for Unconventional Women
for Unconventional Women
Back in September, I traveled to Amsterdam for work but managed to fit in a half day in the city with an old elementary school friend (thanks, FB for reconnecting us!) and a night out with a colleague. If you’re looking for an easy trip to Europe, Amsterdam should definitely be at (or at least toward) the top of your list.
Many people think of London or Paris as the place to visit because, well they are London and Paris. But while London has the language similarities and both London and Paris have a ton of direct flights from the US, Amsterdam, as a major European hub, also has a number of direct flights to and from nearly every major airport in the US (I only had one stop flying out of my little, local airport in Sacramento, with a flight that went from Sacramento to Salt Lake City then from Salt Lake direct to Amsterdam). And as for the language, well, I don’t want to sound like an obnoxious American, but I don’t think I met one person during my visit (or any of my visits for that matter as I’ve been two other times, both during college) that didn’t speak English.
In addition to being easy to get to and having virtually no language barrier, Amsterdam really is a special place and it’s perfect for a week-long vacation. There are world class museums (including the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh museum), the very moving Anne Frank House, gorgeous canals, charming tilted houses, and a nightlife that is just big enough to keep you as entertained as you want to be. You can rent bikes and bike around the city, take canal tours, or, my favorite, just walk—Amsterdam is an eminently walkable city.
The Panorama Skybar and Restaurant is a unique venue. Located at the top of a building on the opposite side of the waterway from the central station (ferries are free!!), you can get a 360 degree view of the city and swing from the highest swing in Europe—100 meters up AND it swings out over the top of the building. I kid you not. The swing is positioned at the edge of the building and when it swings, it swings out over the side of the building. I’m adventurous, but heights aren’t my thing, so it would likely be a cold day in h**l before you see me on that thing. Unless one of my kids dares me and then all bets are off. It looked cool, though, from where I watched safely on the ground below.
The architecture of the city is a mix of stunning, charming, and maybe even a little Mother Goose-ish with the way several skinny houses tilt and lean with age. If you’ve read (or watched) “Girl with the Pearl Earring,” when you walk around the city, it will not be hard to image Vermeer walking those same steps, seeing those same buildings. Speaking of walking, I know a number of people, when they think of Amsterdam, think of the red light district and wonder if the city is a good place to bring kids. In general, the city is a safe place to walk and even if you wander into the red light district, you can quickly wander back out. Sex is a regulated industry, as are some drugs, and it’s a fact of the city. But in my experience, if you avoid the red light district (which is easy to do), you might catch glimpses of that part of the culture, but what you’ll mostly experience is a very cosmopolitan population that is both sophisticated and highly cultured.
That last two things I’ll say about the city are, first if you go and are traveling only with adults, go have drinks at Tales and Spirits. The cocktail menu (seriously, following the link and check it out) is about ten pages long and super fun. It’s a bit full of itself, but you don’t have to be that way if you go. I had this amazing cocktail called Drop of Art (inspired by Van Gogh) but there are so many others I wish I’d had the time to try, mostly because they are works of art rather than for the drink itself. The second thing I will say is that if you read my prior blog about the “500 Secrets of” series of books, there is one about Amsterdam. Pick it up and check it out before you go—I know I will before I visit again.
About the Author: Tamsen Schultz is an avid traveler and prefers to seek out the different or unusual even when visiting some of the more tourist-heavy spots (Capuchin Monastery in Rome, anyone?). Her contemporary novels are set on the other side of the country from where she lives (which may or may not be an excuse to travel) and she’s currently writing an historical mystery set in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, which adds a new dimension to her obsession by giving her a reason to travel in both space and time.
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