We saved Amsterdam for the finale. We could not miss the main reason most people come to the Netherlands. A forty-minute train ride from our homebase and we were there. This train was better than the others, I think. It had seating upstairs and down.
“I’m getting an Uber to the hotel this time,” K proclaimed.
Head turn, eyebrow raise, “Oh, I guess I’m riding with you then.”
At this point I guess K was done with all the walking lol. So, we mixed in Uber rides for the rest of this excursion.
We checked in and dropped our bags. There were nice views from this hotel room, with a kind of panoramic set up of curtains that opened around the entire room. After a quick rest, we headed out to take in the town. As we walked around, it kind of felt like Brussels, minus the flare or artist’s touch. There were still beautiful canals that people seem to use regularly, unlike other Holland cities. There weren’t only tours, but also actual houseboats and people riding for leisure. To kill some time before our first tour, we decided to head to the Red-Light district.
Stop 1: RED LIGHT SECRETS MUSEUM
This was more interesting than I thought it was going to be. Listening to the audio tour, you learn a little history and find out more about life from the sex workers’ perspective. We learned things like the window workers get to decide if a “john” can come in or not. They can refuse you. You can’t take pictures of the workers in the window. We also learned that because prostitution is legal, sex workers must register with the Chamber of Commerce. The tour also highlighted the difficulties workers have, even with rules in place. Even though one of the reasons for legalizing the profession was to provide more autonomy for the worker, there are still pimps who make women register and work legally.
Moreover, sex workers are considered “independent entrepreneurs.” They must cover all the costs for doing the work—renting a window, cleaning the room, buying all the required accessories—you know business expenses. This museum was an interesting stop for sure. If you go, be sure to read the handwritten confessions by other visitors … funny stuff.
Stop 2: ICE BAR
After a little more sightseeing, we made it to our second stop: The Ice Bar. When you first walk in, it is a normal bar-like setting, but as you continue further, be sure to grab a coat and gloves. Now that I think about it, they didn’t sanitize the coats! Aww man. Anyway, you literally walk through a freezer door into the Ice Bar, which is -9 degrees.It has a fun pirate themed décor with ice sculptures for photos. You get a couple drinks with your ticket purchase, so after our fingers started to get frost bite from holding a piece of ice shaped like a cup, we exited. Our ticket included a third drink in the regular bar, so we sat down, warmed up and headed on to our next event.
Stop 3: EVENING CANAL TOUR
Different city different sights, right? Why not? This tour was an evening boat ride through the canals complete with drinks, twenty strangers, and a little history. What better way is there to see a city? Here, we had two guides: the captain and a bartender. Both made the experience fun and interesting. As we set sail, we learned some interesting facts about Amsterdam. Like, if you look at the rooftops, most of the buildings still have hooks on the front. During the seventeenth century, people used these hooks to hoist spice and other goods off the boats that came in through the canals. So, most residents lived on the lower levels and used the rooftop and upper levels of the house for storage.
Wait, this bartender was slow as hell! She was focusing on talking instead of pouring!
Anyway, back then homes didn’t have addresses, so they put their family crest or coat of arms over the house door so boats would know where to stop to deliver shipments. Also, Amsterdam is the first city to establish a stock exchange. This was a good tour. We learned a few things and halfway through we finally received our drinks lol. K and I enjoyed the glowing ambiance as the sun began set on the ride back. We thought this was a great ending to our first day, so we headed back to the hotel. Check out more Amsterdam canal history if you’re interested.
We decided to take things slower on day two. To be exact, I agreed that K was right … I tend to pack in a lot of activity with walking and sightseeing to the point of exhaustion. After a casual morning and a dose of healthy compromise, we Ubered to the meeting point for our first tour. It’s eleven in the morning. I had time to read the Monday Notes. I’m just saying … the day is half over.
Tour 1: Keukenhof Gardens
There was no guide, stale jokes, or history … just a walk through a tulip garden. April through mid-May, Holland has a Tulip Festival. Thousands of people head to Keukenhof or Flevoland to view tulips. We decided to catch a bus to Keukenhof since we made it on the final day of the season. The bus was a nice, comfortable double decker. We stopped and got some snacks, and we were on our way. Thirty to forty minutes later, we were enjoying beautiful tulips in a theme-park-like setting. I had no idea there were so many distinct colors and varieties of this flower. In case you didn’t know, the vast majority of the world’s flowers come from the Netherlands which includes tulips. After a couple hours enjoying a nice sunny day smelling the flowers, we headed back to Amsterdam.
Tour 2: Anne Frank House Museum
I didn’t know this was such a hot ticket. There are a lot of walking tours that end in front of the house but don’t offer tickets to go inside the actual home. The museum releases a limited number of tickets at the beginning of each month for visitors to enter on a specific date and time.
This was a chronologically organized, very well-thought-out museum. You follow Anne’s whole family before and after The Holocaust. There are a lot of audio clips from her father and people who knew her. The tour walks you through the entire house and the “secret annex” where they hid. To hear her father talk about reading the diary and losing his family was very touching and heartwarming. I enjoyed this museum experience.
That wraps up Amsterdam and our Netherlands trip. See you in Croatia!!!