A brief report on a brief trip to Amsterdam from November 23 - 25, 2013. I would have posted this/linked it to the Amsterdam trip reports board, but there was no option to add to the postings there - looks like it's been closed or limited to "admin."
What We Did - started with a 2 hour walking tour (very good and helpful with good advice re: using public transit, where to grab lunch, etc). Visited Begijnhof; Anne Frank Huis (absolutely must purchase tickets online and in advance or else be there at 9:00 am on a Sunday in November); Reijksmuseum (ditto about purchasing tickets online); Resistance Museum; canal boat.
Where We Ate - lunch in what I think was in the old custom house near Dam Square (can't remember name). Very good French onion soup, hot chocolate (I was frozen solid after the 2 hour walking tour in the morning) and "Dutch sampler"platter - huge amount of food. Dinner at Café Koosje, Plantage Middenlaan 37, near the Resistance museum and the zoo. Great family pub atmosphere, nice employees, jammed with locals enjoying beer and conversation on a Sunday evening. I was particularly fond of the fact that my purse was right where I left it after we left and walked half a mile before I realized I left it there. :). Food good and plentiful - we had "stamp pot" - potatoes, sausage, cabbage/sauerkraut.
What We Learned (in no particular order) - 1. Buy tram tickets (we got the 48 hour version at the visitor center near Centraal Station). Except for the oddity that you must check OUT with your ticket when exiting a tram (as well as check IN when you board the tram), they are so simple and convenient and take you everywhere in the central city. 2. Young people are very respectful of the elderly on trams, standing to give them seats on crowded trams. 3. If you visit the Reijksmuseum, go early and head straight up to the Night Watch and other Rembrandt masterpieces on the 2nd floor, then circle back to the other floors. It (the building) is just beautiful. 4. Visit the Resistance Museum. It's a little off the beaten path, but well worth it. Very well done. Makes you think about the small things we each decide to "go along with" every day and the results of continuing to do that. And that neighborhood is so charming and picturesque. 5. Dutch dogs seem to be very well behaved. 6. Everyone appears to be out walking, biking and/or visiting in pubs, until late in the evening. Even small children and babies - just bundled up and out there with their parents. 7. Go in the "off season" - just bring the right clothes and an umbrella. I loved it. 8. I felt very safe everywhere we went in Amsterdam. 9. However, I did notice what seemed to me to be more than normal pickpocket activity. Saw pickpockets at the Beguine area and Dam Square and the Amsterdam Museum (all in relatively close proximity).
I could spend a month there. Now if I could only say "Van Gogh" the way the Dutch do...