Amsterdam turned out to be everything and even more than I expected. When people speak of Amsterdam the only topics of conversation revolve around legal drugs, sex, the largest Red Light district in the world, and raging parties. Less is spoken about the famous museums, the neighborhood canals comparable to Venice, the cozy brown cafes, and the quaint architecture and cobblestone alleys. Together, the intoxicating combination of historic European with the wildest and most liberal beliefs makes Amsterdam perhaps one of the most unique and special cities in the world. Needless to say, we LOVED Amsterdam!!
Accommodation with the RV also worked out; there were two year-round campgrounds outside of Amsterdam. We settled with Amsterdam City Camp, a RV lot across the canal in the Noord district, for one golden reason: its vicinity to a free ferry. The price of €18/night included accommodation for 2, wifi, a dump, and water. There was a small additional fee for electricity. From the lot, it was a 10-minute walk to the free 12-minute-ride ferry that departed every half hour. Had we stayed at the other campsite, we would have spent €7.50 per person per day on transportation along with a 40-minute commute.
The ferry, which was the ultimate local experience:
Upon arrival to Central Station, I was immediately overwhelmed by the beauty of the city. The station alone begged to be photographed, along with the incredible site of thousands of bicycles.
Smart shops and coffee shops (not coffee houses or cafes!) littered the streets of Amsterdam, selling all types of legal drugs and psychedelics. Kokopelli, our favorite smart shop, was apparently the only smart shop in the city that had a lovely hang-out spot for their customers to hang out and trip.
Amusing and extremely creative sex shops could be found everywhere.
Or random toys in general.
Too many bars and nightclubs made it difficult to find a party. Fortunately I found a weekly Friday-night event called House Rules in Rembrandtplein, which turned out to be an epic party. A live vocalist and saxophonist infused with house music? It was heaven. With the €16 cover charge, it was inexpensive, but the ridiculous €0.50 per bathroom usage made up for it.
But perhaps my favorite activity in Amsterdam was simply wandering along the canal-lined streets, stopping at bars and cafes along the way. Our regularly frequented brown cafe of choice was Hoppe (which was 300+ years old), where I devoured the delicious Dutch snack of bitterballen every time. Another favorite was Puccini, a wonderful cafe and bakery near the street market of Nieumarkt, perfect for a sandwich and people-watching. Even the €19 hop-on/hop-off boat tour was enjoyable. Amsterdam is ridiculously beautiful, and we lucked out with an unusual sunny day.
Even the museums varied: the Torture Museum, the Sex Museum, the Van Gogh Museum, and the Rijksmuseum, to name a few. We only visited one museum, the famous Anne Frank House, where the Frank family hid for 2 years from the Nazi regime. Long lines can be typically seen wrapped around the house, but if you purchase tickets online in advance (for €9.50 per person), you can skip the line. I recommend purchasing a week in advance.
We did not enter the Rijksmuseum, but we enjoyed strolling around its gorgeous facade. Obviously, we weren’t the only ones.
Unfortunately one of the major attractions of Amsterdam (and the Netherlands) had not yet bloomed during our visit in early March. We would have loved to witness the fields upon fields of brilliant tulips paint the typical picture of the Netherlands. The downside to traveling during the off season equates to closures of popular attractions, but the upside is peace, tranquility, and lower costs. Despite not being able to gush over Dutch tulips, we thoroughly enjoyed the local gouda cheeses, the canals, and the paraphernalia that makes Amsterdam Amsterdam. But before leaving the Netherlands we had one final task: to wander through a field of Dutch windmills!