Monday, March 3, 2014

Amsterdam Part I

We just got back from a week spent in The Netherlands. Amsterdam is one of my favourite European cities to visit. It is just so easy to get around on foot, everyone speaks English and the Dutch are very friendly.
We spent a few days exploring the city of Utrecht, which has a downtown that is very similar to Amsterdam, but on a smaller scale. It was our first visit to Utrecht and we really enjoyed exploring it. We then headed up to Amsterdam where we indulged in lots of good food, a few museums, miles of walking and time sitting in one of the many cafes. Life in Europe is so much slower than it is here in Toronto. It always takes me a few days to slow down and adapt to the pace. I couldn't believe how quiet it is on a Sunday morning. In Utrecht the shops are closed until 1:00 and the grocery stores don't open until 4:00 in the afternoon. It's all about sleeping in after being out late the night before. When the city does wake up it's time to find a spot at a cafe and settle in for coffee and people watching-so civilized!
We tried a new hotel this time and loved it. Hotel Estherea is located on the first and oldest major canal called the Singel. I think it is in the perfect location, close to shopping, restaurants and museums. It is also one of the only hotels in the city that has a room for families that sleeps four.

The hotel is housed in a row of typical dutch houses dating back to the 1700's.

 The lobby was very pretty...lots of fresh flowers and other natural touches like shells, crystals and even a mini outdoor fish pond.

 Each room is decorated differently. This one was up in the eves and had a great view of the canal.

If you visit Amsterdam you will probably want to see the Anne Frank House Museum and the Rijiksmuseum, which is the large national gallery. Both are well worth the visit, but are extremely busy. I advised buying tickets on line, especially if you are visiting during peak tourist times.

Some of the smaller, less busy museums that I love to visit are...
  • The City of Amsterdam Museum  -Everything you need to know about the history of the city.
  • The Canal Museum  -a 45 minute self guided tour, kids love it.
  • Museum Van Loon  -tour the home and garden of the Van Loon family, built in 1672.
Also just down the canal from the hotel is the famous De Bloemenmarkt or flower market and just west is De 9 Straatjes or 9 streets district of unique shops, restaurants and cafes.

Enjoying the balmy weather.

Hope you are all having a good day? It's -15C here today, thank goodness it's sunny or it would be unbearable.
Come back for part II tomorrow.

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