Sunday, May 5, 2013

Spring in Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Keukenhof Tulip Garden
more tulips at Keukenhof
Windmill at Keukenhof
This weekend last year we were in Amsterdam. We had taken the Thaly train (book early to get better fares) from Paris, and the journey took a little more than 3 hours. The Dutch speaks English, but nowhere was English written anywhere at the Amsterdam Central Station. Fortunately, the signs were quite intuitive. When we emerged from the train station, we were greeted with lovely historic towering buildings. And complete chaos - trams, buses, bicycles and tourists everywhere! The canal was bustling with what looked like rush hour traffic. A tourist office next to the train station provided some help in getting around, but don't expect any freebies. The Dutch are shrewd business people. Nothing is free. The toilets, maps, even speaking with an agent (to buy train tickets) come with a fee.
only thing that is free - public urinal
We couldn't resist snapping this plaque!

You're more likely to be run over by a bicycle than by a car
Per my brother's recommendation, we stayed at a hotel outside of town. It took about half an hour to get there by tram; we enjoyed mingling with the locals and immersing in the culture. Since it was spring, we planned a visit to the famed Keukenhof Garden to see the awesome tulips. We lucked out on the weather, and spent a fabulous day at this incredible destination. Getting to the Schipol Airport (to pick up the bus to the garden) from our hotel was kind of confusing.  Make sure you carry some change because many train stations are automated and have nobody manning the stations. For some reason, our credit cards did not work in their machines.
houseboats on one of many canals around Amsterdam
Red Light District
we didn't go in, but you can get "medical" seeds here
Liberal Amsterdam can be a culture shock to some people. It is a complete antithesis to aristocratic, sophisticated Paris. We love Amsterdam because it is such a fun, vibrant, exciting city, where anything goes. The people are very friendly, and we felt safe walking all around town and taking the tram back to our hotel in the evenings. We savored some delicious Chinese food in Chinatown, and brought home some wonderful Gouda cheese and dried fruits that we picked up at the Albert Cuyp Market. All in all, it was an excellent getaway from Paris.

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Yosemite National Park in the Spring Heat Wave in Paris, France Keukenhof Tulip Garden in Amsterdam, the Netherlands

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