Day One: Amsterdam, The City

I loved Amsterdam.

I’ll admit before we left I was a bit worried.  Every travel book I’d read and every travel show I’d watched in preparation all focused on Amsterdam’s “seedier” components.  Being someone not interested in those components, I was concerned.

After traveling there, I’ve decided many of those assumptions about Amsterdam are not only untrue but quite unfair and borderline stereotypical when it comes to the city.   Yes, there was a “coffee” house on every street we visited, but no one bothered us and honestly if you didn’t know what they were selling you’d just think it was another little smoke shop (although I will admit the smell was indistinguishable). We didn’t visit the Red Light district and saw no evidence of it in any other place in the city.

I found the city to be so much more than the reputation for coffee shops and red light districts. To speak of Amsterdam only in terms of those two things seems so terribly unfair to me.  There is so much more there.

Yes, that guys dressed up like Darth Vader. I have no idea why.

Amsterdam was charming enough to give you that feel you want from a European city when you visit,  but gritty enough that it felt like a REAL place.   When I was in Venice I felt like I was on a ride at Disneyworld it was sooo charming. In Paris I felt like I was always about to do something “wrong” the whole time, the place seemed so perfect, but not in  Amsterdam.  It felt real.

I could see people living there, not just passing through for the day.   There were families everywhere.  Mom’s with bikes full of groceries and Dad’s walking kids to school.  There were schools, and grocery stores and young people sitting by the canals.

In Amsterdam no one cared if I ordered wine with dinner. Since I don’t drink, I’ve become accustomed to weary looks when I tell a waiter I don’t want wine with dinner, especially when I travel.   In Amsterdam I  had a waiter ask me if I wanted him to point out which items on the menu were cooked with alcohol.  That’s never happened before.   The Dutch seem very easy going….. want to “borrow” the wifi at the Apple store?  Hey,  have a seat and make yourself comfortable.  Want to sit by the canal for lunch? Stay as long as you like… I guess that Amsterdam’s reputation for “anything goes” has a positive side which as it turns out makes it very nice to visit.

We arrived in Amsterdam early and got a cab to our hotel.   After cleaning up a bit (our room was ready for us hallelujah!) we headed out to explore the city.  My husband had been to Amsterdam a couple of times when he lived in the Netherlands,  but never lived there, so he was just as anxious to explore as I was.

We had made reservations ahead of time for the Anne Frank house that day. We had few hours before our reservation so we searched out some lunch and got a feel for the city.

The weather was gorgeous. Low to mid 60’s and sunny. Quite rare for Spring in the Netherlands.  We were able to sit canal side and eat lunch. I ended up taking off my coat it was so warm.  Lunch was delicious, I knew I was in for a treat when the waitress asked me if I’d mind waiting 5 minutes for the bread to come out of the oven… ummm… yeah I’ll wait for fresh bread.    Just a simple avocado sandwich but delicious as all of the ingredients were perfectly fresh.

After lunch we headed over to the Anne Frank house.  I reread the book a few years ago when my daughter was reading it, but I should have read it before I left. Many of the details of the people she hid with were not as fresh in my mind as I would have liked them to be.

The tone in the home was somber and  sacred.  It still blows me away that the world could be so cruel.   I can’t imagine the panic I would feel trying to hide my family and fearing for their safety like the Frank’s had to.

Next we wandered over to the spot to catch a canal boat ride.  I wanted to take advantage of the sunshine and be on the water a bit.

I fell in love with the canal side homes.  The architecture and attention to detail was amazing.  There is the most beautiful color of gray painted on many of the homes.  It contrasted with rich red doors and warm white trim made the homes pop.    The color combinations really inspired me, enough that I’m about to repaint our dining room.

Not quite ready for dinner but a little bit hungry, we got our second order of patat (french fries) for the day.  They serve them there with mayo (or curry, or any other number of delicious sauces) and wandered  around the Nine Streets until our stomachs told us it was time for dinner.

By 7 I was starving and had been up for more than 24 hours.  I was starting to fade… and fast.   We found a great noodle bar and I had delicious dinner, noodles pan fried so they were crispy with vegetables and fried shallots. Delish.

By 9 we were back at the hotel and fast asleep.

Oh one more thing… See that sign?  Yeah, try to pronounce that then have your husband laugh at you the whole time.   I think he enjoyed watching me slaughter the dutch language a little bit more than he should have.  By the end of 4 days I almost could pronounce my “g’s” correctly….. so I guess there is hope for me still.


Links to all of my posts on the Netherlands

A Little Dutch Inspiration

Day One: The City

Day Two: To Delft and Back

Day Three: The Flowers

Day Four: Amsterdam Museums

Melissa Mortenson is the author of the Polka Dot Chair blog which is in its 7th year of sharing fresh and creative ideas with readers. She is the author of “Project Teen, Handmade Gifts your Teen will Actually Love”. Her first fabric line “Derby Style” debuted in January 2015 through Riley Blake Designs. A mom of 3, she considers herself lucky to be living in Kentucky.


  1. says

    You just have to remember to build up the correct level of phlegm when speaking Dutch :oD

    You were lucky with a week that saw a mini heatwave across Europe, glad you got all that sun :o)

  2. says

    I was looking forward to seeing your photos, as I figured my husband’s aunt’s canal house would be in one of your picks, and sure enough, in the pick above the french fry pic, it’s the 2nd house from the left. LOVE Amsterdam — it’s so full of energy and livelihood! Glad you loved it!

  3. says

    I’m glad you enjoyed your stay here. It’s nice to read Amsterdam is more then ‘s*x and drugs’ :-)

    You had really good weather, it was cold againthe next week!

    groeten, Francis (yes you can practice the ‘GR’ )

  4. says

    Thanks for sharing. I have to say I am a bit jealous. I love European cities and have never been to Amsterdam. I hope I get to visit sometime. Looks like you had a lovely time.

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