We spent four days in Amsterdam and I wish we had more time. Visiting Amsterdam is like tasting a bite of a wonderful desert, you leave wanting more.
We stayed in the Museumplein section of the city, not far from most of the museums that Amsterdam has to offer. I think the first thing that you notice when you arrive in Amsterdam is how friendly everyone is. When we left the airport several different people offered to help us find the transfer bus to our destination. Once off the bus we walked with our incresingly heavy baggage for a “ten minute” trek to the house which, in reality was about twenty minutes. The neighborhood was beautiful but when we saw the eighty-two narrow stairs winding up and around, we were less enthused. We were huffing and puffing when we finally reached the top floor.
The flat is well designed with a new kitchen, dining and living room, and a large balcony. I had forgotten when I looked at the Airbnb listing to notice where the bedroom was. It was up a twelve step ladder in a loft with a low, peaked ceiling. How exciting to climb up and down a ladder every night and several times during the night! It was like sleeping in a tent, but with a hard mattress. Low ceilings and the fear every night that one of us would slip down the ladder and kill ourselves made for very little sleep. This is definitely a flat for someone under fifty.
In Amsterdam there are 800,000 bikes, more than one for every man, woman and child in the city and most of them are basic three speed bikes. Mothers, fathers, kiddies, old and young all riding in the city. Amsterdam is flat and has designated bike lanes that we mistook for sidewalks and narrowly avoided being plowed down by a bicyclist drinking coffee and attending to the child behind him.
While in the city we enjoyed all that Amsterdam had to offer. The tram stop was just up the street from our flat and was so easy to hop on and off to get around all parts of the city. We also took a cruise on the canals to get a different view of the city. The captain, like everyone we met in Amsterdam spoke English. He said that the Dutch watch American television and movies with only Dutch subtitles and therefor easily learn to speak English as they grow up.
Amsterdam is so much more than just the Red Light District and the Coffee shops offering pot everywhere. It is such a beautiful city with delicious food, friendly people and we experienced beautiful weather when we were there. We visited the Ann Frank House and had an informative session prior to going into the house. The session was very moving and I learned a lot about young Ann’s life. However, the visit to the house was extremely crowded and even claustrophobic. I was concerned about how to escape a fire in the crowded space and worried about terrorists, I needed to leave the house as soon as possible.
The Red Light District is really a tourist area with lots of cafes and pubs to watch all that is going on in the red lit Windows. The Coffee Shops serve pot brownies, Space Cake and various other forms of pot, but they do not serve alcohol.
Following our canal cruise we were fortunate enough to meet up with Greg’s cousin and husband who were leaving Amsterdam to begin their river cruise. We went inside Grand Central and met them on their cruise boat for a drink. So often it is nice to leave time in your schedule for kismet events such as this one.
We Decided to take a short train ride to Zaanse Schans to see the windmills and rent bikes. It is a lovely little town and we thought it was so picturesque. For only about seven euros we got on the train to the town with windmills.
On our final day in Amsterdam I visited the Van Gogh museum, while Greg drank up the local culture watching The British Open in a pub. The museum was the best I have experienced. I bought a “skip the line pass” for 9am when it opened. The museum was uncrowned inside and I had ample opportunity to see the artworks of Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec up close and at my leisure. The best part was that the museum was absolutely quiet and no one was taking photos.
We had some amazing meals in Amsterdam including mussels and salmon. The sweetest place we went to had no menu, nor prices. The waitress simple came to your table, stooped down and recited what the offerings were for the evening. We jumped right in and ordered. The food was so delicious and realitively inexpensive for wine, beer, appetizers, main dishes and desert the tab was about 60 euros.
On our two last evenings we found our way to the Maxim Piano Bar. An American from Detroit was at the keys singing all familiar tunes. Both Dutch and Americans were singing and dancing along. The bartender was funny, friendly and remembered our names when we walked in again on the second night. We stayed well past midnight and although the trams were no longer running we didn’t mind walking the couple of miles back to the apartment, enjoying the evening all the while.