In my blog post yesterday, I shared that Colin and I just returned from the Tulips and Windmills Viking River Cruise which began and ended in Amsterdam. Our flight arrived at about 11am and a Viking representative was at the airport to meet us and drive us to the ship. We’ve done a lot of traveling and have found the best way to acclimate to the time zone is to force ourselves to stay awake until bedtime and then go to sleep as if this is our normal bedtime and wake up the next morning at a time that would be a normal start to the day. It works pretty well.

Our room happened to be ready when we arrived to the ship so we unpacked our bags and then went upstairs for lunch. Vikingis very accommodating with trying to have your room ready when you arrive and having food for you after a long journey. If your room isn't quite ready, you can relax in the lounge while you wait. Considering the guests from the last cruise are ending and leaving their cruise the same day and overlapping hours you're arriving to start yours, it's pretty nice how well they've worked things out for everyone to be comfortable.

After lunch, we had the option of taking a walking tour but decided to head out on our own instead to explore the city at our own pace. Amsterdam is such a great city. I love the canals that line every street, the little bridges that cross the canals, the bikes, the historic old homes and buildings, flower stands, and general friendliness. I always feel like I'm welcome in Amsterdam and have never felt like a tourist who is loathed.

We spent some time at the Botanical Garden, snacked a bit, and wandered the canals. The next day, we enjoyed a walking tour and a canal cruise arranged by Viking. Something that's really enjoyable about the Viking tour guides is that they are people who actually live in each city and it seems like, have grown up there or have lived there for a long time. These tours are such a nice way to learn about the city's history and familiarize yourself with local customs, etc. For example, there are red paths everywhere. The guides explain the red paths are for bicycles and you should never walk in them. And you really need to be on your toes when crossing the red paths or the street because there are bikes EVERYWHERE and one/many can come out of nowhere. It sounds so basic but all the little pointers they provide are so helpful.

On our return to Amsterdam at the end of our cruise, it was Good Friday and the city was insanely busy. Although we knew it'd be crowded, we headed out on our own again with plans to explore and to have dinner at an Indonesian restaurant, which happens to be something that can be found a lot in the Netherlands. This is an extremely diverse country! Amsterdam is also known for its wealth of museums and the Anne Frank house, which we visited a few years ago. They are definitely worth the visit. (Currently you have to book your Anne Frank tickets in advance or you won't get in). Anyway, I had read a bunch about the Nine Streets (a neighborhood) so we headed that way. There were a lot of shops and some cafes but it was really crowded, and actually seemed a bit touristy, which isn't what I had imagined from what I had read. So, we decided to head over to the Jordaan neighborhood instead. It was perfect. So quiet, quaint, charming, and filled with little restaurants, cafes, and tiny shops. It was such a nice and peaceful way to end our last day before heading to dinner.

Tomorrow I'm looking forward to talking about the next stops on our river cruise. I think you'll love it!

Notes:

- Our cruise was sponsored by Viking. All opinions expressed are entirely my own and everything I've written was done so by me with no input from Viking whatsoever.

- The locals here speak mostly Dutch but all the locals we encountered in Amsterdam spoke English as well. I'm always so impressed and jealous of the importance European countries put on languages in their schooling.

- Some favorite local snack specialties we enjoyed were Stroopwafels (thin waffle cookies filled with caramel), Fries with Mayonnaise, Peanut Sauce, and Onions (it sounds so weird but is delicious!), Poffertjes (tiny puffy pancakes served dusted with powdered sugar and butter), and Herring with Pickle and Onions (actually pretty tasty and not strongly fishy).

- We squeezed in a workout at a local CrossFit gym which is a really nice way to clear a foggy head after sitting on an airplane for 10 hours. We like using the Mindbody APPto search for local gyms and sign up for classes. It's really convenient and easy to use.

- You can find the first post about our Tulips and Windmills Viking River Cruise here.

- I've written extensively about the Viking River Cruise ships and cruises after my first river cruisewhich was on the Danube River. You can find the posts here.

MEET SERENA!

Stay-at-home mom, Serena Thompson, dreamed of creating a fun and happy little event to sell her vintage and handmade goods. In 2002, she and some friends held the first event in her neighbor’s barn. The sale became wildly popular and began attracting visitors from across the country and recognition in national magazines. Today the event fills the Spokane County Fairgrounds and features hundreds of creatively and carefully curated spaces filled with vintage and handmade goods. Many describe it as a bucket list event, magical, inspirational, and the best vintage & handmade fair in the country. Serena describes it as the happiest on earth.

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