We spent day 3 of spring break exploring Amsterdam.  We’d checked into our hotel the night before.  Not as great a view as we’d had in Trier, but the room was quite nice.  The evening prior, we’d walked toward the city center to find dinner, so we knew we were only about a 10 minute walk from Central Station, where we could catch a tram close to anywhere in the city center.

Our first stop (well, after we found the right tram stop outside Central Station–it was a little more confusing than we thought to find the right stop) was the Anne Frank House.  We went early and were glad we did; the line was already pretty long.  We had a nice view of the tower of the Westerkerk (West Church), which is mentioned in Anne Frank’s diary.  There’s no original furniture or anything in the house (it was all taken by the Nazis), but there are some photos and documents, including Anne Frank’s original diary.  No pictures are allowed in the house, but I took a picture of the sign on the outside.

After visiting the Anne Frank House, we had breakfast at a cafe right next door, Bagels and Coffee.  They actually had really good coffee (even for us coffee snobs); Roy even made a point of mentioning it to the man (maybe the owner?)


We then hopped on a tram and went to the Blumenmarkt, the “floating flower market”.  I think we went in on the wrong side, as we didn’t see it when we got off the tram.  Picture Roy with his face in the map; “here we are; where’s the flowers?”  We found it after a few minutes.  You can buy flowers, bulbs, seeds, souvenirs–there or in the shops on the street across from the canal.  Unfortunately, you can’t ship the tulip bulbs to the U.S.; apparently they aren’t allowed through customs.  There are some other plants available there that probably aren’t allowed through customs either…

One of the sights on our list to see was the Oude Kerk (Old Church), which is the oldest building in Amsterdam, built in the early 1300s.  It’s an interesting stone building with an attractive clock tower (built in 1566, much later than the rest of the church).  An interesting thing about the Old Church–it’s located inside the Red Light District.  You can literally see prostitutes in the windows right across the street from the church.

The Oude Kerk being the only thing we were really interested in in the Red Light District, we moved on to the next item on our agenda.  This was another interesting item we’d read about online, and was one thing Rebecca really wanted to see–the “cat boat.”  No, not like a cat house–de Poezenboot, as it’s called, may be the world’s only floating cat sanctuary.  The volunteers there are very friendly.  Tourists go there to see and play with the cats.  There was one really friendly cat that the gentleman there told us had been adopted three times, but kept going back to the boat (supposedly because he had a lady cat friend there).

By the time we left the cat boat, we were hungry.  We wandered around way too long looking for somewhere to eat, but finally settled on a place that appeared to specialize in pancakes (different flavors and types of pancakes seems to be a traditional Dutch food).  I had apple pancakes and Roy had hot chicken pancakes (better than it sounds).  Rebecca had Wienerschnitzel.

We wanted to go to the Van Gogh Museum, but the lines were way too long.  They were having some sort of special exhibit, but we just didn’t want to fight the crowd, so we ended up walking around Vondel Park, which is the largest city park in Amsterdam.  It was rather chilly that day, but not too bad walking.  It’s a good place to see just normal Amsterdam people, playing with their kids or dogs.  There were a two or three folks there with instruments; we listened to them play a few songs.

springbreak_20090407_182.jpgAfterward we wandered around just taking in the sights.  We saw the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church), which is in Dam Square in the city center.  I think I’d have enjoyed Dam Square better if it hadn’t been full of a noisy carnival.  The New Church would be pretty, but for some reason they hang ads or something on it and it looks tacky.  We also looked everywhere for ice cream, which Rebecca really wanted.  Naturally, by the time we started looking for it, it was getting late and we couldn’t find any ice cream places.  We looked everywhere (except trying to stay out of the Red Light District).  Roy even asked!  We ended up getting Rebecca a cone at a McDonald’s (did I mention there were McDonald’s everywhere?)

We considered getting a “canal bike”, which is basically a paddle boat you can take around the canals.  Amsterdam is full of canals and a lot of nice architecture.  Roy asked some people who were going down the canal in a canal bike if it was fun, and they said it was.  However, the wind was picking up and it was cold, so we decided to pass.  Instead we had a good dinner (I had cheese fondue, yum) and headed back to the hotel, planning an early start next morning for our trip to Keukenhof Gardens.


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