Traveling is my favorite thing to do. Ever. Period. So, when I had the chance to go to The Netherlands, I jumped!
I went to meet a boy. That didn’t work out, but I fell in love with the country.
From the multi-culturalism to the artsy, bohemian atmosphere, I just loved it all! Walking down the streets, along the many canals, the smells of the water brought smiles to my face and the ebb and flow of the city was soothing yet exciting.
My first moments were at Schiphol Airport and all I can say is ‘Wow!” I have never seen an airport like this in my entire life, and I have been around. It has a full service mall and train station inside. The toilet stalls are decorated with tulip photos! Yes, I am probably easily amused.
Catching a cab was incredibly easy. I walked outside, joined the queue and didn’t have to wait long at all, for my Mercedes-Benz taxi to whisk me off to my bed and breakfast. The driver was from Turkey and gave me little lessons about the city as we drove along to Stadion Weg, which translates to Stadium Way. (The street leads to the stadium.)
I stayed at Xaviera Hollander’s B & B. In case you’re wondering, yes, the woman who became famous as “The Happy Hooker” owns it.
I was seduced by the thoughts of spending time in a townhouse run by a woman revered by so many. I was a little disappointed, however. The hallway was quite junky, filled with clothes and accessories that didn’t fit in Xaviera’s closets and the house was filled with cats, to which I am allergic. No matter, my room was cool, even if I did have to share the bathroom, and it was convenient to the tram, which took me everywhere I wanted to go.
I’ll share some of my favorite places with you. I won’t go into the Red Light District here because there are a million articles on the place.
The Van Gogh Museum
I adored this museum.
Vincent Van Gogh is one of my favorite artists and this museum has such an extensive collection of his works in all different media. There are history lessons about his life and his work in every section.
The website says it has the largest collection of the artist’s work and I believe that.
The Van Gogh museum also houses paintings by other artists who were friends with the tormented creator, like Paul Gauguin, or were inspired by him, like Emile Bernard.
If you buy online, tickets for adults cost 12.50 Euros. They are just slightly more at the ticket window. Kids under 3 are free and under 17s pay 2.50 Euros.
The gift shop is awesome and very reasonably priced. If you fall in love with a large piece of artwork like I did, they will ship it to you.
The Floating Flower Market
Just a few minutes walk from the museum is the floating flower market.
No visit to The NL is complete without it.
This is the only floating flower market in the entire world and it really is worth seeing. The market consists of stalls, which are on houseboats on the Singel Canal. When you’re inside one, you really don’t feel like you’re floating at all. It’s open year round until 5:30pm.
They have tulip bulbs for Amsterdammers, as well as foreigners. The bulbs come packaged for transport within the European Union and for the United States. I got bummed out because the tulips I desperately wanted weren’t available for export to the States. It all has something to do with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The prices are reasonable too. Like with all stores, it pays to shop around.
The Xtracold Ice Bar
This isn’t the only ice bar in the world, but it’s the only one I have ever been to. It was a lot of fun.
They make you put on lots of layers and take you to an ice room that is completely decked out in ice. We’re talking chairs, floor, walls, bar, table, faux windows … everything! It’s -8 degrees Celsius, which according to my converter is 17.6 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s cold! Although, if you’re from Fargo, North Dakota, that’s a heat wave. You’re served a yummy vodka drink in an ice glass and you stay 30 minutes for 15 Euros.
It’s located about a five-minute walk from Rembrandtplein. Just a word to the wise, the sign out front is not very large, so it is easy to miss. Take the phone number (+31(0)20-3205700 ) with you, so you can call when you get lost!
The Xtracold Ice Bar has a hot lounge where you can get a bite to eat, but I thought I would spend my money elsewhere, since I’d already left some at that establishment.
I walked a little ways along the Amstel River and found a sushi bar called Zushi.
I am a sushi addict, so this was right up my alley and I highly recommend it. The place was packed and I had to wait 20 minutes for a seat at the bar. The waitress told me it is always crowded, so if you need to eat right away, this is not the place for you.
The atmosphere was fun. There were a lot of 20-somethings and 30-somethings there. The way it works, is you grab sushi and sashimi off the conveyer belt as it moves past you. Each item comes on a different colored plate. Each color plate determines the price. For instance, orange is the cheapest at 2.70 Euros and grey is the most expensive at 11.75. After your meal, your server, who has been bringing you drinks, special orders and explaining to you what each item is, tallies the plates and give you a total.
It can get pricey, so be careful. Everything I ate and drank there was top notch. This restaurant made me break my own rule about never eating in the same place twice when I am on vacation.
If you want cheap and fast, then you need to head to the nearest FEBO. It is a fast food chain where you put money in a machine and pull out the item you want. It reminds me of the old Horn and Hardart automat restaurants I have heard so many stories about.
I went to one in the Red Light District with my Dutch friend. Glad my first time was with him, because everything is in Dutch and the pictures don’t really help. When I went alone, I just guessed at what each item was, and hoped for the best!
Food here can cost as little as a 1 Euro. Forget healthy eating here though. Everything is fried and to this day, I have no idea what I ate!
Amsterdam is one of the easiest cities in which I have ever traveled, and that includes my beloved New York City.
Of course, the preferred mode of transport for an Amsterdammer is the bike. There are bike lanes everywhere! There is a bike/no bike signal on the traffic lights. And there are garages everywhere for bike parking. I fact, you are more likely to be hit by a bike than a car!
You can rent bikes nearly anywhere and they don’t cost too much. If you don’t feel comfortable riding a bicycle on the Amsterdam city streets, then you need to hop on the tram, bus or metro.
The GVB has 1, 2 or 3-day travel passes for unlimited access. I bought a 1-day pass, but walked so much it was a waste of money if calculated ride by ride. The best value is something called a strippenkaart. You stamp the card based on the number of zones to your destination. Most places are within one zone so you only need one stamp per ride. And transfers are free. Strippenkaarts are sold in strips of 8, 15 or 45.
Hands down, an awesome place to be! Next time, I will take you on some day trips outside the city itself.