Sunday, May 16, 2010

Destination: Amsterdam

Over my bday weekend, a friend and I made a 30-hour trip (including 10 hours driving) to Holland to see the tulip fields in bloom.  The first stop on this trip was Amsterdam, where we stayed overnight before heading to the tulip fields. 

Our midnight arrival was perfectly on-time for us to join the entire city population
for a night out on the town.  A neon carnival was set-up in the city center with the tallest Carnival rides that I've ever seen.  The height didn't seem to daunt people as lines for the rides were long.  This surprised me as I'm of the philosophy that it's not smart to go on Carnival rides as they break-down easily... especially the very tall rides where the falling distance is greater.

Unfortunately we didn't get to see much of the city.  Of our 30 hour trip, only 11 hours were spent in Amsterdam (this included sleeping time).  Below are some of the key take-aways from the 11 hours there:

1. During the day, Amsterdam is a city with gorgeous, old buildings and many canals.  During the night, the gorgeous historic buildings take a back seat to neon signs and lit-up graffiti. These contrasting elements work well together. 

2. Most old house have hooks on the underside of the roof (right next to the windows)... these hooks were used in the olden times to lift large objects to the higher rooms as the stair cases were too small to allow larger objects to pass through them.  (to better see the hooks, click on the pic at left).

3. Go out at night in Amsterdam.  It is the equivalent to Las Vegas; the city which comes alive at night.

4. Bikes are everywhere, including in the canals.  Most bikes are in poor shape, except the seats which are well taken care of. 

5. Amsterdam seems to have one of the most diverse poulations in Europe (this observation is based solely on the languages heard - of course, this could also have been us hearing all the tourists).

6. Buy some tulips at the flower market.  They're 6EUR for 50 tulips, and they are amazing.  Additionally, you can buy bulbs for many flowers (HUGE bulbs).

6. Hotel recommendation: check out the Inntel Hotels Amsterdam Centre.  It is in the city center, which is optimal since you can walk to everything.  It is reasonably priced if you book ahead of time.  The rooms are large (compared to European standards), it's clean and it's staff are very knowledgable about the city.  The down-sides to the hotel are that breakfast is not included in the room price and is expensive (a good alternate is to eat at a street cafe) and there is very limited street parking nearby (paid parking is ~50EUR/day, or you can park outside the city and talk a tram in).  If you have a car, check out hotels slightly outside the city center.

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