Look Both Ways, Twice!

Rick Ropelewski |

As the training wheels come off and we get more experience as empty nesters we recently decided to go farther afield with our travel. My wife Martha loves art history and is a big fan of European artists from the 17th through 18th centuries.  She read about an exhibition for the Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. He had a limited body of work, and his paintings are spread across museums throughout the world, so this exhibition was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see most of his collection in one location.

We are lucky to have good friends originally from the Netherlands or who have traveled to Amsterdam who provided some excellent advice. So here are a few pointers (with a shoutout to Rachel, Jesse, and Chuck):

  • One (of many things) we did not know is that Amsterdam is known as the “Las Vegas of Europe”.  Friends recommended spending a few more euros on a slightly nicer hotel to avoid the more crowded and noisier parts of city.
  • Make dinner reservations 4-5 days in advance, and possibly longer for the more popular restaurants.
  • If you don’t do anything else, stop at a local bakery for freshly made stroopwafel.  It is two layers of a thin and crunchy waffle cookie with caramel filling. Yes, you can buy them in some U.S grocery stores, but if Martha knows art I know sweets and nothing here is comparable.
  • If you take a boat ride for a canal tour, get an open-air boat versus one with an enclosed cabin. You get a much better view of the buildings and a sense for the city. If the temps are cooler the boats provide blankets and they serve alcohol to keep your mind off of hold cold you are.
  • Almost everyone speaks English, and we were surprised to see all the museums had descriptions of the art in Dutch and English.
  • Most importantly, look both ways, twice! The main mode of transportation is bikes, a LOT of bikes. There are specific paths for bikes and the locals will let you know very quickly if you are walking in their lane. And there are no hills so the bikes are moving quickly.

If you are considering a trip there, please let us know and we can provide more details.