We recently spent 2 days in Amsterdam and then took a train to Paris to board a Viking River Cruise.
Let me explain our decision for this particular trip. Dr. T and I both love learning about World War II. We were lucky enough last summer to visit London where we went through the Churchill War Rooms. We also were in Hawaii and were able to go to Pearl Harbor. We have travel goals of going to Europe and seeing several areas important in WWII history
I first started checking on doing a Rhine River cruise and ending up in Amsterdam but wanted to be able to visit at least one concentration camp, which would not happen on the cruise. Dr. T and my son, C, really wanted to visit the Normandy area. Since we were going to be so close, I wanted to visit Amsterdam so we could go to the Anne Frank House.
After a bit of research, we decided to do the Paris To Normandy Viking River Cruise with a side trip to Amsterdam. Planning started about a year before we took the trip. I booked our cruise in October to be sure to get rooms that we wanted. My travel agent suggested a separate trip to Krakow, Poland sometime to see that beautiful city. We could then tour Auschwitz and also visit the Schindler Factory Museum. That will have to be planned another time.
Because I used a travel agent to book our trip, and she did some wacky flights for us, I told everyone that we needed to only take carry-ons for our luggage- not a super easy task, but I’ve done it before (see post here) so I knew it could be done. Luckily, both my kids and Dr. T were fine with doing that.
|The key to traveling with just carry-ons is to have a really good suitcase.|
I’ll talk about my new suitcase in a later post!
So off we went; our first stop- Amsterdam. We met up with daughter, M, in Chicago, then all flew together to Amsterdam.
I read a small amount before we went, and we had several people tell us some things they enjoyed in Amsterdam!! Like the senior citizen friend who told me we had to go to the Red Light District!!
We arrived around noon and took a taxi to our hotel. We stayed at the Bilderberg Hotel. I can’t recommend this hotel enough. It was perfect for us. Its location was great as we were able to walk anywhere we wanted to go. It is situated in the museum district and is very close to the Iamsterdam sign!! It is also one block from the street with all the high-end shops in case you want to buy anything designer while you are there.
|Great view from our room.|
|Hotel bar and garden area.|
|Reception room. Great place to wait for others!|
|A beautiful hotel on a quiet street!!|
|Fresh flowers- such a nice touch!|
We spent the rest of the day walking around exploring the city recouping from our flight.
|Little restaurant overlooking a canal.|
|Not big on doing super touristy things, but you have to see the Iamsterdam sign!!|
|This is a beautiful city. I loved all the canals!!|
|Dr. T always humors me with my picture taking! My kids- not so much!!|
|Dr. T loves Dr. Pepper. He was excited to find one written in Dutch.|
|So many bicycles everywhere we looked. This city has great bike paths too!!|
After a great hotel breakfast, we walked over to the Anne Frank House. We got there early because I wanted to make sure we knew exactly how to get there. We went to a nearby coffeehouse until our time to enter. I also learned that a coffeehouse is for coffee. A coffeeshop is for cannabis.
You can start buying tickets two months before you plan on going. You pick the time that you wish to enter the building. When I first read “The Diary Of Anne Frank” in the 8th grade, I didn’t dream of being able to one day stand where she stood. I had the honor of teaching the play when I taught 8th grade many years later. It was at that time, that I starting having the dream to one day go to Amsterdam and visit the place where she hid with her family.
A word about the museum. It was extremely moving for me to walk through that bookcase into the secret annex. My take away is that the museum is so well done. The Nazis took all the furnishings after they found the hiding place and sent the occupants to concentration camps. I feel like in America, things are so commercialized. Europe is not commercialized and neither is the Anne Frank House. Each room is stark except for pictures of how the room looked at the time she lived there. In her room, her movie star pictures are still on the wall- protected by glass. No photography is allowed in the building. For a virtual tour, click here.
|My travel buddy and me at the entrance to the Anne Frank House.|
|Street View of Anne’s dad’s office building where the family hid.|
|Doors that are no longer used for the entrance. Notice the small sign stating what this building is.|
No commercialization at all. So nice. It is a very respectful place.
|Bell Tower that Anne always heard from a nearby church.|
|View of the building from across a canal.|
In my opinion, you can’t go to Amsterdam without a visit to the Anne Frank House.
Later in the day, we went to the Red Light District. It was about what I expected- a much bigger Bourbon Street. Pretty gross to see men entering the rooms!!! It was about 4:00 in the afternoon and women were already dancing in the windows. I read that no photos are allowed in this area and it is strictly enforced so no pictures- not that I would have wanted to take any. I’m glad I went and saw it. I’m glad it was the afternoon and not at night!!! Our canal tour guide told us that many people go to the Red Light district and become “Amsterdamaged.” I can see that easily happening in that area.
The kids went to do their own thing while Dr. T and I went to find a place to eat. On the way, we stopped at a street market and a bulb market.
|This entire market was selling books.|
|I love looking at old books.|
|I really expected to see more tulips. I guess we weren’t in the right areas.|
|I wasn’t sure if I could bring any back so I didn’t buy any.|
After another great breakfast at the hotel, we set out for a bit of culture. Unfortunately, we waited too late to get tickets to the Van Gogh museum. The MOCO museum was having a Banksy exhibit. M loves Banksy. I walked all over Brighton, England last year just to find an original Banksy to take a picture of for her!! I enjoy Banksy’s work as well.
|Original street art that I walked all over Brighton, England to find.|
That afternoon, we went on a canal tour. M found a highly reviewed canal tour before we left so we already had our tickets. If we had waited until we got there, I think these tours would have been sold out! We picked Those Dam Boat Guys. Our tour was fun and informative!! The only negative was that the information I got stressed bringing food and drinks for the cruise. We didn’t eat lunch and stopped by a supermarket for cheese, crackers, wine and Dr. Peppers!! We had several bags!! No one else brought food so it was kind of a bummer! We enjoyed it very much though!!!
The hotel arranged for a car service to pick us up and take us to Central Station to catch our train to Paris. Central Station is not a large train station. We arrived way early so we had time for coffees etc. We then took the 8:17 to Paris. (Glad to not be on the 15:17 to Paris 🙂 )
Amsterdam was a lovely city. We learned a new word while there – “gezellig.” It is the Dutch way of life. Cozy is a somewhat accurate translation. We found Amsterdam to be Gezellig!! I loved all the people on bicycles. I loved the sidewalk cafes. I loved hearing the bicycle bells at every turn in the city. It makes me want to orchestrate more gezellig into my daily life.
We loved Amsterdam!!