We made it to Amsterdam after a night of very little sleep (I'm now erasing the boat-hotel from my mind), so it wasn't a hard decision to step aboard a boat and get to know the city by cruising the canals. The bike rentals were tempting, because they're everywhere, but we were a bit groggy, and I wasn't confident in my skills to navigate or balance in the wind and rain.
The boat tour was a hop on/hop off deal, so we got 48 hour tickets that ended up being great since the weather was pretty rainy and we didn't really have an agenda. It was nice to not feel like we had to do anything. Amsterdam has a lot more sights and museums than I expected, but one of my favorite parts of the trip was the view from the canal looking up at the streets, under the bridges, and through the floor-to-ceiling windows of the modern house boats and the tiny porthole windows in the more traditional looking boats.
The gabled houses lining the canals also never got old. You can't help but be drawn in by them, and the fact that they're actually leaning forward, some sideways, makes them feel more inviting. It's like they're talking to you.
The boat tour had a handful of interesting facts about the different canals and neighborhoods, but I realized I knew nothing about the history of the city. I'm making my way through this book now to reach my fact-quota.
The only real 'must-do' for me in Amsterdam, besides eat Gouda cheese, was to check out a museum. If I had all the Euro and time in the world, I don't think there's a museum that I wouldn't go to. They all sounded worthwhile, but I decided on the Rijksmuseum and wasn't disappointed. It was beautiful, and you can go knowing next-to-nothing about Dutch art and still get a lot out of your visit. There's history everywhere, great descriptions, and many of the masterpieces have additional info to help you better understand why they are world-renowned. I'm going to sound like a broken record pretty soon. Bear with me; it's not my fault Europe has a lot of impressive museums. The Rijks also has a platform on their site where you can search their collection and aggregate your own. Seeing them on a screen really doesn't do them justice, but here are some of my favorites.
Maybe it's the New Yorker in me, but I left Amsterdam wanting more. And it wasn't even tulip season...until next time!