in spring, avoid the tourist crowds and head north instead to amsterdam, city of flowers and legal weed.
we love walking cities, and amsterdam is one of those places where you can walk and walk and never tire of all that’s new and different.
we found sitting at a cafe in amsterdam is even better than sipping espresso in paris, because people are far more friendly.
locals don’t mind speaking english — especially after listening to your tortured version of dutch travel lingo.
they’re eager to give directions and share the best of their city, from the latest eurofashions to multi-language bookstores.
we liked wandering without a map and trying a cafe here, browsing an open market there, and just admiring the architecture.
who knew canals could be so picturesque?
and all those leaning buildings at the waterfront are a marvel.
the city center skyline is a wavy collection of gables, atop impossibly skinny buildings.
after centuries of settling next to water, they look as if they’re about to fall. yet all that weathered brick looks solid too, especially compared to some of the creaky riverboats that house hotels and floating markets.
at night, amsterdam glitters, and walkers drift through the infamous red light district and its 14th-century shopfronts.
scantily dressed women pose and preen in the windows — some appearing entirely bored — until customers arrive, and curtains are drawn.
this makes for performance art that is a certain draw for visitors, from giggling teens to the simply curious.