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Welcome To April From My Desk Chronicles!

Happy April everyone.  Birds are singing and tulips and daffodils are blooming…..let’s talk Amsterdam!

I’ve been to this amazing city several times now and it keeps calling to me.  I’d like to look back to the first time I left there.  As we left the Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, the plane banked  hard to the right, exposing the landscape below.  My first thought was “what’s that?”  Immediately, I recognized “it” as rows upon rows, acres upon acres of tulips.  Brightly coloured, standing out against the green landscape and blue water.  It was there for a few seconds only, then the plane straightened out and it was gone.  But those few seconds left an indelible memory behind.  So, so very beautiful.  The first tulips were grown in the Netherlands in 1596 by the botanist Carolus Clusius.  They are now sought out by many and many tourists bring bulbs home as their souvenir.

You need a minimum of three days to explore all this beautiful city has to offer.  The canals dominate the city and a boat ride on them is a must.  Whether exploring on foot, renting a bicycle (there are more than half a million of them), or joining a tour, just crossing the more than 1,200 bridges is an adventure and a time to slow down and enjoy the scenery and marvel at the  amazing architecture of the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries.  The commentary on board the boats is exceptional and professional as each of the districts pass by.  It’s tough to get a good picture, but persevere and they will come!  (take a look at the bike “parking lot” in this picture taken from my boat tour)

If you are a museum buff, then this is your city!  There are more than 50 of them.  Everything from the haunting, serene Anne Frank Haus to the Rijksmusem which houses the finest collection of Dutch art anywhere in the world, to the Van Gogh Museum and the Rembrandt to the maritime Scheepvaartmuseum, there is something for everyone.

Stopping at a cafe is also a must.  You’ll soon find yourself enjoying an amazing pastry, coffee and a chat with a very friendly, welcoming local.

Amsterdam is a small city and very walkable.  It also has an excellent tram system.  Don’t worry if you get lost in the maze of tiny streets and canals…just enjoy! And if you happen to find the Red Light District by accident (like I did) don’t worry.  It’s very safe.  The tree-lined canals and old narrow bridges in this district are some of the prettiest in the city.

The city will keep you busy, but there are plenty of places within easy day-trip range to enjoy as well.  Small villages and towns invite you to the heart of agricultural North Holland.  Working mills, clog ships and living museums and cheese making factories are must stop places along the way.  These villages and towns are picturesque and happily welcome visitors.

Let’s go back to the tulips for just a second.  Every spring, from early April to the end of May, the fields between Haarlem and Amsterdam erupt in a rainbow of colour.  Tour!  Stop and smell the flowers!  Another “flower” stop is near the town of Lisse.  Keukenhof, a 28 hectare show piece flower garden welcomes the public from late March to late May.  As a flower lover, I found spectacular crocus, hyacinth and narcissus along with the amazing tulips.

So, what can you do in Amsterdam?  Browse and shop…amazing small, local shops are everywhere, mingled in the narrow streets and canal rings.  You’ll absolutely find the perfect gift for you or someone you love.  Street markets welcome tourists…go and enjoy local cuisine and excellent shopping.  Antiques, diamonds, plants, cigars (well, not for me!), Jenever (like schnapps), pewter, silver and the blue and white Delftware.  Of course wooden clogs and windmills feature prominently and can be found everywhere!  Museums, canal rides, day trips out of the city.  There’s so much to see, do, experience and enjoy in this amazing city!  Call me and I’ll help you plan your perfect Escape to Amsterdam!

Take Euros!  Cash  is very welcome.  Don’t forget to keep change to use the washroom facilities!  And don’t forget to stop and smell the flowers!

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