I recently returned from a trip to Amsterdam. Michael was celebrating his 40th birthday and invited George and I, along with some of his other friends, to join him on a 10 day trip where we would be staying on a houseboat docked right in the heart of Amsterdam.
I have never been to Amsterdam and had no expectations - good or bad - as to what it would be like. I knew only that it would be fun.
The houseboat was GREAT! It berthed 30 people but there were only 8 of us at the start so we all had our own room. It was quiet and comfortable, had a huge kitchen and dining/living area and centrally located. What more could you ask for?
Amsterdam itself is a gorgeous city. Apparently there are only 750,000 inhabitants, yet there are easily 3 trillion bicycles. EASILY. I'm not even exaggerating* You have to watch out for the cyclists as they tend to knock you down then ring the bell to warn you afterwards! That is if you are in the bike path - which I frequently found myself in when not paying attention.
The buildings are old, beautiful and interesting.
We visited the red-light district which was jaw-dropping. To see sex -for-sale so blatantly advertised takes some getting used to. However, during the day this area is a completely different story. They must use the grandmothers of the 'night' ladies. Seriously, at one point we would have sworn that one of the ladies was 70 if she was a day and wearing a fishnet top that wasn't the least bit flattering (though I doubt she could have worn anything to make her look flattering)
We visited the Anne Frank House which while interesting was very sad - especially knowing that the events really happened.
George, Michael and I caught a train and then rented bicycles to ride out to some tulip fields. The fragrance that we rode into was enough that I wanted to bottle it and bring it home...... The tulips were colorful, beautiful and photogenic! :-) I won't explain to you how I caused a bicycle crash of epic proportions and how I have been banned from EVER riding a bicycle in The Netherlands again. Trust me. It wasn't pretty.
The library - biblioteek - was FANTASTIC and we recommended it to everyone we met. Not only is it ultra-modern with art, architecture and at least 40 Macs/PC's on each floor there is a restaurant on the top floor that serves 5-star food at cafe prices! We ate there on two occasions, enjoying salmon fillets, lamb chops, steak, salads, desserts, WITH wine/beer and it was sooooo cheap! Michael and the other guys ate there more than we did, having breakfast and dinner there!
For a break, George and I took the train to Brussels, Belgium. It took approximately 2.5 hours each way and it was a nice break. While we didn't get to see ALL the sights, we did enjoy the parts we saw, however, having been completely blown away by Amsterdam, Brussels had a lot to live up to and it didn't quite get there.
We visited the sex museum which was quite interesting I have to say. We were given a full history of sex in all it's wonder and some of the exhibits - chastity belts etc., made you wonder why people ever had sex at all!
Helen joined us with her son Kevin from France for a couple of days and we had a great dinner on the boat for our last night and basically laughed non-stop from beginning to end of the trip.
Overall, the trip was everything I knew it would be but MUCH MUCH more.
The only problem was deciding where the next trip would take us all!