to a sit-down restaurant. Treat yourself to fresh herring served up by a street vendor on Albert Cuyp straat, who will slice it onto a paper plate, along with sweet pickles and fresh bread for three 3 euros. ($4)

Satisfy your sweet tooth with tiny pancakes fresh from the pan, with butter melting under a thin layer of jam or powdered sugar. (2 euros ($2.65) for 10 pancakes) Wash them down with a pineapple-blueberry or strawberry-guava drink. (1.50 euros or $2.00)

Don’t forget a stop at Febo, the Dutch equivalent to New York’s old Horn and Hardat Automat.  Throw a few Euros into a wall mounted turnstile and select the fresh food you want from the glass case.  Tres yummy!

You can’t visit Amsterdam without stopping at the Anne Frank House, a handful of rooms tucked behind a business where several Jewish families hid for two years during the Nazi occupation. It’s an emotional tour. Both families were captured, and only Anne Frank’s father Otto survived to share his daughter’s poignant words with the world.

Finish your trip to Amsterdam with a visit to the world’s largest flower market, where admission and the self-guided tour will set you back just five Euros ($6.50).

Board the train at Amsterdam’s Central Station by 6am to catch the train to Aalsmeer, where the  auction process brings millions of fresh-cut, top-quality tulips, roses and other blooms from a field or greenhouse in the Netherlands to a florist on Sixth Avenue in 24 hours.

Watch the bidding process as buckets of flowers ride into the cool auction room on a trolley and buyers, wearing headsets and punching their bid controls, fight furiously for quality blooms.

Grab a slice of apple pie and a coffee (4 euros or $5.25) before heading back, wishing a happy anniversary to Hudson and the Dutch East India Trading Company and thanking them for visiting New York in 1609. We’re glad to return the favor!