Dark silhouettes in dark winter coats and boots, strutting. Women on trams in slashed jeans. Women wearing colorful hijab. Children in market squares in colorful loop scarves. Men smoking at train stations and transit stops. Irascible bicyclists. Oh Amsterdam, how I miss thee.
My visit to Amsterdam with my daughter this past December started at Schipol airport. My sister met us at the airport. Together, we went to Central Station and then took tram 16 to the museum district, where my sister lives. We were here for a little over two weeks.
The city has an extensive public transit system that made it quite easy to get anywhere. I bought a Lebara SIM card for the Netherlands from Albert Heijn, a local supermarket. With the SIM card and add-on internet service, I could use Apple Maps and Google Maps to get around. Google Maps was especially useful in determining which tram, train, or bus to use and how to get to the nearest transit station, while Apple Maps was more useful in navigating on foot.
People of Amsterdam were often on foot or on bicycles, which made the city personable. There were little shops everywhere, often among living quarters. It seems everyone was involved in making or selling something. The buildings were colorful and had odd shapes, with some leaning to the side. People often left their windows uncovered in the night so you could see inside their apartments. I saw anything from beautiful art hung on walls, to a kitchen worthy of being painted by Rembrandt, to a personal library stocked with tomes, to marble floors in a foyer. There were the red lit windows, with women appearing as mannequins, dressed in lingerie. It seemed people deliberately turned their homes into some sort of walk-by museum of Amsterdam.
Speaking of museum, there is practically a museum for everything in Amsterdam. I saw a museum for handbag and purses and another one for cheese. There are also the well known museums, such as the Van Gogh museum, Rijksmuseum, and Anne Frank house.
One of my favorite places in Amsterdam was the Central Station. I often felt I could reach the ends of the world from Central Station. Twice, I took trains from this station to Germany. And I contemplated going to Brussels.
On a Sunday, I took a tram to Spui in Amsterdam. Within a small square, I found at least five different bookshops. Athenaeum Boekhandel and The American Book Center had several floors and nooks stocked full with books.
I saw a children's bookshop somewhere. Can you imagine a bookshop dedicated solely to children? There is also a six-floor library, Openbare Bibliotheek, near Central Station. On the sixth floor is a full cafe, not the Barnes & Noble kind.
I found Weldraad, a yarn store, in Haarlemmerdijk. The store was so homey, and the owner so nice, that I bought far more yarn than I should have.
Amsterdam has lots of interesting places to eat. We had breakfast at Blushing, dinner at Foodhallen, and brunch at Pancakes Amsterdam. Foodhallen is like a food court and yet like an upscale restaurant, with several food stalls lined up against the walls and rustic wooden dining tables in the middle.
Amsterdam, with its beautiful canals, colorful interiors and exteriors, odd and old buildings, bicycles, mass of people walking about, and bookshops, gets you excited about being alive. I remember finding everything dull when I returned home to Houston.