Canal in Amsterdam
Cannabis information centre

After our boating trip we spent a long weekend in Amsterdam. There are gazillions of must-sees and you can’t possibly see them all. We narrowed it down to the things that make Holland unique.

Our pick was a canal cruise, the Cannabis College and the Marijuana Museum.

We also did the Sex Museum and the Erotic Museum. We’re not likely to see museums like that anywhere else in the world so we decided to see them while we were in Amsterdam.

Were they all that? It was interesting to learn just how many uses cannabis has, apart from getting stoned, and they showed us some of the different ways it can be taken. Same with the sex museums. People are turned on by really strange stuff and you get to see it. Not for the prudish. You are warned before you go into a room where there is graphic and disturbing material. But they mainly have exibits of erotica going back eons and from all civilisations.

What it is really wierd though, is to walk the streets and smell the aroma of weed coming from the various coffee shops. My head knows that it’s an illegal substance, so it’s quite a head twist watching people smoking in public without fear of breaking the law. The distinct smell of cannabis pervades the city.

Add that to the constant clanging of the trams moving swiftly past and you could close your eyes and know you are in Amsterdam.

The Grasshopper Coffee Shop

We walked about and took in as many of the recommended sights and areas.

Cheese tasting and shop

We also enjoyed just being in the city and strolling the streets observing the goings on. If we passed a cheese tasting shop, then we would pop in, or have a coffee at a cafe and watch the world go by. Our obsevations were that the biggest customers of the coffee shops and the ladies in the red light district are NOT Dutch.

We found markets all over Holland. They seem to be in different towns on different days. The food stalls allow tastings and put out morsels for you to try. Be warned – you will end up buying – and eating – a lot of food. We consumed our body weight in cheeses, cookies and Belgian beers.

Dutch frites or a Maoz falafel for lunch???

My favourites were Speculaas cookies and Dutch apple pie. The beers are served in brandy style glasses with the name of the beer on the glass at local watering holes. Our favourite beers were Leffe and Grimsberg. These two have a sweeter, almost nutty flavour and aren’t fizzy like most lagers. One warning – they pack nearly double the alcohol content of other beers.

We tried a cheese and apple pancake at one of the pancake bars. Not a combo I would have thought of, I have to say, but nice all the same. Dutch liquorice is highly addictive. I managed to wolf down a half kilo bag in two days. It comes sweet, mint, honey or salty. I got a mixed variety bag and I can report – they are all good.

Since I don’t eat meat, the best value for money, and the best food for vegetarians, came from Maoz. They let you go back to the salad bar as much as you want to top up.

Tourism office or VVV

We had fun looking out for quirky boat names and even quirkier cyclists. There really, really are a lot of bicycles in Holland. I was surprised to learn they have right of way on roads. They also don’t wear helmets. Kids grow up riding bicycles so riding a bicycle is like breathing to the Dutch.

They manage to do all sorts of things whilst cycling. Like; chat on a phone, apply lipstick, carry babies on their backs, hold an umbrella. Pedalling in the highest of heels doesn’t seem to present a problem.

You have to keep your wits about you crossing a road as bicycles hurtle past in all directions. Amsterdam is not a pedestrian friendly city.

The Dutch tourism offices do not have an “i” sign, but rather a triangle shaped VVV board. It stands for Voor Vremdelingen Verkeer and is pronounced “fear, fear, fear”. The VVV offices are not always free standing. They pop up in museums and even in a sports shop in one town.

The ubiquitous trams

Many shops close on Mondays for some reason in Holland. Even in Amsterdam. Once we realised this we made sure we did our visits and shopping between Tuesdays to Saturdays.

Here are a couple of handy links for visiting Holland –

Holland Tourism
Visit Holland
Timeout Amsterdam
Lonely Planet Amsterdam

View fro Ibis Hotel Stopera

For accommodation we used Housetrip and bagged ourselves an fully furnished apartment right in the central city area. You could also try Wimdu or Airbnb.

The wonderful thing about the open, warm Dutch personalities is you can ask them for directions without fear of offending them. You are likely to be rewarded with enthusiatic help and friendly conversation.

It’s a great city and a lot more than just sex and drugs. Just rememmber to pack a rain proof jacket. It rained every day we were in Holland. Especially in Amsterdam. In Amsterdam, it must have rained ten times a day.

Click here to go to Holland Part 1.

Go to – My Holidays and Trips – at the top of this page to read about other places we have visited. Or just click on – this link.

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