I think I am finally almost recovered from being up for 24 hours twice in one week.

Amsterdam was so much fun... not only would I go back, I would gladly live there. The city is so lively and so vibrant. You can walk from one extreme side to the other in maybe an hour, but it stretched to full day because we stopped at every visitor attraction and a couple of pubs along the way. Seriously, we used the Frommer's Amsterdam guide book's The Best of Amsterdam in Three Days itinerary and it was great... some of the sights were a little lame (Waterlooplein, I was very disappointed in you!), but we got to really experience all parts of the city that way.

People look cool in Amsterdam. Everyone looks sort of individual, compared to Texas where everyone dresses pretty much the same. At bars, cafes, etc., we also noticed that people sit next to each other and look out, rather than across from each other looking in. Everyone spoke English, and it was even printed on most of the menus and stuff, so language barrier was not an issue at all.

Bikes are everywhere. Everywhere. I've never seen so many in my life. The ring, ring letting you know you were about to be run down was continual. The streets were also way different. I definitely wouldn't want to rent a bike there, because I couldn't even tell the car lanes, from the sidewalks, from the bike lanes. It seemed like they were all bike lanes! There were also many bikes carrying children (one on the front, one on the back), and carrying dogs in baskets, and even a few dogs running on a leash beside the bike. The cutest were the dogs riding under people's feet on scooters.

Cafes (and "coffee shops," for that matter) were ten to a block... but almost nothing "to go." The restaurant service was super slow, which is kind of nice because it forces you to take your time. You had to go to the waiter and ask for it when you wanted your bill, you had to go and ask if you wanted a refill, or anything else. So different than here where your drink is refilled when it's still three quarters full. Definitely no pressure there to hurry-up and go. Maybe this has something to do with the fact that tipping isn't generally prevalent there?

Speaking of, prostitution and a little bit of weed are legal. So, the smoking places are called coffee shops, as opposed to an actual coffee shop which is called a cafe. The difference is clear from the signs boasting weed leaves, but other than that the coffee shop atmosphere was just like an actual coffee shop, minus the laptops. (As a matter of fact, I didn't notice one person the whole time talking anywhere talking on a cell phone, or working on a laptop, or texting either, which is unimaginable here.) From what I could see the red light district was basically a bunch of adult video stores, sex toy shops and a few random women in underwear in windows doing things like plucking their eyebrows or reading a magazine. (It was 2 pm on a Sunday...) We toured the Sex Museum (which was really small, tacky but funny) and the Hemp Museum (which was also small, but also a little educational?).

We visited the Van Gogh Museum, which I thought was really great. I love that he decided to be an artist at 26; he wasn't afraid to declare himself something and pursue it. He also wasn't obsessed with being "original", as soon as he saw something he liked he tried to imitate it. It was really neat to see the progression of his art and the obvious infleuence after meeting different artists like Monet or Seurat. The best example there was the side-by-side of Millet's painting of the sheep shearers (left) compared to Van Gogh's copy (right). I guess he took it all in and eventually his own original style came to him.

For restaurants, we pretty much followed Frommer's, with a few additional pubs in between and a lot of hotel lobby bar. The Indonesian sampler at Kantjil & De Tijger was super tasty, De Prins bar was pretty crappy for service and selection, but more than made up for it in people watching, and In De Waag had a great atmosphere. The hotel lobby bar at Movenpick Hotel was great, although the first night we were there was Mexican Night, which was not what I expected to find in Amsterdam coming from south Texas. Good margaritas though.

We didn't have time to visit the tulip fields, which were in bloom but we did go through the Bloenmarkt - a giant flea market for flowers! There were so many bulbs and plants and flowers, along with wooden clogs and carved tulips. If I lived there, I'd be all about this place.

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