Amsterdam!

Casually fabulous.  Amsterdam may have a bit of a naughty reputation, but there is so much more.  With the right touch of laid back yet cultured and tasteful, picturesque and charming, Amsterdam is old but new at the same time.  It has the suave sophistication of maturity and a youthful cocky swagger.  Allow yourself to be seduced.

Like Amsterdam you don’t have to try too hard.  It is possible to simply walk out the door with no destination and encounter charming cafes, historic landmarks, museums, outdoor markets, and unpretentious restaurants with gracious hospitality.  Even a walk through the red light district offers more than just sex.  There’s just something about wandering through the streets of Europe, clock tower bells echoing…

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I spent a week on a houseboat, in a quiet neighborhood on a canal near a children’s school.  A few blocks from a city square, with restaurants, cafes, and shops, and a daily farmer’s market.  A few more blocks from the Red Light District.   Our early morning arrival allowed us to drop off our bags and begin investigating the neighborhood before the city was awake.

The grayest hour of morning, when the city has it’s eyes open but hasn’t gotten out of bed yet, and street lights glow soft as the last of night fades into the beginning of day.  We stopped in a prepared foods shop to grab sandwiches for the walk and set out.  We cross a few canal foot bridges, turn down a few streets, and find ourselves in the middle of the famed district of the women in boxed windows lit with glowing red lights.  Last nights parties decorated the narrow brick walkways shamelessly.  Blatant and unapologetic, this city takes you as you are and expects the same.

We continue our aimless wander, me incessant with the picture taking, and agree that it’s time to stop for a coffee.  The adrenaline hasn’t worn off yet from leaving home 12 hours ago to this moment.  We circle back to where we started and stop at a grocery store for essentials before turning in to take a break, suddenly we feel like crashing.  A few hours later, like bears roused from hibernation we stumble off of our canal-way home in search of food; looking for a restaurant, but not a tourist trap.  What we found was the first of many delightful neighborhood places; tucked away down a  side street a cozy European farm to table cafe,  welcoming us in from a downpour.  After dinner, now dried and with the rain subsided, our sense of adventure was not dampened.  We walked through quiet neighborhoods, with stately manors facing canals and passed other quiet cozy restaurant spots.  It was hard to imagine this as city with a reputation for drugs or even considered a destination for it.

What to do for a week in Amsterdam?  Rent a bicycle, or take a walk, even in the rain it is a fairy tale of a stroll.  Cafes and canals, cheese and more cheese.  If you happen past a specialty wine store, do go in and grab as many bottles as is feasible to carry with you. Pretty much the same goes with cheese if you see a fromagerie, the only problem being one can only eat so much cheese, alas!  Indulge in dutch apple pie.  Pop into a restaurant on a whim because it looks cozy and inviting, it doesn’t matter if you are hungry.  Grab a gin and tonic, and enjoy that you have nothing to do except enjoy this moment.  Lose track of time.  Why do we travel?  Work, relaxation, education, or maybe curiosity and exploration?  It gives us an excuse to eat more frequently and begin drinking earlier in the day with reckless abandon.  I mean, not to the extent that you lose your passport.

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for practical tips on planning your visit, I recommend Amsterdam.info

for further inspiration AFAR travel magazine offers tips from locals

and if you want to know where else to go iamsterdam

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