1. Americans have a misconception about drugs in Amsterdam. Although usage is somewhat “overlooked”, it’s not just one big party. Don’t stop in for lunch at a coffee shop. “Coffee Shops” are generally places where smoking pot is overlooked. If you forget, and stop by to check out a menu, the smell will remind you right away.
2. The people are very friendly and proud. Most of them speak English, so it’s not a problem to get around and order from menus.
3. European breakfasts are great. We stayed at a bed and breakfast, and were served sliced meats, delicious cheeses, and bread every morning. Some mornings we had pate, and on others we had chocolate sprinkles. The chocolate sprinkles were in small boxes, much like the individual raisin boxes we have. The sprinkles are eaten on a piece of buttered bread.
4. The bus system is wonderful, reliable, and affordable. Although you can take the bus just about anywhere, be sure to wear some good, sturdy shoes. You’ll be on your feet a lot, and put on a lot of miles. You can rent a bicycle if you’d rather move around the city on your own. Almost everyone in Amsterdam owns a bicycle, and there are designated bicycle lanes located between the street and sidewalk. There are also separate traffic lights for bicycles.
5. Buy an Amsterdam pass. It includes a variety of museums and canal tours, and is cheaper in the long run. Besides the more popular and well known museums, you won’t want to miss the Tropenmuseum. It is abounding in cultural displays from all over the world. The Anne Frank House is a hot spot. Although the line is almost always long, it moves fairly quickly. You wander through the house at your own leisure, not in tour groups. Once inside, the house is all you’ve imagined. It is remarkable. The problem is that it is so crowded, it is hard to truly appreciate the pain and fear of the former occupants. The Van Gogh and Rijksmuseum are must sees. Murphy’s law suggests that the work of art you’d love to see will be on tour in the United States.
6. House boats line the canals. These are really permanent homes, with all the amenities. There is a House Boat Museum which you can tour. The house boats are rather like a floating trailer park.
7. Although there’s plenty to see in Amsterdam, there are several day trips which I highly recommend. Zaanse Schans is a quaint old settlement, located nine miles from Amsterdam. This area is what you read about Holland as a child … the beautiful countryside dotted with windmills. There are five original windmills standing, three of which are open to the public. The thatched roofs and working wooden gears are sights to behold. The area also boasts a wooden shoe maker, a pewter factory, a cheese shop, and gift shops. Keukenhof is the famous flower garden. It is breathtaking. You can spend hours strolling around the gardens, hopping on cement circles on the water, and meandering through the boxwood maze.
8. Flower bulbs are available everywhere. Although most of the bulbs available in the United States are imported from Holland, it’s exciting to import your own. Some bulbs have labels stating that they are approved for transport to the United States and Canada. Although they might not be checked by customs, I’d recommend buying the labeled bulbs.
9. There’s nothing like real Holland cheese. It can be transported to the United States, without any problems. Sealed packages are readily available and will not spoil on the way home. You can purchase big chunks of fresh cheese and have them vacuumed sealed. They do not require refrigeration.
10. Wooden shoes are still worn. They are not as commonplace as years ago, but some people still use them for outside work. They are made of poplar and are waterproof. There are several places where you can see how they are made, and you can purchase some for yourself.