As you may know, I just spent a month traveling throughout Europe and have so much to share with you!
My trip started out in Amsterdam after meeting my mother on a layover in Philadelphia. We were taking an AmaWaterways hosted cruise would begin in Amsterdam and end in Basel, on the famous Rhine River. I had planned for us to be in the beautiful city of Amsterdam for two days before embarking on our cruise as we had never visited before. Little did I know what was in store for us regarding King’s Day.
Disclaimer: Amsterdam Marketing provided two Iamsterdam cards for entry to museums, attractions and public transport during our stay. Travelex covered my travel insurance for this trip. As always, all opinions are my own.
Unfortunately, the weather gods didn’t smile upon us on the first day of our trip. Northern Europe experienced some terrible weather at the end of April, including snow in England and other parts of the Netherlands! It was difficult adjusting to such weather, especially just after having left sunny California. (Yes, I’m now spoiled!) However, we made the most of it, and I popped as many photos as I could when the rainclouds curtsied away now and then.
I don’t know about you, but I feel so much more secure to have travel insurance when I’m on a trip and have always chosen Travelex Insurance company. Years ago, I learned how good their service was after we missed a flight and I lost a leather jacket. After this experience, I became a truly loyal customer. Thankfully, nothing happened during this vacation which required their services, however, just having the peace of mind is worth so much more than the cost of the policy. I was thrilled to learn that Travelex is also the choice of AmaWaterways!
We stayed at a bed and breakfast in the Rembrandt Square area of Amsterdam. I liked the area, but the B & B, not so much (which is why you won’t see a review.)
I had a terrible time booking a hotel as so many places were full, but it wasn’t until I was ready to depart from LA that someone told me that we’d be in town during King’s Day, a national festival that essentially shuts down the city so that everyone can party! No wonder I’d had such a difficult time finding accomodations: apparently, one million people arrive to join the 750,000 Amsterdammers in celebrating on this day!
I want to share a few of the places my mother and I visited with our Iamsterdam card, which is like a city pass for so many museums, attractions, discounts, offers and includes public transportation. I’d recommend the card if you’re visiting Amsterdam, and you can choose the length of the validity of the card from one to four days.
Museum of Bags and Purses
Besides the displays of bags and purses, the decor and architecture of the building itself was not to be missed. There were two lovely rooms with painted ceilings to have tea, coffee and pastries from the cafe.
My mother and I loved this museum because it was like visiting a Dutch Downtown Abbey! This canal house was bequeathed to the city of Amsterdam in 1895 on the condition that it would be preserved and opened as a museum. The wealth of the couple who owned the home was staggering when put into today’s financial terms. I would not miss this museum when visiting Amsterdam. (Included on the Iamsterdam Card.)
The view of the house from the back doesn’t do justice to what is in the interior, but you can see the impeccably manicured garden was simply perfect.
Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about the culinary side of Amsterdam (more to come.) Street food is popular, and with the festivities gearing up for King’s Day, there was definitely no shortage of snacks and treats!
You may recognize the Belgian Waffle on the lower right; I must say, after tasting them in Belgium and making them myself, this one was a bit disappointing. The fries, turnover and Stroopwafel (sandwiched together with a caramel filling) were all fab, though!
Included with the Iamsterdam Card is a cruise on the canals, a must-do when in Amsterdam as it gives a different perspective from walking alongside them. You can see how wonky the houses are, which is due to the wooden foundations from hundreds of years ago. The forward tip of the homes was not accidental, however, as it allowed furniture and goods to be hoisted up to higher floors without hitting the walls.
There was a carnival set up in Dam Square for King’s Day which reminded me of the Christmas markets I’d been to in Germany. They even were cooking up sausages over coals, so I told Mum that she absolutely had to try a bratwurst. They were so good, we each had two! Notice that even with carnival fare, top quality chocolate is being used (Callebaut.) There were also many other sweet treats, like poffertjes, which are like little round puffy pancakes. You can see some being made HERE.
We popped into a grocery store (as I love to do wherever I travel) and salivated over all the cheeses and Dutch food we don’t see in our stores here in the US and then had to go back to our room to get an early night as we had arrived on an overnight flight and hadn’t slept since the day before!
One good thing about traveling to a more northern destination during this time of year is the bonus with daylight. I had to get a photo of the statues in Rembrandt Square on our way back as it was the first time seeing them without rain. See how light it still is at 8:36 pm? This was taken on April 25th, so you can imagine around the end of June, it won’t get dark until very late at night; something to take into consideration when planning trips.
Here are some of the sights from our next day in Amsterdam. It started out dry, but a little later, not only did the rain arrive, but the temperature dropped and we were pelted with hail! We were assured that this was not the norm for the end of April, and it really didn’t last that long.
As the hail hit, we heard the clip-clop of horses and saw two lovely Clydesdales pulling barrels of beer! You can see a video clip HERE. We went to two museums (we had lunch at one of them) and a diamond factory which helped to keep us out of the elements. Although the Van Gogh museum is included on the Iamsterdam card, we didn’t go as we didn’t want to stand in line in the rain, but we did see a Van Gogh in the Stedelijk Museum, the museum of modern and contemporary art. Tulips were everywhere and did not disappoint.
Because of the rain, we took the tram to get around, but once it stopped raining, we walked and found a market, and enjoyed watching two grey herons trying to steal some fish (they must be regulars)! We had dessert at a lovely bakery, and when it began pouring again, hopped into the archeaological museum (included on the Iamsterdam Card.)
Later that evening we had dinner at Restaurant Anna, located directly across from the 800 year old Oude Kerk (Old Church) which is Amsterdam’s oldest building and oldest parish church, ironically, within the Red Light District. Review coming soon.
After our dinner, we took a walk through the Red Light District as we had not yet been in this central part of the city. Both my mother and I felt sad for the girls in the windows, but the area didn’t dissuade us from walking through it as there were so many people out for evening strolls including parents with strollers.
Soon, we were back at Dam Square and the carnival was in full swing.
Unfortunately, because I didn’t know anything about King’s Day celebrations or the fact that the festivities begin the night before, a band set up directly below our hotel room and played until 2:00 am. This was especially difficult as we were exhausted and jet-lagged. Here is the information that you really need to have before planning a trip to Amsterdam over King’s Day: that night as I was standing, waiting for a tram to go back to our hotel, I saw a notice stating that the trams would not be running the next day.
In the morning, the hotel owner broke the news to us that it wasn’t just trams that wouldn’t be running, but taxis and buses, too! It would have really been helpful to have this information ahead of time as it was on King’s Day (April 27th) that we had to board the ship. Although the dock was only 2 km away, with all of our luggage, it would be very difficult to walk. Fortunately, the underground was still working, but it was still a long way with our bags to get to the station, then from the Centraal Station to the ship.
HELPFUL TIP: My advice to you is this: unless you want to go to Amsterdam to party for King’s Day, avoid traveling on this day. Not only is public transportation not in service, most museums, attractions and churches are all closed. In fact, later on we learned that even the American Consulate was shut.
The weather on King’s Day was beautiful, and we were so happy that it was no longer raining or very cold. Amsterdam is a gorgeous city, but as any other, her beauty is only enhanced with the sunshine.
One place that I absolutely wanted to see in Amsterdam was Anne Frank’s house. Luckily, the queue was relatively short without a reservation (a rarity) so I was able to visit. It was so poignant to be able to walk into the house, and especially the attic where her family and friends hid, and to see things she had put up on her walls during the extremely depressing time. Visiting the house was very sobering, especially in the midst of all the revelers outside partying in boats on the canals, and in the streets. (Note: the Anne Frank house is not included on the Iamsterdam card.)
As the day progressed, the city became more and more crowded and busy, but everyone was well-behaved. People were just walking around, drinking, dancing, and floating down the canals, having a good time.
Mum and I got to the ship in the early afternoon, but we were staying in Amsterdam one more night. Our ship was the AmaWaterways AmaCerto, and she was beautiful!
Do look at the Iamsterdam Card options if you will be travelling to this beautiful city. It is very simple to use and so convenient!
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Disclaimer: Amsterdam Marketing provided two Iamsterdam cards for entry to museums, attractions and public transport during our stay. Travelex covered my travel insurance for this trip. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.