I can't wait to go back. That's the first thing that comes to mind when I think about Amsterdam. It was my favorite city that I visited on my recent trip to Europe. It's not a huge city, but it offers an abundance of culture, history, art, and cuisine. The people in Amsterdam were also incredibly friendly, and I enjoyed every interaction I had with them - even when they spoke Dutch to me thinking I was a local, which I took as a big compliment. ;)
The night we arrived in Amsterdam we took a Red Light Walking Tour. This was really interesting. Prostitution is legal there, which (for me) is just such a weird concept to think about. Our guide talked about how even though it's legal over there, it's not something any parent wants for their child. For basic sex it's about 50 Euros, and the girls average about 10 clients per day. Almost all the prostitutes we walked by were surgically "enhanced" in someway. There are some prostitutes who were born as men, and then if they surgically become women, they don't tell their clients - isn't that crazy?! Anyways, while it's a lifestyle that I don't agree with (I don't even go to Hooters), it was a fascinating learning experience.
From there, a group of girls from my group and I went to this really cool speakeasy that required a password to enter. The inside had this dim lit urban-swank vibe to it. Remember those red Mickey Mouse binoculars you had as a kid with the paper disc of images you'd stick in and click through? They put their menu on one of those discs! Really clever.
The next day we were out and about. The architecture of Amsterdam was beautiful, and the network of canals that ran through it really made you feel like you were some place special. The sidewalks were filled with people on bikes buzzing by - you had to pay attention to avoid getting run over! Every street was packed with little shops, restaurants, bars, etc. So much character radiated throughout the city, every detail seemed to have a story behind it.
We ventured out to a cheese farm outside of the city, where they make the wooden clogs by hand (one of three places that still do this by hand). The cheese (especially the gouda) was delicious, and I bought a wooden clog there and some wooden tulips at the flea market to hang on my wall at home. The people at the farm were outgoing and wonderful.
During some free time I ventured over the the Van Gogh Museum. It was very impressive and I'd encourage any art enthusiast to go. It was a large museum, and it flowed really nicely.
That evening we took a dinner cruise through the canals, it was pretty cool to see the city from that point of view.
Ah, of course, the coffee shops. Marijuana is also legal there. They have these "coffee shops" which are basically places where you can buy weed and/or edibles and either smoke and/or eat them. Really chill atmosphere, with a wide variety of types of people - old and young, groups of friends, even saw a mother-daughter combo (the daughter looked to be about 20 years old). And rest assured, even if you have zero interest in viewing or participating in marijuana, Amsterdam is still a blast to visit.
One of the surprises of Amsterdam was going to this particular gin bar. I thought I ruined gin for myself back in college, so I was honestly not looking forward to it, but I wasn't going to be left out on something that was described so enthusiastically by our Tour Director. So a pile of us went to this teeny jam packed bar where they had a gazillion flavors of gin, and a couple of lively people behind the counter giving out samples and combos left and right (and drinking some themselves, lol). I had a butterscotch mocha sample, and it was delicious. But my favorite was the raspberry gin. Oh.My.Gosh. This stuff was incredible. I regret not buying a bottle and bringing it back because when I got home I found out that they do not ship to the US currently. But I plan to check their site sporadically, in hopes that they do sometime sooner versus later! Or if anyone reading this is going, please let me know so I can bribe you to bring me back a bottle! It's that good. :)
Two places that I didn't get to this trip but would like to next trip: Anne Frank's house, and the Rembrandt Museum.
I smile every time I think about Amsterdam. I can't wait to go back.