Since I spent a good 2 years as a non-stop traveler, I thought I would share things about my favorite places. We’ll see if I can keep it up. Please keep in mind that I visited most of these places pre-kids.
(My first trip to Amsterdam, February 2001)
One of my favorite places that I went to (and luckily multiple times) was Amsterdam. I know it has a reputation for drugs and the Red Light District but there’s so much more to it.
Amsterdam is 7 hours ahead of KC (cst). I flew into Amsterdam at all times and had a rule of thumb that I went by. If I arrived in the morning I would sleep until noon, get ready and be out the door by 1. If I got in around noon or later I would just stay up. It worked for me.
Where to stay:
There is this great hotel right in the middle of Amsterdam called the Kraznapolsky. Our airline stayed there until someone decided to have a pooping party (yes, I said pooping party) and we were understandably kicked out. After that, we mainly stayed at The Golden Tulip. The one we stayed at wasn’t downtown but you could take the hotel shuttle downtown or walk 10 minutes to the ferry. The ferry drops you off at the train station which is down the street from Dam Square (see Where to go section).
How to get around:
You can rent bikes (they’re everywhere), ride the tram or just walk. Honestly, if you make it to Dam Square everything is fairly close by. If you do walk, keep an eye out for the trams. The rails are everywhere and can be hard to see. The trams fly by so be careful. If you want to see just see the city, there are great canal tours that you can take. They were longer then I thought they would be, maybe 45 minutes to an hour.
One great plus about Amsterdam is the fact that the majority of the people speak English in addition to Dutch so if you did get lost, it would be easy to get help.
Where to go:
(picture found at: http://www.amsterdamtourist.nl/en/visiting/placestogo/attractions)
A good starting point is Dam Square.
(Me, 2nd from left, and my crew – 2002)
It seems like there is always something going on there. I’ve seen carnivals, pep rallies (for what, I have no idea) and a massive party for the Queen’s Day (April 30). Surrounding Dam Square are stores, restaurants, a palace, the Kraznapolsky (you can see it behind the huge phallic symbol statue in the picture) and Madame Tussuads. There are so many streets that lead away from the square and each will take you to a different destination.
(The Flower Market)
The flower market has the best flowers. If you want to bring flowers home to the U.S., buy them right before you leave. Unless things have really changed since I was last in Amsterdam, customs will let you bring flowers back into the country unless they find bugs or anything on them. They usually shake them and see if anything comes off. I never had any problems.
There are a bunch of fun clubs right by the flower market. We went there on the queen’s birthday (Queen’s Day) and had a blast. Please keep in mind that most establishments will make you pay to use their bathrooms. If you run past the “keeper of the bathrooms”, they tend to get a little upset…but I wouldn’t know anything about that. Absolutely nothing. There’s another alcohol related place to go in town, the Heineken Brewery. Another place I haven’t been to but heard was fun.
(Anne Frank’s house)
Anne Frank’s house is probably a 5-10 minute walk from Dam Square. It’s such a normal looking house that you could almost miss it. The thing that hit me the most were the things that you would see in any kid’s room such as the height measurements penciled in on the wall and the pictures of actors and actresses. It just seemed too normal for a time of madness. I’m a history buff so I LOVED (notice the capital letters) this.
I am a huge fan of museums so I also loved the Van Gogh museum. I’ve been there multiple times. There is also Rembrant’s house but I didn’t make it over there. I will next time I’m there.
Since it’s part of Amsterdam, I’ll talk a little about the Red Light District. It’s easy to wander into this area and not even realize it until you notice the scantily clad girls in the windows. It’s almost like you’re window shopping, except for prostitutes. I definitely did a double take the first time I wandered by. As for drugs, they are legal in coffeeshops but if you don’t wander in them, I don’t think you’ll even notice drugs. Unless I was completely oblivious, I didn’t. OK, enough about that.
Where to eat:
(Me – in red – and my classmates, February 2001)
There are restaurants and cafes everywhere. There is a chain of grocery stores called Albert Heijn that I used to go to to buy food to take home to my friends and family. If you stay at The Golden Tulip, there is one of these grocery stores pretty much across the street. Bring some type of bag with you to carry your purchases. If you forget, you have to pay for grocery bags. Here’s another thing that I thought was strange, if you go to McDonald’s you have to pay for ketchup packets. Weird, huh?
Eric and I are planning on taking a trip to Europe for our 10 year anniversary and I’m hoping we’ll have time to stop in Amsterdam so I can show him around. I love this city, prostitution and all.