Saturday, September 20, 2008

In Amsterdam a coffeeshop isn't a coffeeshop

In theory it was a great idea...okay, okay, in theory it was a good idea - Amsterdam for one week straight. Okay, even then maybe it's only a good idea if:
1. you have a working knowledge of a concept called "restraint"
2. you aren't a college student who has ever, ever, ever smoked weed
3. enjoy beautiful architecture
4. enjoy going to museums and looking at priceless works of art
5. love to visit historical landmarks
6. aren't a complete moron traveling with another complete moron, therefore giving you the intelligence of a helper monkey (i.e. Mojo from the Simpsons).

As a senior in college, on spring break, 1, 2 & 6 were automatically crossed off my list, which (sadly) all but renders any of the redeeming benefits of 3, 4 & 5 useless. NONETHELESS - going to Amsterdam and enjoying the coffeeshops (it's like a bar, but with weed on the menu) can be more than just a tripped out visit to the Van Gogh Museum:
A drunken stumble through the Heineken factory:
And an uncomfortable speed walk through the Sex Museum:
(**Uh - yeah, that would be the world's smallest prostitute)

First things first: Lodging. This will greatly effect the overall direction of your visit. Hostels are plentiful and are reasonably priced (the hostel system in Europe is way better than the U.S. - www.hostelworld.com is a great resource). But be prepared you could end up sleeping away
your day in a dark, dank military style bunk bed with 20 - 30 other travelers. Just make sure you take note of the room size! Another word of caution: not that young women will be sold into prostitution, but in general, try to avoid youth hostels in the red light district. You'll feel safer and happier in the long run - trust me. Going one step up to a boutique hotel is definitely the way to go. The place we picked had cool themed rooms, was clean, had a good mix of young people at the bar, and was only $15 more per night than a hostel (www.winston.nl or check out some other themed hotels in Amsterdam).
I've found really good success picking up a guidebook and using that as a starting point. These days most listings will have websites - google the junk out of the name of the hotel - it is a great way to find reviews & maps.

Second things second: don't follow the green, delicious smelling brick road the whole time you are there. My two favorite museums, aren't the best known to American tourists. The Rijksmuseum Amsterdam is located in a breathtaking gothic/renaissance building, and houses paintings from native sons Rembrandt and Vermeer. A subtle space cake will totally make it better...ahhh...kidding. The second place is definitely known, but worth the stop: The Anne Frank House - the lines can be long, but it should not be missed.

Third things third: Rent a bike. Because you should rent a freaking bike. Bikes are more prevalent than cars in Amsterdam, and they all look like they were built circa 1950. Cutting out the tooting of cars will make you brain HAPPY!

My final words of advice: feel free to ignore these tips, but then you may end up in a picture wearing denim on denim, picking the bum of a poster.

4 comments:

Maryam in Marrakesh said...

You're so funny. I have been to that sex museum, too!

Lindsie the Flashpacking wife said...

Enjoyed this post. I'm spending 6 months in Europe and was having trouble deciding where to spend my birthday week (nice problem to have!) Amsterdam was on the short list but decided on Venice. I'll definitely check out the themed hotels for when we do go. Great tips!

Ali Conway said...

D on D!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Lil' Boozie said...

Maryam, Lindsie, Ali - We appreciate the comments. After reading Molly's recount of Amsterdam, I'm thinking that I should visit again.. as the only time I, too, have been was in college. I've since learned to more appropriately appreciate other cultures :).