First-Timer's Amsterdam

My husband was speaking at a tech conference, and since the hotel was paid for by his employer, I tagged along. I had two days sightseeing on my own, then the weekend to chill out with my sweetie.


First-Timer's Amsterdam

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Sarah the Expat on May 30, 2005

Do NOT miss Boom Chicago if you go to Amsterdam! It might seem odd to go see American improv comedy in Holland, but it will seriously be a fun night out. Being in the Anne Frank Huis was an incredibly powerful experience that is not to be missed. I really wish I'd spent more time in the Amsterdam Historic Museum, as you need at least 3 to 4 hours here, if not more, and it is fantastic.

A couple only-in-Amsterdam things: we saw a prostitute getting her own back at someone who tried to take a picture, and there was a man at Centraal Station who seemed to have something caught in the wheels of his luggage. When I pointed it out, he realized it was the discarded box of some edible underwear and said very quickly, "It's not mine!" Everyone around us was cracking up, "Oh yeah, sure it's not." ${QuickSuggestions} The Boom Chicago guide to Amsterdam is a really good source for information and recommendations. We ate at two of the restaurants they listed, and both were excellent. You can also get free admission to the Holland Casino with it and discounts on tickets to the Boom Chicago show.${BestWay} Everyone says you've got to have a bike, but I found walking and riding the trams to be easy and cheap enough. I've written more in a "Getting Around" Experience entry in this journal.

Lloyd Hotel & Cultural Embassy

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Sarah the Expat on May 30, 2005

Had it not been for my husband's employer paying for our accommodation, we would not have been able to stay in this fantastic hotel. I don't run in design circles, but my husband says this hotel is incredibly famous for its unique rooms, which have been designed by architects, artists, and designers. There are four grades of rooms, from A at 80€/night to D at 300€/night. We were booked in to a B room, which was somewhat small but comfortable, with a giant wet room with windows all along one wall. Our bathroom was the size of more than half the actual bedroom! The decor was very modern and clean, and we had a great view.

On Saturday morning, we were told we'd have to swap rooms, as there was something wrong with our shower, and to compensate us, they gave us a higher grade room. Of course we were excited to see what the C-grade room looked like, so we weren't bothered, and because we were so cool about it, the reception lady gave us a D room, one of the “attic” rooms.

We just couldn't believe our luck. This room was fantastic! There was a bathtub for two right in the center under a large window with a gorgeous view and a huge bed with fluffy white bedding and sheepskin rugs all around it. Best of all, it had rustic-looking beams that made the “attic” feel. We had a bigger TV mounted on a swiveling platform, so we could watch it in the bath or in bed. I can't do it justice; check out the pictures or their website at www.lloydhotel.com.

I would love to stay at this hotel again, even if we don't have the expensive room. The staff was very helpful and friendly and the atmosphere of the hotel was incredibly relaxed. It is located in the eastern docklands area, so it’s off the map as far as most tourists are concerned, but it was very easy to get to, just 5 minutes by bus from Central Station and about 15 minutes by tram to Leidesplein.
LLOYD HOTEL
OOSTELIJKE HANDELSKADE 34
Amsterdam, Netherlands
31-20-5613636

City Canal Cruise, 75 minutes

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by Sarah the Expat on May 30, 2005

This was a pretty bog-standard canal tour, complete with recorded commentary on the major sites passed. It starts near the Holland Casino, in between the MuseumPlein and Leidseplein, and then travels up Prinsegracht past Westerkerk and the Anne Frank Huis. Then it travels out into the Ij, the lake to the north of central Amsterdam, returning to pass the Maritime museum. Following that, the route passes city hall and meanders through a few other canals before returning to dock.

If I'd researched this better, this probably isn't the tour I would have taken. Like many of the tour boats going through the Amsterdam canals, this boat had a glass cover, making the inside of it a bit too hot for comfort. It wouldn't have been so bad, but some of the windows didn't open properly. Taking decent pictures from the inside wasn't easy. Going out on to the back wasn't much better, as the deck was very small, so it was hard to get a seat out there.

I must admit that I missed a lot of the commentary, as you couldn't hear it on the outside deck. However, I wasn't too bothered as it was only recorded commentary and seemed to be stuff I'd already read about in guidebooks.

There are quite a few other tour companies that do this sort of thing, so you have your pick. From some friends, I've heard the best thing to do is the Boom! Chicago boat tour. Apparently it's a small boat with a personal guide (no recorded commentary here!) and not too expensive. You can get more information from the entry on Boom! Chicago. Oh, and don't forget your sunscreen! My shoulders are killing me!

Lest you think the whole experience was a wash, I did enjoy seeing Amsterdam from the water. I'd definitely go on a canal cruise again, just perhaps with a different company.
Blue Boat Company
Stadhouderskade 30
Amsterdam, Netherlands, 1071 ZD
31 (0) 20 679-1370

Houseboat Museum

Member Rating 1 out of 5 by Sarah the Expat on May 30, 2005

I was fairly disappointed with this museum, though I'm not sure what I was expecting from it. As you climb the ladder down into the boat, there is a small room with a bed built into a cupboard in the hull. The next room is the reception desk/museum shop/kitchen, where you pay your 3€ and receive a laminated sheet describing the construction and maintenance of houseboats. It's fairly dry reading and not terribly interesting to the average person I'd imagine.

Following that, the next room is set up like a 1950s houseboat living area with a small black-and-white telly showing maritime scenes. You can have a tea or coffee here courtesy of the person at the desk, but this will probably stretch your visit out an extra 10 minutes as you try to justify spending the 3€.

A small hallway leads to a children's area where kids can colour in pictures of houseboats and have them placed on the wall. Next to this is the ridiculously tiny theatre. There is one bench that can fit about three to four adults - after you've whacked your head getting in there. You're treated to a slideshow of scenes involving houseboats, houseboat maintenance, and a few houseboat disasters, all set to "Sail Away" by Enya. I guarantee that if you ever liked Enya, you'll be cured of it after visiting this museum. As I checked out the pictures of houseboats for sale on the walls, I could hear the Enya loop wailing away over and over again. I stayed for a soda while I considered my next move; all told, my visit was a half-hour, and it didn't really need to be that long. I thought I was more interested in houseboats, but I must have been mistaken. My advice would be to save your Euros for something more interesting. You'll see plenty of houseboats if you walk along the canals, and it’s better to enjoy them that way.
Houseboat Museum
Prinsengracht opposite 296
Amsterdam, Netherlands
31 20 4270 750

Erotic Museum

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by Sarah the Expat on May 31, 2005

With the exception of the wooden woman on the bike (as she pedals, she gets a bit of a surprise) and the neon lights outside, the Erotic Museum starts off semi-tasteful. The first floor looks like a proper museum, with glass cabinets displaying various ‘erotic art’, most often wood or stone carvings of men with giant penises. The second floor is slightly closer to modern times, with photography from the 1950s, erotic comics or books. The highlight of this museum is meant to be the drawings by John Lennon, which are given an entire wall on this floor.

Having used up all the more tasteful ‘erotic art’, there is a hilariously decorated viewing area where you can sit on wooden toadstools with the Seven Dwarves and watch cartoon porn. The walls of this room are decorated with pictures that on first glance might look like scenes out of a Disney movie, but look again--every male character is sporting a giant erection, bunnies looking suspiciously like Thumper are humping each other, and the women have giant boobs and look like dominatrix! The cartoons feature several animal creatures who make incredibly bad puns and have penises bigger than the rest of their bodies; generally they are humping or trying to hump everything in sight.

The next floor gets even seedier, showcasing a typical red-light district prostitute’s glass room, complete with mannequin in lingerie. You can hear the commentary in a few different languages by pushing buttons on the outside. There’s a very odd novelty condom machine, telephones you can pick up and hear some phone sex, and a scaled down model of the front of a live sex club. The fourth and final floor is devoted to S&M, bondage, fetishism and the like. There is a display case with mannequins doing various naughty things too each other, apparently in homage to Betty somebody or other from the 1950s; there are b/w movies of her antics playing on a small set in the display. The rest of the floor is devoted to “make your own picture” sets, including a chair with restraints, a giant penis, a giant picture of two S&M-outfitted people with faces cut out, and some strange wooden device that I’d have no idea how to use. I strapped hubby into the bondage chair and snapped a picture, to the delight of about 20 Japanese tourists.

I felt like it was worth the 5 euros until I went to the Amsterdam Sex Museum. The Sex Museum has just about everything the Erotic Museum has and more, and for half the price. The Erotic Museum didn’t do enough of explaining what certain objects were and their origins; things were just thrown in display cases together with no rhyme or reason. I’d say if you can only go to one, go for the Sex Museum instead. But if you want to see the porn cartoon room, there’s no shame in going for both!
Amsterdam Erotic Museum
Oudezijds Achterburgwal 54
Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam Sex Museum

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Sarah the Expat on May 31, 2005

After a quick walk from the Erotic Museum through the Red Light District, we arrived at the Amsterdam Sex Museum. It’s about 5 minutes from Centraal Station in the middle of a very busy, touristy area. Opposite of the Erotic Museum, it started off really tacky and got less so the further in you went. The moving mannequins and recorded voices were probably the most disturbing; one guy says ‘psst’ and then comes out and flashes you, and a huge, warty, naked woman suddenly pops out of a dark alleyway in the old Red Light District. Annoyingly, a plastic bottom on the wall by the stairs farts and giggles every time someone goes past it—you will be ready to smash it by the time you leave.

At the back of the first floor is a room devoted to photographs of the extremes of sex, including fetishism, bondage, anal, beastiality... well, you get the idea. Don’t go in unless you’re really ready to be disturbed; there’s a sign warning you not to complain if you see something you don’t like!

There are three levels to this museum, and the architecture of the place is actually quite interesting. They’ve made good use of the stairwells and landings to display various paintings, and the ceiling over one part is all glass. As you move up to the second level, the displays are less tacky. The Sex Museum does a much better job than the Erotic Museum in explaining the various objects in their collection, including country of origin, how things were used, and approximate dates. There is a large display of b/w photography from professional and private collections, paintings, carvings, statues, etc. In one area, you can sit between two giant penises and watch a video about the beginnings of porn; beware, though, as the middle seat is set to suddenly start vibrating at random!

At only 2.50 Euros, this is a bargain attraction and well worth the money. If you only go to one of this type of thing, skip the Erotic Museum and do this one; their collection is bigger, better explained, and more varied.

Sex Museum Amsterdam
Damrak 18
Amsterdam, Netherlands

Boom Chicago

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Sarah the Expat on May 31, 2005

Quite possibly the funniest thing I've seen all year! This is an American improv comedy group that's been set up in Amsterdam for about 12 years. If you've enjoyed programs like "Whose Line Is It Anyway?", you'll love this. Silly songs and scenes are made up on the spot, based on suggestions from the audience. They also have some scripted sketches about their take on Dutch culture/language, and a Saturday Night Live-ish news update. I can't say it enough--they're really good, really funny. If you're not peeing your pants by the end of it, you've got problems.

I'd heard you could get a discount by bringing a copy of the Boom Guide to Amsterdam with you, so I was happy to have found a girl giving them out by Westerkerk. The guide itself is pretty funny in its descriptions of life in Amsterdam, and it gave excellent suggestions for restaurants. You can get them right at the Theatre, or you'll probably find people giving them away near major tourist attractions. We bought our tickets earlier in the day (you have to buy them before 6pm to get the discount, and the discount is only available Sun-Thurs). Seating is first come, first served, so you may as well go early (seating started at 6:30pm) and get a bite to eat and a few drinks.

You will be seated at long tables perpendicular to the stage; it's a small theatre, so there aren't really any bad seats. We'd had a late lunch, so we just ordered a plate of their nachos; the large portion with chicken was about 15 euros and enough to make a meal for two people! And best of all, the nachos were actually decent--something I haven't experienced in London yet. By all means, don't miss this if you're visiting Amsterdam--it's a fabulous night out!
Boom Chicago
Leidseplein 12
Amsterdam, Netherlands

Westerkerk

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Sarah the Expat on June 25, 2005

When I first arrived, the actual church bit of Westerkerk was closed due to lack of volunteers, but I was more concerned with going up into the Westerkerk Tower. Tours run every half-hour, but it can be difficult to organise, because only six to seven people are allowed on each tour, and you can't book more than a half-hour in advance. Worse for me, I got there at lunchtime, when the two tour guides take their break, so I had to wait a half-hour to book the tour, then wait another half-hour to go on it.

The tour to the tower involves about 15 minutes of climbing incredibly small and narrow staircases (with some more like ladders), stopping on certain levels to see the bell-ringing equipment and the bells themselves. This is really not recommended if you have mobility problems; the climb was tough for me, being asthmatic and out of shape! The guide will also give a little bit of the history of the church and tower. Once you're at the top, you will be treated to the best view of Amsterdam you can imagine. You can see right down into the canals and across the rooftops, and it's just gorgeous on a sunny day. Unfortunately, you'll only get about 10 minutes up there, and then it's time to navigate backwards down all the stairs. In total, it's only a half-hour and cost 5€, but the view is worth it!

Lucky for me, when the tour was over, I found that they had opened up the church for just an hour for an organ recital, so I was able to slip in and listen. Afterward, I had a nice long chat with one of the volunteers about the history of the church, and he explained to me why it looked so different than other churches I'd been in.

Westerkerk was one of the first protestant churches to be built in Amsterdam. When all the Catholics were told to get lost, most of the Catholic churches were stripped of all their ornamentation and transformed into protestant churches. However, Westerkerk was built specifically to be protestant, and the difference is striking: bare white walls, no stained glass, and practically the only ornamentation is the giant organ. The volunteer pointed out that the large glass windows were clear rather than stained to bring in "the light of god." The floor seemed to be entirely graves, most only with a number, but some with carvings. The volunteer told me this was mainly down to who could afford to pay for it!

I really enjoyed my visit to Westerkerk, and the organ music in that setting was amazing. The volunteer told me there are several concerts/recitals held in Westerkerk and gave me a schedule in case I came back. I would highly recommend finding out if there are any events going on at Westerkerk during your visit, as you won't be disappointed.
Westerkerk
Prinsengracht 281
Amsterdam, Netherlands, 1016 GW
+31 20 624 77 66

My Coffee Shop Experience

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Sarah the Expat on June 1, 2005

First off, let me say that I was a bit conflicted about whether to try the weed Amsterdam is famous for. I've smoked pot only a handful of times in my life, and nowadays, I'm against smoking anything in general on the grounds that it's unhealthy to inhale stuff into your lungs. Bearing that in mind, I thought I might go for one of the cakes I'd heard so much about. Ian's German friend warned me that I wouldn't be able to handle it and that I should only have a little. I read up on the dos and don’ts in my trusty "Let's Go" guide, and after our tour through the sex museums of Amsterdam, decided to have a go.

The nearest coffee shop in sight when I finally made my decision was the Grasshopper. It is a pretty touristy joint near Centraal Station. Walking in and down the steps, there was a guy in a booth who looked like he was selling tickets to something. The “menu” on the wall was only visible when you pushed a big red button to light it up; I'm assuming it was like that so as not to be visible from the doorway? No idea really. I had no idea what I wanted other than cakes of some sort, so I asked the guy if they sold them. Nope, he said. Hmmm... okay... “So what do you recommend?” The guy showed me a bag of five pre-rolled joints. “Do they have tobacco in them?” They did, in fact, and I really didn't want those. He suggested I could buy something and roll it myself (never mind that I've never rolled a joint in my life), so I said that sounded okay. “Strong or mild?” he asked. I looked at Ian, who immediately said, “Mild!” Mild it was then. “The minimum is 15€ worth,” the guy said. Ian swore a bit and handed over the last 15€ in his wallet. The guy weighed it out in a plastic box on top of a scale, put it in a little plastic baggie, and pushed it through the slot at the bottom of his window. He told me there were rolling papers on the bar, and I wandered off, wondering what the hell I was doing.

Noting the sign on the bar saying consumption was mandatory, I stopped to order an orange juice and a water, picking up rolling papers that were just sitting out next to the cash register. Ian ordered a Red Bull, and then we realised we had no more cash and would have to use a card. They wouldn't do less than 20€, but the girl said she'd put it through for 20€ and give us the change. Armed with my pot and drinks, I found a table for two just by a large screen showing a friendly football game between the USA and England, which pleased Ian.

As soon as I tried rolling a joint, I realised I was rubbish at it. I didn't even know where to start! After fumbling around for a few minutes, I leaned over to the two young-looking boys at the next table and confessed that I had no clue what I was doing. They were fellow Americans who admitted they had only learned to roll joints a few minutes ago from the Germans at the next table. Still, one of them had a go at doing mine, and though it didn't come out great, I was grateful for the help. Lighters with the Grasshopper logo on them were on every table, so I grabbed one and lit up. A coughing fit promptly ensued, reminding me why I never smoke anything. For the next half-hour, I tried unsuccessfully to smoke the joint, alternating between inhaling too much and inhaling so little the thing would go out. I was clearly crap at this. Ian, annoyed with my coughing and spluttering orange juice everywhere, went and got me a Mars bar and proceeded to pull it open and stuff it with pot. I gave my half-smoked joint to my new friends and chowed down the Mars bar to their delight ("We thought WE were badasses!").

Despite my valiant attempts, I didn't think I was really stoned or anything. I felt fairly relaxed and observed that I “couldn't really get angry about anything right now,” but that was pretty much the extent of it. On the bus back to the hotel, I had a bit of a giggling fit about something innocuous Ian said, but I do that normally. I do understand the munchies phenomenon now, as I went into the hotel restaurant and ordered fries, onion rings, chocolate, crackers, and a bottle of wine, then proceeded to share almost none of it with Ian. All and all, it was an amusing experience, but not something I need to repeat. I'm a Wisconsin girl, so I'm much better at getting drunk!

The Red Light District

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Sarah the Expat on June 1, 2005

My first wander through the Red Light District came when I was trying to find the Amstelkring Museum. I passed a bar with an outside terrace where a bunch of shirtless guys were shouting and being served drinks by a woman in shiny metallic underwear and furry leg-warmer thingees. Going through the pedestrianized streets, they seemed to be populated entirely by gangs of non-Dutch men in their 20s and 30s, all loudly discussing the prostitutes and pot. Ugh.

On the Saturday when Ian and I were going to the sex museums and I was wrestling with the pot-smoking question, we went through a tiny alleyway where the prostitutes ply their trade. They rent out small ground-floor rooms with a large glass window and then stand or sit around in their knickers trying to look sexy for the passersby in hopes of attracting a customer. If the red curtains are drawn across, it means they’ve been successful. There was a series of about six to seven of these windows in the passage we went through. I was really surprised by how pretty the women were. I don’t know what I was expecting, but that wasn’t it.

I was also fortunate enough to witness the spectacle of what happens when you try to take a picture in the Red Light District. As we were walking through, one of the prostitutes, a gorgeous dark-skinned girl in a black bra/knickers set, came out and hurled a giant silver stiletto-heeled shoe at someone ahead of us. A man handed it back to her and she smiled sweetly, vamping it up for the rest of the people passing. A tourist had broken the cardinal rule of NO PICTURES. According to everything you’ll read about Amsterdam, trying to take a picture in the Red Light District is in incredibly poor taste and getting a shoe chucked at you is fairly minor. Some of the prostitutes have bodyguards/minders who will not be as nice to you. You may even get your camera broken, so don’t try it! I’m not sure what this tourist was on—you have to be a serious dumbass to miss all the “no pictures” signs, and this information is in every guidebook ever written. Oh well, some people just shouldn’t be allowed out of their houses.

Getting around by tram and on foot

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Sarah the Expat on June 2, 2005

Bikes, bikes, bikes!! That’s probably one of the first things that will strike you about Amsterdam, as they’re everywhere. The best advice I can give anyone is to seriously watch where you’re going. If you’re not being run down by bell-ringing cyclists, you’re probably going to get wiped out by a tram. Seriously, it was quite hard for me to tell who was supposed to be where, and it seems that pedestrians are lowest on the food chain. A good rule of thumb: if there is slightly higher pavement next to where you are, you’re probably in the road or in a bike lane, so MOVE! There’s not as huge a distinction between the roads and the pavement as you’d find in the US or even the UK, and the bikes basically go anywhere they want. I never did end up riding one while I was there, and contrary to popular opinion, I don’t feel like it diminished my experience. My husband hired a bike from Mac (either side of Centraal Station) for the week for 38€, so it is only slightly cheaper than buying day travel cards at 6:30€.

Trams are really the best and easiest form of public transport around central Amsterdam. The main problem with 24-, 48-, and 72-hour travel cards is that, despite all guidebooks telling you they’re available on the tram, they actually aren’t. I suppose some lucky early risers do get them, but the tram conductors are only given about 10 each day, and once they’ve run out, you have to pay the single fare to get where you’re going. We were able to buy one at our hotel, but it was the last one she had. The tourist information places are generally well stocked, so they are your best bet. Don’t use these time-limited cards until you have to, as your time doesn’t start until the first time you ride somewhere and get it stamped.

Strip cards (strippenkart) are another option, like prepaying for several journeys. They come in strips of 15 or 45. You can’t buy strip cards on the trams either; you have to buy them elsewhere, like tobacconists or other shop. Each journey you make is worth a certain number of strips. The rule is that the number of strips needed is one more than the amount of zones you’re traveling through. Most tourist stuff will be in the central zone, along with lots of hotels, so basically every journey you make will cost two strips. A single journey on the bus or tram will cost you 1.60€, so if you think you’re going to use public transport, you should try to estimate how many journeys you’re going to make in your time there and see if it’s worth buying a 24-, 48-, or 72-hour travel card or strip cards (strippenkart). Keep in mind that central Amsterdam isn’t that big and a lot of the sights will be in close proximity to each other. If you plan it right, you won’t make that many journeys.

The quality of the transport is good, with trams running frequently and pretty well on time. When you get on, you’ll need to show your travel card, or give the conductor your strip card for stamping. If you want a single journey, just say exactly that and hand over 1.60€; you’ll receive a small paper ticket that the conductor will stamp. The trams do jolt you around quite a bit, so find a seat or hang on tight. Even though the electronic signs are in Dutch, you’ll figure it out fast. The signs will tell you the current time, what tram line you’re on, to which station you’re headed (final destination), and what stop is next. Some trams even have extra electronic signage that shows you what the next five stops will be. When the stop you want is coming up, press the red button and the "stop" sign will light up. To exit the tram, you have to press the green buttons near the doors to get them to open; they won’t open automatically, which I found out the hard way.


What I did during my trip: A day-by-day description

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Sarah the Expat on June 2, 2005

I might as well say from the start that I can be incredibly anal-retentive about planning trips, and I always want to pack in as much as possible. Therefore, don’t try to see everything I did in 4 days unless you’re used to that kind of pace! My husband left for Amsterdam on Monday for the conference, and I flew to meet him on Wednesday evening after work. The flight from London Gatwick was only about 40 minutes. Amsterdam’s airport is about 15 to 20 minutes by train from Centraal Station, and it cost 3.90€ for a single ticket. Hubby met me at Centraal Station, and then it was a 10-minute bus ride to the Lloyd Hotel, which is east of Centraal Station in the docklands area.

For my first day, I got the breakfast buffet at the hotel, then attempted to make my way to Museumplein. Unfortunately, I missed the tram stop and ended up at Leidesplein, so I took the opportunity to go to the tourist info and got myself tickets for the Van Gogh Museum and Anne Frank Huis (the Anne Frank tickets were only good from 5 to 9pm). I paid 10€ to get into the Van Gogh and another 4€ for a recorded tour guide before I remembered that I’m really not an “arty” person and I get really bored by people talking about brush strokes, etc. I lasted an amazing 1.5 hours. After a quick lunch at a sandwich stand, I took a canal boat ride and got very sunburned. Then I went looking for Mike’s Bikes to decide if I wanted to take a bike tour, never found them, and went through the flower market (which was full of flowers, obviously, and crappy tourist stuff, like clogs and wooden tulips). I made my way to the Amsterdam Historic Museum, then had dinner at the David & Goliath Café. Afterwards, I walked up to Dam Square (touristy and crowded), then moved on to the Anne Frank Huis. Finally, around 8:30pm, I made my way back to the hotel.

On my second day of solo sightseeing, I started at the Bergjinhof and then walked to the Houseboat Museum. Afterwards, I walked to Westermarkt, had some of the raw herring everyone says you must try (fairly tasty!), took pictures of the Homomonument & Pink Place, and then did the tour of Westerkerk Tower. I caught the end of an organ recital in Westerkerk, then got the tram back to Centraal Station and wandered through the Red Light District looking for Museum Amstelkring. Then I made my way to Vondelpark but was called to meet up with hubby and his conference mates in Leidesplein. We had drinks and tapas, then all walked through Max Euwenplein to Vondelpark again and just crashed out on the grass enjoying the evening. Everyone got hungry after a while, so it was back to Leidesplein for some really mediocre Italian food at Pisa (not even worth a review). At least the company was good.

On the third day, hubby and I were incredibly lazy and finally made it to breakfast around 11am. We were informed we’d have to switch rooms due to a problem with the plumbing in ours, and since we were such good sports about it, they bumped us up to a 300€-a-night room, the highest they have. We couldn’t bear to leave our new gorgeous room, so we took a long nap on the big fluffy bed and never made it anywhere until around 6pm. We had dinner in Chinatown and then went to the Erotic Museum and the Sex Museum (yes, they’re different). Afterwards, we stopped into a coffee shop before returning to the hotel.

On our last full day, we were lazy again and didn’t even make it to breakfast. We had lunch at Chicano’s near Leidesplein, bought our tickets for Boom Chicago that evening, and then went to the Heineken Experience around 4:30pm. We made it to Boom Chicago at 6:30pm and finally got back to the hotel around 11pm.

One thing I really liked about Amsterdam was that it seemed so schizophrenic. There’s the whole sex/drugs thing bringing in obnoxious tourists, and yet it can be a really classy/cultured place! Normally once I’ve been somewhere and done a lot, I don’t want to go back right away, but I didn’t feel that way about Amsterdam—I’d go back tomorrow. There’s just so much to see and do, and every area is different. I really hope to go back there soon. My guide for this trip was a combination of the “Let’s Go Guide”, the “AA Guide”, and the yellow pages tourist guide from our hotel room. All had slightly different stuff, but if I had to pick just one it would be the Let’s Go Guide. It was incredibly comprehensive and had good maps and an index, which is what every obsessive planner needs!

http://www.igougo.com/journal-j43394-Amsterdam-First-Timers_Amsterdam.html

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