Posted this to the sticky but made some edits and improvements so re-post here:
Another wonderful February Amsterdam trip! I do so love this city - its relaxed yet bustling vibe, how different the various areas feel, the history and architecture, and something about all the water and canals is really alluring. I know I'm hooked because I keep coming back twice a year!
Arrived on a Monday for my short week with plans to visit some areas I haven't been, go afield a bit, and generally soak in Amsterdam. I stayed at Mauro Mansion for the first time and must say that it deserves all the praise it receives. I shall write a separate review, but bottom line it was a wonderful warm and welcoming place - I truly enjoyed it and recommend it highly.
I'm always a bit whipped on my first day after the 17 hours or so it takes to get here. So Monday was light - a walk around the Geldersekade, RLD, a visit to Wynand Fockink - always a favorite! - and one of my favorite streets - Zeedijk - for dinner at Bird Thai. I was underwhelmed by Bird Thai, but will save that for another review. I do find that as a solo traveler I tend to have a better experience dining early when the staff is not so rushed and I don't feel as if I'm intruding or hogging a table for just one person. Wondered around a bit after dinner - I just love the Zeedijk - very lively with loads of little shops and restaurants - a great vibe. To wind down the evening properly spent a couple of hours at In de Olofspoort, which is at the very end of Warmoesstraat and is known for its collection of jenevers, many of which are lovely if you bend that way. I like coming back here each time as I'm remembered and greeted as an old friend. I even received a personal tour from the owner of the recently refurbished basement area - which dates back to the 14th century. Very nice.
After a fitful sleep (if one could call it that!) and lovely breakfast, I hoofed it the 10 minutes or less to Centraal Station to catch a bus to the Waterland area. The construction around the Ij side of the station made finding the bus stop area a little challenging, but I made it, bought a 10 euro all-day Waterland ticket from the bus driver and set off on the day's adventure - Monnickendam and Marken. The hop-on/hop-off nature of the all-day ticket is great and enabled me to set my own schedule pretty much since the buses both ways were quite frequent. Monnickendam is a village and has a lovely old church, the Speeltoren (oldest carillon bells in the world - or so claimed - still played daily), and nice harbor. I really just walked around and gawked, went to the Waterland museum, looked at the boats, and just soaked it in - easy, due to the nice steady rain. I did stop at the small tourist office - VVV - which I don't usually do, but picked up a couple nice small maps and a bus schedule which turned out to be very helpful - a very adept young woman there. I noticed that in the narrow brick streets they've cut a foot-deep trench between the road bed and the sidewalk/shop entryways as obviously a kind of gutter or sluice for water - hadn't seen that before but it speaks to the old engineering adage that if you control the water you control everything.
On to the bus and Marken! Marken was an island and is now a peninsula thanks to the narrow causeway that the bus shared with the occasional car and the bike lane - a bicycle would be a great trip in nicer weather! As the bus climbed out of Monnickendam on the gentle rise of the road I was struck that we were going UP to the dyke, and that the water level of the Markenmeer -which I guess was the Zuiderzee - was quite a number of feet above the ground level of Monnickendam. I guess I knew this before, but this was the first time it was really brought home to me. Fascinating stuff. Marken is quite a bit smaller than Monnickendam and very quaint - green-painted houses and a lovely little harbor, a kitschy wooden shoe "factory/store", a cafe or two in the harbor area, and - an old church - imagine that! I walked the 7km or so around the island - yes, in the rain - but really enjoyed the quiet and the sense of place. Would be a nice place to visit again in warmer, sunnier weather.
Back on the bus in the afternoon - was going to stop at Broek in Waterland but decided I'd had enough walking about today so opted for the return to Centraal Station - got to save something for the next trip anyway! Turned out to be a drinking evening - Wynand Fockink again and a couple other rather forgettable places, but fun! I always meet interesting people at WF.
Wednesday was Stedelijk day, and I spent a lot of time at this great modern art museum. Had bought my tickets online - always do this! - so breezed in quickly. The featured exhibit was Marcel Wanders, with whom I must admit I was unfamiliar, though I did recognize the knotted chair and a few other iconic installations. But I was absolutely enchanted with his work - a very prolific, creative and interesting artist. I have decided "art in design" is really my favorite form of artistic expression. The museum's collection of other artists - Kandinsky, Chagall, Picasso, Miro, Appel, Calder, Pollock, et al is really extensive and I really enjoyed wandering through the many rooms and different "feels". Definitely a must see and a "will go back" destination for me. Evening brought me to another of my favorite haunts - Cafe de Prins on Prinsengracht - De Konninck beer and good fondue in a relaxed old place. Then of course back to In de Olofspoort for more jenever tasting, comaraderie and chat.
I visited Delft Thursday. Hop, skip and a jump to the station, bought a ticket after waiting in line all of 5 minutes, on the train and in Delft in about an hour and a half. Easy. Highly recommend using the website 9292 for train and bus planning - indispensable! Construction abounds around the Delft station so the route into the part of town one wants to see is a bit circuitous, but I made it fine. As I'm sure others have said, Delft is like a little Amsterdam. though I thought the Markt was very much like the one in Haarlem. Oh, an Oude Kerk! This one with a tower leaning about 2 meters from the vertical - wild. It was founded in the 13th century as St Bartholomew's. A cold and rainy day so spent some time in the Vermeer museum (he was born here), visited a couple of interesting little shops, and stopped for a beer or two or three at the Cafe de Oude Jan (the church is also called Oude Jan) - lovely little cafe serving Heineken and Brand, which I like better. Hopped back on the train and decided to stop at Haarlem (used 9292 to pick the right train since not all of them stop there) for a mocha to warm up at Coffee Date - great coffee! - a couple beers at In den Uiver - nice friendly proeflokaal - and dinner at La Plume - very nicely cooked pork loin satay, frites, and interesting shrimp kroketten. By the way, there is a very cool little shop in Haarlem called Past Joys which you should visit if you're into Tin Tin, Asterisk, etc. I am. Lovely owners and neat stuff - I buy something small everytime I visit (yes, I have multiple Snowy (Milou) dog thingies. Wandered about in the rain a bit after dinner and then took the train back to Amsterdam, where I popped into In de Olofsport for a night cap and then to bed!
Friday sadly was the last day and always comes too quickly. After breakfast and checkout (leaving crack of dawn Saturday!) caught tram #9 at Centraal to go east - this is a great tram ride around - up Damrak, through Rembrandtplein, across the Blauwbrug over the Amstel past Waterlooplein and down by the zoo, Tropen Museum and Oosterpark. Nice way to see these parts of the city if you're tired of walking. My destination was the Dappermarkt, which was very cool - seems more local than Albert Cuyp, and different than Nordermarkt. Bought some herring and wondered about looking at everything from hats and underwear to fur coats, sausages and cheese. Fun! Seems a very eclectic area - lots of languages, halal butchers on every other street, etc. Enjoyed it immensely. Tram #9 back to Dam Square, which turned out to be not such a good idea because of all the construction on Damrak! But oh well, managed to navigate through everything and hit up Leonidas for chocolate, one of the souvenir stores for a small canvas Amsterdam bag, and a little corner shop for licorice - Love it! A final visit to Wynand for a tipple and farewells, then down Zeedijk to Nam Kee for dinner, which I find I like better than New King for some reason. Bought some small drawings of Amsterdam from a little shop on Zeedijk, stopped by Olofspoort for a nightcap and goodbyes, then home to pack and not sleep until 4 am or so for the long trip home.
A lovely trip again. Always more to see and do in Amsterdam and every time I go I return more in love with the city and determined to come back!