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Vacation Photos, Part 2: Amsterdam Let’s just say it was…interesting.

Amsterdam - it's an extraordinarily unique city

Okay, so after 7 days in The Hague, The Complete Package and I jumped a train back to Amsterdam for a weekend of sightseeing. I was excited. I’ve seen photos of Amsterdam with its gorgeous architecture and its stunning canals and houseboats. I expected to love it. I mean really love it. Instead, I’d have to say I found it interesting. After some thought, I think a good example would be to compare it to Manhattan. If The Hague is comparable to the upper east side, then Amsterdam would be Times Square. It was crowded, vibrant, always open, and a little seedy. Where The Hague was peaceful, professional and dignified, Amsterdam was a party. And not just any party. It was more like a bachelor party in Las Vegas. It’s been many, many years since I’ve been exposed to that much beer and weed. Really. Like the early ’80s. When I wore layered Polo shirts and boat shoes and cut my hair to look like Lady Di. **nostalgic sigh**

Coffeeshops in Amsterdam don't sell coffee. Seriously. Did you know that?

We stayed in a hotel near Dam Square, which is probably why I’m comparing it to Times Square. It’s a large, open square surrounded by shopping, restaurants and bars crisscrossed by a myriad of trains, trams and buses and sprinkled with a gorgeous old church, a Madame Tussaud’s, a royal palace and this guy.

Neptune at Amsterdam's Dam Square - it's certainly one of a kind!

I think I experienced sensory overload standing in Dam Square. I’m not joking when I say we had a “coffee shop” right across from our hotel. For those who haven’t heard, a coffee shop in Amsterdam is a place to purchase and smoke marijuana. It’s not legal, mind you, it’s just tolerated. If you want that machiatto or latte, you’d better ask for a cafe. As for the weed, you don’t really need to buy it to enjoy it. I think I inhaled enough second-hand smoke around town to enjoy an unintentional two-day contact high. No wonder I was craving McDonald’s. Especially the fries. And pancakes. Oooo…Dutch pancakes are divine.

Amsterdam's canals and neighborhoods are lovely

Once you get away from Dam Square, you find peaceful neighborhoods with stunning canals, traditional architecture, street markets, quaint squares, gorgeous old churches and fabulous museums. We were lucky enough to be there just as the Winter Wonderland markets set up across town. We particularly enjoyed the one at Rembrandt Square. The food is the main draw (after the quaint holiday decorations). Our first experience was a mind-blowing waffle swimming in melted milk chocolate. Oh, my. Still brings tears to my eyes.

You're lucky we got a photo before we destroyed this thing

Waffles are a popular sweet treat here. And they cover them in everything known to man…chocolate, nuts, fruit, whipped cream, candy coatings…I could go on and on. I think we ate at least two over the weekend. Maybe more. There were so many awesome vendors. I’ll let the photos tell the story:

Waffles...oh, sweet waffles. You are so delicious!

Okay, this koffee shop actually sells coffee (with booze, no less)

Churros and popcorn being sold from a giant Santa stall

A typical sweet shop at the winter market (notice the olliebollen on the right?)

That's an 18" bratwurst on that grill. Just thought you should see it.

In addition to the winter wonderland markets, there were also great street markets in Amsterdam. From clothes to antiques to cheese and produce, you can find just about anything in a street market here. It’s a great shopping city. Here’s a peek at some of the market vendors we loved, and a look at Amsterdam’s famous flower market:

A woman on TV once said that good cheese "smells like the feet of angels". Ewww.

I can't identify some of these mushrooms, so I'll just call them delicious

There's something for everyone at Amsterdam's street markets

An example of a flower stall in Amsterdam's Bloemen Market

Amaryllis for sale at the flower market - gorgeous!

And now you know how to say DON'T TOUCH in five languages!

Cyclamen are beautiful in every country. These are stunning.

If there’s one thing in particular that Amsterdam is famous for, it has to be their canal system. It’s what keeps the city humming. Boats are everywhere, from sightseeing boats to delivery boats, houseboats to floating museums and bed-and-breakfasts. Water and controlling it are vital to Amsterdam’s existence. It also makes for some beautiful real estate (and vacation photos). Take a look:

Four main canals ring the city of Amsterdam.

A gridwork of bridges cross the canals to connect each ring.

A charming collection of houseboats line each canal.

And a handful of tour boat companies ferry visitors around the city.

And now, here’s a little collection of various photos I took from around Amsterdam. They don’t fit any specific category, but they’re still worth sharing.

I just can't get enough of this architectural style. So very charming.

A cheese cave? Holy crap! It's a cheese cave!

Our hotel room - a step down from the Hague Hilton, but that bed was comfy!

Walk these streets for long, and you'll call them hobblestones, too!

Yup. That's a public urinal, and men really use them.

Oude Church, Amsterdam - my winner for best organ pipes. Ever.

The Bulldog bills itself as Amsterdam's original coffeeshop. Coffeeshop = no coffee

I never thought the words "beautiful" & "train station" went together until now.

I would have loved to include photos from the Rijksmuseum (Dutch masters) and the Van Gogh museum, but they don’t allow any photos to be taken. I did get to see some great Van Goghs including some sunflowers, and I got to see a great collection of Rembrandts at the Rijksmuseum, including The Nightwatchmen. That painting was HUGE, and it was awesome! I love art museums. Okay, kids. That’s it for Amsterdam. Thanks for reading along. Coming up next, my holiday dream trip to Germany (thank you, TCP, for making it come true). Stay tuned!

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