Sunday, December 11, 2011


I think my favorite city so far is Amsterdam! We arrived at the Sittard train station around 9:20 yesterday morning. Our train was leaving at 9:45 and we expected to be confused while buying tickets since it was our first time taking the train in Holland. Fortunately, a nice couple approached almost immediately and gave us a discount voucher for the parking garage. How lucky! Then, as we were puzzling over the ticket-purchasing procedure, two employees came to our assistance. They explained how to get two tickets for the price of one. Before they showed up, we were going to pay almost 180 Euro! I'm constantly impressed by all of the people who are so willing to help us.

The train ride was two hours. Based on this experience alone, I think the trains in Holland are nicer than those in Germany. Leg space is ample and the seating is more comfortable in general.

Our view upon exiting the station was amazing:

We were advised to be careful in Amsterdam. I guess pickpocketing is common, especially in tourist areas. Most of the streets we walked along were very crowded but I never felt uneasy or worried about anyone getting too close to me. I think if you follow the general rule of keeping your bearings straight, everything should be fine.

Since this was our first time in Amsterdam and we have the luxury of being able to visit frequently, we decided to keep things low-key. The major attraction on our agenda was the Anne Frank House and Museum. We found the house on Prinsengracht easily; it would have been hard to miss because of the long line of people waiting for admission. We were in line for about thirty minutes, and that was less time waiting than we originally thought it would be. 

The tour is self-guided. It takes visitors up and down narrow stairs that are more like ladders, and straight into the tiny room that Anne Frank lived in while her family was hiding. Walking through those doorways makes the pages of her diary come to life. I can't imagine how confining those walls must have been. This building is such an important piece of living history and a must-see for anyone making a trip to Amsterdam.

Amsterdam is such a gorgeous walking city and I can't wait to return when the weather is nicer. The building architecture was unique and beautiful. We managed to go off the beaten path into some residential areas. I'd consider myself a very lucky girl if I could live in any of those canal houses!

We were also, of course, curious about the Red Light District. Based upon its worldwide reputation, I expected it to be much larger. In actuality, it seemed the area encompassed only two blocks. The atmosphere was akin to walking in the seedier part of Bourbon Street in New Orleans. There were definitely ladies of the night perched in windows. None of them looked particularly happy. Being there felt very surreal. 

Some things I've always heard about Amsterdam proved to be true. People were smoking marijuana-- everywhere. The infamous coffee shops lined every street and street corner. All ages, gender, and people from many different walks of life were lighting up. It was impossible to avoid that strong, distinctive smell. I didn't see anyone acting crazy or out of control. If I didn't know what they were doing, I would have easily thought they were all just smoking cigarettes and relaxing with friends. 

Bicyclists were everywhere. Parking garages exist just for them! It was a pleasant feeling to walk around a city without worrying about crossing streets in front of cars, but the possibility of being injured in a drive-by-bicycling exists. They come out of nowhere and sometimes don't even ding their warning bells until they've already swooshed past you, brushing your hair to the side with their handlebars.

Our first jaunt to this city was a success! There are so many things left for us to do. We can visit the Van Gogh and Rembrandt museums, see Madamme Tussauds' wax museum, and take a boat ride through the canals. We want to enjoy a beer (or several) from a brewery at one of the few surviving windmills in Amsterdam. Maybe we'll rent bicycles and picnic at Vondelpark. The options are endless! The list would be incomplete without a mention of at least one risque attraction. With the Red Light District already covered, how about the Sexmuseum? 

Enjoy a few more photos of our day in Amsterdam.

I almost forgot to tell you we finally found margaritas!
The day was truly a success!

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