Classic Amsterdam buildings, many from 1600s

This is going to be a long post because it was quite a day! Grab your coffee and settle in for a read.

From the plane, I had the privilege of witnessing the morning sun rise over a blanket of cotton candy-like clouds, it’s evolving hues of peach and gold diluting themselves with daylight moment by moment as they spread across the horizon, waking up Europe.

I arrived in Amsterdam shortly afterwards, 6 hours ahead of eastern standard time. It’s a raw 40° and overcast. I’m really glad I packed a warm jacket!

You can tell a lot about a city by the way it feels. Intuition is everything when traveling somewhere new: Is it safe? Do I need to take extra precautions? Are locals generally happy? Or does it feel like “crabs in a box” with people trying to claw their way out of despair? Is it clean or trash-strewn? Organized and well-signed or will I need to ask a local for directions?

My wonderful Turkish taxi driver, Murat, offered fun facts about Amsterdam including climate change effects (warming so that there is little snow and no ice skating on the canals these days), a city boasting a population of 900k people but 2 million bikes (which have right of way over everyone), an array of museums, etc

I checked into my FABULOUS hotel, where I received an upgrade, a private tour by the manager, and free drinks after a snafu on their end. This gorgeous Grand Hotel Amrath is also an historic building. Founded in 1913 as headquarters for 6 shipping companies that traded with Asia and the West Indies, it didn’t become a hotel until the 1970s. It’s founders’ success is evident in the intricate carved wood and marble as well as incredible stained glass throughout, everything embedded with an oceanic theme. I highly recommend this place if you visit Amsterdam!

One of my favorite ways to explore a new city is on foot and I set out to catch a canal boat tour. Whether en route to a waypoint or meandering, there is so much to see and learn from the sidewalk. Hat tip to Amsterdam for their festive street lights this holiday season!

One quickly learns to look before leaping here as bicyclists come from all directions. Many streets along the canals are just for bikes and the people must stay on the sidewalk, which is confusing at times because the bike “paths” also look like sidewalks, only wider. Clearly, this is the preferred mode of transport and a great way to stay fit. Along my route I saw beautiful doorways; antique shops full of traditional clocks, wooden shoes, and classic blue and white Dutch tiles and porcelain; oodles of restaurants covering every nationality; a farmers market jammed with flowers, tulip bulbs, and Christmas tree tops (I didn’t see a single full size tree anywhere except in large shops and the airport- those for sale to the people were all under two feet tall); the city is incredibly clean; people seem generally respectful of one another; and I haven’t smelled this much mary j in all my years combined.

The 75 minute canal tour was easy and informative (PS- if you come to Amsterdam get the “I Amsterdam” city card which gives you free or discounted access to a huge array of things to do and see as well as free public transport- it’s a great deal). Amsterdam (which means (“dam built across the Amstel”) hosts 170 nationalities, 60 miles of canals, 2500 house boats (complete with city-supplied utilities), and has been home to Heineken beer since 1864.

Many buildings list to one side (see photos) because of soil type and timbers used as foundations that rotted over time. Many of these buildings are from the 1500-1600s!

Before there were addresses there were gable stones, which sat above the front door and were painted in a way to describe the dwellers’ profession (a shoe might be a cobbler, a hammer would be a carpenter, etc). There are still 650 of these. Addresses were introduced in the 1800s.

Centuries ago, houses had width limits so the rich would buy two adjoining lots and build a double house. There was no depth limit so some mansions encompass the entire city block in depth.

Abandoned warehouses were originally taken over by squatters desperate for housing until developers realized these waterfront buildings were prime real estate and then were converted to apartments.

Back in the day, people drank beer because water quality was so poor as to be unsafe. Amsterdam is full of breweries to this day but now the water is incredibly clean in both the canal and the tap. It’s nice to safely drink the water when traveling!

Most folks associate the Netherlands, and especially Amsterdam, with a general carefree-easy going attitude, tulips (grown here since the 1500s), museums, progressive ideals (mary j, legalized prostitution, gay rights, etc), diversity, and influence in the tech space and indeed all of these were evident in today’s excursions.

I stopped for an Italian meal before heading to the Anne Frank Huis- the actual building where Anne Frank hid with family and friends for two years. What a sobering reality of life in hiding and under persecution: the steep stairways between the three floors of her dad’s warehouse (aka the Annex); the ways they lived to be quiet and undetectable from below (never going outside/never looking out windows/using the toilet only after business hours/relying on others to bring supplies/etc); a book of all Jews killed, including babies (100k from Netherlands, 6 million total); videos of interviews of her childhood friend and her father who survived the concentration camps; of course her handwritten diaries. Anne was 15 when she was killed and wise beyond her years. Have you read the book, “The Diary of Anne Frank”?

I thought I would end the day with an evening of tango but I was just too tired. Instead I ended the day with a trip to the pool, a sauna, a wisp of champagne, and a talk with two Portuguese staff about life in Amsterdam vs Portugal. Did you know that Portuguese is the 4th most spoken language in the world?!

It’s been a full and wonderful day. I’m up early tomorrow for my next flight so that’s it for now.

Follow and subscribe if you haven’t already, and share with a friend who might love to tag along too! Let me know what you’d like to read more about. Thanks so much for traveling with me!



Stained glass skylight with world map made by shipping companies who built what is now the Grand Hotel Amrath
My hotel: a very good choice
Walking home under festive street lights
One of many canals
Decorated bikes are an installation around the city by an American artist
Stopped at an art gallery
Skinny house!
House boats
“The Dancing Houses” because they really are that crooked!
The house of heads – rumor has it the heads were modeled after six thieves who broke in and were beheaded by a servant
Just a gal on a canal
Flower market!
Made me laugh and wish I drank coffee! Haha
Not a lot of takers for outdoor dining today
Those bakeries
Winter canal
Bicycles everywhere

14 responses to “A Day in Amsterdam”

  1. Janice Avatar

    Pictures are beautiful. You had quite a day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wen Avatar

      Thank you. Yes indeed!


      1. Linda Ward Avatar
        Linda Ward

        What a beautiful experience! Gorgeous pictures.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Linda Ward Avatar
    Linda Ward

    Beautiful pictures, Wen. Enjoy your trip of a lifetime.❤️❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  3. hunbunx2 Avatar

    Love the pictures! Your history of the area is so interesting. Can’t wait for more!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wen Avatar

      Thank you! Glad you’re enjoying


  4. Jeffrey Avatar

    Very cool! Thank you for all the photos! I was there in 1980, mostly in the Hague for 3 weeks visiting mother who had a job at a librarian at the American School. Family went to Amsterdam for a day to see the sights, Anne Frank house. I remember having a real Heineken in a classic Dutch pub, reading the news of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the International Herald Tribune. My sister and I took the train from Amsterdam to Paris for New Year’s, that was fun.

    Social memories: queues are as sacred as they are in England. Do Not Be Perceived as Line Jumping! Also, I don’t know if this is still a custom, but if you’re in the way of someone else walking through, they don’t say “excuse me”, they just push you out of the way – politely and safely. Population density.

    And the North Sea flings its spray and rain horizontally in your face! At least in the Hague it was miserable in January.

    Don’t miss the M.C. Escher museum!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wen Avatar

      What lovely memories! Thanks for sharing and following along. 😊


  5. thartiganblog Avatar

    My heart is WARM. I am anticipating every post. Sending you love across the universe. Travel safe, explore wonderfully, love completely, be you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wen Avatar

      Thank you! I am receiving all of that with an open heart and reflecting the love back your way as well. Shine on, my friend.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Art Avatar


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wen Avatar

      Thank you. Glad you are enjoying too!


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