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Today, Norm Goldman, Editor of bookpleasures.com and sketchandtravel.com is excited to have as our guest, Andy Herbach.

Andy is an attorney in Milwaukee, WI, and is the author of Amsterdam Made Easy, as well as several other books, Open Road's Paris Made Easy, and co-author of Eating & Drinking in Paris, Eating & Drinking in Italy, Eating & Drinking in Spain, and Eating & Drinking in Latin America.




Today, Andy is here to discuss Amsterdam.

Good day Andy and thank you for agreeing to participate in our interview.

Norm:

Could you tell our readers what made you want to write about Amsterdam and why does this city attract you?

Andy:

Amsterdam
has more canals than Venice, more bridges than Paris, more bicycles than cars, and perhaps more tolerance than any other city in the world. It's what makes Amsterdam truly unique & and such a wonderful place to visit.

Because the city is so compact, you can see a lot even if your stay is short and its sights are as diverse as its residents, including beautiful churches, lovely gardens, and, of course, the infamous Red-Light District.

If you're interested in museums, there's something for everyone. The famous Rijksmuseum offers paintings from the Dutch Golden Age, the Stedelijk Museum has contemporary art, and the Torture Museum & well, how should I say this? & is filled with stuff you probably didn't need to see!
Cultured, vibrant, fun and easy to get around Amsterdam is the perfect European city to explore.

Norm:

If you had chose 8 of the most romantic venues in Amsterdam for a romantic getaway or even a wedding celebration, which ones would they be and why?

Andy:

*** A romantic evening on Amsterdam's most beautiful canal:

Restaurant De Belhamel
60 Brouwersgracht
Tel. 020/622-1095
Open daily 6pm-10pm

This restaurant has a beautiful small bar and an excellent reputation. The view down the canal adds to the charm.  Moderate  Expensive

***A beautiful stroll among the flowers:

Bloemenmarkt
(Flower Market)
Singel between Koningsplein and Muntplein
Open Mon-Fri 9am-6pm, Sat 9am-5pm
Admission: Free

Stalls selling cut flowers and bulbs are sold from floating anchored barges on the Singel Canal. It's incredibly fragrant and a great photo opportunity. Don't miss a walk though this beautiful sight. It's the only floating flower market in the world.

***Walk in a romantic park in the middle of the city:

Vondelpark
South of Leidseplein and northwest of Museumplein

This 120-acre park was named after Joost van den Vondel, a Dutch poet (there's a statue of him in the park). In the summer, it's filled with locals enjoying this large green space near the city center. Explore the paths, lakes, rose garden, bandstand, outdoor theater, and strange-looking round Blue Teahouse (Blauwe Theehuis) overlooking the lake.

***A day-trip to a romantic town:

Haarlem
12 miles (19 km) west of Amsterdam (route A5 in the direction of Haarlem)
Many trains daily from Centraal Station. 20-minute trip (about ¬12 round-trip)

Haarlem is an easy day-trip from Amsterdam. It has a lovely market square, compact historic center, 16th- and 17th-century buildings, and canals. It's a smaller and more sedate version of Amsterdam. Most major sights are within easy walking distance of each other.


One of the most interesting and most romantic things you can do in Amsterdam is walk along the beautiful canals that circle the city. Here are three romantic walks:

***A walk down the Prinsengracht canal:

You'll pass these sights on a romantic walk down this lovely canal: North Church, West Church, Anne Frank House, and Leidseplein. 

*** A walk down the Keizersgracht Canal:

You'll pass these sights on a romantic walk down this lovely canal: House With the Heads, the Van Loon Museum, and the Skinny Bridge.
 

*** A walk down the Herengracht Canal:

You'll pass these sights on a romantic walk down this lovely canal: Theatermuseum, Biblical Museum, Golden Bend, and Rembrandtplein

***
More than romance:

You really can't visit Amsterdam without walking through the red-light district. It's a new spin on window-shopping! Prostitution has been regulated and, of course, taxed in Amsterdam since 1984, and even has its own union. Along the narrow streets of the Red-Light District, women and some men wait in windows for their next customer. The storefront rooms have curtains that are closed when business is being conducted. You'll see lots of foreign businessmen and tourists milling around (many very drunk). Be careful at night as the area is a prime pickpocket spot. By the way, don't even think about taking photos. Your camera will likely be confiscated.

From sex clubs to live sex shows, sex is a big part of Amsterdam's tourist industry. Locals don't bat an eye at any of this, but you might. If you're not interested in seeing any of it, stay away from the Red-Light District and the area around it. You can easily visit Amsterdam's other wonderful sights without encountering any of the sex industry.

Norm:

When is the best time to visit Amsterdam?

Andy:

Temperatures dip to around freezing in winter. Fall and spring are pleasant, but can be wet. Summer is very pleasant. I prefer the fall.

Norm:

How expensive is lodging, eating and entertainment in Amsterdam?

Andy:

One great thing about Amsterdam is that there is lodging, dining and entertainment for every budget.

Norm:

If you only had a week to visit Amsterdam, how would you spend your time? Where would you eat?

Andy:

If I had a week in Amsterdam, I would check out what I think are the top sights:

Canals: From the Singel to the Prinsengracht, Amsterdam's canals and the Golden Age homes that line them make Amsterdam a unique destination.

Begijnhof: The courtyard of this 14th-century hofje
(almshouse) is a peaceful getaway from the bustling city.

Anne Frankhuis
: Anne Frank's hiding place, where she penned her famous diary, comes to life in this poignant museum.

Rijksmuseum
: The Royal Museum is one of the world's greatest art museums with masterpieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer, and countless others.

van Gogh Museum
: A study of not only van Gogh's art, but also his fascinating life.

Amsterdams Historisch Museum
: Follow the history of Amsterdam from fishing village to modern metropolis.

Red-Light District
: The oldest profession in the world sells itself (legally) in a new type of window-shopping.

Museum Amstelkring
: Gorgeous clandestine church in, of all places, an attic.

Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art
: One of the world's most prestigious modern-art museums.

Coffeeshops:
What's that smell? It certainly isn't coffee. Because of Amsterdam's tolerant attitude to certain drugs, you'll find them served in the city's numerous coffeeshops.

I'll list a favorite restaurant from Expensive to Inexpensive:

De Silveren Spiegel
4-6 Kattengat
Tel. 020/624-6589
Open daily 6pm-11pm. Lunch by reservation only

Admit it: You have a bad impression of Dutch cooking. You'll change your mind after enjoying modern Dutch cooking made with regional products at this elegant and romantic restaurant (the name means the silver mirror). It's located in a quaint 1614 building not too far from Centraal Station, next to the domed Koepelkerk. This is Dutch food at its best, including fillet of cod glazed with apple, carrot, leek, and celery purée, and roast suckling pig with gin sauce. There's an interesting story connected to this restaurant: During the Nazi occupation, while SS officers were dining here, the manager hid a family of eleven Jews upstairs. You can still visit the small door leading to the hiding place. Expensive.

Seasons
16 Herenstraat
Tel. 020/330-3800
Open Wed-Sat noon-3pm and 6pm-10:30pm, Sun noon-4pm and 6pm-9:30pm
www.seasonsrestaurant.nl

Friendly restaurant serving international fare and excellent wines. Highly recommended! Moderate.

Proust
4 Noordermarkt
Tel. 020/623-9145
Open daily noon-10pm (Mon and Sat from 9am)

Friendly, informal bar and restaurant that serves simple pasta dishes, beef dishes, great hamburgers and fantastic french fries. Inexpensive - Moderate.

Norm:

How safe is it to travel in Amsterdam?

Andy:

If you take certain precautions, Amsterdam is a very safe city. Don't wear a fanny pack; it's a sign that you're a tourist and an easy target (especially in crowded tourist areas). Avoid wearing expensive jewelry. If you go to the Red-Light District in the evening, be careful and watch your wallet.




Norm:

Could you tell our readers something about your book,
Amsterdam Made Easy?

Andy:

This handy pocket guide to the best sights and walks of Amsterdam is all you need to make your visit fun, memorable, and
easy. Inside you'll find short opinionated descriptions of both well-known and off-the-beaten-path sights; detailed walking tours with street-by-street descriptions; and nearby day trips  plus a travel-planning section to help you arrange your trip!

Walking tours of the most interesting neighborhoods, including themed walks

Restaurant recommendations, including where the locals eat

Outspoken advice on what to avoid

Excursions outside of Amsterdam

Helpful Dutch phrases

Great entertainment tips

Hints on how to save money

Insider shopping tips

Color maps

Norm:

What was the most memorable event you can recall when you visited Amsterdam?

Andy:

I had the pleasure of being in Amsterdam on New Year's Eve. The entire city is one large party and fireworks display!

Norm:

Is there anything else you wish to add pertaining to Amsterdam?

Andy:

If you're looking for a European city to visit on your first trip overseas, Amsterdam is the perfect city. It's easy to get around and everyone speaks excellent English.

Thanks once again and good luck with all of your books.




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