What to see and do in Amsterdam

Since moving to Amsterdam about 10 months ago, we’ve had just about as many visitors. For a multitude of reasons, Amsterdam is incredibly popular with tourists. Every weekend the population of this small city swells ridiculously. In 2010 alone, 5.3 million tourists visited Amsterdam. That’s a lot of people in a very small area!

Anyway, for all our future guests and anyone else visiting Amsterdam, here is my list of attractions. They’re not in any particular order and I know I’m missing a bunch, but it’s a start!

Museums

There are a lot of museums in Amsterdam, most of which seem to be art related.

Amsterdam - Rijksmuseum

Rijksmuseum – Image sourced from Wikipedia – Amsterdam Rijksmuseum

Churches

There are several old churches dotted around Amsterdam. It may seem a bit strange but Oude Kerk is right in the middle of the red light district!

Amsterdam - Westerkerk

Westerkerk – Image sourced from Flickr – Steve Cadman – Amsterdam Westerkerk

Activities

You can spend days just wondering the streets of Amsterdam. The buildings are so beautiful and well maintained. The tree-lined canals and little bridges just can’t get any more picturesque on a sunny afternoon. But then again, there are heaps of other things to do as well, such as…

Amsterdam - Heineken Experience

Heineken Experience – Image sourced from Info Barrel – Heineken Experience

Sights

For such a small city, Amsterdam has several particularly well known areas. Some are pretty obvious (like the red light district) whilst others are much more hidden away (like the Begijnhof). Whatever your style, there’s something for everyone.

Amsterdam - Red Light District

Red Light District (De Wallen) – Image sourced from Wikipedia – De Wallen

Markets

Like every proper European city, Amsterdam has its fair share of markets. Some only operate on the weekend and most have a particular theme.

Amsterdam - Flower Market

Flower Market (Bloemenmarkt) – Image sourced from Wikipedia – Bloemenmarkt

Shopping

Shopping in Amsterdam is not like it is in the USA or Australia where you have everything you could possibly need in one large shopping mall. Malls like that don’t really exist in Europe where shopping is more ‘boutiquey’. There are shops dotted around the city and a few streets, like Kalverstraat, are lined with them.

Amsterdam - Shopping Street Kalverstraat

Shopping (Kalverstraat) – Image sourced from Flickr – Kevin Oliver – Kalverstraat Shopping, Amsterdam

Food

Dutch cuisine is not particularly varied but there are definitely some dishes you must try while visiting Amsterdam or Holland in general.

Amsterdam - Fondue

Fondue – Image sourced from Life In Amsterdam

Day Trips

Holland is a tiny country. It really is. Nowhere in Holland is more than an hour or two away from Amsterdam so there are lots of options for day trips. Public transport (both train and bus) is very convenient, comfortable and affordable.

Zaanse Schans

Zaanse Schans – Image sourced from Eropuit.nl

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Traveling with your tech gadgets


Tech gadgets
All the gadgets I take with me on holiday… is it too much?



Technology has invaded every aspect of our lives. I dare say that most households these days will have a computer, television, dvd player, and most people carry with them at least a cellphone and an mp3 player. We use technology in our work, our finances, our entertainment and our travel. So with all these choices, what should you carry with you when you travel?

A few years ago I went on a 4 month long trip around the world and I took with me 1 film-based camera, 1 mp3 player and 1 gameboy. Not bad for 4 months I thought. Didn’t take long however before I was robbed and lost the mp3 player and gameboy. Without much choice in the matter, I was left carrying only one ‘electronic’ item, my camera. And guess what? I had a great holiday and didn’t miss any of the other stuff that I thought I would need.

More recently, Chris and I took a 3 week holiday to Canada and between us we took: 3 cameras (+ xtra sd-cards, chargers and cables), 1 laptop, 2 cellphones, 2 ipods (80gig video) and a GPS unit (which we hardly ever used). Hmm. Writing that made me laugh. At myself. You’d think that our bags have nothing but electronics in them. But seriously, at some point whilst packing our bags we figured that we’d need all of that stuff and well, to be honest, we did use it all in one way or another.

So what should you take with you when taking your next holiday? In reality, it all depends on where and when you’re going, how long you’re going for and what you’ll be doing when you’re there (oh and how much of a geek you are). Although there is no definitive answer, I thought I’d share some of the factors that affect my decision making when it comes to picking which gadgets to take with me on holiday.

  • Take only what you really think you won’t be able to live without.
    If you don’t take your cellphone and you really need to make a phone call, you can always use a payphone. Alternatively, you could rent a cellphone. Many airports house shops that will rent you a cellphone for the duration of your stay. Or you could even buy a new cheap phone if you absolutely run out of other options. See? You really don’t need to take yours.
  • Take small, stream-lined versions of all the electronics you think you’re going to need.
    If you can’t stand the idea of not having your own laptop whilst on holiday then make sure you take a small, light netbook with you, not a full-sized desktop replacement brick. You really don’t want to be carrying 5kg of solid expensive gear with you everywhere you go. You’ll end up a stooped old hunchback if you do.
  • Try to detach yourself from caring too much if your stuff does get stolen or damaged.
    This is hard to do, especially if you have some sort of emotional attachment to your gadgets. If it’s irreplaceably special to you or would cost a lot of money to replace, I wouldn’t recommend taking it. Leave it at home, safe and sound. You can’t control how or when some scummy thief out there may take an interest in it and just take it from you. I’m particularly guilty of this and often worry about losing something of value. It just ends up frustrating me that I spend more time worrying about locking away anything of value than I do just relaxing, letting go and enjoying myself.
  • If you have a digital camera and are taking lots of photos, back them up early and often.
    If something were to happen to your camera, you don’t want to lose all your photos as well. The simplest option is to take your camera into a shop that can write your photos to a CD/DVD (you’ll find these all over the world) or if you have another gadget with you, you could back them up there instead. For example, I backed some of my photos up onto my Ipod since it had plenty of free space on it.
  • If you’re traveling with someone else and you’re both taking gadgets that have the same chargers / cables, take only one charger between you.
    Chances are that you’re not going to need to fully charge your gadget at exactly the same time as whoever else you’re traveling with so if you can, share one between you. Chris and I took two sets of Ipod chargers and cables with us on one of our long trips and ended up sending 1 set home to save space.

If you’re a traveler, what do you take with you?

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TravelStash is LIVE!

About a week ago, Chris and I “launched” TravelStash.  By “launched” I mean we have now opened it up for general consumption.  Anyone can join TravelStash and use it just like Rheanna and Sanjay did on their recent South Africa trip, Margaret and Alan have on their trip around the South Island of New Zealand and of course, how Chris and I have consistently used it to keep our friends and family updated on all our travels over the past couple of years.

TravelStash


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World’s Most Traveled People

This morning I came across an article on Gadling about Charles Veley, a man who is supposedly the world’s most traveled person. He’s been to… wait for it… 630 of 673 distinct places. Those places don’t have to be countries, just places that are ethnically or politically different enough from elsewhere to constitute being a separate place.

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New features on TravelStash

TravelStash

As some of you may by now know, Chris and I have written a website called ‘TravelStash’. It’s essentially a blogging site intended for travelers. It integrates things normally associated with blogging (i.e. writing blog posts, uploading photos, comments) with a map. The structure behind TravelStash is a bit complex but it does make sense. Basically when you join up, you get your own membership. Once you’re a member, you can create a group for yourself and invite others to join your group. Each member can belong to many groups. Someone in the group creates a trip and then all the members of that group are able to log in and post an article about that trip.

We used TravelStash for our ‘Camp Europe’ holiday and more recently for our ‘Exploring the East’ holiday (even though we haven’t quite finished blogging about that one yet… lazy!). Although we’ve almost finished writing all the code necessary to allow others to join, create their own groups, blog about their trips and upload photos from their holidays, we haven’t quite opened it up to the general public. We’re hoping to do that real soon though so keep posted on that one :)

In the mean time however, I thought I might add a couple of new features to TravelStash. First is the ability to view an entire group’s photos. Until now, photos were only shown on the article with which they were associated. I figured it might be nice to view all of a group’s photos on one page rather than having to individually click on all the articles to see all their photos. You can see an example of that here. Neat eh?

The other feature I added only last night were ‘Travel Tips’. I had lunch with a good friend the other day who told me that it would be neat if we had travel tips posted on TravelStash. He’s right, Chris and I had thought of doing that anyway so I figured I might as well get onto it and just do it. So a few code changes later and we’ve got ‘Travel Tips’ on TravelStash! As you can see, not many travel tips just yet but I’ll make sure to add some more and hopefully when we open TravelStash up to the general public and people flock to it, they’ll add their amazing travel tips too. I was thinking it might be cool to allow comments on travel tips too in case others have something to say about it. Ahh, so many ideas.

Anyway, that’s about it for new features on TravelStash. Chris and I have heaps of ideas for new features, however, so with a bit of luck there may be some cool new stuff on there soon. And obviously we’re really excited about ‘launching’ it to the general public. I’m sure we’ll both learn lots from that experience. :)

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Swimming in the sea at Noosa Heads

Last weekend, Chris, mum, dad and I went to Noosa in Australia for a wee break. 5 days only, not 5 weeks like Camp Europe.

I gotta say – I absolutely love Noosa. It’s the second time I’ve been there and I’d definitely go back for more. The best thing about Noosa, apart from the hot weather, is the sea. The sea water is crystal blue and SO warm! Seriously, I don’t know exactly how warm the water was because I don’t typically carry a themometer around with me, but trust me, if I’m raving about it – it’s gotta be warm. I won’t touch New Zealand waters because well, what’s the point? You’re basically in pain getting in to the water and back out again. It’s more like torture than a nice relaxing swim.

We stayed at Noosa Pacific Riverside Resort – very nice self-contained, fully-furnished and most importantly, AIR CONDITIONED 2~3 bedroom apartments that overlook tennis courts, a swimming pool, a spa and a sauna. There is also a nice gym for your work-out pleasure. Very nice indeed, all for a very reasonable price of $110 AUD per night. The only downside to staying at Noosa Pacific is that it is a 5~10 minute drive (30 minute walk) away from Noosa Heads itself, where the marvelous beach I mentioned above is. Next time I go to Noosa I might try looking for somewhere a little bit closer to the beach itself (without paying thousands of dollars per night that is).

While in Noosa we also walked around the Saturday markets at Eumundi, visited a small town quite high up in the hills called Montville, spent a day at Australia Zoo (saw lots of koalas and kangaroos, cute!), and went shopping at Maroochydore Sunshine Plaza. Wow, so much in only 5 days!!

Anyway, I’ll throw a couple of photos up here to make you all jealous :)

Sunset at Noosa Heads, Australia
Sunset at Noosa Heads, Australia

Some iguana lizard thing at Australia Zoo
Some iguana lizard thing at Australia Zoo

A little kangaroo at Australia Zoo
A little kangaroo at Australia Zoo

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