Is two days in Amsterdam enough? NO. Not at all. But it's enough to get a taste, and that's what we had at the end of our Tauck river cruise up the Rhine. The great loyalty benefit Tauck provides its past guests is "the gift of time", in other words they allow you to have a free night before or after your trip. We took advantage of that for one extra night in a gorgeous hotel in central Amsterdam, which was really a great value (as per Tauck's standards!). My mom hadn't been back to Amsterdam since she was a girl, and her biggest priority was getting to see the Anne Frank house & museum, which being a well-informed travel agent, I knew sold out quickly. For some UNKNOWN reason I didn't book back in March when we were looking at tickets, and then with my other travels that summer, somehow I forgot. Yup. Fired by my own mom for failing to get Anne Frank Huis lack of tickets - horrible!!! As you can see below, waiting in a mammoth line all day in the rain was not happening, so we skipped it. Moral of the story- if you have limited time in Amsterdam, be sure to book your tickets early!!! In any case, the morning we arrived in town Tauck took us around via bus and boat to get us orientated to this amazing city. As you can see from the below photos, we were having a truly horrible, rainy day sadly. The boat tour was cool, and really is another must-do in town. We were treated to one of the better apple pies I've ever had, along with hot drinks during our tour. I of course had to have the window open occasionally to try to get a few decent pics, which explains why my aunt is wearing rain gear inside the boat. Hehe.
After our orientation tour, we met up with some ridiculously amazing art experts for a quick overview tour of the new Rijksmuseum. I say new because this grand museum was close for YEARS getting completely remodeled, and they did a fantastic job. It is now light, gorgeous, and pretty easy to navigate. Plus, thanks to the amazing guides, I have a completely new appreciation for the "Old Masters" - thanks again Tauck! Once these morning tours were done, we all had the option of staying in town for the day, or returning to the boat for lunch. As usual, we stayed, and in fact, partly due to the downpour outside, we had lunch in the cafe right there in the museum. It was surprisingly good, filled with both locals and tourists, and a surprisingly bright spot on an otherwise gloomy day. We then spent another few hours exploring all the other cool exhibits in the museum, which included all sorts of neat stuff, not just masterful oil paintings. Once exhausted, we headed back to the ship to get out of the rain, pack, and then to have a celebratory dinner for my Mom's birthday. Earlier in the week, we had decided to make reservations for the alternate, smaller dining room with another family we'd gotten to be friends with, though we could have eaten in Amsterdam if we'd wanted. Our new friends and the crew did so much to make it a fun and special night for her, so much so that someone else also celebrating a birthday in the small dining room was left wondering where her giant cake was?!? It pays to make friends with darling, wonderful people I guess! After dinner, I'd thought I'd go into town, but instead there was a simply GORGEOUS concert from a trio of violinists. They were seriously talented - I got chills several times. It was a fitting end for a wonderful two weeks aboard our beautiful boat.
The next morning we transferred to our hotel for the next two nights, and I do have to say that the arrival ended up being a bit of a sh*t show w/everyone asking the same questions, milling around and such. We managed to get some lunch suggestions & a map & headed out to explore on, luckily, a perfectly gorgeous day! Since we didn't have Anne Frank house tickets, we walked to a different house museum, which was a great example of the canal-front houses that looked so tempting from the boat the day before. The interiors were lovely, and that small, quiet museum was right up our alley. In general we decided that our day before in the Rijksmeum was going to be our "big" museum visit - so no Van Gogh, no Hermitage, ect. There's just not enough time to do it all in this museum-filled city. We headed through the crowded & mostly-silly flower market for some souvenir shopping. Tulip bulbs as far as you can see, which is funny actually because you cannot bring it back to the states unless it's fully sealed & approved - beware! The hotel had suggested a cool Indonesian restaurant (thanks to the Netherlands' spice trade influences) for a great, very different meal that what we'd been having over the last few weeks. Delicious. After lunch it was time to wander through the canals. We did some shopping, and I found at least one souvenir I wanted to bring home - the delicious stroop waffles! Tired legs had us head home through the amazing main square to our hotel, which was of course super well located and gorgeous. Here are some pics from our glorious day wandering around Amsterdam:
For dinner, the hotel concierge made a suggestion for a very cool restaurant, walking distance to hotel, and slightly in the Red Light district (gasp!). Seriously, the red light district is nothing but a neighborhood, at least the part we walked through, and that was great because it meant we got to see a bit of the younger, more modern part city. The restaurant was SUCH a great choice, and nothing we would've been able to find on our own, tucked down an alleyway. Ridiculously amazing food. We got to eat on the very cute patio, but right around dessert, the rain started up a bit again, but that didn't stop us from the delicious chocolatey goodness - dessert under an umbrella!
After one last lovely night at the hotel, and one more ridiculously giant buffet breakfast filled with SO MANY tasty goodies, it was time for our transfers to the airport. This was not nearly enough time for Amsterdam, but all in all, it is a very cool, and very different city with SO MUCH to offer. Fitting end to an amazing trip!