There is no resisting the temptation of Amsterdam when your Rhine River cruise starts or ends there. How long since my last visit there? 39 years! And it’s funny what memory does to you. The last time I was there I visited the Van Gogh museum and very briefly, the Rijksmuseum to see Rembrandt’s Night Watch. I was with a girlfriend and we wandered into the red light district. As I remembered it all that was very close together. Well, I remembered wrong. I guess I was walking faster then.
This time, Donna and I stayed at a funky hotel (The Exchange) above a cafe and across from the Beurs van Berlage (old exchange building) on Damrak. We could see the main train station from the entrance to the hotel. The room was tiny, but functional. Apparently each room was designed by a local art student, but our student was not very ambitious. After we arrived we walked down to the museum district which was about a mile and a half. We didn’t visit the museums this time, but took a canal boat ride, which was definitely worth the $20 per person we spent on it. Most of the time was spent on the narrow semi-circular canals that are the main routes in old Amsterdam, but we also spent time on the Amstel River and out in the large harbor. It is a great introduction to the history and layout of the city. We learned the history of how the city evolved, why the row houses are so tall and narrow and how the residents of house boats live.
We took a taxi back to the hotel and the route was much longer than our walk because of the road construction that is going on in Amsterdam. That night we went to an Indonesian Rijsttafel (Rice table) restaurant and had their specialty. There were about a dozen different spicy dishes about half vegetarian and half with meats. Aneka Rasa is a welcoming place with reasonable prices just around the corner from the Red Light district. We walked that area on the way back to the hotel. It was just as I remembered it – pretty tacky. It was a Saturday night so there were lots of drunk men wandering around having a good old time. Definitely not my scene, but to get the whole Amsterdam experience I suppose you have to do it.
After a restless jet lag night, we got up and wandered away from the bustle of the commercial district into Grachtengordel and Jordaan, with historic houses, small museums and great canal views. We had a nice late breakfast as a French boulangerie surrounded by French tourists. Inside the cafe the walls were typically non-perpendicular which we had seen from the outside during the canal cruise. The tall narrow buildings in Amsterdam are sinking unevenly into the swamp on which the city is built.
Grachtengordel is where you can visit the Anne Frank House. You should book online to avoid the long lines at the museum. It was a drizzly Sunday morning and the ticket line still went around the block. I took lots of pictures of the canals which I’m going to make into a collage. One thing that we saw in this area was a hotel I want to stay in next time – the Hotel Pulitzer. It is built from 25 different canal row houses, beautifully renovated and linked. Not cheap, but it gets incredible ratings.
After checking out of the hotel, we got a taxi for a very short ride to our riverboat – Uniworld’s S.S. Antoinette.