Got back last week - we were there from April 20 - 26. I traveled with my 77 year old mother and we had a lovely time. My mom did really well. She got pretty tired a few times, but not enough to take away her enjoyment. This was a bucket list item for her and I'm glad we got to go. It was her first (and probably last) trip to Europe.
Even though I had read about it, I was not prepared for the number of bicycles. They are everywhere. We learned pretty quickly to stay out of the way and found it fascinating. We saw men in suits, women in high heels and mothers with children in bike seats riding in traffic. No one wore helmets. You sure wouldn’t see that in the US! We found the people to be very friendly and helpful. Someone on the train from Schipol overheard us talking and started giving us tips, and then took the time to show us where to go after we got off the train. Someone else randomly offered to carry my mom's suitcase down the steps for her. That's just a few examples of the nice people we met.
My mother wanted to try weed, so at some point during the trip I procured a joint from the Grey Area coffee shop. It had no effect on my mom. Can't say the same for me. I took three hits and holy mother of god that is not the weed I smoked in high school. Interesting experience that I never want to have again. What I got was supposed to be mild – I’m scared to think what the strong stuff is like. I would suggest going a lot slower than I did. I tried again a few nights later and took two teeny tiny puffs. That was much more enjoyable. Still, I'm long past that part of my life, so probably wouldn't do it again. But, when in Amsterdam....
Arrived on Thursday morning and took the train to Amsterdam Centraal. We stayed at the Rho hotel just off Dam Square. We had a room in the back on the top floor and were very happy with it. It was clean and comfortable, and the free breakfast was convenient and good. I would stay here again. We just had time to drop our luggage before heading off for a walking tour with That Dam Guide. We were tired but this kept us going until we could get in our room. The tour was good, and gave us a good overview of the city. We used this company for a tour of the RLD and out to see the tulips, and they were really good. I would highly recommend. That's all we did that day. We had tickets for the Anne Frank house both for today and again later in the week. (Yes, I am a mega-planner and I knew we might be too tired so I also got tickets for later in the week). We were definitely too tired to enjoy it at this point so we made a couple of people really happy and gave the tickets away. After the walking tour we headed back to check in to the hotel and settled in. A quick bite and we were asleep by 7 pm.
Friday we took a tour to Zaanse Schans, Volendam and Marken. It was a small group tour, so there were 8 of us. Met some really nice people from Scotland and Switzerland. Zaanse Schans was really worth it, and I wish we had more time there. We had time to see the saw mill, which was cool. But then we were shuttled off to a cheese/clog tourist trap place that had not been advertised as part of the itinerary. It was mildly interesting. We then went to Marken, which was cute and quaint. We didn't go to Volendam at all. We did get to climb on the dikes, which was fun. They are not what I imagined. I would rate this tour fair. I enjoyed it but I would rather have had a lot more time at the windmills and skipped the clog making demo. Actually, I wish we had just done Zaanse Schans on our own. But at least we got there. After this we went to the Church in the Attic museum, which was definitely worth the visit. Very cool. We had dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant on Zeedijk called Little Saigon that someone recommended. They didn't steer us wrong and we ended up eating there again a few days later. After dinner we took a walking tour of the red light district. You could certainly just walk through without a tour, but we were glad we did it. We really learned a lot and it was very interesting.
Saturday we went to Keukenhof. I didn't realize it was the day of the flower parade when I booked this, and I was pretty worried, but it all turned out okay. We got there early and had several hours before the crowds showed up. The gardens were amazing - just beautiful! We had 3 hours there and it was the right amount of time for us. After that we went on a driving tour of the tulip fields with stops for photos. Then on to lunch and Haarlem to see the windmill. This was a great day. The gardens and the tulips in the fields were everything we hoped for, and Haarlem was an added bonus.
Sunday we had tickets to a concert at the Concertgebouw. In the morning we took it easy after a busy few days, and then headed off to our afternoon concert. We loved it and I'm really glad I got the tickets. It was a nice relaxing day and the museum area is really nice. We spent some time just wandering the area and of course took photos of the Iamsterdam sign. Today was also the day when the light bulb went off in my head about the tram cars. All of a sudden I knew how to get anywhere. It really is easy and I would have figured it out sooner but we were on organized tours so I just hadn't. We still walked a lot, but the trams really come in handy when you get tired, especially with my mom. That evening we had dinner at MAX. The food, the wine, the service - all exemplary. We got the tasting menu and it was perfect.
Monday we took a guided tour of the Van Gogh and Rijksmuseum, with lunch and a canal boat tour in between the two. It was truly awful. There were too many people, the guide was terrible, the headphone devices weren't working, the boat was crammed so full you couldn't move. We liked nothing about this tour, (well, except the art). I usually like having a guide to explain things, but we both ended up wishing we had done this on our own. Oh well, live and learn. Of course it didn't ruin our trip, but I wouldn't do it again. That night we had a burger at Cannibale Royale.
Tuesday was our last day and we had tickets to the Anne Frank house for 10 am. This was not to be missed. Hard to explain how it makes you feel. After that we walked the city a bit - through the nine streets area and the Bloemenmarkt. We ended up at the Willet-Holthuysen museum and toured that. We liked that a lot too. It was a good last day. The canals are really pretty and it's fun to just walk the city. We had thought of going to the Rembrandt house today, but in the end decided we had done enough and just relaxed and strolled around.
Wednesday we left the hotel and hadn't walked 20 feet towards the train station when a taxi pulled up and asked if we wanted a ride. It was a flat fee of 35 euros to the airport and we took it. It was a great decision and at that point worth the money to us. Sometimes convenience is worth paying for. Thanks to everyone on this forum for helping me plan this trip!