After flying in from Boston to New York, and then to Amsterdam my trip began. Once going through customs, I met up with the rest of the group at the Schipol airport and we headed to our hotel. The Ibis Hotel is less than 10 minutes away from the airport. The bedrooms aren't that spacious, but clean and nice. Inside there is a breakfast area, internet room, gift shop and bar. The staff were really nice and acommidating to us as well. I would highly recommend this place.
Once we were all settled in, we went back to the Schipol airport and downstairs is their train station. There are ticket vendors around to purchase tickets and an information booth as well if you're looking to get tickets or want to know where your train will be heading. The trains are very spacious and huge windows to look outside. A conductor comes around to collect tickets--make sure you hold on to your ticket!! They are very serious about that, if you don't have it with you, the can make you get off at the next stop or charge you $35 euros, your choice.
Downtown Amsterdam is not far away and once you get up the stairs, you are there. The first thing I noticed once getting out of the train station is the Dutch have many modes of transportation. There are at least 6-10 lanes of traffic and crossing the street can be dangerous if you're used to jaywalking. Trolleys come around every few minutes and they can cost $1.60 euros to take you around. But their major transporation is the bicycle. The Dutch are known for their love of bicycling and this is the easiest (and cheapest) mode of transportation. There are clear paths for bicycling so make sure to watch out before you cross. They will not stop for you so be careful! All around the city you'll see men in business suits, women in dresses and skirts, children, teenagers, older people, everyone riding bicycling, so much that you might want to join as well.
Right in the middle of all this is the Damm Central. It reminded me a lot of Fanieul Hall in Boston. Street performers are all around and next to you is the Madam Tssuard Wax museum, a memorial statue for soldiers that died in WW2, a church and many more. There are plenty of restaurants around you, and I recommend getting some frites (french fries) wrapped in a paper cone as a snack. There really isn't a lot of Dutch food but they do like the simple foods of sandwhiches, cheese, bread, and meat.
Speaking of food, if you need to use a public restroom, don't be surprised if you see a woman with a table and sign that says $0.20-0.30 cents. I would call them "ladies in waiting" and you need to pay them before or after you use the bathroom. This is a little unusal for me, but when you're in another country it's best to just adhere to their customs. If you don't there can be a problem!
Amsterdam is of course known for two things: coffeshops and the Red Light District. Be aware of the difference between a coffeeshop and a cafe. A cafe sells coffee, food, and drink. A Coffeeshop sells primarily drinks and pot. If you choose to do so, you can purchase a hash brownie or cake and sm0ke as well. However, you cannot have it out in the public or sell it in broad daylight. If you are caught doing so you can and probably will be arrested. Also if you choose to have any of these cakes, do so in moderation and with caution.
The Red Light district is a major tourist attraction, especially at night. You'll know once you're in the district when there are "red lights" posted. One minute you could be in a street with restaurants in pubs, turn another corner there is a Buddist temple, and another the district. People crowd to streets to see the ladies in the windows. There are also live sex shows and shops on that street. DO NOT try to take pictures, they will take your camera away. Don't go there alone at night if you are a woman, you may get some unwanted attention. There are police that patrol the streets so if you need any assistance, they are there.
Once that was done we headed back to the hotel. One day down!