Holland or Netherlands?
We are not in *Holland.
I traveled to Amsterdam to take a river cruise during the tulip season with several of my friends. The trip was a tribute to a very special friend who is sadly no longer with us.
We were sailing with AMAWaterways on the AMAPrima for a 7-day trip that began and ended in the beautiful city of Amsterdam. Arriving ahead of the cruise gave us time to recover from the overnight flight, adjust to the time change, and see more of this great city.
Our Tesla-driving taxi driver dumped us by one of the many canal bridges in the city, proclaiming the road was blocked, and the hotel just one block away. That turned out to be a lie and the roughest part of our long trip as we bumped our bags along the cobblestones for quite a few blocks to finally arrive at our hotel.
The centrally located Banks Mansion was a very comfortable place from which to start our journey. You can’t go wrong with chocolate treats and whiskey in your room, a made-to-order breakfast, and afternoon wine and cheese. I really loved the deco furnishings and atmosphere.
While in Amsterdam
Do a canal cruise any time you can. I could do one every day in Amsterdam and never get tired of it. The scenery is not only wonderful, but the people-watching is part of the fun. From the fast-biking locals to the party-boat tourists passing by it’s always entertaining. The standard guided trip is about one hour.
But above all else, try to leave time to walk around Amsterdam. It may be fashionable to bike, but it also seems pretty intense to me. Bikers here are serious, no-nonsense, in a hurry, and have the right of way. They appear as if from thin air, often when you least expect it. And they seem to have little tolerance for wayward tourists who are not following local laws and getting out of their way fast enough. So, I prefer the leisurely pace of walking along the canals, passing small shops and enticing restaurants and bars, detouring down inviting alleys and interesting side streets.
Walking through Amsterdam’s neighborhoods we found the cute café Calf & Bloom for lunch and spent the first few minutes watching which dishes were being delivered to the tables around us. It was a highly successful strategy and we enjoyed salmon and tuna open-faced sandwiches.
A stroll through the Jordaan neighborhood was so enjoyable and since it was a Saturday we made our way to the nearby Noordermarkt. Part organic farmer’s market, crafts, and vintage flea market, Noordermerkt’s food all looked so fresh and delicious, with baked goods and cheese to die for.
Anyone new to the city needs to head towards Dam Square and maybe over to the Flower Market, which is full of tourists and very few real flowers, just lots of packaged bulbs, magnets, key chains, and wooden tulips. The Anne Frank House is something everyone should see and you need to buy tickets online, 2 months in advance; be forewarned, they sell out quickly. Seeing the Red Light District is always entertaining (no photos allowed) and the city is starting to restrict tour groups from sightseeing in that area at night, I guess it was bad for business.
You can pretty much do whatever you want in Amsterdam and I will save the details for the many excellent guidebooks. I love Rick Steves Pocket Amsterdam which is very portable and clearly outlines routes for a number of walks.
For dinner, we followed the recommendation of our hotel concierge and enjoyed a wonderful meal at Café Kapiten Zeppos. Passing up the in-season white asparagus, I had a delicious salmon and avocado salad and wonderful beef carpaccio.
Flat terrain, cool temps, and engaging scenery make Amsterdam the perfect city to explore on foot.
*North and South Holland are two of 12 provinces within the Netherlands, so it is not correct to call the country Holland; it would be like calling the USA, Carolina.