Amsterdam: City of Tolerance

We flew on Vueling (again) from Barcelona to Amsterdam on a very inexpensive paid ticket. Amsterdam is a compact city and I love that it only takes 15 minutes to get from Amsterdam’s airport to Centraal Station, the main train station, by direct train.

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Art'otel guest room

Art’otel guest room

We stayed at the modern and hip Art’otel, directly across from Centraal Station, using 50,000 Club Carlson points for two nights (last night free through the co-branded credit card; the redemption rate has subsequently increased to 70,000 points). As soon as I walked out of Centraal Station, I felt like we had been transported to another world. The city is so much more charming than its shady reputation leads you to believe. The Old Centre and Canal Ring areas where tourists tend to spend most of their time is full of quaint storefronts, stunning canals, and bicycle-riding locals.

Many bridges

Many bridges

When we arrived, it was already evening and time for dinner. We settled on the Indonesian popular restaurant called Kantjil & de Tijger. We don’t have very many Indonesian restaurants in California so we didn’t exactly know what to expect. We each ordered a mix plate of flavorful dishes whose names that I can’t pronounce. All I can say is that the food was very tasty and we really liked it.

The next morning, after gorging ourselves with a fantastic breakfast at our hotel, we headed out for some sightseeing.

We only allocated one full day in Amsterdam so we had to jam all our activities into that day. I wanted to take a canal tour because the view from the water lets you see the city from a different perspective.

Canal boats

Canal boats

Canal Tour

Canal Tour

Given our limited time in the city, we decided to join a walking tour. We chose SANDEMANs New Amsterdam Tour, a “free” tour company. Our guide was a hilarious and energetic German student who lives and studies in Amsterdam. In three hours, we covered many major sights, learned about Amsterdam’s golden period and subsequent downfall, and discussed the Dutch attitude of tolerance (as it relates to cannibis and prostitution). The tour group was very large (~40 people) but the tour guide was incredible and he was able to keep everyone engaged.

Our tour guide with the group at Dam Square

Our tour guide with the group at Dam Square

Begijnhof: The Secret Garden

Begijnhof: The Secret Garden

One of the people on the tour brought his young daughter who was about 8 years old. Although the tour occurred during the day, we did briefly walk through the Red Light District because of its importance to the City. We all felt uncomfortable that such a young child was seeing prostitution in action; we hoped that she was too young to understand what was going on. Later that evening we returned to the Red Light District to “sightsee” and to watch a stage show at Casa Rosso. I can only say it was amazing and shocking. It was basically like watching porn, except it was live right in front of you.

Red Light District: Casa Rosso is on the left

Red Light District: Casa Rosso is on the left

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