One of the absolute highlights of my last vacation (which was a Europe tour) was visiting Amsterdam. If you havent been, go. If youve already been, Im sure I dont need to tell you to go again. The city is stunning and charming all at once. I went with a group, my usual mode of travel. And while there are many advantages of group travel, one of my most memorable days of the trip was when my partner and I broke away from the group and jumped on a pair of free bicycles. You heard me FREE! Wherever you go there are white bicycles that are free for public use. Just pick one up when you need one and leave it when youre finished. Its such a bike-friendly city! And the bikes are much cuter than the sporty version we have here in North America. What a treat to cruise around and ring our bells.
One of the best ways to see Amsterdam, if not by bike, is from the water. Plan on taking time aside to take a cruise up the canals when you visit the Dutch capital. Its a fabulous way to take in the citys rich history. In fact, we enjoyed it so much; we took both a day and a night tour. There are over 1,000 bridges that span the citys waterways and at night theyre lit up with white lights. The bridge lights blend with the light shining out from the streetlamps and light shining out of the windows and makes the experience very romantic. On a day cruise, you can learn about the history of Amsterdam. The 17th Century warehouses still stand at the waters edge, as do the merchant homes from the Golden Age. Its amazing to see how people live modern lives amidst all of the rich history.
Of course, we couldnt leave Amsterdam without visiting the De Hoge Veluwe Park where Van Goghs Sunflowers was so famously painted. And dont forget about the floating market in the Singel Canal. Here you can pick up anything from produce to a fresh bouquet; everything is arranged right in boats along the waterway.
The city is so comfortable to roam around; with cafes everywhere you can pick up a sandwich and go to the park, or sit on a patio and have a pint. They say there are over one thousand such cafes in the area. I couldnt believe that the oldest has been open for nearly 500 years! This lifestyle is definitely one I could get used to living. An escorted vacation is a great way to visit any country.
Carol Atkins is a Group Travel Leader with YMT Vacations.
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