Musings from Amsterdam 2024 Edition

                    MUSINGS FROM AMSTERDAM   
                                 2024 EDITION

This is another of many reviews of trips since 2000 to Amsterdam, my favorite city on the planet. The last one was in May-June 2023 with some information borrowed for this issue and links for the musings for that trip and some previous musings provided at the end.

On this visit, Roelanda, who had not made the journey since 2017, joined me for our almost 4 week stay. Since then, I visited twice in 2018 and 2019 before Covid restrictions negated traveling here for 3 years.

We arrived at the world famous Schiphol Airport after an almost 11 hour non-stop flight from LA and were greeted by a reliable one person taxi service I have used for the last 10+ years who took us to our apartment, which is located in the same apartment complex I stayed in last year, The Wittenberg Cove, located in the most beautiful, green neighborhood, The Plantage, located just east of the Centrum {the city center}.

The Wittenberg

Last year, I stayed in a large studio, but we opted for a superior one bedroom which had much more space, was quiet and private and had a stellar canal view of the smaller, serene Nieuwe Keizersgracht canal. It is lined on our side by houseboats and on the other side by apartments and classic, magnificent, older houses, some converted into large, grand apartments and a small neighborhood park that I’ve ventured to in the past on sunny days to bask in the sun with the locals and their dogs.

Since our apartment was fully equipped with a kitchen facility and quality grocery stores were so easily accessible, we ate many more meals in than out plus plans with others did not materialize. Consequently, we did not venture out for any planned fine wine/dining experiences at Daalder, Gebr Hartering and Avalon though we did eat a few good meals at local long time favorite Indian and Italian restaurants and de Engelbewaarder for authentic Dutch food.

Up until 2023, I/we had stayed in a local friend’s apartment in the convenient Nieuwmarkt neighborhood in the Centrum on Oudeschans near the Montelbaanstoren, but that became no longer available and I discovered a new apartment in the not so far away, wonderful, quiet and peaceful Plantage neighborhood that also includes a few of the many vast extensions of the University of Amsterdam, in this case, their Business School and Law School.

The next 4 paragraphs are borrowed from last year’s musings as are a few other remarks early on herein:

Roelanda was born and raised in ’s-Hertogenbosch AKA Den Bosch which is about 100 kilometers South and slightly East of Amsterdam. Den Bosch is located in one of the 12 provinces, Brabant, and although the 4th largest city in the province, its population is only about 160,000. Amsterdam was where her mother told her never to go due to the “low moral standards and such”.

Thankfully, I had a different mother and discovered Amsterdam, located in the province of North Holland, in 1996 while participating in a professional healthcare conference. Although the seminars were held in the south part of the city, I stayed in the Centrum and made time to walk and explore it and instantly fell in love with the vibe, the people, the history and the culture.

Technically, the country is the Netherlands although some in the country call it Holland and strictly, formally, it has been the Kingdom of the Netherlands since Napoleon appointed his brother as king, turning the Dutch Republic {called the United Republic of the Netherlands from 1588 to 1795} into a kingdom.

While exploring the Centrum, my most prevalent thought and feeling was this is all about freedom, individual freedom of expression and ideals and I saw just about everything from one expression to the other and no-one really cared as long as it did no harm.

It wasn’t until I went to the Amsterdam Museum 10 years later when I saw the declaration upon entering, “Amsterdam, The City of Freedom”, that I discovered it was more than just my experience. For those who are interested in knowing the amazing history of the city and its water conservation, land formation and much more, this museum is a must visit.

Have a look/ listen:

As always on the eve of arrival, I go to our stamcafe, stamkroeg, neighborhood bar/restaurant/ local pub called De Engelbewaarder {The Guardian Angel}, to see some of our local friends who own, work and/or frequent this fabulous brown cafe [pub} which for me and many others, is a place to meet, treat, eat and greet.

Me and 2 of my best local buds

Brown cafes originated in the early 19th century and got their name from the dark brown color of the interior which usually has a bar made of dark brown wood as well and being dark inside because there is usually very little lighting although that is not the case with De Engel. Also, when smoking was permitted many years ago, the walls, ceilings and lungs of their inhabitants turned brown from the smoke.

This year, the flowers in the region started blooming in late March due to an up until now abnormal early warming and there are flowers everywhere in the City placed on sidewalks by residents and throughout the streets by the City, but the most classic demonstration is in the nearby Keukenhof Tulip Gardens {as with some of the musings already stated, see last year and other precious versions for more details and photos}.

Across the canal from us

Wisteria grows up the side of buildings all over the centrum

Keukenhof Gardens

Dutch landscape in the Spring

As always when I visit and go for daily walks, I see something out of the ordinary and here’s a few that I’ve encountered on this trip:

Not your average street sign for men’s wearing apparel:

An occupied bench among many other benches in this area with a storied history commemorating one special homeless person in bronze:

The inscription in Dutch reads: “I was forsaken and you came to me.”

I’ve seen and photographed numerous leaning buildings with comments about why that has happened and what is being done about it, but I’ve never seen a building that leans one way and over corrects the other:

On the other side of the canal from our apartment is a corner building that epitomizes “corner”:

I have to think this is not unique to Amsterdam, but I’ve never seen a small motorcycle for little kids with training wheels:

During our stay, the weather was all over the place, unseasonably warm and sunny when we first got here= ~60°+, but that changed rapidly and radically and the next 10 days or so went to the more normal high 40s to low 30s with a 10° downward “feels like” due to wind and intermittent rain. Hint: bring layered clothing from ski gloves, ski hat, scarf, heavy sweaters and rain gear to shorts and short sleeved shirts and sunglasses. Beach chairs optional.

For those who know I’ve been studying Dutch for over 2 years, I’d be lying if I told you I can understand the language when spoken to. I can speak some, write some and read some, but it’s a different deal when I hear it, up until now. No doubt, the best way to learn a language is to go somewhere in the country where no one speaks English and that is not the case in Amsterdam nor most other major cites in the country.

Even in rainy weather, I try to walk everyday for the purpose of exercise, but here, it is also to explore and experience. One can learn a lot about this city on foot and another option that is very highly recommended, by canal boat which we eventually did on this trip.

Canal cruise boots are plentiful and may seem like a touristy thing to do, but one will see parts and aspects of the city not easily available any other way. Reservations recommended.

Here is a link that structures a walk that includes some of the best areas to explore and sites to see:

And for those who want to travel to other parts of the Netherlands, here is a link that is helpful in planning the trip:

Roelanda did a day trip to her home town and met with different friends and distant relatives for lunch and afternoon tea.

On a day that seemed suitable for traveling, we did a day trip to nearby Volendam, a quaint little fishing village of just over 20,000 people, founded in the 14th century and a travel commitment that included a 30 minute walk to Centraal Station, a 15 minute Metro ride and a 15 minute bus ride. We later learned how to do this more efficiently, but it still is a commitment.




We had visited Volendam in the early 2000s and even had a photo taken of the 2 of us dressed up in the traditional Dutch costumes of yesteryear and still in fashion for the benefit of tourists today although we did not see any when we walked through the village along the shoreline.

The women’s costume of Volendam, with its high, pointed bonnet, is one of the most recognizable of the Dutch traditional costumes, and is often featured on tourist postcards and posters.



On this occasion, Roelanda had already arranged with a local shop for homemade, authentic costumes for her 2 grandchildren, one named Holland, who are being raised with some Dutch awareness. So, we ventured along the main street where hundreds of shops, restaurants and touristy things to do are located, found the shop, completed the outfits with wooden shoes and enjoyed a nice lunch before returning to Amsterdam.

To further confuse my studying of Dutch, they speak a different dialect here and it’s only 16 km from Amsterdam although as usual in tourist towns, all speak fluent English.

A few days later on April 28, Koningsdag, Kings Day, which is really an official long weekend event to celebrate the King’s birthday, was celebrated throughout the country. Over 700,000 tourists/ visitors come into Amsterdam for the weekend, everyone wears the Dutch country color, orange, all laws and regulations are relaxed and it is a party times three with LOUD music, singing, dancing and partying going on. The main streets in the Centrum, Dam Square and all of the nearby main canals and Amstel River are inundated with revelers.

We watched the masses from a bridge that was first built in 1691 before its current 1934 edition, called De Magere Brug, The Skinny Bridge, that goes over the Amstel before we walked around in areas were we could actually move before retiring to our apartment and settling in on a nice, quiet evening with dinner in while the small canal next to us was lined with a parade of smaller boats and singing and dancing revelers throughout the early part of the evening, all in orange clothing of course.




And in the category of seeing the unexpected, here is a canal boot that proudly honored my Kansas City Chiefs for winning the Super Bowl:

Kings Day is also a time when locals can spread out all sorts of personal items/ art and handicrafts on the sidewalks for sale without permits. It’s the consummate flea market/ garage sale/ lawn sale event.

As we entered our last week here, the weather turned once again and it was in the high 60s and low 70s with sunny, bright days. The locals are basking in any rays of sunshine they can find in the inner city, mostly in the parks, the trees are filling in, the birds are chirping and already nesting as is the case for a coot that built a large nest next to a canalboat directly in front of us and a week before we departed, 2 young ones were being schooled on how to navigate the canal, stay safe and find food.


Many days later, the city was still bustling from Kings Day with many tourists staying over, but partied out and just being a tourist. The clean up by the city is an amazing feat where trash upon trash was scattered all over and now it has disappeared except maybe for the odor of stale beer. It was almost as if they caught the trash before it hit the ground.

Thanks to Roelanda’s insistence based upon a stellar experience with her grandson 7 years ago, a must do touristy thing to do in Amsterdam is to take a canal trip and we did. It’s a walking/ biking city, but there are lots of things one can only see from the canals and it’s a romantic thing to do if one is inclined and we are; so, she arranged for a choice time, 2 hour sunset cruise with wine and cheese that came with a private table setting. The wine and cheese was not of high quality, but to have your own table and comfortable seating area makes it so.

On board

We selected the warmest day of our visit to do the canal cruise and it was truly an outstanding evening enhanced by the glow of the sun setting and the lights of the city and the bridges over the canals coming on almost in succession as we approached them. An onboard host/ guide provided insights and historically significant information throughout the cruise in both English and German to accommodate our particular group.

I highly recommend all couples do this version of the canal cruise. It’s more expensive, longer by 2 hours instead of the usual one and covers a broader area of the canal ring even venturing into the Amstel River for a nice sampling of the largest water way and the only river in the city.

Quite frankly, I recommend everyone consider doing this cruise. Our boat had a party of 8 as well as smaller groups and couples.

Here’s a link for the cruise line we used:

As we entered our last few days the weather changed once again and it got cold, windy and rainy before gracing us with great weather the last 2 days. Having proper shoes and rain clothes with a hood allows for hands free walking and layered warmth and continued exploration of this marvelous city where there is so much to do, inside and outside; so, the weather just dictates some of what you do, where you do it and how you dress for it.

Returning to Schiphol can be done in numerous ways. The train used to be the easiest and most direct, especially if one is located close to Centraal Station, but recently, delayed and canceled trains have mandated using other means such as shared shuttle rides {not recommended if you have a tight schedule}, Uber, although we never used it and have no experience with it here, and taxis, the most reliable and priced decently.

Amsterdam is so much more than weirdness, windmills, the Red Light District, coffee shops and all.
When you walk and travel through the city away from the tourists, feel it out.

There’s a lot of unspoken tradition and one word descriptions of ways of being/ living, enjoying life. For the first time, I heard the word “niksen”. Niks means nothing and Niksen means doing nothing productive or for a purpose; just kick back, read a book, wear whatever you want, sit in the sun and the like.

And, there’s an oft used/ heard Dutch word “gezellig” which I believe literally means “cozy”; but it goes way beyond that and is a great word to learn.

There’s a lot more and Roelanda found a 20 minute video that covers these for those of you who want to get a little deeper into the Dutch. Here’s a link:

I look forward to creating the opportunity to produce the next of many more musings.


Links to previous musings:

@Mikael_OB @Barry_L_i_p_t_o_n @Andrew_Kotowski


We’re planning an Amsterdam trip right now, perfect timing.

This is a great help.

Let me know if I can help Brig.

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This made my day. Will revisit when I’ve got more time to enjoy it :slight_smile:

We are going to spend a week in AMS in Sept. Haven’t been for longer than I thought. Particularly interested in current restaurant recommendations, as mine are old.

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Let’s communicate prior to your planning for some advanced reservations for places that is strongly suggested.

Thanks, Blake. I always plan and make dinner reservations in advance when we travel

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Blake, such a great post, and looking forward to rendezvousing there with you on the future!!

We shall make up for the good plans we had in place, perhaps both here and there Barry.

Lovely to see your post. Have lived there 7 years combined — the canal cruise is and has always been my number one way to take visitors around to get their moneys worth. The city can be hostile to visitors on bikes, but the waters are less travelled(not on kingsday of course) and therefore much less stressful, plus the historic info you’re being given meanwhile is great.

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How wonderful to have lived in the city for some extended time. Living in Santa Barbara has made it less of a consideration to live in Amsterdam with all of the significant weather differences although we have considered it.

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Epic post. Thank you.

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Great post, thanks so much Blake! My wife and I are headed to Amsterdam and San Sebastián for our honeymoon in September, so will definitely be studying all your musings before then. Cheers!

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Hit this thread first thing (6AM) on Saturday morning, as I was saving it to read and enjoy with a cup of coffee.

You know how much I love AMS, having visited there 3x a quarter for a couple of years. Your post brings back so many happy memories (as well as a few vague/groggy ones, stumbling home from Cafe de Klepl) and I’m grateful for such a happy start to my day. Thank you.

Hey Andrew,
As you probably noticed, when it came time to tag a few for this post, you were 1 of 3 that I thought of.

On one day, I ventured way west to 2 wine shops, walking past de Klepel as it turned out, looked in with fond memories of so many wonderful times there when Job was managing it AND the many times you and I almost connected there. It is still wine centric and looked as inviting as ever, it’s an hour walk from our apartment; so, we did not make it.

BTW, Job left a few years ago to form a partnership with some friends and opened up Zoldering which is also wine centric, maybe more so than de Klepel, and has a meat and fish oriented menu that is a challenge for my vegetarian preferences. I believe they picked a Michelin star.


Fantastic post, thank you my friend.

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Congrats to you and your wife. BTW there’s lots of San Sebastian information in this forum which covers all the bases. Quick search will reveal the nuggets.


Thank you! I have already done extensive studying of those threads :wink: