First, almost everyone seems to understand enough English so you don't have to struggle with a phrase book or stick with a guided tour all the time. The weather was very mild - about 65F and little heavy rain. We had some sporadic drizzle, but nothing that an umbrella could not deflect. Amsterdam is a great walking city - one can walk to all the main tourist sites with ease. It's flat and the streets have sidewalks and are safe.
The locals ride bicycles everywhere. There are more bicycles than people. That's one thing your do have to watch out for - the bicyclists. Bicyclists seems to peddle in a carefree manner, disregarding rules for cars and pedestrians, so look both ways in crossing. Why bicycles ? One of our drivers - a young man with a trip to NYC under his belt - said that parking permits have a five year waiting list. And parking costs 5 euros an hours IF you can find a space. Since spaces aren't available even at stores, etc., what's the point of having a car unless one lives in the suburbs. With flat terrain, bicycling is easy, too. We were told people bike in all weathers.
The Dutch are taller than the average American. The average height of an American man is about 5' 10". A Dutch man averages 6' 0.5". I'm 6' tall and there were many Dutch men who were taller than me - far, far more than for US men. The same applies to women. Also, Dutch women are rather attractive in general - they are not too thin nor fat. The ultra-thin fad does not seem prevalent there; Dutch women seemed to mostly have nice figures. Maybe it's the bicycling.
Normal Dutch food seems a lot like normal American food. Lunches in cafes were mostly indistinguishable from a similar cafe in NYC. I had several excellent club sandwiches for lunch with a fine glass of Dutch beer (large, of course).
The art in the Netherlands is spectacular. we visited the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Mauritshuis in The Hague and the Franz Hals Museum in Haarlem to see the great masters of the 17th century. All were incredibly good collections and the audio tour guides were simply the best I've ever encountered anywhere on earth. Another must stop is the Rembrandthuis (Rembrandt House) - the restored home of Rembrandt. It's a wonderful example of both 17th century life and how the artist lived.
Walking around Amsterdam, one can see fine old churches and many, many fine homes from the 17th and 18th centuries. A few gates from the old city walls exist, too. Amsterdam and The Netherlands are dream places for those interested in art and old architecture. The Dutch do a fine job preserving both.
For food, we mostly dined on Indonesian food. Indonesia was once a Dutch colony so many people with experience in Indonesian food brought it to The Netherlands. It's very tasty and nutritious - a bit like a combination of Indian food and Southeast Asian food. We had the "Rijsstaffel" every night - that's a "rice table". It's a combination meal of numerous small servings of all the styles and types offered by the restaurant. depending on the size, one gets 12-18 different meat or vegetable servings with different spices and cooking styles, and both yellow and white rice. All were delicious. Portions were very large. That meal goes well with either fine wine or Dutch beer.
Amsterdam and The Netherlands are fine, fine places for a vacation - very enjoyable.
Word of the Day
"Inanition" - noun [$10]
Inanition means 1. emptiness; 2. exhaustion from lack of nourishment.
Sentence: The American people's increasing sense of inanition in Obama's regime will likely bring major changes in November.